Title: The Flesh Statue
Author: U.L. Harper
Publication Date: July 7, 2009
Paperback: 364 pages
From the Publisher:
Tired of watching his ailing grandfather wither away from Alzheimer’s, 19 year old Langley Jackson moves from his middle class home and subsequently struggles to survive in downtown Long Beach. Here he finds himself part of a social movement bent on destruction and retribution. Through all of this, Langley must decide on trying to subsist in a complicated and unlawful new world of graffiti and poetry or endure in a disheartening old one outlined by the death of his mother and his sick grandfather.
The Flesh Statue is unlike any other book that I have read to date. U.L. Harper does an excellent job describing the various characters in the novel, each one damaged in some way and trying to find their way and place in society. Some of these characters look for outlets, such as Cinci does through poetry at the Highbrow club, while Bert seeks relief through poetry, like Cinci, but also through tagging or constructive deconstruction as Bert refers to it. Langley (LJ) is from the suburb of Rossmoor where he has lived with his grandparents since his parents' deaths. His grandfather suffered a stroke and is now in the throes of Alzheimer's and Langley decides to take off at 19 to either find or flee his life. He chose downtown Long Beach where he witnesses atrocities from police brutality to destruction and chaos. Here Langley feels freer and more real then he ever felt in Rossmoor. Harper takes the reader to a poorer side of Long Beach and introduces the reader to an entirely new world, one of desperation, destruction, anarchy, and pain. U.L. Harper writes a raw and explicit novel, yet I had difficulty feeling much of anything for Langley, whose grandparents love him dearly and offered to pay for Langley to go find himself. Langley could pick up and go back to Rossmoor whenever he cared to, a freedom many of the more interesting characters did not have. I would not necessarily classify The Flesh Statue as a coming-of-age book, since a majority of the novel was about others' struggles to rise above the circumstances surrounding their lives, especially the struggles of Bert and Cinci. The Flesh Statue is an intriguing look at a side of society many of us are blessed not to be a part of and with certain characters it was easy to see how they ended up there. I found most of the character descriptions colourful and realistic but the most interesting character, the one I found the most compelling was also the least represented in this novel, Cinci. I would have liked to know about her. The Flesh Statue is a novel that is difficult to classify, yet offers up a perspective of life in an inner city where the characters are literally just getting by. U.L. Harper has a unique writing style and it works for this novel. The Flesh Statue contains graphic language and is for mature readers only.
About the Author:
U.L. Harper was born in Los Angeles California. However, he was raised in the public school system in Long Beach California. He attended Lincoln and Madison Elementary and moved to San Pedro where he attended Richard Henry Dana Junior High School. For the last few months of junior high he moved back to Long Beach where he attended Franklin Junior High School. He then went to Long Beach Poly where they told him he wouldn't be anything when he grew up and that he wasn't allowed to take a creative writing class. The teachers called him stupid. At least before 1993.
U.L. originally went to college for journalism. He got his feet wet at UCLA (University of Cypress Lincoln Avenue). But his writing started as a part time slam poet, moving around different cities cursing at the audience in the name of art and style. His writing continued as writer and Editor in Chief for the Cypress Chronicle.
But if one were to examine fully the writing career of U.L. Harper they'd find that he wrote a story in fourth grade about a boy who had to vacuum up somebody else’s urine. This earned U.L. a conference with his teacher and an awkward talk with his mother at home. Later in life U.L. would also write a poem so visceral that he would not be allowed into a friend’s home. The words that got him kicked out went as follows: "Someone needs to put the mother back in f..ker. Someone needs to put the God back in damn."
Eventually he moved into the short story form where he completed a story called The Resurrection of Greenwell. It's a short story about a discussion group that decides it needs to talk about a way to take power away from the local government. This story would find its way into The Flesh Statue.
Seeing that his career as a reporter started him out at a whopping $7.25 an hour he decided to hang it up, or get fired, depending on how one wants to look at things, and become an usher at a movie theater. It was the down time allotted at his new work that fed his inspiration to write The Flesh Statue.
U.L. is now an after-school program director where he attempts to influence students to expand their imagination. He still lives in Long Beach. You can visit him at ulharper.com. The author encourages direct email from his website.
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I received a complimentary copy of The Flesh Statue by U.L. Harper from Pump Up Your Book Promotion as part of the tour. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.