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Paris Smith Deserves a Wider Audience


          Chicago’s Paris Smith, deserves a wider audience. Smith has developed into a mature writer/artist who has found his voice, milieu, and motifs since the publication of his other short story collections, Subterranean Tales in 2000, and Shadow Worlds in 2001. Smith is from Chicago’s Southside and in many ways has picked up the themes of proletarian literature where another Chicago writer, Richard Wright, left off. His work was recently acclaimed by literary critic Barbra Foley in an essay that appeared in Struggle magazine as well as the online cultural web site, Reconstruction.
            The stories in the current collection, Undercurrents include: “Golden” one of the most touching and hopeful stories in the compilation features a young man, Marcus, working in a nursing home who is struggling with a typical working class life trying to survive both economically and spiritually. Marcus meets one of the residents, Archie, an old man who is near death. Their meeting results in Marcus experiencing an epiphany that causes him to struggle on to try to make a real life for himself.
            “Blood of Saints and Martyrs” was probably my favorite story with its curious blend of the description of the absolute poverty of Diane Hutchins, an AIDS victim, and evocative portrait of the crackdown on civil rights we all have experienced since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. This is a tale of intrigue and double-cross with an incredible ending.
            Smith’s relentless use of third person narration in most of the stories realistically delves into his characters’ social past including their families and frames this against the backdrop of Chicago’s Southside where contemporary capitalism first failed with the African American population long before going on to fail for the whole population. “Christmas Dick” follows this formula into unrelenting tragedy, where grinding poverty changes people and causes them to do things they never intended or thought that they would do.
            Another motif that runs through Smith’s work is the liberation of the soul via music. “Music in the Air” follows the same path of some of his earlier works that always involve Chicago’s magnificent parks and have an ethereal, unearthly spiritual quality to them. Smith is also a musician and his work can be heard on the music CD, "the New Composeres Ensemble: 53rd Street Ghost."
           Althought Undercurrents can be read as proletarian literature, it's a lot more than that. Like another Chicago author, Saul Bellow, Smith has mastered the universe of the paragraph, swifty evoking his characters and background. Do yourself a favor and check out this deserving Chicago writer. Undercurrents is available at Amazon.com

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