All-Bright Court (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Connie Rose Porter’s first novel, All-Bright Court, is a story of disillusionments and defeated dreams, but it is also a revelation of human endurance, which, along with humor, a sense of magic, compassion, and love, enable at least some of its characters to transcend their desperate lives. The book is written in a series of chapters, each of which tells a separate story. These incidents are unified by the fact that they all occur in a single community, by their recurring characters, and by the reiteration of pattern and theme.
The setting of the novel is All-Bright Court, an optimistically named tenement in the steel town of Lackawanna, located in upstate New York. All-Bright Court is made up of cinder block houses built during World War I as temporary quarters for white workers in the steel mills. In the 1950’s, when the steel company at last built prefabricated houses for the white workers to buy, they painted the deteriorating concrete block houses in a rainbow of colors, named the area All-Bright Court, and moved in black workers from the South, who naïvely took the appearance for the reality. There Porter’s characters live, learning to take shelter from the iron dust that falls upon them daily, but unable to shield themselves from the exploitation and the economic oppression that destroys the lives of blacks and whites alike.
Many of the people in All-Bright Court are like Samuel Taylor, a young black man from...
(The entire section is 2184 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Catano, James V. Ragged Dicks: Masculinity, Steel, and the Rhetoric of the Self-Made Man. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001. Examination of the self-made-man narrative in American culture; includes discussion of Porter’s work in the context of the genre.
Kakutani, Michiko. “Black Dreams of 1950’s Turn to Rage.” The New York Times, September 10, 1991, p. C14. Argues that although Porter writes with the accuracy of a sociologist, she also has a profound sympathy for her characters. Of particular interest is Kakutani’s analysis of the complex feelings Porter’s African American characters have about whites, as well as about their own African American neighbors.
Krist, Gary. “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” The Hudson Review 45 (Spring, 1992): 141-142. Analysis claiming that Porter sometimes presents her characters on a superficial level, but that she does capture the spirit of a world that combines “Southern rural lore and urban ghetto realism.” Calls the book “the deftest kind of sociological commentary.”
The New Yorker. Review of All-Bright Court, by Connie Porter. 67 (September 9, 1991): 12. Briefly outlines the story, pointing out the parallel between Samuel’s escape from the South and Mikey’s escape from All-Bright Court. Finds a poetic quality in...
(The entire section is 328 words.)