Virginia Hamilton Michael Cart - Essay

Michael Cart

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A stunningly good, absolutely compelling, weird and unique book, Virginia Hamilton's [The Planet of Junior Brown] is the story of three outsiders in New York City: Junior Brown and Buddy Clark, both in their early teens, and Mr. Pool, a one-time teacher and now school custodian. While all three are black, what they suffer at the hands of an uncaring, unfeeling world might be suffered by anybody, anytime, anywhere. Buddy, parentless and on his own, lives by his wits in deserted building where he is the self-appointed guardian of two younger boys. Junior, luckier in material terms, lives comfortably with his overprotective mother, but he is grotesquely fat, withdrawn and, perhaps, mentally ill. Mr. Pool, who had quit teaching 15 years before, stifled by the lack of freedom in an over-structured educational system, is the two boys' companion during the days which they spend together hidden in a secret room he has constructed in the basement of the school. Through the story of the three, The Planet of Junior Brown presents an unforgettable evocation of madness—madness in the individual (overwhelming, generalized fear resulting from unrelieved spiritual/emotional/physical solitude) enforced by the madness of society which is indifference (the indifference which rejects Junior's need, while walking, "to touch a profile here and a full face there … [his] seeing and longing for the faces."). Readers see advances, probably unalterable madness...

(The entire section is 426 words.)