|How I Became a Drifter by Christmas Philip|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Fictionalised autobiography told in a stream-of-consciousness style. An unconventional voice speaking of the universal search for love and acceptance.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 108||Date: August 2016|
Christmas Philip has had an interesting life. He began to tell us about in his first book, Rip Off Christmas. Here, in How I Became a Drifter, he picks up his story in Birmingham when he is fifteen years old and attempts to explain why he describes himself as a drifter and how he came to be one. This is a slightly fictionalised account so names and places have been changed.
The first thing that you need to know is that Christmas fell from a mango tree when he was a child in Jamaica. Whether or not this may have had an impact on subsequent events is up to you to decide!
After some early weed-selling, Christmas settles into work as taxi driver 231 in Birmingham. From this all-seeing hot seat, he narrates a tale that both illuminates his own life and the life of the city's streets and people. Through the pages, we follow driver 231 through his marriage to and divorce from Hillary, his relationships with May-May, Leila and Doreen, his escapades with friends and partners in various shenanigans and we accompany him while he smokes his ganga, dreams of (and has) plenty of wonderful sex, and does what he can to get by.
Interspersed between events, Philip provides plenty of Jamaican wisdom and sayings, the perspective of a black man on his adopted country and ruminates on the meaning of life - we are all in search of love and acceptance after all, are we not?
It's delightful to read, told in a stream-of-consciousness style in which narrative may suddenly morph into an extended and seemingly unrelated aside. My favourite of these was a passage about the American criminal Francis "Two Gun" Crowley, who was killed in a shoot-out with police in New York in 1931. Crowley's death was witnessed by more than 10,000 people, which is quite something. Philip has a trenchant point to make about this, involving pride and incitement. What is joke to you is death to me, he says. And I see what he means.
Driver 231 spends a great deal of time chasing after Leila, who sounds like a rather marvellous woman. And she incites another of my favourite parts of the book - as the narrator works hard to cook and serve a meal not just as a way to get Leila into bed but also to create something both worthy of her and also something truly life-affirming. Anybody who sees food as something potentially joyful is alright by me.
Philip is an unconventional voice relating an unconventional life. But he is talking about something universal - the search for love, acceptance and fulfilment. We may search in different ways but I agree with him that our hoped-for destinations have much in common with everyone else's. So I would describe How I Became a Drifter as a universal story of an everyman. But one told by a highly original individual. I quite like that as a pitch, don't you?!
If you like the idea of reading unconventional autobiographical stuff, you could also try The Blind Man of Hoy: A True Story by Red Szell , an inspirational rock-climbing adventure. Or The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour - not a miserable tell-all about the dangers of the trade, but a fun spin on a young woman exploring her sexuality.
You can read more about Christmas Philip here.
You can read more book reviews or buy How I Became a Drifter by Christmas Philip at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy How I Became a Drifter by Christmas Philip at Amazon.com.
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