Rick Wayne’s eclectic prose meanders throughout 600 pages of this book, reminiscent of the old road from Castries to Vieux Fort when the journey was a butt-peeling two-hour drive. That was before crown agents intervened in the Seventies and straightened out the hairpin bends, with the exception of Morne Road, at the right angle suicide spin below Government House. A rich lively rhetoric reminiscent of Gore Vidal’s Washington D.C. and to a lesser extent Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night, particularly as Rick paints his livid caricatures, brush stroke after brush stroke, to people the work.
“So now, in the all-revealing light of time’s torch, come with me as I revisit October 1994, shortly after Saint Lucia’s prime minister…rescued a failed politician…from more or less permanent residence at a village rum shop and relocated him to New York…”
“Barely had the commencement date been announced when … a programmed Labour Party robot who on the occasion described himself as a building contractor, filed a Notice of Motion for an order to prohibit the attorney general—cited as respondent—from holding the Commission of Inquiry.”
“…the day’s emcee was introducing the event’s first speaker following the opening prayer when all eyes turned from the podium to focus on the apparition standing in the convention hall’s only doorway. If he was to the majority of the congregation a mysterious stranger, still there could be no denying the apocalyptic tone of the scrawled message on his placard …”
Sounds like a work of fiction? Well, it’s not. To the uninitiated, this book could well pass as a novel; but then again that would be a dangerous assumption, even as history is sometimes as incredulous as the truth. This book is contemporary political history of Saint Lucia after Independence, covering the action of the first 30 years in the life of our small nation. To begin, it is extremely difficult beyond reportage to write contemporary history and to interpret the facts as they manifest. Biases and personal flavors will come to the fore; after all, we are human and our feelings will permeate through the woodwork. There will always be among readers, as in government, sympathizers and opposition. There will be the miscreants that will twist facts with the agility of steel benders and also the usual suspects who will agree with everything written, until you are led to believe they had dictated the manuscript under a pseudonym. Rick has, since his return to Saint Lucia, worked with all sides, in and out of Government. As he aptly puts it, he has been inside the belly of the beast. He understands its machinations. He writes naught that needs evidence to support his claims, which he generates in a series of episodes, like in newsreels, to make his case, but in forthright forceful language that commands the reader to sit up and listen.
“The pampered first son of a popular Seventh Day Adventist city barber, he had started out with much promise. At seventeen he was a star athlete, nicknamed “the flying darkie” by football fans for his prowess between the goal posts . . .”
Before this book, there was “It’ll Be Alright In The Morning” and “Foolish Virgins.” They corroborate various bits and pieces of testimony through the voice of other characters, where applicable, if only in modus operandi. There are countless articles appearing in the STAR under the author’s name since time immemorial that remain unchallenged to this day. Is it all truth? I don’t know. Is it contemporary political saga? Yes, and what a helluva story it makes! Everyone is entitled to his peculiar brand of fetish; Rick’s is politics—and he wallows in it!
Lapses and Infelicities will mean different things to different people. Incidentally, the book’s title is a quote from Kenny Anthony defending some of the errors made during his tenure in office, in particular the so-called Poverty Reduction Fund scandal. No need to go further into this here, I can guarantee it’s all in the book. Also there is the long forgotten UN Scandal, Labour’s fall from grace in 1982; the UWP’s defeat in 1997 and the rise of Kenny Anthony as a formidable politician. If it is possible to block one’s mind from the grand events still shaping our political landscape and assume an approach without bias, it could quite easily be forgiven as one of the most hilarious pieces of contemporary political satire that one finds only in calypsos. The sequence on page 347, between Rick and George, before and after the announcement of the 1997 election results, is as funny as it is bizarre:
“I was never quite certain about George Odlum’s chances in Castries Northeast. One minute the tea leaves promised sunshiny weather; the next, rain. To be absolutely candid, his public meetings never drew anything close to the crowds that once had travelled miles to join his mostly illegal public demonstrations, ominous possibilities be damned. Despite the sweat poured into his campaigns, the response to him personally, not necessarily to his guest speakers, was relatively lukewarm, conceivably a consequence of familiarity—if not his chameleonic characteristics. Shortly before the ballot count started, I sat with Odlum in a dimly lit far corner of his campaign headquarters while a half dozen of his go-fers made short thrift of leftover lukewarm beverages and suspect cheese sandwiches donated by persons unknown. He did not appear confident. But something told me he was merely indulging his thespian inclinations. After a time, I said: “Hey, George, c’mon, let’s get some air.” We exited the room, walked listlessly down some concrete steps to the near deserted main road, strolled around the block in eerie silence. Then I said, ‘What’s bugging you man? For crissakes, cheer up. The fat lady’s still in make-up. The show’s not over yet. In any case, we gave it our best shot. Now it’s out of our hands. All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed.’”
“No big thing,” he said, “it’s just another election, right?”
No big thing, indeed. Nevertheless I said: ‘If things don’t go as we expect, you’ll still be OK. It’s clear the party is winning big-time. Kenny won’t turn his back on you!’
“By the time we returned to base, the wind of change had blown away the earlier gloom. Now his campaign headquarters was a zoo. More people than ever attended all of his rallies put together were now hanging from the rafters, shouting from the balcony, messing with the refrigerator, blowing red plastic whistles, demanding that Brother George join the carnival-like jump-up outside. Small wonder that he was soon taking full credit for the Labour Party’s victory in the Castries basin. Ostensibly, he had done for Philip J. Pierre, Jon Odlum and Sarah Flood what only one year earlier he could not do for himself.”
There are the crude aspersions that represent the building blocks of Caribbean politics and substitute most times for debate. For example, Vaughn Lewis’ ‘Chinese Cabinet,’ with such characters as Tu Ju Su, Phuk Em Yung, Fan Chou Moon and Lim Ping. They hold no real value, except to an audience present only for the night’s entertainment and more often than not have no impact on the outcomes in the ballot boxes. However, our people have long since been honoured for plumbing the depths of their creative ingenuity to father these figments of the imagination and clothe them in the personalities of real men with a credibility far greater than their living accomplices can exude. Then there is Rick’s own nefarious wit that stings like a gloved hand to the solar plexus.
“In the distance a familiar voice sounded: ‘Brothers and sisters, I call on you now to stay cool. Protect your revolution!”
“Dear God,” a shaken, perplexed Allan Lousy muttered under his breath. “What the hell is George up to now?”
If God knew the answer, he wasn’t sharing it. In any event, Odlum was as much in the dark about his next move as was anyone else. Without a script and with no idea whatsoever how this particular production was supposed to play out, the ridiculously costumed revolutionary had little choice but to improvise…”
The story line weaves from chapter to chapter with the ease of film. Light on the eyes, seldom pedantic and jocular. Rick Wayne no doubt had a novel in mind when he wrote this book, but novels are works of fiction and the closest this work comes to fiction is where the legendary ‘Yo Dee’ appears, which is seldom. Of course the author is entitled to making his own assumptions and I am not prepared in this brief review to challenge the veracity of his statements. I am not equipped to hunt down the mundane and if asked whether I believe everything in the book, I have no comment. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it to every potential applicant for the post of politician. One message is quite clear, beware the duplicity of pretending to serve the people while draining their pockets.
Rick also gives us short incites into the early life of one our former prime ministers, the Hon. Kenny Anthony, as well as the difficult teething period prime minister Vaughan Lewis experienced on assuming the mantle of leadership. Rick also shows how in politics villains in one life, become heroes in another. This was skillfully done with Sir Allan Louisy’s written endorsement of Kenny Anthony as political leader of the Labour Party. Webster, in his famous play The Duchess of Malfi, wrote: “A politician is the devil’s quilted anvil, he fashion’s things.” These words assume a semblance of truth as you read through the pages of “Lapses and Infelicities.” From the machinations of George and Josie to the Chinese checkers game between Sir John and Lewis and the vainglorious contretemps that caused Kenny Anthony to emerge over Julian Hunte. This is a book all nationalistic Caribbean persons should read so as to understand that all the divisions that they so vociferously support, ripping the veneer off the mahogany that is our little societies, are nothing more than egos basking in a moment’s glory. The real power rests with the people, free and indivisible under God. Thank you, Rick, for this poignant expose of our times, laying bare for all to see—the cancer that is our politics.