The protagonist of Soul City, Cadillac Jackson, may struggle to pay tribute to Touré's magical titular city, but the author has no such problems. He lyrically describes a place where men walk with ''such visible rhythm, physical artistry, and attention to aesthetics that it looked like a pimp-stroll convention.'' Music comes out of sidewalks, death wants a PR rep, and trips to heaven or hell (and back again) are possible here. But even a fictional promised land for black folks is no utopia: Soul City has drugs, the projects, and, as always, the Man. And while Cadillac's journey from outsider to member isn't always clear, what is clear is the book's central question: ''Cain't ugly be beautiful?''