Dear readers:
For our sixth anniversary in May 2010, The Caribbean Review of Books has launched a new website at www.caribbeanreviewofbooks.com. Antilles has now moved to www.caribbeanreviewofbooks.com/antilles — please update your bookmarks and RSS feed. If you link to Antilles from your own blog or website, please update that too!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

The CRB needs your help

Dear readers,

It's now just over three years since The Caribbean Review of Books was launched with our May 2004 pilot issue. The front cover featured a lovely drawing by Mary Adam, the contents page promised reviews of books by V.S. Naipaul, Caryl Phillips, Ian McDonald, M.G. Smith, and four young Jamaican novelists, as well as memoirs of Cuba and Grenada. And the magazine opened with a "Note to the reader" which succinctly explained why its publisher and editor believed the CRB was an important venture, adding that:

What we now wait to discover is whether this belief--in the necessity of a periodical devoted to discussing Caribbean books and writing--is shared by the common reader.

I said above that the CRB was launched with our May 2004 issue, but I might also have said "re-launched"--because, as many of our readers know, there was a predecessor magazine, also called The Caribbean Review of Books, published in Jamaica from 1991 to 1994, founded and edited by Samuel B. Bandara, with the help of Annie Paul (who is a member of our present editorial board and a frequent contributor to our pages). That original Caribbean Review of Books was a groundbreaking, ambitious attempt to direct its readers' attention to the wealth of books by Caribbean writers and about the Caribbean being published by presses large and small all over the world--to be, as it were, the journal of record for Caribbean writing.

But publishing in the Caribbean is a tricky business. Audiences are broken up by geography, scattered over vast distances. Publishing houses in the region are for the most part under-capitalised, and have to struggle with the absence of an efficient regional distribution network. There are almost no indigenous institutions like arts councils or foundations helping to support writers and publishers. Getting a magazine like the CRB off the ground requires huge quantities of personal energy and enthusiasm, but energy and enthusiasm are never enough. The original Caribbean Review of Books ceased publication after three years simply because it was financially impossible to keep it going.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the fact that the CRB, in its current incarnation, is now about the same age as its predecessor when it ended its run back in 1994. And like its predecessor, with every issue the CRB faces the real crisis of paying its bills.

There is something you can do to help us, dear readers. Subscribe. A year's subscription to the CRB costs US$24.99 in the Caribbean and $29.99 elsewhere, and you can subscribe using your credit card via a secure online transaction.

Perhaps you used to subscribe, but let the subscription lapse. Everyone's entitled to a moment of absentmindedness--make good now. Perhaps you've picked up copies of the CRB at a conference or literary festival or reading or some other public event. If you like what you read, why not show your support and guarantee that you'll get the next four issues? Perhaps you already do subscribe. In which case, many thanks--and won't you think about giving a gift subscription to a friend?

Think what you can look forward to in coming issues of the CRB: reviews of hundreds of new and recent books, with a focus on fiction, poetry, history, biography, current affairs, and music. New stories, poems, and essays from some of the Caribbean's best writers--in the last three years we've published work by Derek Walcott, Austin Clarke, Anthony Winkler, Jane King, Kendel Hippolyte, Pamela Mordecai, Vahni Capildeo, Marlon James, and Kei Miller, to name a few. Interviews with and profiles of writers. News about literary festivals and prizes. A new series of essays (starting in our next issue) in which the most talented writers of today reflect on their precursors. Increasing coverage of the Caribbean's contemporary visual arts. All written in a lively, accessible style for non-specialist readers (like me). Don't miss a single word.

In that "Note to the reader" we printed three years ago, we suggested that literature is a kind of conversation, and expressed the hope that the CRB would have a crucial part in that conversation. What do you think, dear readers? Do you want to keep hearing from us?

Monday, 18 June 2007

"I ask myself that all the time"

Founded in 2001 by three Jamaicans--novelist Colin Channer; poet, novelist, and scholar Kwame Dawes; and Justine Henzell, an ex-public-relations executive and daughter of the late novelist and filmmaker Perry Henzell (who directed the international film hit The Harder They Come)--Calabash now stands as the only literary festival intellectually and emotionally set to reggae, a literary cry of independence committed, in Channer's words, to the "earthy, inspirational, daring, and diverse."

Like many Caribbean writers whose home islands lack the academic and publishing infrastructure essential for more than a few writers to make a living, both Channer and Dawes teach in the United States, the first at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y., the second at the University of South Carolina at Columbia. Calabash reflects their engagement with America, a tilt in keeping with recent Caribbean emigration that favors the United States over Britain. Yet Calabash's core remains special attention to Jamaican literature and a broader category: "Caribbean Literature."

Coherent concept, or literary version of travel-brochure hype?

"I ask myself that all the time," admits Nicholas Laughlin, the wiry, articulate, 32-year-old editor of The Caribbean Review of Books, a three-year-old publication based in Port of Spain, Trinidad, that's packed with incisive articles.

--From Carlin Romano's essay "The Harder They Write"--subtitled "Does 'Caribbean' Literature Exist?" in this week's Chronicle Review, a weekly supplement of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Unfortunately only Chronicle subscribers can read the full text online.

I met Carlin at Calabash. One night--sitting beside a pool on the fringes of a literary party of sorts--we had a long talk about the past, present, and possible futures of Caribbean literature. Various bits of our conversation have made their way into his piece, an opinionated introduction to the regional literary scene for unfamiliar readers, ranging from colonial politics to the impact of Windrush-era migration to the question of language (or languages), audience, and the kinds of material that mainstream Caribbean literature is yet to tackle.

Update: via Shelf Space, a link to the full text of "The Harder They Write".

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Weekend links

- In the Stabroek News, Ian McDonald asks and tries to answer the question, what is a good education?

- The Jamaica Gleaner Arts and Leisure section includes Mary Hanna's review of Kenneth Bilby's True-Born Maroons, and "Friday", a short story by Melissa McKenzie. Meanwhile, the Jamaica Observer announces the new Kingston Edge Urban Arts Festival (which somehow has the acronym KOTE), which opens on 22 June.

- In the New York Times Book Review, Jamaican novelist and sociologist Orlando Patterson reviews a new biography of Clarence Thomas.

- In the Indian newsweekly Tehelka, Sankarshan Thakur reports on the recent Tehelka Challenge of India Summit, where one of the key speakers was V.S. Naipaul, who apparently is at work on his fourth book about India:

Casting an eye on the sweep of his India work--from An Area of Darkness to A Wounded Civilisation to A Million Mutinies Now--he said India was indeed in the grip of momentous changes. But--and here came the firm caution from the ageing guru--the important thing is to constantly observe and examine the change, not to be hurriedly critical of it, or things that it brings along.

- And Nalo Hopkinson likes Lisa Allen-Agostini's review of The New Moon's Arms in the May CRB.