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!

Friday, 3 August 2007

"You become the problem"

"It's tiny," says Nalo Hopkinson, 46, from her Toronto home, of the black sci-fi community. "And it's happening in an environment in which, particularly in the US, to talk about race is to be seen as racist. You become the problem because you bring up the problem. So you find people who are hesitant to talk about it."

-- From "Race, the final frontier", an article by Vanessa E. Jones in the Boston Globe on black science-fiction writers.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Links, links, links

- Geoffrey Philp explains "The Top Ten Things Every Writer Should Know". I'm particularly keen on number 6: "Read!"

- Ian McDonald muses (in last Sunday's Stabroek News over "losing the art of waiting awhile":

Consider the joy of writing and receiving letters. Delay is an essential ingredient in the pleasure of correspondence. "Must do" turns into the relished achievement of "just done" and then you have the added pleasure of anticipating a reply. "The sending of a letter constitutes a magical grasp upon the future," Iris Murdoch wrote. But that old magic has been completely destroyed by the fax and the e-mail.

- A.A. Fenty reflects (in today's Stabroek) on the news that Carifesta 2008 is going to Guyana.

- And Nalo Hopkinson offers a recipe for a writerly (and delicious-sounding) dinner. It begins: "In a big salad bowl, put mache (lamb's lettuce), chunks of zaboca pear, chunks of fresh ruby red grapefruit (any colour grapefruit will do. This just looks pleasing with the greens), parsley, some fresh grated ginger, and slivered almonds...."

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

As it was in the beginning

Tomorrow is Emancipation Day here in Trinidad and Tobago (and elsewhere in the Caribbean), as well the official publication date of the August 2007 CRB. But it's also the anniversary of the launch of the original Caribbean Review of Books, first published sixteen years ago from the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, edited by Samuel B. Bandara, assisted by production editor Annie Paul.

caribbean review of books august 1991

The August 1991 issue of the original Caribbean Review of Books

While I was in Jamaica last week, Annie--my delightful host in Kingston, and a regular contributor to the CRB in its current manifestation--managed to find me copies of the first three issues of that predecessor CRB, now carefully lodged on a bookshelf next to my desk. (I hope I can eventually assemble a complete set.)

The very first CRB opened with a review of an International Geographical Union report titled Curriculum Reform in the Third World: The Case of School Geography. It also included an excerpt from a lecture by Kenneth Ramchand, "West Indian Literature in the Nineties: Blowing Up the Canon"; an article on a co-publishing programme for children's books; and an essay by Sam Bandara himself, "Towards a Quantitative Analysis of Caribbean Books". And of course there are more reviews: for example, of From Plots to Plantations: Land Transactions in Jamaica 1866-1900, by Veront M. Satchell; of A Clinical and Pathological Atlas: The Records of a Surgeon in St Vincent, the West Indies, by A. Cecil Cyrus; and of Radicalism and Social Change in Jamaica 1960-1972, by Obika Gray. Plus four pages of brief "notices" of other new books, and a roundup of Caribbean journals.

The CRB as revived in 2004 focuses more on fiction, poetry, biography, and culture, with academic books (i.e. those intended primarily for a scholarly audience) getting proportionately less space. But what most strikes me are the similarities between the CRB then and now: the modest, spare design, fitting as much information and as many words as possible on each page; the straightforward enthusiasm for books and curiosity about the diversity of literary production in the Caribbean; the absence of jargon; and the high-minded concept of a magazine trying to bring together "Caribbean book people", as Mr Bandara described them (or us).

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I often find myself these days reflecting on the short lifespan of that original CRB (just about three years), and wondering if the present CRB will prove more successful at surviving the vicissitudes of the Caribbean publishing business. Holding that very first issue of the CRB in my hands somehow strengthens my resolve to make sure Mr Bandara's dream doesn't die a second time.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

All Men Come to the Hills

blue mountains view

View towards the south coast of Jamaica from near Whitfield Hall

I'm just back a few days ago, dear readers, from a week in Jamaica, where I was again the guest of my friend and colleague Annie Paul in Mona. It was a busy and sociable week--I spent time with various writer friends, did some book shopping, and visited Rock Tower, the ambitious arts centre that Australian artist Melinda Brown is creating in a semi-abandoned brewery building in downtown Kingston. But the high point of the trip, in more ways than one, was last weekend, when I went hiking in the Blue Mountains with my friend Brian (one of my companions on my Venezuela trek earlier this year). We camped for a night at Whitfield Lodge, high on a ridge with a distant view of the sea, and on Sunday morning set out at first light on the trail to the summit of Blue Mountain Peak, the highest point on the island.

I've always been awed by the Blue Mountains, ever since I drove up to Hardwar Gap on my first visit to Jamaica some years ago, and I've always wished I had the wherewithal to stay a good long spell somewhere up there in the cool and the mist, surrounded by soaring peaks and plunging valleys. Mountains fascinate and comfort me--I grew up at the foot of Trinidad's Northern Range, after all--and I suppose what I love most about the Blue Mountains is the sense of serenity and refuge they make me feel. Sitting on the grassy terrace at Whitfield Hall, with the old coffee farmhouse behind and eucalyptus trees scenting the air above, I remembered Roger Mais's most famous poem, "All Men Come to the Hills":

All men come to the hills
Men from the deeps of the plains of the sea--
Where a wind-in-the-sail is hope,
That long desire, and long weariness fulfils--
Come again to the hills.

And men with dusty, broken feet
Proud men, lone men like me,
Seeking again the soul's deeps--
Or a shallow grave
Far from the tumult of the wave--
Where a bird's note motions the silence in....
The white kiss of silence that the spirit stills
Still as a cloud of windless sail horizon-hung
•••above the blue glass of the sea--
Come again to the hills....
Come ever, finally.