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!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Meanwhile, elsewhere....

- Marlon James lists his favourite music of 2007--and resents his prose being described as "lyrical".

- Sharon Millar resolves to read all of Naipaul in 2008, but first she tells us why she loves Oscar Wao. (There's a short story by Junot Díaz in the 24 December, 2007, New Yorker.)

- Tobias Buckell gives an update on his forthcoming novel, Sly Mongoose--it's at the copy-editing stage. (If you can't wait to find out more, check out the video trailer he uploaded last week.)

- Reviews of Caryl Phillips's new novel, Foreigners, are starting to appear all over. Here's one by Donna Bailey Nurse in the Toronto Globe and Mail, another by Michael Fischer in the Miami Herald, a third by Howard Frank Mosher in the Boston Globe.

- And the January/February issue of Caribbean Beat offers a slew of book, film, and music reviews.

Great Brits?

Not content with a mere "best of 2007" list, the London Times (or at least its literary staff) has named what it considers "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945"--better yet, ranked them in order of "greatness". "What better way to start the year than with an argument?" they ask.

Philip Larkin tops a list in which poets are otherwise rather sparse; Orwell, Golding, Hughes, and Lessing round out the top five; Michael Moorcock brings up the rear; someone called Salman "Rusdie" finds himself at number 13. But the reason we note this squib here at Antilles, dear readers, is the presence on the list of two of "ours"--V.S. Naipaul at no. 7 and Derek Walcott at no. 31. Naipaul--who has lived in Britain for fifty years, been tapped on the shoulder by the Queen, etc.--no one can argue with, but Walcott seems a little out-of-place here. He is not a British citizen and has never lived in Britain; the Times explicitly excludes Seamus Heaney from the list on the grounds of nationality, so why do they lay claim to a St. Lucian?

(Also, there is something seriously wrong with any list that ranks J.K. Rowling above Bruce Chatwin.)

Monday, 31 December 2007

2007 CRB books of the year

At the end of any calendar year, it's natural to find yourself thinking back over the high and low points of the preceding twelve months. Here at the CRB, we've found ourselves thinking, specifically, about the books we've been reading.

In 2007, the CRB reviewed a full sixty books, and "noticed" another thirty-odd in our "Also noted" column. That may represent just a half of all the Caribbean books published during the year. Because the CRB is a quarterly with a rather long lead-time, we'll be reviewing 2007 books well into 2008.

And of the dozens of books that have passed through our hands and our pages this year, which have we enjoyed best, or been most edified by? What were the stand-out Caribbean books of 2007, the ones we believe deserve a permanent place on our readers' bookshelves? Over the last week, we've done a rough poll of the magazine's editors and contributing editors, and come up with a collective list of our "books of the year". In what we hope will become an annual year-end tradition, we offer their names here, for the sake of those readers who may have overlooked them in the hurry and press of everyday.

The 2007 CRB books of the year, in alphabetical order:

Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds, by Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester, Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, et al (Yale Centre for British Art/Yale University Press)
This lavish catalogue of an exhibition that opened in October at the Yale Centre for British Art looks at the work of Belisario in the context of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century topographical drawing and painting, and the iconography of slavery and emancipation. (Look out for a review in the February 2008 CRB.)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz (Riverhead)
The long-awaited first novel by the author of the short story collection Drown tackles the horrors of the Dominican Republic's modern history, the trials of immigration and diaspora, and the mysteries of fuku americanus, the Curse of the New World, with a linguistic verve that is Caribbean and American and also something in between. (Look out for a review in the February 2008 CRB.)

Brother, I'm Dying, by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)
Catalysed by the death of Danticat's uncle Joseph while in the custody of US Immigration in Miami, this heartbreaking memoir describes a family caught in a cultural, historical, and political crossfire. (Look out for a review in the February 2008 CRB.)

An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism, Photography, and Framing the Caribbean Picturesque, by Krista A. Thompson (Duke University Press)
A wryly intelligent examination of the ways that postcard and poster depictions of the Caribbean have influenced and been influenced by the island's tourist economies, by a young Bahamian art historian. (Reviewed by Melanie Archer in the August 2007 CRB.)

Four Taxis Facing North, by Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw (Flambard Press)
Walcott-Hackshaw's first book of short stories takes an unsparing, un-nostalgic look at the here-and-now of contemporary Trinidad, from an urban middle-class female perspective still rare in Anglophone Caribbean writing. (Look out for a review in the February 2008 CRB.)

From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People, by Lorna Goodison (McClelland and Stewart)
A family memoir by Jamaica's most important living poet, sharing with her poems their gentle wisdom, their understated lyricism, and their sense of how marvellous the real can be, and how real the marvellous. (Look out for a review in the May 2008 CRB.)

Ragamuffin, by Tobias S. Buckell (Tor)
This speculative fiction novel combines a perfectly paced plot and compelling characters with a powerful and very Caribbean allegory about personal independence and intellectual autonomy. (Reviewed by Lisa Allen-Agostini in the November 2007 CRB.)

Selected Poems, by Derek Walcott, ed. Edward Baugh (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A distillation of the work of the Caribbean's great--greatest?--poet by one of his foremost readers and interpreters. (Reviewed by Brendan de Caires in the May 2007 CRB.)

There Is an Anger that Moves, by Kei Miller (Carcanet)
This second collection of poems by the promising and prolific Jamaican writer demonstrates an already distinctive voice and a rapidly maturing talent. Miller's first novel will be published in 2008. (Look out for a review in the May 2008 CRB.)


And what were your favourite books of 2007, dear readers? Tell us in the comments below.