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 3 May 2008

A voice from PEN

Marlon James is at the PEN World Voices festival in New York; he reports at the PEN American Centre blog on two events he's attended. The first was a panel called Resonances: Contemporary Writers on the Great Works (Charles Simic, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Fatou Diome, Ma Jian); the second was American Literature as Seen from Abroad (Yousef Al-Mohaimeed, Binyavanga Wainaina).

Friday 2 May 2008

May 2008 Antilles book of the month: The Same Earth, by Kei Miller

In an average month, dozens of new Caribbean books arrive at the CRB office. Not all of them get reviewed in the magazine--too many books, not enough pages--and because we are a quarterly with a rather long lead time, sometimes months can pass between a book's arrival and its appearance in our pages.

Well, for better or worse, the WWW offers the possibility of near-instant gratification, so here is the first instalment in what I plan to make a regular feature on Antilles: our book of the month. Every month I'll choose from among the pile of newly arrived books one that seems worth recommending to Antilles readers. The choice will be entirely subjective, of course. Perhaps it will be a title I find intriguing for some reason, one that seems to offer important information or a compelling argument. Perhaps it will simply be a book that brings me pleasure. The first Antilles book of the month is in that latter category: Kei Miller's first novel, The Same Earth, published in March by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

From the publisher's website:

It all begins with the theft of Tessa Walcott's polkadot panties and a river that changes course overnight...

When Imelda Richardson leaves the small village of Watersgate, Jamaica, armed only with one small suitcase, she is doing so for the second time. One of the throng of young Jamaicans who left the island after the devastating hurricane of 1974, Imelda's journey has taken her to England, to the home of ganja-growing rebel Purletta Johnson, the arms of fake Northerner Ozzie, and a law degree. But when her mother dies Imelda returns to Watersgate, choosing Jamaica over England. 1983 is still a couple of years shy of the great dancehall explosion in which artistes like Shabba Ranks would sing how he 'loved punany bad', and the village is still dominated by the Evangelical church and the thundering voice of Pastor Braithwaite. When Tessa Walcott's panties are stolen -- and in the absence of Perry Mason -- she and Imelda decide to set up a Neighbourhood Watch. But they haven't counted on Pastor Braithwaite and the crusading zeal of Evangelist Millie. As a Pentecostal fervour sweeps through the village, the tensions between old and new come to a head.

(Miller is something of a favourite here at Antilles, as regular readers will know. Almost a year ago, we ran an interview with him; last July the CRB hosted him at a reading and public conversation in Port of Spain; and on that same visit to Trinidad, he recorded a podcast with CRB friend and contributor Georgia Popplewell. The CRB has published two of his poems in our May 2007 issue; his review of a book by James Berry in November 2007; and a review of his first two books by Edward Baugh in February 2007. The May 2008 CRB includes a review by Vahni Capildeo of Miller's second book of poems and the New Caribbean Poetry anthology he recently edited.)

A year of Antilles

It's been a year, dear readers--a year today since Antilles was launched as the CRB blog. Your humble blogger has not always been as regular or as prolific as he'd like--magazine production schedules and travel often get in the way--but I'd like to think that over the past twelve months I've done at least a half-decent job of providing news of the Caribbean literary scene and supplementing the coverage of the print magazine. Along the way I've managed to interview a couple of writers (look out for more interviews in coming months) and file reports from Calabash 2007 (I'll be at Calabash again this year, doing the same), and otherwise tried to make Antilles a sort of portal for literary websites, writers' blogs, reviews of Caribbean books from all over the world, etc. I'm afraid I can't promise to be more regular or more prolific during the year ahead, but I do have a few possible innovations up my sleeve....

(One of which is the Antilles book of the month: see immediately above.)

And many thanks to all of you, Antilles readers, especially those who over the last year have livened the blog with your comments--whether those took the form of questions, suggestions, criticisms, or adulations.

Thursday 1 May 2008

"We have lost the habit of caring about writers and books"

The recent passing of two very different regional poets, offers an opportunity to consider the diminishing role of literary culture in the contemporary Caribbean....

The deaths of Aimé Césaire and Wordsworth McAndrew inspire an editorial in today's Stabroek News about the role of literature in the contemporary Caribbean.

Wednesday 30 April 2008

"The beauty of the people's first language"

In the current issue of the Guyana Review, Allan Fenty shares his memories of the late Wordsworth McAndrew:

You would have hardly known from Wordsworth that he had been “a QC boy.” Not that he was modest, but he communicated his preference for “the University of the streets.”

That is why he traversed the entire country exploring and unearthing authentic folkloric beliefs, rituals, proverbs and unique creole which we tend to describe as “creolese.”

How high in esteem he held up the creole. An actual quote from him was -- “if we throw out creolese, we throw out a vital part of ourselves.” So on his old, reel-to-reel tape recorder, forever in that battered knapsack, he recorded the beauty of the people’s first language.

Also, admirers of McAndrew have set up a memorial blog, with links to articles about him, examples of his work, etc. And Guyana president Bharrat Jagdeo has announced that Carifesta X, which Guyana will host in August, will pay special tribute to McAndrew and his legacy.

May 2008 CRB: sneak preview

I am happy to report, dear readers, that the May issue of the CRB--which has occupied most of your humble Antilles blogger's attention in recent weeks--is now in the hands of the printers, and will shortly be in the hands of subscribers. With this issue, the CRB in its current incarnation is four years old (it feels far longer). Looking back at the sixteen issues we've published in that time, I'm pleased to note the ways in which the magazine has grown--in size, scope, subject matter--but also that we've remained faithful to the original aim, the original ideal: to provide a forum for serious but not solemn discussion of Caribbean books and writing for an audience of avid, curious readers. The May issue, at sixty pages, will be our biggest yet, and I also feel it's one of the strongest we've published so far.

And what might you look out for in this new issue? An insightful consideration of C.L.R. James as philosopher of cricket and literary critic, by Brendan de Caires; a review of three new books containing the work of ten "emerging" Caribbean poets, by Vahni Capildeo (herself one of our finest young poets); a rhapsody (that seems the best word) on Gordon Rohlehr by Anu Lakhan; also reviews of Lorna Goodison's new memoir, a biography of Trinidad-born political activist Claudia James, a collection of photographs of Afro-Cuban religious rituals, a personal account of Trinidad's 1990 attempted coup; tributes to the late Aimé Césaire by Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and J. Michael Dash; an excerpt from a forthcoming memoir by the late E.A. Markham; a wonderful essay on Frank Collymore's role in the evolution of West Indian literature, by Edward Baugh; poems by Fred D'Aguiar and Sassy Ross; a review of a recent exhibition by the young Trinidadian artist Rachel Rochford; a portfolio of images from the Curator's Eye III show that just opened at the National Gallery of Jamaica; and even more. By now, dear readers, those of you who do not yet subscribe to the CRB must be looking for the link that will let you do just that; here it is.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Archie Markham remembered

Thanks to Antilles reader Alastair Bird for pointing me to two recent obituaries of E.A. Markham; one, unsigned, published a few days ago in the Telegraph, and the other by Peter Fraser in yesterday's UK Guardian. Fraser includes this tidbit:

Normally efficient, especially in his writing, he seemed to attract things that went awry, whether they involved banks, transport, institutions or the West Indies cricket team. In time, these mishaps settled into anecdotes for others and often stories or poems for him. Perhaps this was the world demonstrating to him that it too could go against the grain. Characteristically, he supported Arsenal while most of his family backed West Ham.

Links, links, links

- The first proper review in the Trinidad and Tobago press of Patrick French's Naipaul biography, The World Is What It Is--by Suzanna Clarke in Newsday.

- Naipaul's most recent book, A Writer's People, has only just been published in the US--his American publisher there is lagging six months behind his British one, for who knows what reason. Richard Eder reviews it in the Boston Globe:

"All my life I've had to think about different ways of looking," V.S. Naipaul tells us at the start of yet another footsore stage (the 29th, including novels, essays, memoirs, and ruminations) in his lifelong trek to locate an estranged self in an estranging world.

The Trinidad-born writer is 75, a Nobel Prize winner, and as touchy, coldly aggrieved, and solipsistic as ever. And as always, just as one might give up on him, come moments in this new collection when self-absorption, afflicted by genius, turns into a visionary vantage over the wider human condition.

- Geoffrey Philp is celebrating US National Poetry Month all April long by posting poems by Caribbean and South Florida poets. Most recently: an excerpt from the late Anthony McNeill's Chinese Lanterns from the Blue Child. (By the way, when is someone going to put together a book of McNeill's unpublished and uncollected works?)

- Guyanese writer Ruel Johnson solicits essays on the topic of Guyana's "Feared Generation" for a possible book inspired by this blog post.

- And Marlon James interrupts work on his third novel to post a short essay called "I'm Too Old to Rock and Roll".

"He always wore rubber slippers"

More on the late Wordsworth McAndrew in today's Stabroek News; a brief statement by Guyana's minister of culture, Frank Anthony, and a tribute by Oscar Ramjeet, which includes this entertaining reminiscence:

Mac got the headlines in the newspaper when he rode off with his English bride on his bicycle after his wedding, wearing a dashiki shirt and rubber slippers. In fact, he always wore rubber slippers to work and refused to put on shoes despite a stern warning from the GBS General Manager Hugh Cholomondeley.