art in all its forms

art in all its forms

9/11/10

Bedside Books


I'm a slow reader and am way behind in my reading. But here is a sneak peek at what's at my bedside these days:

* Crick Crack by Merle Hodge and Summer Lightning by Olive Senior. Two Caribbean classics which everybody should read. I recently finished a writing workshop moderated by Hodge, who is a brilliant writer and academic and is also a social activist. The workshop, held under the auspices of the Cropper Foundation, gave unforgettable insight into the thinking and processes of writers like Hodge. I went back to Crick Crack after the workshop, having learnt a lot about writing and checked it out with a fresh perspective. From the start is it is a novel of understated power and I am looking forward to finishing it.

The first story of the short-story collection Summer Lightning is its title story. A brilliant piece of writing with a wry, wise but dangerous tone. You have the sense that great literature is unfolding before you, like a chill wind that will not relent. Read a full review by Shakira Bourne at Shivanee Ramlochan's blog Novel Niche here.

* Am also checking out: Keep on Running: the Story of Island Records; Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by one-time journalist John Berendt; and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw's short-story collection Four Taxis Facing North (which was reviewed here at the Caribbean Review of Books). Here is the first paragraph of Walcott-Hackshaw's short-story 'Here':
There are so many cars ahead of me, even today, Saturday, it’ll be a while before I get the green light and cross the major intersection, so I look to the left for no reason in particular, and I see three boys walking along the side of the highway; the first in what I call cowman boots, black rubber boots, like the ones I wore as a child so that I could pretend to be the man who took care of the cows opposite our first house in the valley; the second boy taller, skinnier, in rubber slippers, his thin T-shirt billowing in the wind like a sail; the third with blue-black madras skin in torn khaki shorts and an oversized white vest, and all three powdered with fine, white sand. They skin and grin, all the while staying in their single file, Indian file, one behind the other, on their side of the highway, the side with the coconut trees, the wooden huts, the razor grass, the rice grass, and everything so green except for the white mosque, crescent moon and star rising out of the water with the billboard: Islam, The Fastest Growing Religion In The World.
This is the work of a strong writer whose sense of language and nuance never overpowers her subject matter. Surely one of the important Caribbean voices out there to watch.

* There is also some poetry at my bedside pile, including: Shell also by the author of Summer Lightning, Olive Senior; Progeny of Air by Kwame Dawes and She Who Sleeps with Bones by Tanya Shirley. Of Senior, who has produced, perhaps more poetry than prose recently, I have to confess I'm developing something of a crush. It started when I encountered her poetry book Gardening in the Tropics online. This is how the opening of the book 'Meditation on Yellow' begins:

          I

          At three in the afternoon
          you landed here at El Dorado
          (for heat engenders gold and
          fires the brain)
          Had I known I would have
          brewed you up some yellow fever grass
          and arsenic

          but we were peaceful then
          childlike in our yellow dawn of our innocence

          so in exchange for a string of islands
          and two continents

          you gave us a string of beads
          and some hawks bells

          which was fine by me personally
          for I have never wanted to possess things



UPDATE: * I am also reading the masterpiece Texaco.




READ more poetry from Gardening in the Tropics here.

1 comment:

  1. I can't remember much these days but Olive Senior's poem of the young woman, rejected by the man who seduced her, at the street corner accosting passing motorists, who wore double petticoats so modest she was, stayed with me for over a decade.

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