Katie Nevison publishes on FEMMEUARY!

I have just experienced the thrill of reading a good friend’s (very) short story on a fantastic new website called FEMMEUARY! Katie Nevison published a delightfully playful piece called ‘Venus Fly Trap’ on FEMMEUARY! today (well, technically it was yesterday, since it is now past midnight). Written in fresh, poetic language that successfully evokes a luscious (and dangerous) natural landscape, it is a sensuous story with mythic resonance and a cracking last line: ‘But why would Venus bother with a fly?’

Don’t just take my word for it: have a read for yourself, here.

When I started writing this post, I thought FEMMEUARY! was an established website and was disappointed (but also excited) when I discovered via their Facebook page that it is in fact not a website but, I quote, ‘a collaborative blog, for those interested, aggravated or enlightened by feminism. FEMMEUARY! is a group for feminists or anybody interested in feminism. We are looking for people to write articles for our blog which will be published throughout, er, Febuary [sic! Ladies, where is the first 'r' in February??] and plugged by Sick Chirpse Magazine’.

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Writers On Writing: Dorothea Brande

‘For most of my adult life I have been engaged in the writing, the editing, or the criticizing of fiction. I took, and still take, the writing of fiction seriously. The importance of novels and short stories in our society is great. Fiction supplies the only philosophy that many readers know; it establishes their ethical, social, and material standards; it confirms them in their prejudices or opens their minds to a wider world. The influence of any widely read book can hardly be overestimated. If it is sensational, shoddy or vulgar our lives are the poorer for the cheap ideals which it sets in circulation; if, as so rarely happens, it is a thoroughly good book, honestly conceived and honestly executed, we are all indebted to it. The movies have not undermined the influence of fiction. On the contrary, they have extended its field, carrying the ideas which are already current among readers to those too young, too impatient, or too uneducated to read.’

Dorothea Brande, Becoming a Writer, pp.19-20, Penguin Putnam, New York, 1981 (1934)

Book Review: John Crow’s Devil

[This article was originally published in The Jamaica Sunday Observer. This online version has been slightly amended from the original article.]

John Crow’s Devil, Marlon James’ explosive entrance onto the literary stage, is not your conventional Caribbean novel. For starters, it has an unusual opening – it begins at ‘The End’. Readers are propelled immediately into the nub of the story, and thus from the outset are robbed of the element of surprise. Yet here is a book so tight with tension and suffused with mystery, it was hailed as one of the best books of the year by the New York Times and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize in 2006. ‘It’s the road to ruin that fascinates me, the journey if you will’ James says in explanation of his structural decision. And what an expedition this novel takes you on!

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Film Review: The Last King of Scotland

[This article was originally published in The Jamaica Sunday Observer. This online version has been slightly amended from the original article.]

One of Africa’s bloodiest periods in history makes the Big Screen

‘Charming. Magnetic. Murderous.’ This is the tag line of the recent release by Fox Searchlight Pictures; three words that succinctly describe the subject of this feature presentation: the late General Idi Amin. Based on the eponymous novel by Giles Fodden and firmly grounded in real facts and events, The Last King of Scotland – despite its disingenuous title – is a superbly crafted, harrowing portrayal of one of Africa’s most tyrannical dictators.

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Book Review: The Inheritance of Loss

[This article was originally published in The Jamaica Sunday Observer. This online version has been slightly amended from the original article.]

Following the global success of Hullaballoo in the Guava Orchard, Kiran Desai’s second novel is a spectacular oeuvre that has been heralded by critics and readers alike as one of the year’s finest books. Suketu Mehta said of the work of fiction: ‘(It is) a revelation of the possibilities of the novel’, and indeed, for The Inheritance of Loss there seems to be no boundaries. The 395 page volume spans over four generations and two continents. However the quality of this mammoth novel lies not only in its breadth but also in its depth. The narrative not only explores universal themes such as love, hatred, longing and abandonment but also adroitly tackles the most pressing of contemporary issues: economic inequality, immigration, globalisation, post-colonialism, nationalism and terrorism.

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Feature Article: The Jamaican Literary Scene

[This article was originally published in The Jamaica Sunday Observer. This online version has been slightly amended from the original article.]

As the Calabash Writer’s Workshops for 2006-07 are launched, ‘Bookends’ writer Sarala Estruch investigates the scene for writers in Jamaica with some help from Colin Channer – novelist and founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust.

Re-organizing my bookshelf the other day I was struck by a curious fact – the mahogany shelves were lined with row upon row of American and British authors but there were only a spattering of Jamaican authors in its midst. Right next to the bookshelf, however, stood my towering CD rack, brimming with Caribbean – and notably Jamaican – artists screaming out at me in bright colours. It dawned on me that, while only a small island, Jamaica has exerted – and continues to exert – significant influence on the global arena. For such a small country, Jamaica’s international reputation for music, dance, sports, food, and landscape is astonishing. However, on the literary stage, Jamaica’s traditionally resonant voice has been far more muted.

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Feature Article – Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come

[This article was originally published in The Jamaica Sunday Observer. This online version has been slightly amended from the original article.]

A month after the passing away of writer and director Perry Henzell, Sarala Estruch ventures behind-the-scenes to discover the reasons behind the phenomenal success of Jamaica’s first feature film.

People, people, everywhere! Young people, old people, rich and poor; they all flocked out and flooded the Carib theatre in Crossroads at the heart of Kingston. The cinema had never witnessed such commotion. Outside the queue was so long you couldn’t see the end of it, inside was utter chaos! Ram-packed – no one was able to move an inch. Not even the Prime Minister was able to get through the hoard of bodies. And what was all this in aid of? It was 1972 and Jamaica’s first feature film was just about to be premiered on home ground: The Harder They Come.

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Dance Review: Into The Light

[This article was originally published in The Jamaica Sunday Observer. This online version has been slightly amended from the original article.]

A shining performance by Movements Dance Company for their Silver Jubilee

Anticipation was high as a brimming full house sat in The Little Theatre awaiting the rising of the curtains last Sunday evening. The evening was to be the concluding performance of the 25th anniversary season of Jamaica’s Movements Dance Company, and people had flocked out in the hundreds.
The curtains opened to reveal a large platform ornamented with a simple backdrop – an abstract medley of brash colours over a large white canvas – and a solo figure sat at the left hand corner of the stage in a hunched position. It was a solemn commencement for what was to be a celebratory evening. The male dancer soon began to display, through writhing gestures, the tale of his anguish as an AIDS sufferer. A sequence of cinematic ‘flashbacks’ marked with emotive choreography transported the audience into this tragic world. Certainly a pressing contemporary issue, I commend the choreographer, Monica Campbell, for her innovative and daring, if somewhat disjointed piece, aptly entitled ‘Flashback’.

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Book Review: Iron Balloons

[This article was originally published in The Jamaica Sunday Observer. This online version has been slightly amended from the original article.]

Think Jamaican writers cyaan bus’? Think again! Here is a book of Caribbean stories that soars way above expectation!

Iron Balloons

Iron Balloons is the latest publication to emerge from the Calabash Writer’s Workshops that take place in Kingston every year. The workshops are part of the initiative of the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust, a not-for-profit organisation that is working towards eradicating the perception that Jamaican writers ‘cyaan bus’’! Iron Balloons (whose title is a direct reference to this belief and is clearly ironic) is steel proof that the Jamaican literary scene is not bereft of talent, it simply lacks the opportunities.

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