Earl Lovelace: Two Novels

The Dragon Can't Dance
Early in the year I’d threatened that in 2016 I would be further testing the patience of my core whisky readership—who are already suffering through a steady diet of recipes and restaurant reviews—with posts on literature. Here now is the first one, on the Trinidadian writer, Earl Lovelace, which will seek to convince you to purchase and read his novels, The Dragon Can’t Dance (1979) and Salt (1996).

Odds are that if you’re not from the Caribbean, or do not teach or study fiction by writers from the Caribbean, you will not be familiar with Earl Lovelace. And given the fame of writers such as V.S Naipaul (also originally from Trinidad—though it’s hard to say where he’s from now) or Jamaica Kincaid or Edwidge Danticat or, more recently, Marlon James, Lovelace’s lack of name recognition may seem to tell its own story. After all, in the era of globally available literature, and with the logic of the free market seemingly internalized everywhere, it is easy to believe that availability and name-recognition are linked to “quality”. Surely if a writer from the Caribbean and her books were worth reading they would be nominated for the Booker Prize or receive mass market publishing contracts and “rise” to the top of our consciousness.  Continue reading

On Preparing to Re-Read To Kill a Mockingbird

tkam
The first and last time I read To Kill a Mockingbird was in 1983 in Darjeeling. Well, I read it many times that year but I haven’t read it since. I was in class 8 at St. Paul’s, a once-great boys’ boarding school set up in the 19th century by the English as “the Eton of India”—a claim that must have rung hollow long before I got there (these days the school remains in firm decline and no one bothers to recycle the claim). Our English teacher, the formidable Mr. Bhatnagar, had single-handedly decided to make us read books that probably very few Indian thirteen year olds were reading in school. Tragical, Comical Historical, Pastoral, a compilation of extracts from Shakespeare was one; To Sir, With Love was another, and very thrilling in its account of unruly student behaviour of a type we couldn’t even dream of perpetrating (I remember we were all very confused by the scene featuring a burnt sanitary napkin). But the one that made the greatest impression on most of us on whom books made any kind of impression was To Kill a MockingbirdContinue reading