una marson and other writers at the bbc

Windrush moderns

Brendan de Caires reviews Migrant Modernism: Postwar London and the West Indian Novel, by J. Dillon Brown, and Commonwealth of Letters: British Literary Culture and the Emergence of Postcolonial Aesthetics, by Peter J. Kalliney:

“Kalliney and Brown both invoke the idea of a ‘cultural field’ to chart British Modernism’s impact on the margins of its former empire. Brown contends that the fictions of George Lamming, Edgar Mittelholzer, Samuel Selvon, and Roger Mais can be read as a ‘strategic engagement with Modernist forms,’ and he argues, persuasively, that Modernism’s ‘self-reflexive, counter-discursive impulses migrated into the very foundations of Anglophone Caribbean fiction.’”

Image above: Una Marson (seated at centre) with T.S. Eliot, George Orwell, and other writers in a BBC studio, 1942

claudia rankine

Breaking form

Anton Nimblett reviews Claudia Rankine’s Citizen:

“One, or some, of Rankine’s form breaks would be experiment, perhaps subversion. The aggregate, and the very valid and marvellous uses of them, is a revolt. You may want to call this book collage, perhaps genre-bending. Citizen is in fact a genre-fuck.”

Image above: Claudia Rankine. Photograph courtesy Graywolf Press

Detail of Too Much Makeup, by Sheena Rose

Growing pains

Gabrielle Bellot reviews Naomi Jackson’s novel The Star Side of Bird Hill:

“From the moment Jackson’s beautiful but restrained debut novel begins, we enter a space of uncertain transnational identity: a place where the questions of what it means to be from the Caribbean, what it means to be American, and what it means to trace your roots come together.”

Image above: detail of Too Much Makeup, from the Sweet Gossip series, by Sheena Rose

Vahni Capildeo

Turtles all the way down

Vivek Narayanan reviews Vahni Capildeo’s poetry collection Utter:

“The politics of Utter comes ultimately not in its readiness to champion and answer to old categories and interpellated postcolonial identities, but in fact in its fierce refusal of easy reading or reduction. This is enacted in the working and reworking of grammar, in its flow or its sudden arrest, through absence, or through, often, a kind of semic overloading.”

Image above: Vahni Capildeo. Photograph by Caroline Forbes

gerard h gaskin tez


Melanie Archer reviews Gerard H. Gaskin’s photography book Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene:

“In these images, the subjects seem completely at ease and the gaze is comfortable, even familial. This is a collaboration. The individuals here are working with Gaskin to take charge of the way they are represented — although Gaskin presses the shutter, they are the co-authors.”

Image above: Tez, Evisu Ball, Manhattan, New York, 2010, from Legendary

From the CRB archive:

Reading, writing, religion

Marlon James and Mark McWatt talk to Annie Paul about literary influences, the momentum of fiction, and matters of language and religion, in this interview first published in the November 2006 CRB:

“There is a pretty huge, for want of a better term, magical realist world in oral storytelling, but I don’t know if the Caribbean writer looks upon folklore as something to draw on in that sense — to be whimsical surely, and in children’s stories and so on. And even when I see it, ’cause I do see it in some fiction . . . it’s like we always make sure to keep a distance from it.”

Image above: Marlon James in 2007. Photograph by Georgia Popplewell, posted at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

image of water


Fiction by Barbara Jenkins: an excerpt from a novel-in-progress, De Rightest Place

“And outside, in the awake world, the dry season sudden cloudburst explodes, scattering shrapnel raindrops, that pierce through leafless trees, that pit the dry caked laterite, hurling loose dirt into the air from a million tiny craters, joining to form a web of cocoa-brown runnels that unite and split, rushing onwards carrying mud, dead leaves, and parched grass, styrofoam cups, FCK boxes and New Waters plastic water bottles, rivulets racing towards drains already full and swiftly clogged, that burst through into the streets, surging and roaring, ripping off sheets of asphalt, dense grey-black rafts buffeted on churning, raging road rivers.”

Image above: posted at Flickr by Vicente Moreno under a Creative Commons license

Detail of a Haitian vodou flag for Sen Jak and Danbala (mid twentieth century, artist unknown), from the collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA

Songs of the road

Simon Lee reviews Vodou Songs in Haitian Creole and English, by Benjamin Hebblethwaite, and Nan Dòmi: An Initiate’s Journey into Haitian Vodou, by Mimerose Beaubrun, trans. D.J. Walker:

“Two recent books on Vodou provide precisely the insider perceptions and experience, along with invaluable source material, which allow those with a genuine interest, rather than vicarious thrill-seekers, to understand and appreciate the living tradition which sustains Haitians either at home or in the diaspora.”

Image above: detail of a Haitian vodou flag for Sen Jak and Danbala (mid twentieth century, artist unknown), from the collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA


The CRB’s online archive includes the full contents of every issue since 2009, and selections from older editions. In the coming months, we will add the full contents of every past issue to the new archive and subject index.