Brain food

by Nicholas Laughlin on July 14, 2010

Installation view of Karyn Olivier’s ACA Foods Free Library. Photograph courtesy the artist

The latest issue of the CRB — dated July 2010 — began publication yesterday (and will continue for the next six weeks, with new reviews and other pieces appearing every week). We kick things off with three reviews.

First, Ian Dieffenthaller tackles Anson Gonzalez’s Artefacts of Presence: Collected Poems, casting an eye over the Trinidadian poet’s forty-year career and oeuvre. Apart from his poems — “very much part of the canon,” Dieffenthaller argues — Gonzalez was the founder and editor of the influential journal New Voices, published intermittently over two decades, and he has been a key colleague and mentor for two generations of Trinidadian writers.

Next, two reviews of recent fiction. Andre Bagoo, a political reporter and analyst for the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, brings his journalist’s insight to his review of Monique Roffey’s novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. Roffey’s book, recently shortlisted for the Orange Prize, turns on the tantalising notion of a fictional affair between Trinidad and Tobago’s first prime minister, Eric Williams, and the female half of an expatriate couple who settle in Port of Spain in the 1950s. Meanwhile, Nadia Ellis takes a look at How to Escape from a Leper Colony, a collection of short fiction and the first book by the young writer Tiphanie Yanique of the US Virgin Islands. Ellis’s review suggests Yanique is a talent we should expect much from in the future.

And this week the CRB also publishes a portfolio of images from ACA Foods Free Library, a public art project by Karyn Olivier (part of the recent Rockstone and Bootheel: Contemporary West Indian Art programme at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut). Olivier, hoping to “create a social environment of shared activity,” set up a free lending library of Caribbean books in a West Indian supermarket in Hartford. The portfolio documents the project and is accompanied by an interview with the artist. “My hope was for this library to expand what we imagine the ‘consumables’ of a market to be,” she says.

Particularly when that market inadvertently traffics in nostalgia for home. I was thinking it could be a place where we could really slow down, browse, and relish the sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and, yes, the imperishable produce of our West Indian heritage. I really liked the idea of borrowers returning the books when they were finished “digesting them.”

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