Sunday, January 30, 2005

[Between Silence and Silence] converts a range of human apprehensions, sensitivities, adversities, celebrations and delights into enduring poetic experiences. In a previous collection, Essequibo, winner of the 1992 Guyana Prize for Poetry, McDonald revels in the landscape and the rivers of a wild natural heritage, but more than in any of his other books, Between Silence and Silence is a praise song for nature's beauty....

From Al Creighton's review of Ian McDonald's recent book of poems, in today's Stabroek News.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ms. Vendler does not do e-mail. Somehow this is not surprising. Prolonged reading of her work conveys the sense of a mind utterly devoted to poetry, a woman not at all shy about her bookishness. "I am not interested in groups," Ms. Vendler said during a panel discussion in New York five years ago. "I have never joined a political party. I have never voted. I have never registered to vote. I have never gone to a church. I have never belonged to a club. I've never belonged to anything." For the journalist seeking to interview her, it is something of a relief to learn that she has a telephone.

From Scott McLemee's profile of Helen Vendler in the current Chronicle of Higher Education.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Once upon a time Corsica was entirely covered by forest. Storey by storey it grew for thousands of years in rivalry with itself, up to heights of fifty metres and more, and who knows, perhaps larger and larger species would have evolved, trees reaching to the sky, if the first settlers had not appeared and if, with the typical fear felt by their own kind for its place of origin, they had not steadily forced the forest back again....

From an excerpt from W.G. Sebald's Campo Santo in this weekend's Guardian Review.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

From today's UK Guardian:

A bookseller has become the first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job because he kept an online diary in which he occasionally mentioned bad days at work and satirised his "sandal-wearing" boss.

Joe Gordon, 37, worked for Waterstone's in Edinburgh for 11 years but says he was dismissed without warning for "gross misconduct" and "bringing the company into disrepute" through the comments he posted on his weblog.

Published authors and some of the 5 million self-published bloggers around the globe said it was extraordinary that a company advertising itself as a bastion of freedom of speech had acted so swiftly to sack Mr Gordon, who mentions everything from the US elections to his home city of Edinburgh in the satirical blog he writes in his spare time.

Full story here; Gordon's blog here.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Dear readers, all three or four of you, we've come once more to the turn of the calendar, the start of a new year & the chance to try to make sense of the year just ended. Among other things, this means the announcement of the 2004 Nicholas Laughlin Book Awards, for Caribbean books (i.e. books written by Caribbean authors, set in the Caribbean, or otherwise of particular Caribbean interest) published in the last twelve months. (Read about the 2003 awards here.)

The sole justification for these awards: self-indulgence. My sole qualification as chief judge: for professional reasons (I edit The Caribbean Review of Books), I try my best to keep up-to-date with new Caribbean books; I read or at least flip through most of the review titles that appear on my desk. (This last year I must admit there's been more flipping through than reading.) My personal opinion is the only criterion for the awards, which are restricted to books published in English, since I don't read Spanish, French, Dutch, or anything else. Omissions due to poor memory are very likely. This year there are just two categories, fiction & poetry, because I don't seem to have read enough history, biography, current affairs etc.

Fiction: The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat. Anthony Winkler's book of stories The Annihilation of Fish also brought much pleasure, & I even heard Winkler read a couple of the stories when I was in Jamaica last May. He is an extraordinary performer, & this was easily the funniest reading I've ever witnessed. Other "big" books: V.S. Naipaul's Magic Seeds, Andrea Levy's Small Island, Lawrence Scott's Night Calypso, David Dabydeen's Our Lady of Demerara.

Poetry: A good year for Caribbean poetry! The Bounty is still my favourite late-Walcott collection, but the best passages of his new book-length poem, The Prodigal, show our essential poet at the height of his powers. At the very start of the year came Ian McDonald's Between Silence and Silence, & James Christopher Aboud's Lagahoo Poems at the very end. Both extraordinary & inspiring books (see my short reviews here & here). I exercise my judge's right to not choose between these three.

Addendum: Perhaps I didn't read very many new books in 2004; perhaps the new books I did read made no great impression. My greatest reading pleasure came from E.M. Forster, whose fiction I re-read entire last January & February; & from the poetry of Keats, Hopkins, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, & Spencer Short, which I read & re-read throughout the year. Alan Hollinghurst's new novel The Line of Beauty disappointed me by being not nearly beautiful enough. It was a year of re-reading, really. And in the last few days I've been reading a fascinating collection of essays etc. by a friend & colleague. This was privately published, & I know the last thing the author wants is publicity of any kind, so I won't mention his name or the title of the book. But the clarity & reasonableness & decency of these essays--many of which tackle life's fundamental & unanswerable questions--have encouraged & inspired & otherwise helped me through the often difficult year-end period, & I suspect this "secret" book will be a constant companion for many years to come.