Friday, August 31, 2007

The big four-five

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO woke up on the morning of its 45th birthday and groaned like an octogenarian. It lay on the bed for a moment before opening its eyes to the blinding light coming in through the window. (The shade trees the British had planted had long ago been hacked down to clear the way for buildings, parking lots, smelters, churches, prime ministerial holiday homes and future monorail stations & child labour camps.) The country let out a little whelp, rolled over in the cramped, crowded, dirty, noisy little bed it had made for itself and tried to go back to sleep....

But even play-play countries in which grandiose official residences went up in record time but schools failed to open on the first day of term because of overflowing toilets, flea infestations & teacher absenteeism, must at least make a show of going about their business, even on their birthdays; and so Trinidad & Tobago sighed, steupsed, farted - and knelt at the side of its bed for morning prayers....

-- B.C. Pires, wishing the nation, ahm, a happy birthday in his column in today's Express.

The only thing funnier than that in the papers today--and I mean not funny-ha-ha or funny-strange but funny-heartbreaking--might be Juhel Browne's report of the media tour of the new prime ministerial palace:

The ground floor of the residence is where all visiting dignitaries would be accommodated in three self contained bedrooms.

Each bedroom has its own toilet and glass-door shower, chairs and a bed that did not appear to be more than 6ft in length.

The beds had mattresses with tags in Chinese words.

The bedrooms had large windows and curtains.

At least one of them had a clear view of the swimming pool.

There is a large room called a parlour which has chairs and sofas.

The ground floor also has a large dining area with a long wooden table and chairs and a meeting room.

There is a kitchen and preparation room for the food.

Some of the counter tops, however, are yet to be completed.

Are these haiku-like paragraphs straight-faced reporting, an odd attempt at irony, evidence of a journalist's utter despair? And what, I wonder, will Our Father have to say about it all?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Many correspondents, few lovers

Email is good for one thing only: flirtation. The problem with flirtation has always been that the nervousness you feel in front of the object of your infatuation deprives you of your wittiness. But with email you can spend an hour refining a casual sally. You trade clever notes as weightless, pretty, and tickling as feathers. The email, like the Petrarchan sonnet, is properly a seduction device, and everyone knows that the SUBJECT line should really read PRETEXT.

But one has many correspondents, and few if any lovers. Individually, they’re all decent people; collectively, they form an army marching to invade your isolation and ransack your valuable time....

-- From "Against email", an unsigned essay in the latest issue of n+1. (I sent my very first email in late 1995 or early 1996--I wish I could remember more exactly. But I remember who I sent it to and more or less what I wrote. I also remember a sense of awesome--or should that be "awful"?--thrill. I knew the world had changed, but I didn't yet know how. And how could I have guessed--I barely understand it now--that a casual click of the send button would start the avalanche that finds me here, a decade later, at the bottom of a scree-strewn slope, in the desolate sump of Facebook?)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To everything there is a season...

...and a time for every blog to get a new look. This blog reached that point many months ago, but lassitude and procrastination are strong with me. However, when the acquisition of a top-level domain name required me to design a new home page, I thought there was no point putting it off any more. Circumspice, dear reader, whoever you are. And here's a last look back at the blog's old incarnation:

what my blog used to look like

I'll miss it a little--I'm silly that way--but I suppose I can always visit version 1.0 in the Internet Archive.

Meanwhile, is now up and running. For the time being there's just a home page and a revised version of Choosing My Confessions, which collects links to various of my reviews etc., but eventually I'll post a page devoted to my Guyana book-in-progress, "Imaginary Roads", and who knows what else.

Oh, does this mean I'll now be posting here more often? Probably not, if experience is any guide.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

It wasn't until 1955 that I came across the Walcott book....

It seemed to me quite wonderful that in 1949 and 1948 and doubtless for some years before there had been, in what I had thought of as the barrenness of the islands, this talent among us, this eye, this sensitivity, this gift of language, ennobling many of the ordinary things we knew. The fishermen rowing homeward in the dusk are not aware of the stillness through which they move. We lived in Trinidad on the all but shut-in Gulf of Paria, between the island and Venezuela; that sight of fishermen, silhouettes in the fast-fading dusk, so precisely done, detail added to detail, was something we all knew. Reading these poems in London in 1955, I thought I could understand how important Pushkin was to the Russians, doing for them what hadn't been done before. I put the Walcott as high as that.

-- V.S. Naipaul on Derek Walcott, from a piece published in today's UK Guardian, excerpted from Naipaul's forthcoming book A Writer's People.

See this post at Antilles for a snippet from a 1963 letter in which Naipaul praises Walcott's "startling vision and muscular expression"....