Writings of the general word's body

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Andrea Levy on the uses of fiction

A take on the relative worth of prizes, in a profile of Small Island author Andrea Levy in today's UK Guardian Review. The novel's Orange Prize win in 2004 did not significantly up the sales of her now famous novel. Then, according to the article, "in fairly quick succession, came the Whitbread, the Commonwealth and the Orange Best of the Best..." etcetera etcetera. Having been there on the night Levy won the Orange (we were there for Adichie who was shortlisted for Purple Hibiscus), it seemed to me afterwards that you couldn't walk into a London bookstore without being confronted by 'islands' of Levy's novel. But according to the author, it was the Whitbread that really shot the book through the roof.

The profile, by respected journalist Gary Younge, is interesting for what it says about race, identity and belonging. Second generation 'light-skinned' Jamaican in Britain whose parents sailed to England on the Windrush, Levy once lined up with the whites in the office, only to be told - to her shock - that she belonged with the blacks. Thank God for the wake-up call, or we might never have had Small Island - or her new novel, The Long Song, set on a slave plantation.
Levy on slavery: "There are many who will say that it was a very long time ago, and a lot who just don't want you to mention it because it will make them feel bad. It's painful, both for black and white people. But it's 300 years. You can't just ignore it... [Y]ou can't avoid slavery. You can't. You have to go to that place... It's the book I had to write because of who I am."
  • Read the Andrea Levy interview here.
Last week's Review had an excerpt from Chinua Achebe's new book, The Education of a British Protected Child, here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tonight in Lagos

He was at Terra Kulture last July with the well received I Got A Home in Barack. Now Tayo Aluko returns to Lagos courtesy of the US Consulate with his award winning Call Mr Robeson.

The baritone, son of novelist T.M. Aluko, performed in a special show for the consulate last night. Tonight's show is open to all...

Call Mr Robeson
Agip Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
Time: 6pm.
Tickets: N2,000

Thursday, January 28, 2010

JD Salinger, 1919 - 2010

"If you really want to hear about it the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born. What my lousy childhood was like. And how my parents were occupied and all before they had me. And all that David Copperfield kind of crap. But I don't feel like going into it, if you really want to know the truth".
--Opening lines, 'The Catcher in the Rye'
"I'm aware that a number of my friends will be saddened, or shocked, or shocked-saddened, over some of the chapters of The Catcher in the Rye. Some of my best friends are children. In fact all of my best friends are children. It's almost unbearable to me to realise that my book will be kept on a shelf out of their reach."
--JD Salinger, b. 1 January 1919; d. 27 January 2010

  • An aside on the business of Obit-writing; The UK Guardian has an obituary on Salinger, penned by a writer who died some seven years before him, here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

With apologies to Aaliyah...

It's been a long time
We shouldn't have left you
Without a dope beat
Wordsbody is back, folks!