Monday, December 13, 2010

Dominica: The Setting for Jamaica Kincaid's Autobiography of my Mother

Roseau, Dominica (photo credit)
Dominica Link

Jean Rhys' Childhood in Dominica too.
We walked around the home, took photos and tried to get a sense of her life and imagined the setting for Wide Sargasso Sea.

Autobiographical Picasso

Trivial autobiography?

Picasso a Show Off?
Germaine Greer writes:
There is something tiresome about Picasso. Jonathan Jones put his finger on it in a piece in the Guardian last month. "Each work by Picasso is a unique piece of autobiography," he said, which signifies that each work is, no matter how dazzling, inherently trivial. To understand Picasso's works, you must regard them as "anecdotes or snapshots of a particular moment in his life". There is nothing more to most of Picasso's work than virtuosic showing off – except for Guernica. The studies for Guernica show this was one work in which Picasso forgot himself.

And what does Picasso say about himself?

Perhaps the explanation of Picasso's quixotry can be found in something he said to the writer Giovanni Papini in 1952: "Today, as you know, I am famous, I am rich. But when I am alone with myself, I haven't the courage to consider myself an artist in the ancient sense of the word. Great painters are people like Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya. I am only a public entertainer who has understood the times and has exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity and the greed of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than might seem, but it has the merit of being sincere."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jamaica Kincaid in Dominica Learning about America


Jamaica Kincaid Impacts the Jewish Community

Invisible Man, but what about the invisible woman? In this
Helen Epstein- Editor's comments on Jamaica Kincaid's presentation where she selected a snapshot of her mother to display instead of a famous painting:

I was in my forties and listening to West Indian writer Jamaica
Kincaid speaking at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, when
I suddenly perceived their absence (like Pnina Motzafi-Haller in
her essay about mizrahi women in Israel,I applied the insight of an
African-American woman to my own life).

Jamaica Kincaid had done a brilliant and audacious thing: invited to choose her favorite painting at the museum and speak to a large audience about the reasons for her choice, she had beamed an old snapshot of her mother on themuseum’s large screen and talked about it.

All of us in the audience, of course, had been accustomed to viewing
the parade of art history on such a screen – from the Greeks to the
Renaissance masters to the Impressionists and Abstract Expressionists .
We were accustomed to oil portraits and elaborately framed photographs.

The effect of Kinkaid’s snapshot was shocking and
made the author’s point more forcefully than her words:
Had we ever seen the image ofan ordinary West Indian woman on the walls of a museum? Had we ever contemplated her face? Her body? Her surroundings? Her life?

How did we ascribe value to this snapshot when it was viewed in a
private photo album, in a newspaper, or here, in the context of other
portraits in the museum? We had all read or at least heard of Ralph
case, what about an entire sub-culture usually hidden by the majority
African-American minority culture?

Link to introduction

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kincaid's First Book: At the Bottom of the River

Kincaid's first book editor Pat Strachen: Interview

Jamaica Kincaid. I read one little story called “Girl” in the New Yorker, found out who the agent was, made an offer, and signed up the book [...] We [Edna O'Brien] put together her collected stories and got Philip Roth to write the introduction and got a front page TBR [Times Book Review review].

Pat Strachen

Pat Strachen had the idea for a book of collected stories after reading Girl, which was published in the New Yorker. She was an assistant editor at the New Yorker, and later an editor. She approached Jamaica Kincaid with the book idea.

Reactions to "Girl"

...and this
way they won't recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming

Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl"

Reader reaction:
"Although the mother tells her daughter that she is bent on becoming a slut I do not believe she is saying this to hurt her daughter’s feelings, the sense in which she uses this derogatory remark makes me feel that she is trying to get her ready for the world so the daughter could shield herself. I say this because although the mother tells her child that she is bent on becoming a slut, she also teaches her daughter what medicine to make and take to abort a child. In this short text, the mother giving her daughter all of these instructions gives me the impression that she may be going away or perhaps dying."

It's remarkable that this young man is defending Girl's mother. This understanding of the mother is the reaction I also get from many of my students. They refuse to believe that the mother is intending to be cruel. They think the mother is trying to pass on her wisdom and motivate her daughter to do the right thing.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jamaica Kincaid

What is the location of these interview comments?

Secondary source:  Her Story BBC World Service


She felt betrayed by her mother, so that even her first experience of menstruation came as a shock to her. She says that her mother had never explained to her before what was involved in becoming a woman:

First quote:

"I went to take a bath and noticed this brown rust thing in my underwear and was terrified of it and I told my mother and, I think she thought it was the best way to act, she said 'oh yes that happens'. And I felt kind of betrayed and nobody had told me that would happen to me so young. I remember I had a lot of pain during it and fainted and had to be sent home."

Excerpt from Annie John:

On the morning of the first day I started to menstruate, I felt strange in a new way- hot and cold at the same time, with horrible pains running up and down my legs. My mother, knowing what was the matter, brushed aside my complaints and said that it was all to be expected and I would soon get used to everything. Seeing my gloomy face, she told me in a half-joking way all about her own experience with the first step in coming of age, as she called it, which had happened when she was as old as I was. I pretended that this information made us close- as close as in the old days- but to myself I said "What a serpent!"

Annie John, 1985

Second quote: "I write about my mother and her influence on her children and on me all the time. She's dead now and I found that even that was a source of inspiration or something.."

Annie John excerpt:

My past was my mother; I could hear her voice, and she spoke to me not in English or the patois that she sometimes spoke, or in any language that needed help from the tongue; she spoke to me in language anyone female could understand. And I was undeniably that-female. Oh, it was a laugh, for I had spent so much time saying I did not want to be like my mother that I missed the whole story: I was not like my mother- I was my mother. And I could see now why, to the feeble attempts I made to draw a line between us, her reply always was "You can run away, but you cannot escape the fact that I am your mother, my blood runs in you, I carried you for nine months inside me." I had, at that very moment, a collection of letters from her in my room, nineteen in all, one for every year of my life, unopened. I thought of opening the letters, not to read them but to burn them at the four corners and send them back to her unread. It was an act, I had read somewhere, of one lover rejecting another, but I could not trust myself to go too near them. I knew that if I read only one, I would die from longing for her.

Annie John, 1985

Faux My Space

A My Space was created by someone has knowledge of  Jamaica Kincaid. It's a spoof that characterizes her as uneducated. Listed among her friends are her daughter, husband, father-in-law, and Tom, who probably is the author of the faux My Space.

Is Jamaica Kincaid American?

Jamaica Kincaid as part of the American Cannon

"I am very grateful for this award, this medal — named in honor of a great man, white and dead at that, I’m sorry to say — in American literature. In that sentence, it is the 'American' that is important, for this novel about a girl coming of age on a small island in the Caribbean has become part of the American canon." —Jamaica Kincaid

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Florida Student Examines Kincaid

Thesis link Lindsey Collins

Interest in title: Ciaan Live Split: An Old Mold and Kincaid's Intervention

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview at New Yorks' Swank Royalton Hotel

Dwight Garner interviews Jamaica Kincaid

Lobby of the New York Royalton Hotel
Excerpt from Webpage:
Royalton proudly re-opens its doors onto midtown Manhattan, re-thought, re-imagined, and once again, a paragon of intelligent, modern design. Royalton's legendary lobby, long an inspiration for elites of New York fashion and media, is invigorated with handcrafted African touches, graphic fabrics, original murals and the warm glow of a cast-bronze fireplace

The remodel that occurred after the interview added handcrafted African touches.