Showing posts with label Jamaica Kincaid's family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jamaica Kincaid's family. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

See Now Then

Recent Review



 How does Jamaica Kincaid's veiled self-reference influence the reading of her new book, "See Now Then"?

All of this is relevant because Kincaid, the author of more than a dozen books, is a public literary figure. And seen through the lens of some basic but widely known facts of her life, reading "See Now Then" becomes quite a different experience.        

"by the time I reached that last passage, the domestic complications of See Now Then began to lose their entirely magical and allegorical qualities and feel more like the nastiness of a real marriage." His sense of the similarity between the author's life and the artistic work, causes him to conduct some research about her personal life. In his reading, knowing that the family composition and marital disagreement are close or shared with the author interrupts his ability to read the work as art (literary prose) alone. 

In fact he recommends readers who do not know about her life to avoid the details and warns them to stop reading his review because, "you would enjoy it more." The parallels that he points out between the character Mrs. Sweet and the author Kincaid are that she gardens, lives in small town New England, and the family composition are the same, which taken alone are not so significant. For him, the most impacting similarity is that as the husband and wife trade insults, the physical attributes commented upon are similar to those of the author and her ex-husband's physical appearance. He said the resemblances were disconcerting and he began to feel "voyeuristic." Later, the indications about the father's aggressive feelings toward the son and his possessiveness towards the daughter seem to "express a very personal, private hurt." Tobar concludes that the book deserves to be read as fiction, and yet he clearly cannot avoid making connections. He reads it as a veiled  memoir. Certainly, this is a favorable review and yet he concludes:"There are two ways to read Jamaica Kincaid's mesmerizing new novel, See Now Then.The first is the way any work of art should be read: by simply absorbing what's on the page. This is how I read the first two-thirds of See Now Then."

What is important about this review is that even though the reviewer did not know much about Jamaica Kincaid's personal life before reading her novel, he was still influenced by the presence of the autobiographical within her writing.When I heard audio recorded readings of sections of this work, I noted that the audiences laughed at what seemed to be insider jokes; for example, comments that could be about her daughter and son's behavior (but presented in this fiction) has a familiar feeling. For readers who are familiar with the author's previous works, the influence of her autobiography will likely be more forceful.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jamaica Kincaid Girl Audio Recording

I imagine that Jamaica Kincaid lived in a house such as the above when she was a child.

Jamaica Kincaid takes her children to the school bus in Vermont.

Jamaica Kincaid reading (photo credit and link to Girl text) Jamaica Kincaid's voice...

Kincaid reads her short story "Girl"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Allen Shawn Interview


Interview by David B. Green

Questions and Answers: A Conversation With Allen Shawn


On Jewish influences and family decisions about religion:

When I had children with my first wife [the writer Jamaica Kincaid], I didn't want them baptized. She grew up as a Methodist. I just thought it was terribly important to acknowledge the background that they had and have had, and in the end my wife converted to Judaism. She in fact became quite an expert on the subject and was for a time the chair of the board of the local temple. And my son had a bar mitzvah and my daughter had a bat mitzvah. They learned some Hebrew. As a result, I was in a synagogue quite a bit and was terribly moved to get to know a little more about Judaism.

On the privacy and personal autobiographical element:

 Your books are indeed both very personal and also fascinating introductions to mind science and the eternal nature-nurture debate. Was it hard to strike such a balance?
 Obviously, I tried very hard to find that balance. On the one hand, I tried to "personalize" the science, and on the other, to abstract my personal experience - or universalize it. I removed almost everybody's name from the body of both books, so that the books would be about family life and about fear and about mental disability, about difficult decisions and about loss - about themes that do apply to everybody - and not so much about the Shawn family specifically. Nevertheless some people still do put the gossip factor back into the book, and that is probably inevitable.

On his parents sending his twin Mary to an institution:

 I feel tremendous sympathy for my parents, dealing with what they had to deal with. Some people try to simplify these issues, how to deal with a child who is on a different plane than the rest of the family, but it is not so simple to determine what is best for the child, and what's best for the family. It requires incredible patience for those who are with Mary day in and day out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Allen Shawn New Book: Twin

Jamaica Kincaid's ex-husband Allen Shawn writes another memoir: Twin: Overcoming Remoteness
Positive book review by Michael Roth (President, Wesleyan University) February 6, 2011
Huffington Post

Excerpts from article:

It was only in recent years, as he prepared his subtly powerful and personal study of phobia, Wish I Could be There, that Shawn came to realize just how important Mary has been for him. Before that, all he felt "was a kind of blank place inside, where memories and feelings should have been." With Twin he tries to fill in that blank space, or at least to explore its contours.

Shawn writes beautifully, with an elegance, candor and tact that are remarkable. He is personal without ever being gossipy, and so this is not the book for those who want more dish concerning the decades-long secret relationship of his late father, New Yorker editor William Shawn, with staff writer Lillian Ross, or about the author's own 20-plus-year marriage to writer Jamaica Kincaid. His father's relationship is discussed because it now seems key to understanding the "religion of denial" in the Shawn household, but his own marriage and divorce are off-limits. Whether this is discretion or simply a continuation of the family tradition of avoidance is impossible to say.