The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Yes, something besides the NYRB, I beg you

Posted on: February 19, 2007

At the New Republic blog, Open University, Jeffrey Herf sends out a flare for a weekly review of books (via Literary Saloon). The closest periodical that comes even close to the beauty of Times Literary Supplement (subscribe, subscribe, subscribe) is New York Review of Books and we all know how I feel about it. (Yuck & Yawn.) I’ve been pleased to see, as the link has made the rounds, so many bloggers expressing their love of TLS and London Review of Books. It’s a real shame that we have to look to England for such book coverage. This made me think of poor Literary Review of Canada which, from one skim I gave it several months ago, aimed to be a lesser NYRB. I’ll flip through a new issue to see if that’s changed.

Herf boasts that TNR’s book coverage is second to none in the USA, by his standards. Has anyone read it and do you agree?

Chris Abani is profiled in the L.A. Times for the release of his latest novel Virgin of Flames (via Confessions). As usual there is too much on him and too little on the book, but it was interesting to read about his experiences when he moved to Los Angeles and Colin Channer’s thoughts on Abani’s writing.

Abani himself, though, has grown tired of conforming to expectations: He sees himself as an Igbo writer, a British writer, a black writer and a Los Angeles writer. “GraceLand,” said Channer, was “Chris rebelling against the idea of what an African writer should write about. The industry of postcolonial studies imposes on writers the obligation to write about being formerly colonized…. When you venture from that, I’m not sure a lot of critics or academics know quite what to do with you.”

Yes! Yes, yes, yes. I’m fairly sure that Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus was criticised for not being political enough, or too “middle-class”–because you know her characters weren’t all in tribal dress, dancing around a fire or with stomachs distended with flies buzzing around their eyes like on tv. This is why that “postcolonial” term often makes me edgy. The word “memoir” makes me shudder, “postcolonial” gives me an eye tic.

I can’t help but roll my eyes and sigh at renewed calls at some Jamaican politicians renewed calls for reparation from the British government, coinciding with this the 200th year anniversary commemorating the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. I sigh and roll my eyes because Jamaica has a corrupt government, with short-sighted, selfish leaders, many of whom are in cahoots with the criminal element that continues to transform my Jamaica beyond recognition. I don’t see this money, if we even get it, funding anything much beyond new SUV’s, gunmen and vacation allowance.


5 Responses to "Yes, something besides the NYRB, I beg you"

When I posted on my site about the London Review, a blogger unknown to me said (a bit grumpily) that there were 130 other literary magazines in the UK. I’d never come across any of them, though. I do think distribution is a problem.

Imani – how are you getting on with The Italian? Are you finished now? I’ve looked over your site for a review but couldn’t find it. Have I missed it? I’m about a third of the way through book 3, so waiting to hear what you have to say about it!

Okay, I can resist no longer, can I? I simply must subscribe to the TLS…

litlove distribution may be a problem but I also wonder if those other literary magazines have the same aims as the periodicals we’ve mentioned? Every other journal I’ve tried is low on the reviews and heavy on featuring actual fiction and non-fiction pieces, or publicity articles on authors and other things in which I have a very limited interest.

I have finished The Italian but am a bit behind in my reviews, eh? I’ve only just written a draft of the book I finished *before* Italian and am now ready to share my thoughts on it. I was also kind waiting on you too, but if you’re ready to read what I think I’ll put a post up soon.

Dorothy W you won’t regret it. Satisfaction guaranteed.

I subscribed to the TLS for a year and loved it. I didn’t renew because it’s so expensive (they lured me in on a half-off offer) I’ve tried the NYRB but it just doesn’t compare. I do quite enjoy Bookforum but it’s only six times a year.

I’m not subscribed to TLS either because it is damn expensive. I just read it at the book store every week. I should be able to read it at my library but it’s about 2-3 weeks behind and therefore of little use to me.

The occasional excellent essay that interests me keeps me flipping through each NYRB issue, the pertinent words be “flipping through”. I hear a lot about Bookforum but have never tried it before. I’ll take a look.

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