The Books of My Numberless Dreams

I know you’ve seen this on ten other blogs…

Posted on: June 7, 2007

…but I can’t help doing my own on-line jig about Chimamanda Adichie’s win of the Orange Prize. Hurray! I can’t remember the last time bloggers responded with such warmth to a prize winner announcement since Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel (and that was more about his speech than the actual award, I think). Do check out the comments on her websites from readers who shared her personal connection to the Biafra war.

To switch gears I’ve been considering something. I noticed that in the latest issues of Open Monthly and The Quarterly Conversation most (if not all) of the contributors were men. This saddened me because I like both of these publications a lot and the fact that this is the case in most of the journals I read is beginning to annoy me. I’m not going to blast off any e-mails expressing outrage or what have you. I’m going to try to….uhhh….submit something myself.

The only reason my palms aren’t sweating now is because the fan is on at full blast.

Anyway I’m not sure if I can, or I can but would it not suck or be depressingly mediocre. I only have a B.A. and it wasn’t in English, I haven’t read Aristotle’s On Poetics, I’m still having a ball with Dewey’s Art as Experience and I’m going to stop right there before I psyche myself out. I know I’d have to tidy up my writing and dig up my essay handbook and edit, edit, edit but whatever, no guts no glory. (I need a shirt with that on it. No, a poster.) Could I make it interesting and engaging and not an utter bore? We’ll see.

I bypassed the idea of doing a book review because I can’t do plot summaries for shit and I prefer a lot of the time to pull out one thing and run with it, so that leaves me with essays. The Quarterly likes ol’ timey out-of-print or nearly so authors so right now the most likely author I’d focus on would be Roger Mais. Caribbean authors get close to no play in these sort of things so why not. But the main thing is that I’ve read all of his novels and only have the short stories left.

Second idea is Ivy Compton-Burnett. This one would be a bit harder as I’ve only read one and a bit of her novels and she’s written ten million more, but her entire oeuvre deals with one overarching theme, so I wouldn’t have to read everything to write something worthwhile. She’s a brilliant, scathing novelist, a great stylist and not celebrated enough IMO. (I don’t understand why Manservant and Maidservant isn’t in high school curricula but maybe that’s for the best.)

Third idea is a nice little piece on fantasy short stories because I’d be tickled to see something on fantasy that isn’t written by a South American. The ones I have in mind are by Sylvia Townsend Warner, Kelly Link, and a Caribbean anthology. (Only the last hasn’t been read.)

What do you think? Be honest – you don’t want me to delude myself and spend hours and hours in the library until midnight for nothing. (Feel free to use the contact form on my about page if you want to tell me it’s a bad idea privately.) And if you think you have it in you, particularly my female readership, please consider doing something similar if you have the time and interest. You don’t want me to look at the next issue’s list of contributors and cry into my keyboard again, do you?

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18 Responses to "I know you’ve seen this on ten other blogs…"

Go for it! I actually think you should do all three, one at a time.

I think all the ideas are wonderful and you could write a whiz-bang article. You are one of the most educated people I know. I’ve learned that a B.A. is really no idication of success or intelligence. I know brilliant people with nary a high school diploma and complete dumb-asses with Ph.D’s.

You will do wonderfully.

I too think that you should go for it! I’d love to read what you have to say on any one of the three topics that you propose above.

Good on you for considering it, I think you should give it a go!

And I’m so pleased Adichie won, thanks for pointing it out!

“I only have a B.A. and it wasn’t in English”

Fear not. Us English majors were a generally depressing lot, anyway. Most of ’em seemed to (in my experience) care more about how they looked to others when they said things about books than they cared about what they were saying or the books they were talking about. (Generally, generally.) It’s a trap I doubt you’d fall into: go forth and essay.

Definitely do it — it would be awesome. And I’ve read enough of your writing to know you’d do a great job.

If you write the fantasy short stories piece and for some reason they don’t want it, I’d definitely be interested in seeing it for Vector.

My undergrad degree is in English. Believe me, it didn’t prepare me to do the kind of criticism or writing you have in mind! Reading on my own and reading commentary were far more educational! I love your writing, and I think a piece on Compton-Burnett would be a service to everyone (including me!) who hasn’t paid enough attention to her.

Amcorrea that’s what I’ll end up doing I think. Comments on the first submission (whether accepted or not) would probably help me on the others.

Amanda you rock. Seriously. 🙂

Niall wow, ok. And based on submitting I should probably get around to reading some science fiction, finally, finally, finally.

Melanie I’m a bit relieved to hear that since that’s basically what I do — read my books and others criticism.

For the rest, thank you all for the encouragement — I really appreciate it because you’re the ones who’ve read my output of this sort and could give constructive feedback.

I think that you should go ahead and do it as well. I’ve just arrived here but have found your writing to be thoughtful, well informed and interesting to read.

As a side note, I’d really like to hear what you have to say about Caribbean authors. I consider myself well read and full of book knowledge, but I have to admit that I couldn’t name even one author from the Caribbean. I have discovered a huge, gaping hole in my knowledge and like any book geek I must fill it immediately. Care to recommend any books or authors?

Beepy I don’t know much about Caribbean authors myself, unfortunately; not about novelists anyway. This year one of my major quests is to acquaint myself with the region’s literature.

I’m not sure about your tastes but authors I usually hear about and intend to try are Maryse Conde (I, Tituba, Black Wich of Salem); Jean Rhys (Wide Sargasso Sea); Andrew Salkey (A Quality of Violence); and Marlon James (John Crow’s Devil) who’s a contemporary novelist. Samuel Selvon (Londoners) is also one of the most critically aclaimed novelists of the last century.

For poetry I adore Olive Senior’s and Lorna Goodison’s work. There are two Caribbean literary magazines in my sidebar under “Recommended literary sites” and Geoffrey Philp, on my blogroll covers a lot of Caribbean writers, past and present.

Of course you should do it! You’d do something utterly wonderful! My vote goes for a Caribbean article of some kind because I agree – the French Caribbean authors I read are wonderful and never get enough press. Once you have the topic right, it will write itself – I promise you!

Do it, do it, do it. The first two ideas sound the most formed. Just make the attempt, as my friend Sheila would say. You can’t make them do anything (who knows what reasons others have for their choices, but a BA probably isn’t one of them!) but you will be no means waste your time. Getting inside a body of work and writing on it will be time well spent. Just write it on stuff you really love and if they don’t want it you’ll have a great piece to submit somewhere else!

litlove I remember reading something about the ire of “Francophone” authors because their work isn’t considered truly “French” in France, or some such poppycock. I think it’s a shame that we didn’t cover an translated Caribbean work from the French and Spanish islands in class too.

Ted I think that your last point on the merits of “Getting inside a body of work” is becoming the most compelling issue for me. It’s part and parcel of why I started this blog in the first place! So I don’t think I’ll care much about whether it’s accepted in the end (I say this now).

Thank you all for the encouragement and salient remarks — it’s done me a world of good. 🙂

I’m amazed to hear your lack of confidence in your writer, because you are one of the most elegant writers I’ve had the pleasure to read.

Beyond that, I agree with litlove.

And thank you so much for that Adichie link!

Dewey I think it’s because I always see a million things wrong with my post 15 minutes after it’s up. Then the next day I see a million more. 😉 But it’s good to know that my perspective is a bit warped. Thanks.

You’re welcome about the Adichie link. I’m glad someone read it.

You must do this and I’d love to read your essay – I also agree that Caribbean authors do not get enough attention. I’m very curious about the ones you mention and will have to look them up. Have you read Marie Chauvet? She’s my favorite and fairly unknown although she ended up in exile because of her writing. I translated half of one of her novels and then found out that the rights had already been sold. I’m happy that her work will finally appear in English (although it has been two years and not a peep about a translation coming out) but I’m sad I missed the project. I’m trying to begin work on another of her books. So write write write! I think you’d do a splendid job.

oo, I’ve never heard of Marie Chauvet before. As I mentioned on a previous post just about all the Caribbean writers I’ve read or heard of were in my English classes, and all were from the English speaking islands. Not a peep was made about the French or Spanish. And not one of her books are at my campus library. Bother. On Amazon I can find a lot of books that mention her but none by her. :/

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