Barring a blizzard like the "biblical" one that prevented her from coming in February (her description), Jamaica Kincaid, the celebrated Antiguan-American author of novels, essays and short stories, will be at the South End library on Tuesday, March 31, at last. Kincaid was invited to speak by novelist Sue Miller. She will talk about her latest novel, See Now Then, and will be introduced by poet and South End resident Henri Cole, himself an award-winning writer who read from his books of poetry at the South End library several years ago. Now a Professor of African and African-American Studies in Residence at Harvard University, Kincaid moved from the island of St. John’s, where she was born in 1949, to New York City when she was seventeen. She worked as an au-pair and, after a three-year stint of college classes, began to write for magazines and weeklies, including The Village Voice, and The New Yorker. She became the protege of its revered and feared editor at the time, William Shawn, and married his son, Allen Shawn, a composer of classical music. The plot of See Now Then is informed by this marriage and its nasty aftermath. Until their divorce, they lived with their two young children in Bennington, VT, though not in the house of Shirley Jackson --famous author of The Lottery,-- as does the narrator of See Now Then.
Set in Bennington, the novel features Kincaid's unique writing style of stating a thought simply, then returning to it repeatedly with supplementary details, rich and embroidered or bitingly pared to the core, expanding on the theme in leisurely sentences, much like the widening circles in a pond's surface after the pebble is thrown in. The cumulative force of this literary form --also used in Kincaid's Mr Potter and The Autobiography of My Mother,-- effectively describes the pleasures of a marriage before the widening circles of the tale become infused with rage over betrayal, loss and sadness after the husband takes up with one of his music students. See Now Then recently won the 2014 American Book Award, a prize created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement in America’s diverse literary community.
Kincaid has written five novels, many articles, and a number of works of non-fiction, including a courageous memoir of her brother’s struggles with AIDS, called My Brother. Her 1983 short-story collection, At the Bottom of the River, won the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She was the author of My Garden Book, one of several she wrote about the ennobling topic of gardening. She also edited My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love (1998).
The event starts at 6:30 PM. The South End branch is fully handicapped accessible. Seating is limited so come early if you want to be sure to have a seat. Refreshments are served. Books will be available for sale, and for borrowing from the library.
NEXT AUTHORS TO READ AT THE SOUTH END LIBRARY:
JACK BEATTY: author and erudite news analyst on WBUR and other radio shows, will talk about his latest book, The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began. Book reviewers at The New Yorker described it as a “counterfactual history;” David Shribman, in his review of the it in the Boston Globe, called it “found history," in light of the details uncovered by Beatty about the vulnerability of the European continent to war in 1914. A former senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly for many years, Beatty also also helped write (or, as some have suggested, wrote) former Boston mayor Tom Menino’s 2014 memoir, Mayor for a New America. Other titles by Beatty, who won numerous awards and prestigious fellowships, are The Rascall King (a biography of former Boston mayor James Michael Curly), The World According to Peter Drucker, The Age of Betrayal: the Triumph of Money in America, and Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America.
TUESDAY, MAY 12, 6:30 PM
ANJALI MITTER DUVA, an Indian-American Bostonian who grew up in France, has just published her first novel, Faint Promise of Rain. It's a historical novel and the coming-of-age story of Adhira, a girl born into a family of temple dancers. It draws on the author’s father’s childhood in India and her personal interest in kathak dance, according to an interview with the writers’ web site Dead Darlings. Duva grew up in France with her family roots in Calcutta, India. According to a report in the Plymouth Library newsletter, she attended MIT and started a career in urban planning before finding her calling in native storytelling. Faint Promise of Rain takes place in 1554 in the desert of Rajasthan as a new Mughal emperor expands his territory. Told from the perspective of an exquisite dancer and filled with the sounds, sights and flavors of the Indian desert, the novel is the story of a family and a girl caught between art, duty and fear in a changing world.
JOHN J. ROSS, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, will read from his Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough, a book about the medical lives of authors through the ages. Ross explores the likely maladies of twelve literary, but medically expired stars, ranging from Shakespeare’s syphilis, to Milton’s blindness, Swift’s vertigo, the Bronte sisters’ tuberculosis, Hawthorne’s anxiety disorder, Melville’s probable bi-polar disorder, Yeats’s Aspergers, Joyce’s gonorrhea, and Orwell’s damaged bronchial tubes. Their achievements do not surprise Ross as he believes ” literary genius is more likely to arise from disappointment and chagrin than comfort and complacency.”A Wall Street Journal reviewer called Ross "a penetrating literary critic and a perceptive and humane observer of the lives of writers and of those in their orbit." The Washington Post's critic described the book as "a delicious gumbo of odd personalities, colorful literary history, and enlightened deduction." The New York Times said the stories of the wounded storytellers "unfold smoothly on the page, as mesmerizing as any they themselves might have told, those squinting, wheezing, arthritic, infected, demented, defective yet superlative examples of the human condition."
TUESDAY, JUNE 23RD, 6:30 PM
ADAM ROTHMAN, associate professor at Georgetown University, whose work focuses on, among other things, the history of slavery and abolition in the Atlantic world, will talk about Beyond Freedom's Reach: a Kidnapping in the Twilight of Slavery. Rothman, who grew up in the South End on West Brookline Street, researched the true story of Rose Herera, born into slavery in rural Louisiana, who was bought and sold several times before being purchased by the De Hart family of New Orleans. After Union forces captured New Orleans in 1862 during the American Civil War, Herera’s owners fled to Havana, taking her three small children with them. Beyond Freedom’s Reach is the meticulously researched story of her battle to rescue her children from bondage. Herera’s perseverance brought her children’s plight to the attention of members of the U.S. Senate and State Department, who turned a domestic conflict into an international scandal. Rothman was invited to speak at the library by Jean Gibran --she recently talked at the library about her memoir, Love Made Visible, the story of her marriage to sculptor Kahlil Gibran-- and Ann Hershfang, who last year brought you the talk at the library by veteran New York Times reporter, Stepen Kinzer, author of The Brothers.