Introduction and Table of Contents
Archive for the ‘sx salon 7’ Category
On the Necessity of Academic Reviewing
Let me begin by celebrating the fact proven by the present company involved in this discussion: a vibrant culture of reviewing Caribbean literature exists. In the past decade, Caribbean Review of Books has developed as the unparalleled little magazine of Caribbean literature, whether in its paper or electronic iteration, joining Callaloo as a great place to find first-rate reviews. Internet publishing has become an especially fruitful site for book reviewing, whether in blogs like Signifying Guyana or here in sx Salon. Online venues have therefore become wonderful resources for reviews of new Caribbean novels, poetry, and other creative writing. The reviewing of Caribbean literary and cultural studies scholarship, however, remains more piecemeal. I became review editor of Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal earlier this year, and have from that position had a chance to consider what academic reviewing can learn from the reviewing culture surrounding creative work. There are obvious structural obstacles to academic reviewing, which I’ll discuss below. But despite these obstacles, I want to make a case that the reviewing of scholarly work is an important activity that all of us in the field have an investment in fostering. Literary and cultural criticism is written as part of a conversation: when we research and write, we build on prior arguments, anticipate objections, align ourselves with certain predecessors, quarrel with one another. We write with the hope that our work will contribute to the conversations that have built our field, and will spark further debate and discussion to keep the field lively and dynamic. Scholarly journals can learn from more popular publications and blogs how to take advantage of the wide audience offered by Internet publishing to continue to build a transnational cyberspace in which Caribbean scholarly work will be discussed and disseminated. (more…)
I heard of it, as I hear of most new book releases these days, through the Twitter grapevine. Someone tweeted that it was up for a major literary prize, and I immediately tuned in. I later learned that the author was not born in the Caribbean, but that the matter of her book and her heritage were based in the Caribbean. I bought it, read it, and wasn’t impressed (I was actually annoyed with it), but its historical subject matter was of definite interest. So I blogged about it while I was still annoyed, and of course wrote many things I wish I hadn’t, though they were honestly how I felt about the book at the time . . . and subsequently. Should I have waited and written something more cool headed and less harsh? Did I do the writer (a woman . . . working in a male-dominated space) and her book a disservice by voicing my opinion so strongly so publicly and so negatively? Do I, as a supporter of Caribbean books and Caribbean writers, have a duty to be nice always (and only) when I write about Caribbean books and authors? And who is reading this stuff anyway? These are some of the questions I have struggled with since I began blogging about books about four years ago. They are questions I continue to struggle with each time I work on a review. (more…)
Critics, the old saying goes, are like mangoes: they are bitter when young and they sweeten as they mature. In 1947 the twenty three-year-old James Baldwin had yet to mature as a writer. He cut his teeth on a number of publications associated with the New York Intellectuals, recalling in the introduction to The Price of the Ticket how Saul “Sol” Levitas of the New Leader, Randall Jarell of the Nation, and Elliot Cohen and Robert Warshow of Commentary, “were all very important” to his life: “It is not too much to say that they helped to save my life.” For a young African American with no formal education after the age of seventeen, these editors, Baldwin suggests, saved or at least ignited his life as a writer. (more…)
The Caribbean Review of Books began and continues with this main purpose: to attempt an ongoing critical survey of contemporary Caribbean literature. We publish essays on writing and interviews with writers. Occasionally we publish new poems and fiction. In the seven and a half years since the CRB was revived, we’ve sought gradually to expand the field of our attention to include contemporary Caribbean art, film, and music: literature is never insulated from other creative forms. But, as the name of the magazine suggests, at the heart of the CRB’s matter are book reviews.
Why? I assume most readers of sx salon will agree that book reviewing is a useful and helpful activity. In the most practical and immediate way, book reviews are a key component of the economy of literature: reviews spread knowledge of new books to their potential readers. Yet, even for the most avid readers among us, there are limits to money and time. Books are relatively expensive; we live only so long. So reviews can and ought to help us decide which books to spend our dollars and our hours on. (more…)