In 2005, before I’d even dreamed of life outside elementary school, perhaps before or after I was performing in my first play as an orphan in Oliver or scratching out my first attempts at snarky observations in the first diary I ever managed to keep up, Jamaica Kincaid visited the college that would become my college.
Nearly ten years later and they’re getting her signed stuff out of the basement via the bargain book heap. I’d love to see what else they have in that basement.
Jamaica Kincaid is a pretty brilliant, flowery, brutal writer, like a female Steinbeck. She observes humanity from the outside in. I’m not sure where she stands on the ideological spectrum (far from where I stand, I suspect), and frankly I don’t need to know; if you can hold a mirror up to life, there’s no real need to scrawl a caption on that mirror in soap. What I do like about her is that she neatly avoids the labels they tend to put on books written by women, especially black women who grew up in the Caribbean in the 50s-60s. Not that I haven’t seen plenty essay-ish and dull criticism written of her work, with titles like “Performance and the Gendered Body”, but in the words of Chesterton, “Critics are much madder than poets. Homer is complete and calm enough; it is his critics who tear him into extravagant tatters.”