Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

16.9.07

Two books and a library journal

Two excellent novels, perhaps not appreciated (by me or by most, who's to say?) for the right reasons:

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart: Now more highly regarded for its subject than its form, which seems less remarkable, but which then posed a particular problem, as the novel was an exogenous, assimilative Western structure. (To what extent does this reflect return from exile to find one's land banished?) But, per Achebe, on writing in English: "... in the logic of colonization and decolonization it is actually a very powerful weapon in the fight to regain what was yours. English was the language of colonization itself. It is not simply something you use because you have it anyway; it is something which you can actively claim to use as an effective weapon, as a counterargument to colonization." (from subscription-only Atlantic; cf 1994 & 2007 interviews). The cultural argument hangs on religion as wedge and fulcrum; 50 years on, the African bishops are a dominant conservative force in the Church. Go figure.

Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker: Continuing/bringing up to date my reading on Haiti (Carpentier, Green — her preface to the former put her on my list), here with a diaspora disfigured by what is inescapable, memory and identity, unusual in that the exiles constitute both oppressed and oppressor; unusual too in that the strongly interconnected short stories fully work stand-alone as well. (I was glad to have interposed both Kiš & Pekić: the latter's "The Time of Miracles/of Dying" corresponding to if not with Danticat's "The Book of the Dead/of Miracles" — Vodou is sublimated throughout.) Haiti (not just the land) bears a multitude of scars, some within. (Interview.)

On to other matter: I attended the Thursday night NBCC panel at HousingWorks' UsedBookCafe in Soho (helping alleviate homelessness and HIV) on literary magazines disappearing into the aether at libraries; another attendee describes the proceedings (via EdRants) so I don't have to; I'll merely note that much of the discussion about aesthetics and other differences between print and screen and other shortsightedness is long established territory, and amend with a couple further questions from the audience:
Q: To the librarians on the panel: How many lit mags do your libraries subscribe to in print? A: NYPL, 800-1,000; Manhattan CC/CUNY, 5.
My Q: Can Print-on-Demand technology, perhaps non-profit driven, help? A: POD carries a number of other problems, beyond the current state of the technology, such as associated rights etc ...

While this issue is auxilary to the broader NBCC campaign, it is to my mind more important: Much of what appears may be as ephemeral as newspaper, but a much larger proportion (however small, not negligible) lasts. As it is with authors, there are always more small presses than can economically serve readers. Costs are shared across many institutions which are being squeezed, libraries not least among them. But the technological solution for reducing costs does not work as well as it may for scientific or scholarly work (where abstracts provide the browser the gist). It was also a pleasure to put a face to the writings of Scott McLemee, who added this site to his blogroll on the occasion of my dismissive comment there (along the lines that newspapers are market-, not issue-driven) on the broader campaign.

2 Comments:

Anonymous colburn said...

I always think of these two quotations when language and colonialism comes up (not sure what the source of the Wilde is):

"I am Irish by race, but the English have condemned me to speak the language of Shakespeare. The Saxon took our lands from us and made them destitute...but we took their language and added new beauty to it" - Oscar Wilde

Prospero: I pitied thee,
Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endow’d thy purposes
With words that made them known: but thy vile race,
Though thou didst learn, had that in’t which good natures
Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou
Deservedly confin’d into this rock,
Who hadst deserv’d more than a prison.

Caliban: You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you,
For learning me your language!

18/9/07 04:09  
Blogger nnyhav said...

Nice combo, that.

Rushdie's in Achebe's camp on this'un. But I was (a|b)mused to see TFA come up via Alan Wolfe in the Donadio NYTBR canonblast, as were others.

18/9/07 20:38  

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