Sunday, January 23, 2011

One of my favourite Toni Morrison interview responses

From the Paris Review:


Why do you think people ask, Why don't you write something that we can understand? Do you threaten them by not writing in the typical Western, linear, chronological way?


I don't think that they mean that. I think they mean, Are you ever going to write a book about white people? For them perhaps that's a kind of a compliment. They're saying, You write well enough, I would even let you write about me. They couldn't say that to anybody else. I mean, could I have gone up to André Gide and said, Yes, but when are you going to get serious and start writing about black people? I don't think he would know how to answer that question. Just as I don't. He would say, What? I will if I want to, or, Who are you? What is behind that question is, there's the center, which is white, and then there are these regional blacks or Asians, or any sort of marginal people. That question can only be asked from the center. Bill Moyers asked me that when-are-you-going-to-write-about question on television. I just said, Well, maybe one day . . . but I couldn't say to him, you know, you can only ask that question from the center. The center of the world! I mean he's a white male. He's asking a marginal person when are you going to get to the center, when are you going to write about white people. I can't say, Bill, why are you asking me that question? Or, As long as that question seems reasonable is as long as I won't, can't. The point is that he's patronizing; he's saying, You write well enough; you could come on into the center if you wanted to. You don't have to stay out there on the margins. And I'm saying, Yeah, well, I'm gonna stay out here on the margin, and let the center look for me.

Maybe it's a false claim, but not fully. I'm sure it was true for the ones we think of as giants now. Joyce is a good example. He moved here and there, but he wrote about Ireland wherever he was, didn't care where he was. I am sure people said to him, Why . . .? Maybe the French asked, When you gonna write about Paris?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Two More Reviews & a blog thumbs up

In spite of my mainstream invisibility, I am heartened by the responses to TAIL OF THE BLUE BIRD in the US and I'm happy to share a few excerpts. One of the things I'm most relieved about is (except for the Booklist review) none of them seem to be inconvenienced by the language choices - although many industry 'insiders' advised me to 'mellow' the book down for the US market. Testament to what Toni Morrison has oft spoken about - the intelligence of the reader:

From The Examiner:

"...a truly beautiful novel. Parkes' skill as a poet is quite apparent within the symmetry of his writing. It is also apparent that he has (spiritually) consorted with the Old Masters Amos Tutuola and D.O. Fagunwa." --Rosetta Codling
- link to full review,

From Booklist:

"Set in a contemporary Ghanaian village, this murder mystery blends CSI with magic realism... The novel, which was short-listed for the Commonwealth Prize, is not easy reading, especially the occasional parts told in pidgin dialect, but the story and atmosphere prove quite engaging. Working in a remote village, rooted in the scary forest, Kayo must look beyond the easy answers that come at the touch of a keyboard and search for absolute truths." --Hazel Rochman
- can be seen on,

From A Striped Armchair (blog - one of my favourites; it's almost as if the blogger can tell I was raised by strong women):

"Parkes strikes me as an author unwilling to settle for simple, black-and-white views; while we see the women in the village through the eyes of men, the different male characters have different attitudes. The stories Kayo hears include powerful women as well as victimised ones... There isn't that feeling one sometimes comes across in novels by international authors aimed at Western audiences that the culture has been exoticised and is being spoon-fed to the reader. Parkes had a story to tell, one that was intimately connected with the place and culture he grew up in, and so he told it... as my first 'five star' read of 2011, it definitely set a marvelous tone for the rest of my reading!"
- link to full review/thoughts/comment,

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Made Ali Smith's 'Books of the Year' in TLS

 (woop, woop!)

Thanks Ali - I love you even more now :)

Here's the section:


Amy Sackville's The Still Point (Portobello), a story of turn-of-the-century arctic pioneering and contemporary emotional frozen states, has an Eliotic calm that seems almost uncanny in a debut writer, and a narrative voice that's subtle and original. Ciaran Carson's originality in the novel form is often overlooked, presumably because he's primarily known as a poet; The Pen Friend (Blackstaff), with its unlikely fusion of pens, perfumes and politics, is one of his most arresting fictional cocktails. I also loved Paul Murray's Skippy Dies (Hamish Hamilton), three novels fused into one ignited tragicomic tour de force. Finally, who knew the weight of history and the foulness of the slave trade could be transformed into, of all things, a hot-air balloon ride? Like a liberating piece of jazz, and with astonishing, near-heroic buoyancy in its communal voice, Nii Ayikwei Parkes's poetry sequence, Ballast: A remix (Tall-Lighthouse), literally does the impossible. 

Here's the link to the entire Books of the Year piece: