via Trinidad Express
CURLING UP with a good novel is one of the life’s great pleasures. But to sit and have a good novel read to you by the author is an absolute luxury.
On Monday, the invitation to sit in the very lap of luxury was taken up by a handful of undergraduate and post-graduate students, staff and members of the public. The occasion was the UWI Campus Literature Week, which is actually only four days this year, the Good Friday public holiday forcing the Department of Liberal Arts administrators to cram five days of culture into the shortened work-week.
The author/reader on Monday was Dr Erna Brodber, who ensured that the four dozen people who made it to the Audio Visual Room, Third Floor, Main Library, University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, got the most out of their alternative lunch-time activity.
Brodber, a Jamaica-born historical sociologist and radical community activist, is the author of Myal (New Beacon Books, 1988) and Louisiana (University Press of Mississippi, 1994), as well as Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home (New Beacon Books, 1980), the novel with which many undergraduate students were perhaps most familiar, as it has been on the UWI syllabus.
It was from Jane and Louisa that Brodber read, selecting choice passages to kick off the annual event. The first excerpt was a colourful sketch of a Jamaican “government yard,” an urban housing arrangement typically occupied by the impoverished and disenfranchised. To leave the premises, these tenants must pay an exit fee of 25 cents to Miss D, the porter’s wife.
“She’s supposed to be Mr D’s assistant, but no-one has ever seen Mr D We suspect that she’s also Mr D,” Brodber read, to the amusement of her small audience.
The real value, of course, of having such a gem as Jane and Louisa read by the author herself, was having her there to comment on the novel. (Brodber’s silky reading voice was pure lagniappe.)
“The intention of Jane and Louisa is to explore and communicate the disconnect between the intellectual class, whom poor societies have educated, and the rest of the society left behind, in the hope that someone would close the gap and a greater degree of integration, respect, self and otherwise, and a greater degree of cooperation would ensue,” said 65-year-old Brodber in a brief preface to the lengthy reading.
The former sociology lecturer, secondary school teacher, and fellow of Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), Mona Campus, Jamaica, went on to give valuable insight into the overall conceptual framework into which all three novels fit.
Before closing, Brodber would also read briefly from The Rainmaker’s Mistake, a novel which she “just posted last week to the publishers.”
The closing ceremony of the ongoing Campus Literature Week will feature a novelist Earl Lovelace, this year’s UWI Writer in Residence, who is currently enjoying immense popularity with the serialisation of his novel, The Dragon Can’t Dance in the Express. Along with Brodber, Lovelace will be on the UWI Campus grounds, visiting with literature classes and consulting with Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) students.