Wednesday, May 22, 2013
A Comeback for Kincaid
The last time I read a Jamaica Kincaid was in college, but with the recent release of her first novel in ten years and after hearing her brilliant words on NPR's City Arts and Lectures, I decided to read See Now Then. This slim novel tells about the unraveling of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Sweet and their children Heracles and Persephone, who live in a small town in New England. The novel is written in a very unique style which has a repetitious yet unique use of language that borders on magic realism. Of Mrs. Sweet, Mr. Sweet says, "The sound of her voice, as she read to the young Heracles, made him want to kill her, take an ax (as a child, he lived in an apartment, and he had never seen such a thing) and chop off her head and then the rest of her body into little pieces..." The book is filled with bitterness and vitriol, but is so unflinching and caustic that it demands the readers' attention. Kincaid also writes of her son's tasks, which include both the mundane and the surreal, such as "wash the dishes...imprison the innocent in a dungeon...trap and then skin the she-fox...tie his shoelaces..." Interestingly, we learn of Mrs. Sweet's first name about half way through the novel, which is Jamaica, which of course leaves the reader to wonder the extent of the autobiographical nature of this work. About the Sweets' daughter, Kincaid writes, "The beautiful Peresephone grew strong and big, so big that she looked like an illustrated rabbit, caught, just before he was cooked, which would then satisfy the hunger of a small family named McGregor..."
All in all, I feel this would have worked better as a short story. Nonetheless, the writing is unique and it is refreshing (though depressing) to hear such an honest telling of a family irreparably torn apart and asunder.