Talk Stories // Jamaica Kincaid


A few weeks ago, at Jazzhole, I bought a copy of Talk Stories by Jamaica Kincaid--a collection of her original writing for the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town," composed from 1978 to 1983 when she first came to the United States from Antigua. It was the only copy for sale, weatherbeaten with a tag inside from the now defunct Glendora Books that used to be at the now defunct Falomo Shopping Centre in Ikoyi.

I'm only moderately familiar with Jamaica Kincaid's work. In our first year of film school, when we were given the task of adapting a short story, I chose her prose poem Girl--in which a mother educates her young daughter about the proper bearing of a lady.

Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don't walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; don't sing benna in Sunday school; you mustn't speak to wharf–rat boys, not even to give directions.
The film I came up with, How to Make Afang Soup, is about a girl who learns to make soup from her mother and eventually succeeds her as the woman of the house. (If you do get a chance to watch it on YouTube, please notice the comments from people complaining that it is not a recipe for making the soup. My favorite, spelled as is: the video is good but the tittle does'nt reflect it. i clicked on your video because i wanted the recipe but do you thimk that i'm satysfied after watching it. answer yourself iquo essien.)

It is a class project, of course, but something that always reminds me of how my mother taught me to make so many things in that same big red pot. It's been twelve years now since she died and still I can't believe she's gone. But I digress...that really isn't the point of this blog.

What I meant to say was how unique and fresh and funny and insightful Kincaid's early writing is. My favorite quote: 
"That I was born thirty years ago doesn't seem to matter to anyone except my mother, my father, their families, and their friends. When I say to someone, 'Thirty years ago, I was born,' I can almost hear this running through their minds: 'Yes. Yes. So you were born.'"
It makes me realize that even then, with all that talent, Jamaica Kincaid was not yet Jamaica Kincaid and still she was, and it was good, it was maybe even amazing. I am trying to put my own existence at 33 into perspective and to appreciate this moment of not-yet being. As a wise friend said to me, it is the very path which is my career taking shape. It is not something that will happen, it is in fact happening now--as my being is also becoming itself.

What I also want to say is that this little blog, every word and thought and idea is important. Some day, when our descendants try and understand these times they will look for a book, a film, a play, a word. Just as one of my writing teachers described a journal as a historical document, I think a blog is too. I need only look back at my old writing to understand the truth in it. 

So yes, I will be writing my own "Talk of the Town" that lies somewhere between New York and Lagos and eternity, in a place that exists only in me. Hope you enjoy. --AL.

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