Monday, 2 January 2017

GETTING IT WRITE: A new novel by Claude McKay + Marlon James’ taste for fantasy + Kwame Dawes on a roll

A STORY WITH BITE: Home to Harlem, Banjo and Banana Bottom rank among the most popular and well-loved literary works by late Jamaican author Claude McKay, a son of deep rural Clarendon who spent decades making life in the United States, particularly New York, where he rose to become one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. But if you thought the lid had been closed on McKay’s legacy, think again. Decades after it was written, a newly discovered final novel by the revered storyteller is coming to print. According to TIME Magazine, Amiable with Big Teeth documents conflict among Black intellectuals in the late 1930s, as communists and Black nationalists grapple over international conflicts. Edited by Jean-Christopher Cloutier and Brent Hayes Edwards, Amiable is being published by Penguin Classics and goes on sale February 7.

THE KING JAMES VERSION: Here’s one way to follow up the Booker Prize-winning success of your third novel: create your own fantasy series a la The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Marlon James, who copped the prestigious literary award last year, tells Man of the World magazine that he’s working on a series best described as “an African Game of Thrones.” “I realized how sick and tired I was of arguing about whether there should be a Black hobbit in The Lord of the Rings,” explains the 46-year-old novelist, whose stash of accolades includes the OCM Bocas Prize and a Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ). “African folklore is just as rich and just as perverse. We have witches, we have demons, we have goblins and mad kings. We have stories of royal succession that would put Wolf Hall to shame. We beat The Tudors two times over.” Though no date has been set for its release, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, will kick off the series.

MAN OF HIS WORD: Amazing how Kwame Dawes handles his full plate with such élan! In addition to his full-time job as Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Emmy winner and Calabash Festival director also serves as editor of the well-regarded Prairie Schooner magazine, chief poetry editor for Peepal Tree Press and is a prolific poet-novelist who always has a new project in the works. Last year saw the publication of the anthology Speak From Here to There (with John Kinsella), and 2017 promises City of Bones: A Testament, which is being published by the Northwestern University Press. Then there are the exciting editing jobs, which are also in the queue: When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life (Pacific University Press); Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden (Northwestern Univerity Press) and the buzzworthy A Bloom of Stories: A Trilingual Anthology of Haitian Poems After the Earthquake (Peepal Tree Press).

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