21 May 2008

New New Haven Review

The New Haven Review is a print and online magazine that includes Brian Francis Slattery as an editor. A while back, Brian asked me if I'd review something for the journal's second print issue, and I volunteered to write about Caryl Phillips's Foreigners, which had just been sent my way by the good folks at Knopf. I'd liked some of Phillips's earlier books, so expected to enjoy this one, especially since it began with a story about Samuel Johnson's servant, Frank Barber, a man I'd had an interest in for some time.

Alas, I ended up being quite disappointed with Foreigners, and Brian suggested that instead of just reviewing it, I expand the piece to give an overview of Phillips's other books, or at least a few of them, to dig more deeply into what was so disappointing for me about the new one. So I tried. And that's the thing -- partly a review, partly an overview, partly a pushmi-pullyu -- that is now available both in the print edition and via the website as a PDF, as are all the articles. (The review I submitted didn't have a title, so Brian [or somebody] gave it one, pulling a famous phrase from one of my favorite Dylan songs.) There's a bunch of good stuff in the magazine, including ten poems by Lizzie Skurnick and an article by Deirdre Bair about Simone de Beauvoir.

Here, for the curious (or masochistic) is the first paragraph of my piece:
Ours is a hybrid age, an age of mixing cultures and histories, an age of migrations and transmigrations. Such an age deserves hybrid forms to explore the life it breeds and to delve down into the sources of its textures. The hope is that those forms will express more than can be expressed otherwise and will point toward truths invisible to less eclectic lenses. One of the strengths of Caryl Phillips's oeuvre is that it is difficult to box up with convenient labels and ship off as widgets and comfort food. It sings and talks and hectors and hums. It walks and chews gum at the same time.