Bookends - May 04, 2014

Sunday, May 04, 2014

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Donna Tartt wins fiction Pulitzer for 'Goldfinch'

NEW YORK (AP) - Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, already among the most popular and celebrated novels of the past year, recently won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Tartt's novel, a sweeping, Dickensian tale about a young orphan set in modern Manhattan, was published last fall to high praise and quick commercial success that has not relented. The Goldfinch has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle prize and an Andrew Carnegie Medal and was in the top 40 on Amazon.com's best seller list even before the Pulitzer was announced.

Fans of the 50-year-old Mississippi native, many of whom still had strong memories of her 1992 debut, The Secret History, had waited a decade for her to complete her third novel. The Goldfinch was published after the disappointing The Little Friend. The Pulitzer will likely ensure her place among the elite of contemporary fiction writers and make The Goldfinch a million seller.

"I am incredibly happy and incredibly honoured and the only thing I am sorry about is that Willie Morris and Barry Hannah aren't here. They would have loved this," said Tartt, referring to two authors who had been early mentors.

Meanwhile, one of the country's top colonial historians, Alan Taylor, has won his second Pulitzer, for The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War In Virginia.

Annie Baker's The Flick won the Pulitzer for drama, a play set in a movie theatre that was called a "thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters" which created "lives rarely seen on the stage".

The award for general nonfiction went to Dan Fagin's Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, a chronicle of industrial destruction in a small New Jersey community that was praised by The New York Times as a "classic of science reporting". Megan Marshall's Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, about the 19th century intellectual and transcendentalist, won for biography; and Vijay Seshadri's witty and philosophical 3 Sections received the poetry prize.

The Pulitzer for music was given to John Luther Adams' Become Ocean, which judges cited as "a haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels".


Child Month Feature:

Atty, Porty, and Ram: Jamaican Musketeers

By Hazel Campbell

1

Nigel, Jeremy and Omar became friends from the first day of high school. They were the only students from their primary school who were in this new school, and they lived in the same community. The boys had not really been friends before, but in this strange, new school they stuck together. They looked out for one another. They were in Grade 7B and very early in the first term their homeroom teacher started calling them the three musketeers.

When they asked the teacher why she called them the three musketeers, she told the class to look it up on the Internet. They found out that the three musketeers were three heroes from a famous book by the same name, The Three Musketeers. This book was written by Alexandre Dumas. It seemed to be a pretty cool story about guys with swords who got into a lot of fights. So, the boys didn't really mind when the children started calling them Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Those were the names of the characters in the book.

The other children would soon have stopped calling them these nicknames, but in their craft class the teacher taught them how to paint their names on buttons which they would be allowed to wear. The three friends painted their new names: Nigel became Athos; Jeremy became Porthos and Omar became Aramis. Pretty soon the children only used these names for them. And pretty soon, too, these names were shortened to Atty, Porty and Ram.

The three friends also adopted the motto of the Three Musketeers in the book - 'All for one, one for all.' At the end of each day, before they went home, they would put their hands together and repeat the motto. They did not mind that the other children sometimes laughed at them. Together they felt strong.

In the mornings, they waited for each other by the school gate. The students could not enter their classrooms until the bell rang. Atty, Porty and Ram used this time to catch up on news. Sometimes they helped each other finish homework. Sometimes they played a little football if they were early enough.

One Thursday morning, Porty was late. Atty and Ram were just about to run inside, because the bell had already rung, when they saw him rushing through the school gate.

"Hey!" he called to them.

"How you so late, man?" Ram asked, as they hurried along the passage to their classroom.

"Have something to tell you," Porty answered. His face was serious, but there was no time to talk. They walked briskly into the classroom. However, to their surprise and relief, their homeroom teacher was not yet there.

The boys took their seats. Ram and Atty looked curiously at Porty. They wondered what it was he had to tell them, but they could not talk. The teacher had separated them. They sat in different rows and dared not make her find them out of their seats. Miss Charles, their teacher, was very strict, and loved to give detentions.

More minutes passed and still Miss Charles did not come in. The students began to get restless. The class monitor, Gabrielle, was just about to start devotions when Miss Charles entered the room. She told Gabrielle to continue and stood with a very serious look on her face while they sang two verses of a hymn. Then they read the scripture passage and said prayers.

When they sat down, Miss Charles addressed them.

"I am sorry to be late. You know that's not my style. But something has happened and I need to talk to you about it."

She sounded so serious that some of the students began to get nervous.

"Last night," she began, "thieves broke into the canteen. They stole some things and the place is a mess. We have to spend the morning cleaning it up, so there will be no lunch from the canteen today. Gabrielle will take your orders and lunch will be brought to the classroom. You can only order patties or pizza and box juices."

A buzz of excitement went through the room. All the students were asking questions at the same time.

"They break down the door, Miss?'

"How they get in?"

"Security never see them?"

"The police come, Miss?"

Miss Charles held up her hand for silence.

"That's what worries us," she said. "As you know, the canteen is well-secured with burglar bars. Nothing was broken, so it looks like it was somebody who had the key."

An inside job, Porty thought. He turned around to look at Atty and Ram. They nodded to him and he knew that they were thinking the same thing.

"The strange thing is that the key is kept in the principal's office. But, it was still there when the canteen staff came in this morning," Miss Charles continued.

"Somebody made a spare key, Miss," a student said loudly.

Miss Charles sighed. "Anyway, just give Gabrielle your orders quickly so that we can arrange for the food to be brought in."

For a few minutes the class was busy writing their lunch orders and after that lessons started in earnest. It wasn't until lunchtime that the three musketeers got a chance to discuss the situation.

2

Atty, Porty and Ram were sitting on the bench under the ackee tree in the school yard.

"How you know they break into the canteen?" Atty asked Porty between bites into his patty.

"I didn't know," Porty answered.

"I thought that was what you said you had to tell us."

"No. Is something worse."

"What?" Ram asked, anxiously. He was always very nervous.

"You remember Shaneke Devon, who used to go to our old school?"

"The one they call Shiney?" Atty asked.

Porty nodded. "They can't find her since Tuesday."

"What! She run away?" Ram almost spilled his box juice.

"They don't know. Her mother says she never came home from school Tuesday evening. They all put her picture on TV."

"She was always a strange girl. What you think happen to her?" Atty said.

"I was thinking, like how we are the Three Musketeers, maybe we can do some detective work and find out what happen to her."

"No way!" Ram exclaimed, as he pointed his box juice at Porty. "That is police work. Suppose is kidnap them kidnap her? Man with gun and things?"

Atty also looked as if he didn't want to get involved.

"Suppose it was your sister, you wouldn't want to try to find her?" Porty insisted.

"What we can do that police can't do?" Atty asked.

"You know how people 'fraid to talk to the police. Maybe somebody at her school know something about her. We can start by asking the children.'

"And if we find out anything we tell the police, right?" Ram said. His face showed that he was worried.

"Of course," Porty said. "Agreed?"

They each put out a hand, one on top of the other, and said the motto they had adopted. "All for one, and one for all!"

3.

At the end of the school day, the Three Musketeers quickly packed their bags and left their school. They had to hurry, as Shaneke's school was about two kilometres away from theirs. They didn't know exactly what they were going to do. Porty hoped they would find other students who had come from their old school and probably knew Shaneke.

They were in luck. Shaneke's school was out, and on the street they met a girl who they knew was her friend. She was walking with some other girls.

"Hi, Roni," they called to her.

"Hi, yourself," she replied. The children at her school thought that the children at the school the boys now attended were stuck-up. They behaved as if they were at the better school. They were not very friendly to one another.

"We can talk to you, little?" Porty asked. He was now acting as if he was the leader of the Three Muskeeters.

"'Bout what?" Roni asked.

"Cho, man! Is something private."

Roni looked them up and down and then decided that she would talk to them.

"I soon come," she told the friends with whom she had been walking.

"You hear anything 'bout Shaneke?" Porty asked, as she joined them.

"No. Everybody say is run 'way, she run 'way."

"What you think?"

"Maybe. Shiney never like it here. She always saying she did well enough to go to your school, and that is spite them spiting her."

"But, how running away gwine help that?" Ram asked.

"Me don't know."

"You see her Tuesday evening?"

"Me and she walk home and I left her at her gate. She say she was going to eat and then do her homework. Is later in the night her mother come around asking for her, because them couldn't find her."

"Think hard," Porty said. "She probably said something that is a clue."

"Me already tell the police everything me know. She never say anything about running away."

"So, suppose is somebody kidnap her?" Atty said.

Roni laughed. "Why them would want to do that? Her mother don't have no money to pay ransom."

"All right," Porty said. "If you hear anything, call me," He gave her a piece of paper with his name and cellphone number on it. He had seen the detectives in shows on TV doing that.

The three musketeers looked at one another."So, what we do now?" Ram asked.

"You know that boy they call Whoosie? He lives near to her. He is her friend. Maybe she tell him something."

"Where we going to find him, now? He leave school and not working anywhere." Ram didn't want to continue the investigation.

"Let's go on his road and see if we find him."

Again they were in luck. Whoosie was standing outside his gate.

"Hey, Whoosie! What's up, man?" Porty greeted him.

He looked them up and down in an unfriendly fashion. "Whoosie to mi friend-dem. Who you?"

"You remember us, man. We used to go to school with you and Shiney."

At the mention of her name, Whoosie frowned and turned his back. "Chat to the back!" he muttered.

"We only trying to see if we can help find her," Atty said.

"Uuno is police, now?"

"Naw, man. But we want to help her if we can."

"Well, go ask her mother. Them have a big fight Tuesday morning. Her mother all want to beat her. But she too big for beating, you know. I think she just get fed up and run 'way."

"But, where she would go?" Porty asked.

"Me nuh know. Shiney can manage. She have plenty sense," Whoosie said. Then he put his hands in his pockets and walked away.

"Well, that's that." Ram said. "Let's go home. We can't do anything more."

Porty nodded. He had a faraway look in his eyes; he was thinking hard. As they passed Shiney's gate they saw her mother looking up and down the street as if she expected Shiney to suddenly appear. Her eyes were red from crying.

"You see Shaneke? " she asked the boys. "You see Shiney?" She sounded a little crazy.

Suddenly afraid, the boys walked away quickly without answering her...

Hazel Campbell is the author of many children's books, including Ramgoat Dashalong and Bernie and the Captain's Ghost.

CONCLUSION NEXT WEEK


Title: Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior

Reviewed by: Ann-Margaret Lim

Anna Carries Water, written by Olive Senior, illustrated by Laura James and published by Tradewind Books (England, 2013), is a wonderfully engaging book parents will love to read to their children, and children will love to read repeatedly to themselves.

The team of Senior, James and Tradewind truly has a winner in this production. Durable, with its hardcover and strong leaves, Anna Carries Water is a beautifully written and illustrated story of a rural Jamaican family who has to collect water from a nearby spring because they do not have potable water.

The central character is Anna, the smallest of six children who's always in the back of the line when it comes to transporting water from the spring on a neighbour's land, back to their home. Not only is she always way behind in the water collection and delivery procession, but she can only manage a coffee can of water, unlike the bigger children who can balance large metal cans and plastic buckets on their heads.

Anna, however, has ambitions of balancing her coffee can on her head, which for the most part of the book she's unable to do, even with the help of a dasheen leaf to keep the water from spilling. However, as Senior and James take us through the scenic routes of an unspoilt countryside with dreamlike cascading waterfalls, coconut palms, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, pigs dogs, goats, green lizards, lazy cows, and Christy's wooden shop on stilts, which is patriotically emblazoned with the Jamaican flag, we also experience a milestone in Anna's life, when she finally manages to balance the water on her head.

I won't ruin the story by telling you the riveting reason that Anna finally balances the coffee can of water on her head without spilling a drop, but I encourage you to get this perfect combination of well-told and simply written story, with bright and beautiful detailed illustrations.

I also recommend Anna Carries Water to both parents and children, for indeed, I never knew that a dasheen leaf placed on top of water prevents it from spilling when transporting it atop your head. You see, that's part of the brilliance of Olive Senior, the recipient of the 1986 Commonwealth Writers Prize for her prose collection Summer Lightning and the 2005 Musgrave Gold Medal for her contribution to Literature, she educates as she entertains.

Sometimes when our children outgrow their books, we give them away, but Anna Carries Water is a keeper, to be handed down through the generations.

Love Wounds

Chapter 16

When Martin came home, he found me still slumped over the steering wheel of my car, frozen. After giving a statement to the police I'd packed my things and left work. I'd called him from the car, shaking violently. "Don't drive, Greta," he'd said, concerned. "Lemme come get you." But I was already on my way home, even though I was unsure of whether my limbs would give out. Now he gently lifted me out and carried me to our bedroom. Then he got into bed next to me, anxiously soothing my brow with a compress. He was a thoughtful person for whom words - and raw emotions - did not come easily, and I appreciated this gesture. I did not always feel treasured by the men I became involved with. I remembered my boyfriend Mustafa, a Moroccan I'd met in my sophomore year at college, who had come to my dorm room the night after I'd witnessed another student, burdened with the pressure of his looming final exams, take a flying leap from the top floor of the library and land in a grotesque broken mess a few feet from where I stood checking out a book. Mustafa had come over with two greasy packets of briouats and eaten mine when I told him I was too upset to eat. Then, after he'd belched, he'd taken off his clothes and, ignoring the mini-nervous breakdown I was having there on the bed, because I kept reliving the horror in my mind, flipped me onto my stomach had proceeded to have rough back-door sex with me.

The following morning I was still sick, a queasy feeling that made me light-headed when I tried to get out of bed. The night before I'd vomited twice and had been unable to drink even the chicken soup that Martin had directed the housekeeper Eulee, who'd just that very week begun to work for us, to make. He'd skipped a big football match at the Stadium, one of those qualifiers for the World Cup campaign, a big deal for a football junkie like him. And despite my protests, weak though they were, he stayed home with me.

"I've never been that close to such graphic violence," I told Martin in the morning. "I mean, I saw a suicide once, at college, but I've never seen a man just...do something so...so awful to..."

"I know, baby" he said, stroking my cheek. "That was rough." Before football had saved his life, Martin had grown up in a depressed inner-city neighbourhood. He'd told me, dry-eyed, about some of the horrible things he'd lived through, including his childhood friend being gunned down right in front of him and a neighbour from the tenement where they lived, who sold drugs to schoolchildren, savagely beating his mother until she'd lost an eye, because he'd suspected her of 'informing' on him to the police. In the general scheme of things, what I'd seen at work wasn't that nightmarish.

Yet it was. At least, for me. Sure, we'd both grown up on different sides of the track, but in the end, it didn't matter. We were both the sum total of all our experiences, all our parts, and they allowed us to go forward, or not, with our lives, depending on what we made of the knowledge gained.

"Oh my god, that poor girl," I said, watching Martin's face closely.

"I know." He let his hand fall from my cheek, then he got up and strode across the room to draw the shades. In the sudden dimness, I wondered: Did he have it in him to become a monster, too? The teller, whose name was Desrene, had been a nice girl - was a nice girl. I didn't know why I'd begun to think of her in the past tense. From what I knew of her, she was friendly, courteous, efficient; her customers apparently loved her. She was attractive, in the way that the bank liked our front-line staff to be - long hair that may have been store-bought or not because she was of an indeterminate racial blend, pretty face that was always well-made up, and a smile that, even on the few times it was aimed at me, had the ability to conjure images of the sun.

The gossip that had bombarded the office yesterday was that Desrene had met a man while on the teller line. Story as old as time: Nice middle-class girl falls for a guy from the other side of town. She was bored with her humdrum suburban life and had stepped out on her respectable boyfriend who'd been helping her live to life to which she'd become accustomed. Boyfriend finally realises he's been made a fool of and, putting aside the trappings of middle-class civility, comes to the bank to publicly serve her a chemical peel she will never forget.

Desrene had obviously loved this man with whom she had shacked up. He must have been a good man, at some point. Clearly, she hadn't thought him capable of doing what he had. I guess I was left wondering now: was I, too, sleeping with a stranger?

"How could things have gone so wrong with two people who once loved each other?" I asked Martin when he got up to go to the bathroom. He replied when the shower came on, "Baby, sometimes sh*t happens."

From the kitchen, Eulee began humming an old Negro spiritual that strangely did not comfort me.

~

I took the day off work because things hadn't get any better with me. And when the next day dawned and I found myself rushing to the bathroom to throw up, I figured something was wrong and called my doctor who told me she could accommodate me if I got there in 20 minutes.

"My stomach just won't settle down," I complained after she examined me. "And I haven't been sleeping. What can you prescribe for this obviously post-traumatic stress?"

The doctor, a sallow-faced Chinese woman who was known for her thoroughness, looked up from scribbling in my file. "Have you only just know begun to experience nausea, after the incident at work, Greta?"

"Uh, yes... I guess..." It dawned on me that I'd actually not been feeling well for a few days. "I don't..."

"When did you last get your period?"

I could only gape at her. "Wh...aat?"

"Greta," she said, a smile slowly spreading across her face. "I ask because it seems you're quite pregnant."

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK

  

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