My Kingston - Christopher John Farley

Journalist, columnist, and author

Sunday, March 17, 2013

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What are your earliest memories of Kingston?

I was born in Kingston, but left when I was a month old! Still, when I was a bit older, I remember my parents, both college professors, bringing me back for trips and my mother taking me along with some of her students for class tours. One of my strongest memories is of the time I was allowed to fly to Kingston as an unaccompanied minor when I was around nine years old. The sense of freedom that I felt then, of being happily alone and aloft, is inextricably intertwined with my feelings about Kingston. Whenever my plane touches down in the city, part of me feels like I'm still in flight.

What do you miss most when you are away from Kingston?

I miss family, friends, music, culture and Tastee patties. Not necessarily in that order.

What has been your most memorable meal in Kingston?

My Aunt Len fixed a wonderful meal for us last time we were in town, and my friend Justine Henzell served my family a feast just the other day. I'm still thinking about the rum cake she gave asking for a fourth helping rude?

Which places would you recommend as must-visit locations to a first-time visitor to Kingston?

I recommend the Trench Town Culture Yard. I think visitors should also go to Port Royal to recall some of the Golden Age of Piracy, when the island was the centre of the seafaring world.

The videogame publisher Ubisoft recently announced it will release a game called "Assassin's Creed 1V: Black Flag" which will be set in the Caribbean and feature real-life pirates, including a couple I wrote about in my novel Kingston by Starlight - Calico Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny. Will Jamaican tourism profit from the game? Jamaican history is valuable and some folks are making loads off of it. We should treasure our past like a pirate chest.

What is your beverage of choice?


What cologne are you splashing?


Share the title of the last book you read

The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss; it tells the true story of Spartacus, a gladiator who led a slave revolt against ancient Rome -- and centuries later helped inspire the successful Haitian revolution. The book provides a lesson: if you want your freedom, you must fight for it. The winning is in the trying.

Share a few places in your travel black book

I've been to Rio, Stockholm, Kyoto and Paris - all cities worth visiting. But Brockport, New York, where I grew up, is still one of my favourite spots on Earth. If you travel to Brockfort, be sure to stop by the Lift Bridge Book Shop, a terrific store located beside the historic Erie Canal.

Tell us about your involvement with the Kingston Book Festival

I participated in two sessions, one on biographies and memoirs and the other on music. My message was this: tell your own story. Write books, read books, support authors. George Orwell once wrote, chillingly, that "He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past." Writing histories, biographies and memoirs is a way for writers to fight for the past, the present and the future. Recording history can be a revolutionary act, helping to reshape the world with words.

You are an award-winning journalist, former writer for Time magazine and now an editor for the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy Website - what advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read! Great writers are often great readers. And if you believe in your work, don't give up! Many great writers, including Zora Neale Hurston, Stephen King and Dr Seuss were rejected by publishers.

Share with us the most interesting musician you had the chance to interview during your time as writer and pop critic for Time magazine.

There are so many: Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Ziggy Marley, Paul McCartney, Radiohead, Aaliyah, Beyonce. And for the Wall Street Journal, I've interviewed Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Adele. Of all of them, Bunny Wailer was one of the most fascinating and talented musicians I've ever met.

The iconography of reggae, spread by the Wailers and others, is so powerful and pervasive that it's had an impact on mainstream America in non-musical ways. For example, right now in America they're running a miniseries called The Bible that's getting huge ratings. In the series, Samson is portrayed as a black man with dreadlocks. When the locks get cut, of course he loses his power. In just a few decades, dreadlocks have gone from something to be feared and scorned by outsiders to symbolising the very essence of biblical power by mainstream TV producers.

So how do you reckon we can generate revenue from Brand Jamaica?

After spending years researching my pirate novel Kingston By Starlight, I came to the conclusion that much more needs to be done to leverage the history of piracy to draw people to the island. For example, when tourists come looking to explore the history of pirates, there are some terrific places to visit, but no major, internationally known venue to draw them in and satisfy their curiosity. A major venue dedicated to the history of piracy- with exhibits, a major library, a gift shop, ship replicas, re-enactors, tours and more - could serve as an anchor to attract even more people to Port Royal, Kingston, and the entire island.

What new projects are you currently working on?

One of the biggest problems parents face today is getting kids to read. I have a seven-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old boy - they both love reading, but I've seen how TV and videogames exert a gravitational pull away from the written word. When I was a kid, I loved fantasy books by authors like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis; I was also impressed in recent years by how JK Rowlings got a whole generation of kids reading again with her Harry Potter novels. But JK, JRR and CS drew on the legends of the Old World for their works.

My coming book, Game World, is a fantasy adventure for younger readers that draws on the myths of Jamaica: duppies, rolling calves and more. The plot of the novel is fuelled by videogames. I'm looking to give the Xbox 360, PS4, Nintendo, Wii and all the rest of those videogame platforms a run for their money - these are new myths for a New World. Look for it in February of 2014.

Bill Maher or Piers Morgan?

I like CNBC TV news presenter Sharon Epperson more than both of them. Of course, I'm married to her.

What is your life philosophy?

Read my books and it will become clear...

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