Sunday Salon – March 16, 2008

Sunday Salon

March 16, 2008

9:00 AM

Winter showed its stormy face yesterday with a mixture of hail, thunder and lightening, and a couple of inches of wet snow. This morning the sun is out and the snow is melting. March is like this – it can’t seem to make up its mind whether to be spring or winter.

Given the unsettled weather yesterday, I was happy to find my latest edition of World Literature Today in my mailbox. The March-April issue is all about globalization and its impact on literature – a fascinating subject. The editor of WLT – David Clark – notes:

Within the past decade, especially, we have witnessed the emergence of greater numbers of transnational authors who were born, say, in one country, educated in another, and currently reside in yet a third. Many speak and/or write in more than one language.

I was especially interested to read the article titled: Migration, Globalization, and Recent African Literature, by Tanure Ojaide. Ojaide compares the older African writers who are living in the West and steep their writing in folklore with heroic and nostalgic references to older times, with that of the post-1960 born Africans (such as Chris Abani and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) who focus on themes more critical to African history and are often violent. The article references work by Uzodinma Iweala, as well as Abani and Adichie. Ojaide concludes:

By virtue of living outside their African homeland and in the West in an age of globalization, there are changes in subject matter, themes, style, and form in the various genres in which the writers engage themselves.

When I decided to read the world, I thought it would be easy to categorize books by geographic area by simply noting where the author lived. But globalization made me rework my categories and expand my definition of a work. I try to pick literature which represents the country – either by the author’s nationality, or by setting. How do you classify a work geographically?

In other reading “news” I finished reading both The Gathering (see my review) and The Story of Forgetting (see my review) this past week. Both astonishing novels which I can recommend. Feeling like I needed a change of pace, I am now reading a publisher’s copy of The Secret Scroll, by Ronald Cutler. It is a religious suspense-thriller set in Israel and I’m about half way through it. I’m afraid I have a tendency to compare the writing of Cutler to a brilliant, award-winning author like Enright…and Cutler loses the “competition” hands down. But, as a work of genre fiction, it is okay. I should finish it this afternoon.

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    • Alisia on March 16, 2008 at 09:53

    That sounds like a great edition of World Literature today. I might have to go out and buy it!

    btw, I love your blog’s makeover!

  1. I don’t think winter wants to give over the reins just yet to spring. Hubby and I were cuddled on the couch watching the season two finale of the “new” Dr. Who when our house was pelted with rain and hail last night. I thought perhaps I even heard a little thunder in the distance.

    I haven’t yet started my new issue of World Literature Today, but your comments make me eager to do so.

    I hope you have a great week, Wendy.

    • Jill on March 16, 2008 at 09:57

    After reading your blog entry and the comments before mine, I must check out World Literature Today. Thanks for the tip!

    Enjoy your Sunday!

  2. I hadn’t heard of ‘World Literature Today’ but must check if the University Library takes it, because from what you say they certainly should. Your point about transnational authors is interesting given that a publisher sent me a book to review last week by an American writer whose parents are Ceylon Tamils. I’ve only had a quick flick through but much of it appears to be set in Sri Lanka and to deal with the issues surrounding the Tamil Tigers. I’m very much looking forward to reading it as it’s a area of the world I know very little about.

    • Wendy on March 16, 2008 at 13:18

    Alisia: Oh, you should definitely check out WLT – it is a wonderful magazine. Thanks for the compliments on my “new” blog – I’m still working on my sidebars 🙂

    Wendy: Sounds like your weather is similar to ours! I’ll be interested to see your thoughts on the current WLT.

    Jill: Thanks! You too 🙂

    Ann: I would think a University Library would want to carry this magazine – it is well written and enlightening in its scope; and published a the University of Oklahoma. The book you refer to sounds fascinating – I’ll be interested to see your thoughts. I don’t think I have a book from Sri Lanka on my list…maybe this one will fit the bill!

  3. I hadn’t heard of WLT either, thanks for the tip, Wendy, it sounds really good. Globalization certainly affects us in a lot of ways; I hadn’t thought about the literature aspect of it, other than there is so much more available from other countries. I’m grateful that the stories are getting out to broad audiences.

  4. I’m keen on treating myself to a subscription to a literary magazine and cannot decide which. I’ve come across WLT before but hadn’t thought of it in that context – perhaps I should have a look at a couple of recent editions. I like your aim to read the world!

  5. Oh, yes…to read the world! That is also one of my biggest desires. To know more about nations based on authors from those nations, and the ancient art of storytelling. Well, that is the main reason I started my challenge Orbis Terarrum (the whole world) because I can never give up an opportunity to get to know the peoples in this world better, they are just far too interesting to me.

    • Megan on March 16, 2008 at 15:18

    Thanks for sharing those bits of WLT, I found them really interesting. Like some others who have commented I have never heard of it. But I stay away from magazines about books because they just make me desire more books. I made a vow that I wasn’t going to buy any more book because I have so many as it is. A vow I conveniently forgot until this exact moment. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to buy any books that I wasn’t going to read within the next month or two about 6 months ago and I stuck with it until about 2 months ago.

    The Secret Scroll sounds good, sounds like one I need to keep an eye out for.

    Happy Sunday!

  6. WLT sounds a fascinating magazine. However, I don’t think I can get hold of it here in India.

    I too think that Indian authors who live outside of India write very differently from those who are living in India. It colours their view or broadens it, is a matter of perception.

    Here is my Sunday Salon post!</a

    • Wendy on March 16, 2008 at 18:59

    Terri: I really like the idea of being able to get access to so many books from around the globe.

    LitLove and Bethany: Reading the world may take me a lifetime…but it has been fun 🙂

    Megan: I know what you mean about the temptation to buy! I’ve sort of given up trying to resist it 🙂

    Gautami: I’m sorry you can’t get this magazine in India…I think you’d enjoy it.

  7. I’ve been debating whether to subscribe to World Literature Today and I think you’ve convinced me to go for it. Sounds like a very interesting issue.

    • Trish on March 17, 2008 at 09:37

    Wendy, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to categorize world literature. For example, Nabokov was born in Russia, but moved to the United States. His Invitation to a Beheading was published in Russian, but Lolita was published in English. Is one considered Russian literature and not the other, or both because he was Russian, or neither since was was living in the US while writing? I joined Bethany’s Orbis Terranum challenge and picked books from authors from other countries, but I wouldn’t necessarily call Portrait of Dorian Gray intrisically Irish lit just because Wilde was Irish. Would Angela’s Ashes be more Irish even though McCourt moved from there when he was 19? Anyway, you get my point! 🙂 Very interesting topic to me.

  8. I too have been thinking a lot about the nature of nationality and national or regional influence in literature since starting my national/regional themed years of reading last year. It seemed complicated even with Australia in 2007: is someone who chooses to live in Australia less Australian than someone who was born there but lives elsewhere? I decided to be fairly loose in my attitude to what counted as “national” literature, only excluding works about the nation written by authors who neither lived there, nor were born there, nor were citizens of the nation. This year, when Caribbean literature is my theme, it has become even more complicated, as the writers of the region are if anything even more diasporic, and the influence of the Caribbean on emigrant writers is so lastingly strong.

    In other news, I too will be reading “The Story of Forgetting” soon, so I am glad to hear that you liked it!

    • Wendy on March 17, 2008 at 15:39

    Tanabata: I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Trish: It does get a bit confusing, doesn’t it? I have stopped categorizing fiction based only on where the author is from – instead I decide based on if the novel gives a distinct feel for a specific country.

    Ariel: So what do you do with an author like Coetzee who is so “African” yet now lives in Australia? I am always interested to see what other readers are doing regarding this dilemma. I’m glad to hear you’ll be reading The Story of Forgetting – I think you’ll appreciate it.

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