Sunday, July 09, 2006

Americans Vs. Brits

Geoffrey Philp has a very interesting blog about why North American readers may not be as open to Caribbean fiction as the British, but I'm not so sure. I've been thinking about this topic for a while, because this was an assumption I made about my own work before it was published. But since publication I have experienced the complete opposite. While Americans from critics to writers to readers have embraced my novel, the Brits have not been so keen. No British publisher would touch the book and the sole Brit review was smarmy and patronising, comparing me to Andrew Salkey. This of course flies in the face of our conception that the British audience is more readily receptive to a Caribbean book.

But I think it is more than that. Older generation Caribbean writers such as Selvon, Naipaul or even Roger Mais were educated and cultured in a British sensibility, whereas writers such as myself came alive through dancehall, alternative rock, hip-hop and Starsky and Hutch. Hell, my book opens with a quote from Captain Beefheart.

I think also that the courage to use dialect came from Twain, Faulkner and Toni Morrison—the Americans and not british writers or English Lit teachers who viewed such a thing with at best bemusement, at worst scorn, hence the slightly patronising tone to Brother man and the continuing belief by readers Jamaican and otherwise that anything in dialect must be a Louise Bennet minstrel show.

Whatever the reason, I've had a better response from Americans than Brits. Go figure.