I have never been quite into short stories. Until the recent past I read them because I had to or because someone recommended them to me. I am not saying I was disappointed – not in any way – but it felt that somehow they weren’t my cup of tea exactly.
A famous character in a famous TV series said: I am a woman…I can be as contrary as I wish. So lately I have rediscovered that female characteristic in myself – I don’t really like short stories but I sort of like reading them. Don’t try to make any sense of it – there is none. Reading a book from the world has been great so far (with a few notable exceptions) and I have been more and more drawn into short stories as a means to experience more from a given country. Reading a novel is amazing but it really narrows the topics covered to one or two, while a collection of short stories is a like a collection of people, saving me yet again from the danger of the single story.
It turned out to be quite difficult to find online anything from Bajan (yes, that is how they call themselves) novelist and playwriter Glenville Lovell. He has written four novels, numerous short stories and several plays, but his novels were no were to be found on the World Wide Web (which doesn’t seem that wide to me lately), so I had to settle for the collection of short stories Going Home in Chains.
The search for an identity and a home seems recurrent in the literature of the Caribbean. Lovell’s short stories somewhat reminded me of Dominican Junot Diaz. Easily shifting from Barbados to the States and back, Glenville Lovell explores the struggles of a nation to understand itself and to find its place in the world. Some of the characters choose to stay at home and embrace the newly gained independence, while others decide to seek happiness in the States, where most are met with suspicion and prejudice. All of the characters seek love, some of them trying to revive dead marriages, others travelling miles to the States and back to follow or escape from love, and yet third embracing their confused sexuality. Lovell’s stories explore the different faces of a nation I knew next to nothing about (excluding Rihanna, duh) and discuss universal human problems through the prism of the sands of Barbados.
The title story was probably the one I enjoyed the most. Going Home in Chains tracks the struggles of a man, who is desperately trying to come to peace with the death of his girlfriend in the bombing of the Cubana flight 455. Ironically, he is suspected of planning a terrorist attack when he accidentally forgets his bag in Grand Central Station. The man must now revisit his deepest nightmare while trying to convince the police he is the last man that would ever initiate a mass murder.
Tall Like You, probably the most touching story, follows the journey of a young man to find his daughter. Jeffrey, abandoned by his father as a child, has repeated the same mistake with his daughter and is now seeking redemption. However, he might not be the only one, who needs forgiveness.
Overall, Barbados hasn’t been a disappointment. There was nothing particularly great about these stories and yet they were throughly enjoyable. Most importantly though, I am really starting to value short stories, especially when they offer a variety of characters from a distant place I am most likely never going to visit, or read anything from again, for that matter.
Ladies of the Night – Althea Prince
Drown – Junot Diaz
This Is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
Her mother used to say that things made of mahogany lasted forever. Too bad souls aren’t made of mahogany.
…in the world of seduction, the laws of physical attraction are rooted in the distortion of reality.