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Kincaid explores narrative style in reading

The author discussed her new novel ‘See Now Then’ as part of the Writers on Writing series

“Life — real life — as the way life enfolds, is never as you imagine it,” award-winning author Jamaica Kincaid told a packed auditorium in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. “And all that must come must contain right now.”

Kincaid spoke Thursday on topics ranging from the relevance of the “moment” to the power of narrative and read excerpts from her most recent novel, “See Now Then,” which tackles themes of time and domesticity.

Kincaid, a renowned writer of fiction and nonfiction who originally hails from Antigua, was a featured author in the Department of Literary Arts’ Writers on Writing Reading Series. Professors of Literary Arts Joanna Howard and Renee Gladman chose Kincaid for “her significant body of work, and because she has published a new novel,” Howard wrote in an email to The Herald.

This was Kincaid’s third visit to Brown but her first as part of the series.

Kincaid read excerpts from “See Now Then” she felt best represented the “beginning, middle and end” of a piece that, in her words, “really has no beginning middle and end.”

The novel follows the Sweets, a family of four living in New England, whose mundane domesticity is brought to life by the toll of time. This is the first of her works to deeply explore time and its affectations, she told the American Reader. In her past works, Kincaid has delved into themes including colonialism, imperialism and racism.

“See Now Then” is Kincaid’s first published novel in over 10 years.

“The theme itself is about the passage of time and time itself, and what a human being might think that the things within time mean,” Kincaid said shortly before the reading Thursday.

Kincaid delivered her messages with humor and honesty. After reading, Kincaid opened the floor to questions, which included inquiries about her Antiguan background and the influence of Greek mythology in her work. Others asked about the use of repetition in her narrative, a technique she credited to the King James Bible, which she called a personal literary influence.

The audience, which comprised students, faculty members and a large community turnout, chuckled occasionally at Kincaid’s remarks and remained engaged throughout the reading.

“She’s so funny but so elegant even in her humor. Hearing her speech was so amazing — she puts such life to her words. Even though I’ve never read her before, I’m inspired to read her work,” said Georgia Wright ’17.

Kincaid’s reading was co-sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, Third World Center, Graduate International Colloquium Fund and the Office of the President, Howard wrote.

After the reading, Kincaid met with fans, who joined her outside for a reception.


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