From the Publisher
“[Phillips] writes wonderfully crafted, deeply meditative treatises on the black experience in a global and historical sense. . . . [He is] intellectual and reflective but always interesting and informative.” –Quarterly Black Review
“One of the literary giants of our time.” –The New York Times
“Phillips takes us on a lucid transatlantic flight in search of what he–someone from the ‘African diasporan world’–might call home. . . . His insight sparkles in every line as he lays bare his cultural upbringing.” –The Independent
Exploring issues of colonialism and race in literature, novelist Phillips (The Nature of Blood) here brings together 32 essays, book reviews, articles, interviews and introductions, divided into four sections the "Africa" of his ancestry, the "Caribbean" of his birth, the "Britain" of his upbringing and the "United States" where he now resides. The American writers he treats (Baldwin, Wright, Wideman) are well-known, and Fanon, Gordimer and Kincaid have been widely read here, but most of Phillips's attention is given to less popular writers from his other homes the French- as well as the English-speaking Caribbean: Glissant, Chamoiseau, along with Walcott and Lamming; the South African Coetzee and the Nigerian Soyinka; from Britain, the 18th-century Sancho and the 21st-century Zadie Smith. Usually collegial in tone and fresh in language ("a `broken-backed' novel which has the feel of two books"), the essays incorporate biographical sketches and concise detail, along with ruminative commentary. Phillips breaks out of the review mode with treatments of three disparate figures who are "of and not of" where they find themselves: C.L.R. James, V.S. Naipaul and Marvin Gaye. Here, as in his introductions, his evocative and provocative ("Race posturing in the United States is now the national sport") voices have freer play. Phillips emended most of the essays, many of which appeared in periodicals not easily available in the U.S. If a new world order doesn't quite emerge, a nuanced set of literary and cultural engagements does. (May 21) Forecast: These essays should shore up Phillips's reputation as a novelist grounded in tradition and serious thought, and they should get play in MFA programs and elsewhere on campus. Yet their publication with a nonacademic press should allow them to find the readers of the novels. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A strong gathering of personal and literary essays on identity and authorship, from accomplished novelist Phillips (The Nature of Blood, 1997, etc.). As he explains in his introduction, Phillips feels "unmoored." A man of African descent born on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, reared in Britain, and writing in America, he has a number of possible homes. Phillips feels "of and not of" each place, he says, and this sense of displacement is the focus of the collection. Each examination ultimately turns on the subject's reckoning of home. James Baldwin moved to France because he could not write on universal topics in America's racist climate. J.M. Coetzee works to address and go beyond the problems of his South African homeland. V.S. Naipaul has made a career of distancing himself from his Trinidadian origins. In these cases and others, Phillips sees the relationship with home as inexorably linked to the quality of the art. One cannot write with understanding, he argues, without understanding one's origins. This is not a flawless formulation—Naipaul's prose, for example, deserves more praise than Phillips offers—but it serves to illuminate the difficulties of writing in a world eager to affix labels of race, nationality, and ethnicity to works of art. Nadine Gordimer is so intent on exploring the political situation in her native South Africa, Phillips suggests, that her fiction sometimes "scampers to the superficial beat of history" and scants deeper human truths. Derek Walcott, on the other hand, has reconciled place and art in his poetry. The essays vary in both length and quality. Discussing writers he admires, Phillips tends to let indented quotations speak for themselves, when fullerexplanation might help. The best pieces present more flawed heroes and engage their complexity incisively and with insight, perhaps most powerfully in his stunning essay on Marvin Gaye. Overall: perceptive and heartfelt
Read an Excerpt
The Africa of his ancestry, the Caribbean of his birth, the Britain of his upbringing, and the United States where he now lives are the focal points of award-winning writer Caryl Phillips’ profound inquiry into evolving notions of home, identity, and belonging in an increasingly international society.
At once deeply reflective and coolly prescient, A New World Order charts the psychological frontiers of our ever-changing world. Through personal and literary encounters, Phillips probes the meaning of cultural dislocation, measuring the distinguishing features of our identities–geographic, racial, national, religious–against the amalgamating effects of globalization. In the work of writers such as V. S. Naipaul, James Baldwin, and Zadie Smith, cultural figures such as Steven Spielberg, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Marvin Gaye, and in his own experiences, Phillips detects the erosion of cultural boundaries and amasses startling and poignant insights on whether there can be an answer anymore to the question “Where are you from?” The result is an illuminating–and powerfully relevant–account of identity from an exceedingly perceptive citizen of the world.