“A beautifully written and evocative book.”—Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize
“Written by the hand of a poet, the prose in this collection is consistently beautiful.”—Elizabeth Nunez, author of Prospero’s Daughter and Boundaries
“I love the tender beautiful writing; I love the characters, and in many ways it felt as if I had met them before….I just love this book.”—Uwem Akpan, author of Say You’re One of Them, an Oprah Book Club selection
Internationally renowned and award-winning poet Lorna Goodison brings us By Love Possessed, her long-anticipated collection of short fiction. Making dazzling use of the Creole patois of Jamaica, Goodison limns the beauty and despair of the human condition and explores the unique power of love to both uplift and destroy. Goodison’s powerfully moving stories explore the pain, the struggle, and the triumph of Jamaicans—particularly women—those still living on their Caribbean island and those who have emigrated elsewhere. By Love Possessed is a rare and beautiful gift from an extraordinary writer who was mentored by the legendary Derek Walcott and who stands with Edwidge Danticat as a brave and breathtaking voice in contemporary literature.
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About the Author
Lorna Goodison is an internationally recognized poet who has published eight books of poetry and two collections of short stories. In 1999 she received the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, and her work has been widely translated and anthologized in major collections of contemporary poetry. Born in Jamaica, Goodison now teaches at the University of Michigan. She divides her time between Ann Arbor and Toronto.
Read an Excerpt
A gorgeous landscape by George Rodney is on display in the foyer outside the main dining room. She stops and carefully admires it for at least four minutes before making her way over to where he is sitting by himself at, she could not believe his nerve, their old table. Their old table in the corner where the lavender blossoms of a lignum vitae tree created their own painting framed by the mahogany trim of the window.
He is much heavier now and his 1960s afro is gone, taking with it an inch or two of his hairline. Their friends at Excelsior High School who used to call him King Quarter Past Midnight would no doubt notice that English winters have rendered him at least a shade lighter. Gone is the blue- black sheen, but his profile still looks like it could have been stamped on a coin, with those hooded eyes and what their History teacher once described as his Augustan nose. “Ah, Mr. Nathan Aiken, he of the Augustan – that is, large – nose, who is staring out the window even as I speak.”
It is now an older Nathan who is sitting there in the Hummingbird Restaurant, staring out the window. His navy-blue suit worn with a blue- white shirt and striped tie is no doubt the suit from Savile Row he always said he would have built by a bespoke tailor when he was called to the bar. But she looked good too, considering.
“Hail Queen, live forever. Live forever, O my Queen. I, your lowly subject, have taken the liberty of ordering your special gin and tonic – mostly tonic with a teaspoon of gin. I’m really proud of myself for remembering that. Your Majesty, your shrimp cocktail starter and curried lobster main course await you. Is your long- lost consort good or what?”
She calmly addresses the waiter:
“A campari and soda please, and I’d like to have a look at the menu.”
“But . . .”
For the first time since she sat down at the table she stares him fully in the face. He looks sheepish and embarrassed at her blunt refusal to enter into their old game, and then right there in the presence of the waiter she says:
“Nathan, you are a dog, and having said that, please, please don’t bother with the walk down memory lane because you will definitely be walking alone. I’m only here for the free lunch and to stop you from pestering me on the telephone. When you came back to Jamaica, you called and said you were asking me for just one favour, so I gave you the name of my real estate agent and she found you your four-bedroom Hillview townhouse. What more, in the name of Jesus, could you want from me now?”
“Don’t start beating me up yet. At least wait till you’ve ordered.”
“So what about the two swims cocktail, sir?”
“Just bring them. I’ll eat them.”
The waiter, who looks a little like Cyril, the stupid busboy from the play Smile Orange, saunters off in the direction of the kitchen. They sit in silence until the Cyril lookalike returns bearing two wide-lipped cocktail glasses each with six limp shrimps hooked over the rims. “Your swims cocktail, sir.” He places them in the centre of the table.
The damp pink shrimps look as if they are clinging for dear life to the rim of the glasses, which are stuffed with icy lettuce.
“I’ll have the smoked marlin for my appetizer, and then the steamed red snapper, thank you.”
He tells the waiter to cancel the order of curried lobster.
“I know, I made my bed, so I’m the one who has to lie in it. Freudian slip, right? Don’t laugh, please, you are the one woman, the one woman in the world, I’ve ever loved, and trust me, that is never going to change. The human equivalent of the cockroach, that’s me, maybe even the drummer roach, but I just can’t see the two of us living in Jamaica and not speaking to each other. Remember our song? ‘Friends and Lovers Forever’?”
She kisses her teeth.
“I never intended to marry anybody but you! I know you don’t want to hear this, but only God knows how.”
“If this is what you called me here to tell me, I am leaving right now!”
“No, please, just hear me out, there is not a day that I don’t find a reason to mention your name to somebody. A few hours ago I told a lawyer who just got back from Egypt that I was going to have lunch with this fabulous woman who looks like an Egyptian queen.”
“Nathan, to tell you the truth, our story? That is history. Call it water under Flat Bridge if you want, so let’s cut out the rubbish. What did you really call me here for?”
“I want you to be friends with my wife, Deidra. She has no friends in Jamaica. Please take her shopping for me.”
Back at her office she calls her sister and tells her what just happened.
“So what did you tell him?”
“To kiss my royal arse.”
What People are Saying About This
“Few writers are as attuned as Goodison to the heartaches and triumphs of Jamaicans, especially Jamaican women. . . . Fewer writers still tell us so much about what it means to be human.”
“How Lorna Goodison manages to capture so much about human complexities in these stories is baffling. I just love this book.”
“A beautifully written and evocative book. . . . Goodison finds a glittering and urgent beauty in the everyday, without shying away from a frank confrontation of those moments when the everyday is shattered by trauma.”