A NEW WORLD ORDER: Essays
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.
Release date: 04/01/2002