By Shivanee Ramlochan, 2012 Bocas Lit fest blogger
Erna Brodber answers Lisa Allen-Agostini’s question, as Karen Lord listens.
It can be vaguely (or extremely) surreal to realize, “Hey… I’m sitting in the same room asErna Brodber… does… does she know who she is?” I know, I sound like a fangirl, which is apt, because in this case I totally am. For me, this is one of the most thrilling things about Bocas, the fact that you get to sidle up alongside your favourite writers of prose, verse and non-fiction. You don’t even have to talk to them, if you find that producing words other than “Omigod it’s sooo good to meet you omigod” hard to come by. You can simply sit in contemplative silence, as I do, most times, and appreciate the sight and sound of a beloved author’s work being born once more through performance.I found the juxtaposition of Lord and Brodber both intriguing and fitting: the lining up of one indisputably-established literary voice alongside one that’s on a nascent rise in popularity and widespread recognition. To my immense pleasure, both writers read their work outstandingly well (because, really, one never knows with a writer, does one? I don’t mean to be mean, but I think we all know that some writers can’t pull off a recital that’s worth a red cent). In that comparative vein, listening to these readings almost approached an embarrassment of riches. I had to grapple with the sheer sensory overload of feeling myself drawn, moth-to-flame-intensely, to the richness of the worlds both women presented.Brodber treated the audience to a crisp, strikingly delivered reading from her latest novel, The Rainmaker’s Mistake, sharing a glimpse into the haunting story of young children forced to grapple with the startling onset of freedom in their previously mystically-ordered lives, and what this curious “free” does to shift the weight of their reality. Lord read from her novel Redemption in Indigo, and I grinned at her description of the worth of literature, when thought of as “snatches of empty air shaped around vowels and consonants… white paper stamped irregularly with black ink.” She also gifted us with a brief reading from her forthcoming novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds, which, I think, won over even the most skeptical anti-speculative fiction reader to her cause. I’ve vowed to read much more scintillatingly good spec.fic. this year, and I am eager to buy a copy of Redemption in Indigo before the festival ends, so I can get it signed!In the discussion that followed the readings, moderator Lisa Allen-Agostini drew from Erna Brodber the comment that sociology feeds into the latter’s writing in every way. There are things about which writers must be unshakably passionate, Brodber maintained, and, according to her, “One of the things I do with my work, whether fiction or non-fiction, is to preach it!” I hope that several budding writers were present for this reaffirmation that, in pursuit of one’s passions and platforms as a writer, very, very few actions should be off limits in the honest transmission of the message. Lord, when musing on the accurate definition of speculative fiction, provided this gem of insight: that so much of genre definition, spec.fic. or not, is not necessarily designated for readers and writers, as much as it is for the simple classification processes of publishing houses. I thought this was an excellent consideration: as much as genres can mould and shape the content of a writer’s work, sometimes, all there is for it is to write, to write honestly and with conviction, and to then let the genres fall where they may. Is Erna Brodber’s newer work really speculative fiction? Perhaps; perhaps not. What I know for sure is that I’ll continue to read her, and Lord, no matter what genre the publishers decide to place them in.
Photo by Lyndon Baptiste.