Dear sx salon readers,
sx salon 31 is now available online. With this issue we transition editors, with Rachel L. Mordecai taking on the role of sx salon editor and Ronald Cummings taking on the role of book review editor. Vanessa K. Valdés and I will both still be part of the larger Small Axe Project, but we are leaving sx salon in Rachel’s and Ron’s very capable hands. Rachel’s inaugural introduction is below in full, along with the table of contents for this issue. Thank you for all your support over the past nine years. I’ll still be around, so feel free to be in touch.
sx salon 31
Transitions are opportunities for reflection. Happily, the current transition in editorial leadership of sx salon (about which, more in a minute) has been expected for some time, allowing us to mark this moment appropriately with a special discussion section—guest-edited by outgoing editor Kelly Baker Josephs and outgoing book review editor Vanessa K. Valdés—that reflects on the field of online publishing and specifically on questions of speed, the archive, and the persistence (or not) of digitally published work.
The pieces collected here include reflective essays by Peter James Hudson of The Public Archive, by Vanessa K. Valdés, and by Jyothi Natarajan of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop website, as well as interchanges between Social Text Online editors Anna McCarthy, Tavia Nyong’o, and Marie Buck, and between Kelly Baker Josephs and the Caribbean Review of Books editor Nicholas Laughlin. The essays offer brief, compelling histories of the contributors’ respective platforms as they speak to Josephs and Valdés’s prompts, but the discussion also raises distinct questions of representation in digital space. Hudson begins with a frank assessment: “When it comes to the political efficacy and ethical obligations of digital platforms, The Public Archive: Black History in White Times has been an irresolute failure”—but then eloquently probes how valuable this type of “failure” might be. Valdés speaks cogently of the work done by, as well as the work that goes into, book reviews and of how the “more flexible” digital space enables the kind of serious creative play that “draw[s] new contours . . . of what discussion and dialogue can be.” Natarajan’s contribution emerges most directly from her involvement in redesigning the AAWW website; she discusses the role of intra-site linking and points out how, in contrast to print publication, “juxtaposition in the digital space [can] lead to a sort of time travel and a chance to mine the archive.”
Not quite “conversations” per se, the two collaboratively authored pieces included here assemble multiple voices speaking to the changes in online publishing in the last decade. The editors at Social Text began by answering Josephs and Valdés’s question about speed, but quickly found that they were preoccupied with other concerns of online publishing. In particular, they consider what it means to bring the academic nature of the Social Text Collective (which “seeks to expand and redefine what scholarship can do”) into the current noise and speed of the social-media-dominated web space. Finally, Josephs and Laughlin’s exchange, aptly entitled “Open Endings,” refers back to an earlier dialogue between the two (in sx salon 3) and reprises the conversation that has since continued between them “about writing, editing, Caribbean literature, and digital publishing.” Honest, provocative, sometimes poignant but never sentimental, Laughlin and Josephs’ essay-conversation strikes exactly the right note(s) for rounding out this discussion and marking sx salon’s current transitional moment.
Also in this issue, John Saillant reviews Crossing the Line: Early Creole Novels and Anglophone Caribbean Culture in the Age of Emancipation, by Candace Ward; Gabriella Rodriguez reviews Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant, by Nick Nesbitt; Malica S. Willie reviews Slave Old Man: A Novel, by Patrick Chamoiseau; Njelle W. Hamilton reviews Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon, by Anthony Joseph; and Treviene A. Harris reviews Stolen Time: Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze, by Shane Vogel. Our Poetry and Prose section contains a moving short story by Cynthia James as well as two exciting multi-modal, digital-literature offerings: Urayoán Noel’s “Bagku” and “Cinquain sin quien,” and Joey De Jesus’s “Black Flag.”
And now for that transition I mentioned above. sx salon 31 is the first issue to appear under a new editor—me, Rachel L. Mordecai—and with a new book review editor—Ronald Cummings. I teach Caribbean literature in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; my monograph Citizenship Under Pressure: The 1970s in Jamaican Literature and Culture appeared in 2014 from UWI Press, and I’m currently at work on a monograph on the Caribbean family saga. Ronald teaches in the English Department at Brock University; his work has appeared in multiple journals, including Small Axe, the Journal of West Indian Literature, and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. In addition to his new role as sx salon book review editor, he is also a coeditor of the Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Culture volume of The Literary Encyclopedia and of volume 3 of the forthcoming Caribbean Literature in Transition, 1800–2015 (2020). I know Ronald joins me in thanking Kelly and Vanessa for their tremendous—indeed, foundational—work in making sx salon the innovative and important platform it is today; we both look forward to collaborating with the wonderful Rosamond S. King as she continues in her role as creative editor.
As always, we hope you enjoy reading, and we welcome your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
A post-script: As this issue made its way through the production process, we absorbed the news of the deaths of Toni Morrison (5 August 2019 in NYC), Paule Marshall (12 August 2019 in Richmond, Virginia), and Gloria Joseph (16 August 2019 in St. Croix). It would be impossible to convey, or even signal, the fullness of the achievement and influence of these tremendous writers and thinkers. All of us who engage Diasporic life and culture will be reflecting for a long time on their gifts to us, and on how to move forward in the wake of their passing; I hope that sx salon will be one forum for that reflection.
Rachel L. Mordecai
Table of Contents
The English Creole Novel at the Origin of Caribbean Fiction—John Saillant
Candace Ward, Crossing the Line: Early Creole Novels and Anglophone Caribbean Culture in the Age of Emancipation (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017)
Reconceptualizing Universalism and Radical Egalitarianism through Francophone Caribbean Thought—Gabriella Rodriguez
Nick Nesbitt, Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013)
The Testimony of Bones—Malica S. Willie
Patrick Chamoiseau, Slave Old Man: A Novel, trans. Linda Coverdale (New York: New Press, 2018)
Portrait of the Calypsonian as a Young Man—Njelle W. Hamilton
Anthony Joseph, Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon (Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2018)
Re/Cycling the Craze—Treviene A. Harris
Shane Vogel, Stolen Time: Black Fad Performance and the Calypso Craze (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018)
Discussion—Contemporary Online Publishing
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