At The Bottom Of The River

One Question for Jamaica Kincaid by Anne Kreamer

Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John's, Antigua. Her books include At the Bottom of the RiverAnnie JohnLucyThe Autobiography of My Mother, and My Brother.  In See Now Then, her first novel in ten years—a marriage is revealed in all its joys and agonies. This piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters—a mother, a father, and their two children, living in a small village in New England—as they move, in their own minds, between the present, the past, and the future: for, as she writes, “the present will be now then and the past is now then and the future will be a now then.” Her characters, constrained by the world, despair in their domestic situations. But their minds wander, trying to make linear sense of what is, in fact, nonlinear. See Now Then is Kincaid’s attempt to make clear what is unclear, and to make unclear what we assumed was clear: that is, the beginning, the middle, and the end. Since the publication of her first short-story collection, At the Bottom of the River, which was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Kincaid has demonstrated a unique talent for seeing beyond and through the surface of things. In See Now Then, she envelops the reader in a world that is both familiar and startling—creating her most emotionally and thematically daring work yet.

Q: What’s the most significant risk you’ve taken professionally?

Jamaica:  You mean apart from being born? Of course, this means that I have to admit to having a profession and what would that be? Well, I am a writer. I never learned how to type properly. I failed that course. I also failed my shorthand courses. If I had known how to do those things, I would have most likely gotten jobs as somebody's secretary and when I was young that was a proper job for a young woman. Since I couldn't find anybody who would employ me to answer their correspondence efficiently, I continued in my attempt to be a writer. See how that worked out.