lizabelle: (Old coat new book)
[personal profile] lizabelle
I ended up taking quite a few notes today, so I thought I might as well blog about them!

The first session I attended this morning was The Last Warner Woman with Kei Miller. This is one of the few sessions where I knew nothing about the writer or his work beforehand - I picked it because the subject matter sounded interesting, and I'm very glad I did. Miller was charming, thoughtful and an excellent (and hilarious) reader, and I'd be surprised if he didn't sell quite a few books based on his performance.

Stephen Gale kicked off the session by asking Miller about the genesis of the novel, and Miller immediately disarmed his audience by warning them that he was about to lie, because like all writers, he gets carried away by a good story, and like all books, The Last Warner Woman has various origins.

The one he chose to share with us was a vivid account of a Jamaican woman in Manchester who reminded him of the warner women he'd seen in Jamaica - a warner woman being a kind of prophetess of doom.

Next, he read two excerpts from the novel which, with their different narrators, expressed a similar duality: the "writer man" providing a writerly description, and then the "warner woman", who spends the novel critiquing the writer man's words. In the section Miller read, the warner woman was also critiquing her own storytelling, as if realising that the truth perhaps lies somewhere between the two accounts.

The point of the novel seems (caveat: I haven't read it yet) to be to move beyond "the facts" to "the truth". Miller seems to see dualities in many things: he talked about how Jamaica can be both beautiful and ugly at the same time, and also about the nature of the warner woman herself - the fact that as a traditional figure in Jamaican culture she is accepted as normal, but that when taken out of this context she can seem very odd. Again, what is real; what is true?

Perhaps reading The Last Warner Woman will give me some clues.

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