Mr. Potter by Jamaica Kincaid
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2002
A strange and poetic short novel that follows the life of Mr. Potter, an illiterate chauffeur on the island of Antigua. Written by his daughter, the first member of the family to read and write, is is a praise song to his life, his home and the people surrounding him.
Delving into history, belief and suffering, Mr. Potter is also a celebration of the value of literacy and language.
How each moment is brimming over with the possibility of change, how each moment is brimming over with the new; and yet how each moment the world is seemingly fixed and steadfast and unchanging; how for some of us we are nothing if we are not like the cockle in its shell, the bird in its feathers, the mammal covered with hair and skin; how certain we are that the world will insure our fixed state of happiness or misery or anything of the vast range in between; how in defeat we see eternity and how so too we see forever and ever and ever again and again in victory; how in some dim and distant way we feel we are nothing and how certain we are that we are everything, all that is to be is present in us and no thing or idea of any kind will replace us. From page 85.
As I was reading this novel, there were times that I struggled with the density of Kincaid’s prose, as if I couldn’t stop to take a breath. It was uncomfortable and I wonder if that was her intension. By sticking with it I found a beautiful rhythm, as if I was in a small boat, sometimes rushing down a swift river, other times rocking on a gentle sea. It was worth the struggle and I plan on reading more of Jamaica Kincaid’s novels and her book on gardens!