Approximately 200 people crowded into Longfellow Hall yesterday to hear a reading by acclaimed author and Visiting Professor of Afro-American Studies Jamaica Kincaid.
Kincaid, who read from her latest book, My Brother,also read to students at Adams House Monday night.
My Brother is an autobiographical novel about the death of her brother from AIDS in Antigua.
"I still can't believe he died, even though it's been two years," she said softly, before beginning her reading.
"It is my observation about Antiguans--at least when I was growing up--that death is not final," Kincaid said. "You just go someplace else."
Kincaid cut an unusual figure as she stood at the podium, clutching her arms.
She wore a long, flowered dress and spoke in a musical, delicately accented voice, but beneath the soft-spoken demeanor was a sharp wit that at times set the audience laughing at her blunt words.
"I am really only completely interested in my own self and somehow I've made a living out of it," Kincaid said. "The biggest challenge for me is getting out of bed."
That wit is part of what helped her 20-year career as contributor to The New Yorker. She has also written for the Paris Review and Rolling Stone.
Kincaid's previous books have garnered wide acclaim. Her last novel, The Autobiography of My Mother, was a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner award.
Annie John and A Small Place, two novels about everyday life in Antigua, have also won awards and critical praise. But at the reading last night, Kincaid downplayed theacclaim she has received.
"All my novels are slim volumes," Kinkaid said."Somewhere along the line I lost interest in whatI'm writing. I think after 200 pages you'd loseinterest, too."
"Often I feel that I can't write and I don'tknow how to write and I shouldn't write, so Iwrite anyway," she said.
The audience was greatly entertained by Kincaidherself and moved by the reading.
"I found her approach to writing veryrefreshing," said Lucy H. Macphail '01. "She madeit sound like less of a profession and more of aninternal thing. She's also so honest."
Kirsten E. Butler '01 agreed. "She's veryfunny," Butler said. "I'm terribly jealous becauseshe's gotten to work with amazing editors herwhole life and she's gotten to write about herselfher whole life."
Butler thought Kincaid's self-deprecationbelied the power of her words.
"I agree with the critic that said her prose isdeceptively simple," she said.
"I found I had to concentrate a lot because ifyou accept the words at face value you're notgoing to get the most out of it," Butler said