A review by CARICOM diplomat and economist, Peter Lansiquot.
WHEN I read Death by Fire (Dr. Reynolds first book) years ago, I knew that Saint Lucia had produced another writer of the calibre, or of even deeper essence than Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul. Only that Anderson clearly did not suffer from the hang-ups and traumas of poor Naipaul, notwithstanding that Reynolds had grown up in similar poverty as Naipaul’s, or perhaps worse, but luckily had not faced the sociological demons that had brutalized Naipaul’s unusually fertile mind, a bruised product of the relatively more traumatized human settlements terrain of otherwise beautiful Trinidad & Tobago.
As an economist myself, my later gobbling-up of Dr. Reynolds’ second book, The Struggle For Survival: an historical, political, and socioeconomic perspective of St. Lucia, left me even more enthused with Dr. Reynolds’ acute literary panache, and it has always remained stuck in the remotest recesses of my mind how I almost shed a tear when I first observed and pondered upon the cover of that profoundly touching piece of Lucian literature.
Even now, just watching that cover page and imagining the struggle for survival of our poor, wretched grandmothers, carrying those hundredweight basket of coals upon their heads, for pennies per week, into the belly of that ship, threatens to rupture my tear glands. But soldiers aren’t supposed to cry! We are supposed to bravely embrace the struggle for survival and produce even more Nobel Laureates.
Then Jako Productions very graciously gave me the honour of introducing this amazing author to the audience on the night of his launching of “The Stall Keeper”, on April 2, 2017, in his hometown of Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia. The attendance was very impressive, notwithstanding the relative isolation of the venue, the National Skills Development Centre, in a deep rincon of the sparse and dry Vieux Fort landscape.
I recall feeling somewhat embarrassed that evening, faced with the near unnerving task of introducing a son of the Vieux Fort soil, a real Vieux Fort homie if ever there was one, to an audience comprising mostly Vieux Fortians, further compounded by my status as a rather distant Castries (the capital of St. Lucia) homeboy.
However, the experience doubtlessly represented the pinnacle of any pleasurable pant I may have had to date, in my entire life, in this terrestrial existence.
The writing is exciting. When you pick up “The Stall Keeper”, you just can’t put it down. I read “Death by Fire” and “The Struggle for Survival” some years ago with fever in my heart and soul; I went through “The Stall Keeper” last month like a bubbling juvenile, eager for more and more vibes on the Vieux Fort existence. The character, Eugene, caught my imagination like a rat in a trap, and his father, “Big Man”, simply blew me away! Dr. Reynolds’ vivid descriptions of Big Man’s sad life – as he seeks desperately to deal with the pain and shame of his only son’s homosexual traits and related mannerisms – is a work of art.
Let me take this opportunity to salute Dr. Reynolds as he tours the continents, while earnestly hoping that his notorious bashfulness does not in any way inhibit his reactions with the thousands of our relatively bold and beautiful St. Lucians in the Diaspora.
“The Stall Keeper” should be read by every Saint Lucian man, woman, child and professor of literature! This delectable bowl of hot, steaming Lucian bouillon, spiced up with canelles and calaloo, crafted by the by-far most humble, yet most articulately exciting Lucian craftsman of the written word I have met to date, takes Vieux Fort by the neck and shakes it vigorously, releasing into the breezy Iyanolan atmosphere all of Vieux Fort’s idiosyncrasies, its brutal picong, the madness and the gladness of the Yankee era Vieux Fort, when miserable, poor, underemployed and semi-employed never-see-come-see peasants and townsfolk, who suddenly thought that they had money to burn, lit their cigarettes with U.S. one dollar notes, pun intended!
This fine piece of work dissects, digs into, and displays our dignity, even in the face of our perennial poverty, yet exposes in harsh, tragic relief, the desperation and depravity of those Iyanolans disenfranchised by the gods and genetics, among them the next of kin of the unfortunate malmamans, a perennial Lucian dilemma, in a land notorious for its ferociously artistic and unkind anti-malmamanpicong!
“The Stall Keeper” gave me an appreciation for Vieux Fort that I had not yet been exposed to in other pieces of St. Lucian literature. After reading “The Stall Keeper”, and digesting this image of Vieux Fort, I can now claim to be more complete as a Saint Lucian, with a larger embrace of things Saint Lucian, since the Vieux Fort piece had definitely been missing previously.
“The Stall Keeper” made me laugh, giggle, ponderous, sad and glad, all at once, and re-introduced to me the Anderson Reynolds whom I thought I already knew, just because I had already read, digested and assimilated his two previous masterpieces, “Death by Fire”, and “The Struggle for Survival”. How mistaken I was! Every Lucian must read “The Stall Keeper”, written by a man who makes me immensely proud to be Lucian!