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Last Updated on June 21, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 311

Earl Lovelace was born in Trinidad and Tobago. He is widely regarded as a renowned writer both within the Caribbean and internationally. He is a prolific writer who has authored plays, essays, and short stories as well as novels. Though he has worked at various appointments at US universities, he...

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Earl Lovelace was born in Trinidad and Tobago. He is widely regarded as a renowned writer both within the Caribbean and internationally. He is a prolific writer who has authored plays, essays, and short stories as well as novels. Though he has worked at various appointments at US universities, he has remained in Trinidad and Tobago for most of his life.

His first major novel, While Gods Are Falling (1965) won the British Petroleum Independence Award. It is about a protagonist, Walter Castle, who lives and works in Port of Spain, in Trinidad and Tobago. Living in a slum, he experiences tensions between the social life of the city and the false nostalgia he feels for his home (where he eventually returns).

His next major novel, Wine of Astonishment (1982) depicts a community of Spiritual Baptists in the village of Bonasse (in Trinidad) that is prohibited from worshipping owing to a Prohibition Ordinance passed in 1917. The novel is narrated by a member of this community, Eva. The villagers turn their attentions to a local politicians for help lifting the ban, which is finally accomplished in 1951. The novel also depicts US activities World War I from the perspective of the Trinidadians.

In 1996, his novel Salt won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book. Salt is about one Alford George, a native Trinidadian who becomes a schoolteacher. George struggles to adjust to the changes wrought in his country in the twentieth century. He is enticed by offers to enter into politics, but remains committed to improving his homeland at any cost (including by means of a hunger strike).

More recently, Lovelace's 2011 novel, Is Just a Movie (which won the One Caribbean Movie Bocas Prize for Caribbean literature), follows one Kingkala, a former leader and self-proclaimed "poet" of the defunct Black Power movement. Instead, he becomes involved in Carnival in his town of Cascadu in Trinidad.

Analysis

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Last Updated on June 21, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 332

Earl Lovelace (born in 1935) began his career as a journalist in the 1950s while living in Trinidad. Lovelace writes in English. He is known for novels, short stories, plays and musicals, and essays including literary criticism. Because he has written in multiple genres, his style varies considerably according to genre. While the heyday of his career was the 1960s–1970s, he has continued to write, so changes in style may be discernible over time.

Notable elements common to most of his work include social satire that depends on both plot and characterization. With frequent use of innovative structures, his fiction is modernist but is also comfortably located within social realism, for his general milieu is the world of ordinary people on Caribbean islands, especially the small villages. While Lovelace tackles political and social issues of particularly Caribbean concern, he also explores the diverse influences from Africa, Europe, and the United States. His fiction often employs an omniscient third-person narrator who provides the setting and background and keeps the reader abreast of plot developments. This narrator sometimes offers moral or ethical commentary, but the voice tends to be neutral and to use Standard English. The spoken dialogue, in contrast, distinctively use Creole and dialects to indicate the racial, ethnic, class, and national status and origins of the diverse characters. Several Afro-Trinidadian characters’s choice to speak in Standard English, for example, shows their extreme assimilation into colonized norms.

The Caribbean themes also assume the role of metaphor, sometimes extended into a conceit. Carnival and music, for example, are explored literally as cultural forms in which the characters are involved. The inversion of normal routine during Carnival, moreover, serves as a metaphor for types of reversals or resistance other than cultural and religious. Lovelace similarly incorporates the orality of Calypso storytelling and includes several storyteller characters. While this type sometimes overlaps with the hero, who suffers spiritually and physically before persevering, the storyteller often serves to provide insightful commentary on the hero’s journey.

Other Literary Forms

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 110

Earl Lovelace is better known for his novels than his plays. His first novel, While Gods Are Falling (1965), won the 1963 competition for the British Petroleum Independence Literary Award as the best unpublished novel by a national of Trinidad dealing with West Indian themes. With the publication of The Dragon Can’t Dance (1979) and The Wine of Astonishment (1982)—he later dramatized both novels—Lovelace was hailed as an outstanding Caribbean writer, and critical articles analyzing his novels appeared in literary journals. Lovelace also published a volume of short stories, A Brief Conversion and Other Stories (1988), based on his experiences as a civil servant in the Trinidad departments of agriculture and forestry.

Achievements

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After winning the $5,000 British Petroleum Independence Literary Award in 1964, Earl Lovelace received the Pegasus Literary Award in 1966 for outstanding contributions to the arts in Trinidad and Tobago. In 1977 Pierrot Ginnard won an award as best musical drama. Lovelace received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980, using it to attend the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and the International Seminar Program of the Eastern Virginia International Studies Consortium. In 1986 Lovelace received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant as writer-in-residence at Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York. In 1997 Lovelace’s novel Salt (1996) won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize.

Other literary forms

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 96

Earl Lovelace is primarily a novelist, but he has also published poetry and short stories, some of which have appeared in the West Indian magazines Voices and Tempo. In addition, beginning with The New Boss (pr. 1962), he has had several plays produced, including Jestina’s Calypso (pr. 1978), the musical drama My Name Is Village (pr. 1976), and The New Hardware Store (pr. 1980). A collection of his short stories, A Brief Conversion, and Other Stories, was published in 1988. He lectures frequently on such topics as the contributions of Creole, black, and East Indian communities to West Indian culture.

Achievements

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 211

The honors that have been awarded to Earl Lovelace as a writer and teacher are particularly impressive given that his formal educational training was in agriculture and forestry. His first novel, While Gods Are Falling, received the British Petroleum Independence Literary Award. His skills as a teacher led to a post teaching creative writing at Federal City College, Washington, D.C., from 1971 to 1973, and to the position of visiting novelist at Johns Hopkins University during the 1973-1974 school year. In 1980, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow, and in that year he took the position of writer-in-residence at the University of Iowa. Lovelace’s novel Salt was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1997.

First and foremost, Lovelace explores the character of his native countrymen in the rural and urban areas of Trinidad. While it would be easy to dwell on the obvious difficulties of life in an out-of-the-way, developing country that has only recently emerged from colonial rule, Lovelace chooses to focus on the possibilities for growth within the spirit of his people. In pursuit of this aim, he captures the physical environment, the social turmoil, the dreams, and the very language of his island. His ability to engage the reader in the struggles of his characters makes Lovelace a powerful storyteller.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 590

Barratt, Harold. “Metaphor and Symbol in The Dragon Can’t Dance.” World Literature Written in English 23 (1984): 405-413. Describes The Dragon Can’t Dance as a parody of the crucifixion and redemption and its characters as “wrongsided” saints.

Cary, Norman Reed. “Salvation, Self, and Solidarity in the Work of Earl Lovelace.” World Literature Written in English 28 (1988): 103-114. Addresses Lovelace’s novels and plays as significant postcolonial writings. Examines what is called “their quest,” which is often expressed in religious terms.

Dance, Daryl Cumber. Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986. Devotes a chapter to Lovelace, analyzing his major works and listing scholarly articles concerning his books. Dance considers the quest for personhood (a term Lovelace prefers to manhood or identity), and the difficulty of achieving a true sense of self in an impersonal modern urban environment, as the major themes of his writings.

Gowda, H. H. Anniah. “A Brief Note on the Dialect Novels of Sam Selvon and Earl Lovelace.” The Literary Half-Yearly 27, no. 2 (1986): 98-103. Draws comparisons between Lovelace’s use of dialect and that of Samuel Selvon, another West Indian novelist. Offers insights into how the Third World writer rebels against standard English and creates authenticity by attempting to record the actual speech of the people.

Green, Jenny. “Lovelace’s Wine of Astonishment.” Trinidad and Tobago Review 6, no. 4 (1982). Points out that Lovelace deals with the significance of history and roots as well as the implications of social reliance on the intellectual. Lovelace is able to capture the voice of the people in his use of the language. Green sees the characters as symbols of forces at work in Trinidadian society.

James, Louis. Caribbean Literature in English. New York: Longman, 1999. Provides a brief history of West Indian literature before turning to twentieth century writing dealing with the islands. One chapter discusses Trinidadian authors. James devotes another chapter to Lovelace, one of six major Caribbean writers granted separate chapters.

Lowhar, Syl. “Ideology in The Wine of Astonishment: Two Views.” Trinidad and Tobago Review 10, nos. 11-12 (1988): 41-43. Lowhar sees the major events of the novel as having their parallels in the actual history of the society and explores the implications of these events.

Reyes, Angelita. “Carnival: Ritual Dance of the Past and Present in Earl Lovelace’s The Dragon Can’t Dance.” World Literature Written in English 24 (Summer, 1984): 107-120. Shows how the novel The Dragon Can’t Dance makes symbolic use of the traditions surrounding the idea of Carnival and how, in this indirect way, Lovelace conveys social change and history in the Caribbean. Analyzes the way the narrative shapes itself around the Carnival seasons, concluding that Carnival exemplifies a form of Third World resistance against past colonialism and neocolonialism.

Taylor, Patrick. “Ethnicity and Social Change in Trinidadian Literature.” In Trinidad Ethnicity, edited by Kevin A. Yelvington. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993. Sees Lovelace as challenging ethnic stereotypes to open possibilities of building a more just society in Trinidad.

Thomas, H. Nigel. “From ‘Freedom’ to ‘Liberation’: An Interview with Earl Lovelace.” World Literature Written in English 31 (Spring, 1991): 8-20. Lovelace describes his use of language and symbols within his novels and plays.

Thorpe, Marjorie. “In Search of the West Indian Hero: A Study of Earl Lovelace’s Fiction.” In Critical Issues in West Indian Literature, edited by Erika Sollish Smilowitz and Roberta Quarles Knowles. Parkersburg, Iowa: Caribbean Books, 1984. Examines the kinds of heroes that appear in Lovelace’s fiction: the false ones whose only interest is materialism, the failures who become isolated, and the true heroes who express their Caribbean identity.

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