Thoughts on Is Just a Movie by Earl Lovelace

“It is just a movie,” Errol say. And as if to point us away from the pathos, the pain in the statement, he say it again…”

This is the first book I read for the 24 in 48 readathon last weekend. I think I chose it because it was also the weekend of the Crop Over festival, and I knew this novel was going touch on Trinidad carnival in some way.

The first work I ever read by Lovelace was The Dragon Can’t Dance. It was the first West Indian novel I ever enjoyed reading, almost certainly because it was the first I’d read outside of the classroom.

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It was while ago, but I remember being totally engrossed in this sentimental story about the rebellious spirit of carnival and the pan yards, and how it slowly waned as it became increasingly commercialised.

The events in Is Just a Movie are related to us by a poet-calypsonian Kangkala/King Kala in the ‘apostolic‘ fashion of the The Great Gatsby or Fight Club.

“My name is Kangkala, maker of confusion, recorder of gossip, destroyer of reputations, revealer of secrets. In the same skin, I am villain and hero, victim and victor.”

Lovelace weaves a narrative so drenched in Trinidadian dialect I could almost hear the sing-song accent rising off the pages. Even the title wasn’t spared, Lovelace dropped the it from Is Just a Movie.

The story follows the dreams and disappointments of an eclectic cast of characters against the backdrop of the Black Power Movement, carnival and cricket.

The most prominent character in the calypsonian’s story was Sonnyboy, a man who is driven to rebellion on “…the day of creation and humiliation.”

On that day he watched his father finally play the steel pan he had been working on obsessively:

“And Sonnyboy hear the notes flying out like flocks of birds from the nest of the pan, like sprinkling of shillings thrown into the air, like a choir of infants reciting a prayer.”

The ‘humiliation’ would come after and forever affect him.

I liked the novel, but it felt too much like when older relatives are trying to impress upon me how much better the world was when they were young.

For an actual review on this book check out Novel Niche.

Image Credit: Goodreads

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