Cooking with C. L. R. James

Valerie Stivers at The Paris Review:

The strength and value of the ordinary man is a through line in James’s diverse body of work, and nowhere is this interest more evident than in Minty Alley, which eschews the world stage in favor of a single yard in a back alley in Port of Spain. In this book, Haynes, a young, passive middle-class intellectual, is forced after his mother’s death to rent lodgings in a working-class neighborhood, the kind of place where men kept mistresses and things that were improper to discuss occurred, according to the James documentary Every Cook Can Govern. Here, Haynes’s life is vastly, if temporarily, enriched by the people he meets and the relationships he develops. James himself was not from such a neighborhood, but while conducting research for the book, he interviewed local women about their lives. The results are, as Evaristo writes in her introduction, “a story about a Caribbean community in relationship with itself” and “a peek into a society of nearly one hundred years ago, which shows us that while the circumstances are different, our essential passions, preoccupations and ambitions remain the same.”

more here.