Look Back in Anger
See Now Then:
by Jamaica Kincaid
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The title of Jamaica Kincaid’s See Now Then is one variation on the modus operandi of any novelist who takes up the passage of familial time as subject matter. (À la recherche du temps perdu could be translated as See Then Now.) The intensity of the imperative title is crucial (think of Francisco Goldman’s wrenching Say Her Name, memorializing his young wife, killed in a swimming accident) but also a little misleading, because this is not a novel that wants to illuminate the past for its own sake. Indeed, quite the opposite: In See Now Then memories appear and reappear with a hypnotic, furious regularity, and the novel exhausts itself trying to control them—as if stanching a hemorrhage, or cauterizing a wound.
It’s probably best to say right away that the family depicted in See Now Then is Kincaid’s own family:
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