Sic Transit Wagon by Barbara Jenkins

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

You would not be far off the mark if you described Barbara Jenkins as the literary darling of this year’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Her April 28th launch of Sic Transit Wagon, chaired by Funso Aiyejina, was one of the festival’s most enthusiastically crowded events, with Jenkins’ supporters and fans all but spilling from the stuffed seams of the Old Fire Station. Sic Transit Wagon has been written up glowingly by BC Pires, for the Sunday Arts Section of the Trinidad Guardian, where it was described as “a powerful, positive and beautifully written debut.”

The titular story of the collection involves an old, faithful station wagon, one that features as a beloved, steadfast landmark in the author’s life, up until the time it must be released. This reminiscence has bearing on each of the stories in Jenkins’ first collection, which engage with transience, loss and transmutation. Everything is variable; nothing on the page is immune from the vicissitudes of shifting fortunes, of growing children and affairs of the heart on a major to minor scale — reading Barbara Jenkins is a smoothly-modulated primer on how everything in life feeds fiction, and when it’s done well, we don’t chafe and bridle, even when the telling is too much to sit with comfortably.

Here, I think, is what makes reading Jenkins a singular experience – her Life Writing isn’t so linearly about “Life’s Ups and Downs”; these reminiscences and reality-infused fictions are multiple places at once: they’re subsumed in regret just as much as they’re borne aloft by every good feeling. Share these stories with your friends, your relatives, your arch-enemies. Wrap them up and mail them to your long-estranged Someone, living leagues away. The work in Sic Transit Wagon lives; it speaks of a generous worldview coupled with a writing style that is elegant in its restraint. These stories deserve to be read, and reread, until they become part of the life that you yourself are inhabiting.

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