Carla Parks (Ariel, BBC) writes about Colin Grant’s memoir Bageye at the Wheel. [Also see previous post BAGEYE AT THE WHEEL: Autobiography which could heal a three decade rift.] Parks says, “It’s not an easy thing to write candidly about your past, because memory is often a slippery and wriggly thing. Not to mention that revisiting past events can be painful. For Colin Grant, writing about his childhood in 1970s Luton gave him a different perspective on his larger-than-life, irascible father with a ‘titanic temper.’” Here are excerpts of this excellent review:
Bageye at the Wheel is Grant’s personal tale of immigration, about a large Jamaican family struggling in England. It’s also a book that deals with the complex relationship between a father and son. Grant, a producer in the science unit, speaks eloquently about writing the book – nominated for the prestigious Pen/Ackerley prize for memoir – and admits it wasn’t easy. ‘There were some fixed ideas I had about the past that when I reinvestigated them were not so solid. And sometimes you cling to the past like a wreckage, like a seaman clinging to the ship, fearing to strike out from the sinking ship in case he sinks.’
At the heart of the story is his father Bageye, a nickname given to him because of the puffy bags under his eyes. The author explains how his mother and siblings would also call his father Satan, and that Grant spent much of his childhood plotting devious ways of killing him. In some of his boyhood fantasies he would put shards of glass into his father’s food or lift the carpet on the stairs so that he’d trip and break his neck. ‘For many years I feared that my father would die before I had a chance to kill him,’ Grant says in a deadpan voice. ‘I had to reconcile myself to writing a book that would satisfy the reader but wouldn’t be an act of revenge.’
[. . .] Grant summons up the humorous, colourful side of his Jamaican heritage, surrounded by people with names like Summerwear, because he insisted on wearing summer suits year-round, or Tidy Boots, who was fussy about his footwear. The writer has drawn some of his inspiration from Caribbean Voices on the World Service, where he started his career at the BBC, ‘cutting my teeth’ by writing scripts. He discovered the giants of Caribbean literature – V S Naipul, George Lamming and Samuel Levon. He says that he wanted to capture ‘their flavour and vitality’ in his writing – but he was left frustrated that more Caribbean authors hadn’t chosen to write about their immigrant experiences in more depth. ‘There have been a few scatterings of Afro-Caribbean writing in this country, but not many and I wanted to close that gap,’ he says.
He calls the gap ‘a black hole’ that needed illuminating. Bageye at the Wheel is his third work that deals with Afro-Caribbean themes. The first was a non-fiction book about Jamaican nationalist hero Marcus Garvey called Negro with a Hat. It has been optioned for film, with broadcaster and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah writing the screenplay. His second was about The Wailers, the band made famous by Bob Marley. It has also been optioned for a feature film about Peter Tosh.
But though Grant’s writing has met with some success, he doesn’t write to make money or for fame – but because it’s something that excites him. Grant gives full credit to his manager Deborah Cohen for enabling his passion. ‘It’s a testament to her that I’ve been able to write Bageye at the Wheel.‘ He says she’s created an environment where everyone thrives, both at work and beyond that.
For full article, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/ariel/23253460