Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 9th 2014 Contents B29
March 9, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Winding down from Carnival
means gearing up for a book club.
It s the perfect way to relax, get
together with friends and get back
into the groove of discussing the
meaning of creativity on an entirely
For March, the Sunday Arts Sec-
tion (SAS) Book Club offers three
distinctly different selections just to
maximise the choices for jump-
starting your book club. There s fic-
tion, historical nonfiction and an
autobiography to choose from this
Labor Day is action-packed fic-
tion about a depressed woman who
gives up on life after her husband
divorces her. Actually, there s a lot
more behind Adele s depression
than that, but I won t give away
her secret. Adele can barely func-
tion, and her son feels responsible
for her happiness. She hardly ever
leaves the house. Adele and her 13-
year-old son end up being held cap-
tive by an escaped prisoner. Then,
the unexpected happens.
Check out an interesting interview
with the author on amazon.com s
page for Maynard s novel Labor Day.
Maynard s novels remind me of Anita
Shreve s work. They re not potboil-
ers, but they aren t lofty literature
either. They re simply a good, light
read with some stimulating ques-
tions about life.
Twelve Years a Slave
Everyone is talking about
Solomon Northup s autobiograph-
ical account of how he was tricked
and sold into slavery, Twelve Years
a Slave. Born a free man, Northup
was more educated than most men
of colour in America would have
been at that time. (Many American
states had outlawed the teaching
of reading and writing to enslaved
Africans---Ed.) Northup captures
the inhumanity of slavery on a
whole new level.
His memoirs garnered even more
attention after British director Steve
McQueen s film adaptation 12 Years
a Slave won Best Picture at the 2014
Academy Awards, making history
as the first movie from a black direc-
tor to win the film industry s highest
honour in the 86-year history of the
esteemed awards. It won a total of
three Academy Awards. Lupita
Nyong o won the award for Best
Supporting Actress. The film also
copped Best Adapted Screen Play.
The movie certainly took a book
that would have only been noticed
in intellectual circles and elevated it
to a popular level. Radio personality
and reporter for E! News Ryan
Seacrest called for Northup s book
to be put on the national curriculum
in the US when he interviewed a
cast member at the Academy Awards
on the Red Carpet at the Academy
When last did you see a TV and
movie reporter push a book?
The Monuments Men
Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the
Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
It takes real talent to create
action-packed drama out of art his-
tory. That s exactly what Edsel does
in his historical nonfiction account
of the men who made up a special
unit in the US army during World
War II. This unit worked on track-
ing down art that the Nazis had
stolen from private collections and
museums. The underlying theme
of this book---that art is important,
even in war---reminds us all of the
importance of culture.
As the author points out to read-
ers, Adolf Hitler planned to wipe
out cultures---not just countries.
Saving art meant saving the culture
and history of the place Hitler plun-
dered. The Monuments Men is a
riveting read because intellectuals,
who make up the heroes of this
book, are not the type of people we
envision as heroes.
• The movies based on Twelve
Years a Slave and Monuments
Men are showing at
• Join the SAS Book Club group
on Facebook. Tell us which
book you chose for your book
club and post your book club
Distinctly different, but
all exceedingly good
Approo speaks a different Carnival language
CONTINUES FROM PAGE B4
Approo speaks of neither hat nor
bat, but he stopped playing pan soon
after: "too much bacchanal."
He was a good singer himself, using
a tenor voice to sing opera at Union
Hall. He won prizes, but stopped com-
peting after being placed second in a
"I beat him, everybody said so, but
the fella was a union man and the
union ran the competition. I never
went back again."
If things had worked out differently,
perhaps we would know Narrie Approo
for his voice or his pan. Instead, we
know him as a masman. Even without
the aforementioned provocations, it
might have been hard for him to be
anything else. He is from a mas family.
His brother played pan and sailor mas.
His sister played with Red Army. His
father started putting out a dragon
band in the first decade of the last cen-
tury, and kept it going until the 60s
or 70s. His godmother was a Black
Young Approo s first mas, in 1934,
was as a small devil, holding on to the
tail of a big devil, mimicking its every
move. When he started playing Black
Indian, it required close attention also:
to learn the dances, rituals and, most
importantly, the language. Black Indian
is a speech mas and "a war mas," says
When his godfather, Claudius Pierre,
wrote out passages of Black Indian
speech for Approo to learn, it wasn t
simply to honour the tradition of the
"It is a fighting mas, and the only
way to defend yourself is talking," says
Approo. In the days when there were
several Black Indian bands on the road,
the threat to band members who
couldn t speak the language was not
merely embarrassment: "If you can t
talk, you in pain."
The Black Indian s lance and shield
are not for show. If a rival band member
couldn t find the words for peace, "you
buss the man s head and he fall down."
These are perhaps the less celebrated
lessons of traditional mas: discipline,
consequences, the importance of study
and high standards. "Everything is
practice," says Approo, whose experi-
ence shaped his preference for "action
"If it has no action, I ain t playing
it," he says.
Before he took over leadership of
the Black Indian band he joined as a
child, Approo would play a different
type of mas on Carnival Tuesday. He
learned to play dragon and imp, fireman
and midnight robber, repeating the
journey from student to master each
When he thinks of today s Carnival,
he sees a stifling homogeneity: "Every-
thing is wining, wining," and "naked
He is not threatened or disgusted.
"I like to watch J Ouvert, but that is
not my kind of mas."
Approo literally speaks a different
He will always be a Black Indian,
but he gave up leadership of his band
a few years go.
He has a little more time now, and
he remembers the days he played other
characters fondly, though the body is
not as willing as it used to be: "Imp
is a harassing mas---you have to do all
kinds of antics and bending. At my
old age, you won t catch me bending."
Perhaps he could play fireman again?
"It s a mas I like," he says, "I have my
poker and everything."
If someone asked him to play fire-
man on a Carnival Tuesday?
"Yes. I would play."
A detail of seine beading for a Black Indian headpiece, designed and made by Narrie Approo for Carnival 2014.
PHOTO: ANU LAKHAN
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