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Article by Marie Gregory

Thursday, January 14th, 2010
Fishing to raise ‘The
Village Curtain’
When Kingstonian Tony
Tame began to write
“The Village Curtain”
he had specific ideas as to what
he hoped to achieve.
The first aim was “to
examine a specific segment of
West Indian – and in particular
Jamaican – society’s use of culturally
unique survival techniques
and the private atmosphere
which tends to be produced
within small Caribbean
fishing communities”.
The second intention was
“that readers will enjoy experiencing
the sharp contrast
between appearance and reality
in what seems so picturesque and idyllic a place as the West
Indies where the outcome of
the best charitable, official and
efforts is
always uncertain
at best”.
Curtain” is
described on
the cover as
“A Jamaican
That is, perhaps,
somewhat misleading.
I expected
a collection of
short stories.
True, the stories
are there, full of
vignettes and characters who
appear and reappear. Yet the
framework is more that of a
novel. The action needs to be
followed chronologically.There is no obvious human
hero. The story deals with the
sea, survival and the village culture.book
Tame has spent a lifetime
in the marine industry. He
admits that he has never earned
a cent that has not come from
his dealings with the sea. The
first chapter and references
throughout point to fishing -
reading the weather, even dynamiting
the coral reefs – testimony
to his intimate knowledge.
He is fascinated by the various
methods used in fishing, sympathetic
to the plight of those who
eke out survival in that uncertain
Characters in the book are
treated with understanding.
The human spirit is strong, as
illustrated over and over
whether through Sonia, the visiting
American who falls in
love with the Black River area
and wants to develop tourism;
Mikey, who survives a Florida
prison and almost loses his life
at sea; or Leo, who dynamites
the reef and loses an arm yet is
able to continue with an adapted method.
The hardships bind communities
together, watched
over by village elder “Mr.
James”, a ganja grower, who
dispenses white rum liberally,
yet sticks to coconut water
himself. The homespun wisdom
of the man allows him to
deal with people at all levels -
politicians, charity workers,
visitors and police – advising
quietly, carrying on his own
activities, ever hospitable yet
never lifting the village curtain
more than a few inches.
Social commentary is scattered
throughout. We hear of
the young officer from
Kingston explaining basic seamanship
to the men of the village
who had fished the Pedro
Banks since they
were 10 years old,
and the
Englishman who
comes to the
Police Force as
deputy commissioner
telling the
press that he has
not come to
solve crime.
Finally, there is
the “Charity
Man”, so called
by “Mr.
James”. Here
is the disillusioned
sees his projects diverted from
their original intent.
Tame is a master of understatement.
We are allowed glimpses of
lives in the community. The curtain
is never lifted completely.
The final vignette is of the
dog, “a formal sort of dog”,
passing to other owners after
the death of Myra, the love of
his life. Nameless, loyal, knowing,
the dog becomes an alcoholic
after being given rum in
the local bar. The chapter,
which deals with the death and
burial of the animal, is touching.
As the story closes and
“Sonia”, about to return to her
homeland, looks at “Mr. James”
and sees the veil of his eyes, the
moment of truth teaches her “it’s
not a veil, it’s a curtain. Curtain,
hell. It’s a wall”.
Tame says: “I hope that I
have been at least partially successful at bringing the smell
of the salt spray at daybreak
and rage of the hurricane into
the general atmosphere of this
book as well as the tranquil
sound of a quiet, rainy night”.
Mission accomplished.
Marie Gregory is a freelance
writer for Caribbean Today.
The book is available through

Caribbean Today December, 2009

Jamaica Observer writes article about “The Village Curtain”

Thursday, December 10th, 2009
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The Village Curtain

Sunday, September 20th, 2009