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Idle Talk, Deadly Talk

The Uses of Gossip in Caribbean Literature
Ana Rodríguez Navas

BUY Cloth · 308 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813941615 · $75.00 · Oct 2018
BUY Ebook · 308 pp. · ISBN 9780813941639 · $75.00 · Oct 2018
BUY Paper · 308 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813941622 · $35.00 · Oct 2018

Chaucer called it "spiritual manslaughter"; Barthes and Benjamin deemed it dangerous linguistic nihilism. But gossip-long derided and dismissed by writers and intellectuals-is far from frivolous. In Idle Talk, Deadly Talk, Ana Rodríguez Navas reveals gossip to be an urgent, utilitarian, and deeply political practice-a means of staging the narrative tensions, and waging the narrative battles, that mark Caribbean politics and culture.

From the calypso singer's superficially innocent rhymes to the vicious slanders published in Trujillo-era gossip columns, words have been weapons, elevating one person or group at the expense of another. Revising the overly gendered existing critical frame, Rodríguez Navas argues that gossip is a fundamentally adversarial practice. Just as whispers and hearsay corrosively define and surveil identities, they also empower writers to skirt sanitized, monolithic historical accounts by weaving alternative versions of their nations' histories from this self-governing discursive material. Reading recent fiction from the Hispanic, Anglophone, and Francophone Caribbean and their diasporas, alongside poetry, song lyrics, journalism, memoirs, and political essays, Idle Talk, Deadly Talk maps gossip's place in the Caribbean and reveals its rich possibilities as both literary theme and narrative device. As a means for mediating contested narratives, both public and private, gossip emerges as a vital resource for scholars and writers grappling with the region's troubled history.


An eye-opening tour de force. In this brilliant study, Ana Rodríguez Navas focuses on the Caribbean's 'obsession with gossip,' illuminating gossip's protean social powers—its democratizing potential but also its many disempowering dangers. Beautifully erudite, fantastically important and long over-due.

Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

A rich, insightful, and exciting examination of gossip as a multivalent phenomenon in the Caribbean.

Raphael Dalleo, Bucknell University, author of American Imperialism's Undead: The Occupation of Haiti and the Rise of Caribbean Anticolonialism

Once in a blue moon there appears a book with an approach imaginative enough to reshape our understanding of Caribbean literature. Finely researched and elegantly written, Idle Talk, Deadly Talk is one such. A very special achievement.

Peter Hulme, University of Essex, author of Cuba's Wild East: A Literary Geography of Oriente

Idle Talk, Deadly Talk is an expansive, interdisciplinary undertaking that clears space for many future projects


Extending across literary genres and linguistic fields, Idle Talk, Deadly Talk stands out for its innovative approaches to canonical and lesser-studied examples of Caribbean literary production.

Dissidences Review

About the Author(s): 

Ana Rodríguez Navas is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Loyola University Chicago.

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