Showing posts from April, 2012

159. SHORT STORY MONDAY: Almost Cured of Sadness by Vuyo Seripe

Almost Cured of Sadness  was published in the Caine Prize for African Writing 2010, A Life in Full and other stories . Lisa is flirtatious. She lost her virginity at fourteen and at eighteen she had had an abortion. Later, she was raped by a man she couldn't identify because she was drugged. But Lisa, like most teenage girls who wouldn't listen to their parents and would shout back at every advice given, blamed her mother for turning out as she did. She hated her mother and so she moved out of her house to live on her own. She entered a design school and the rape incident became the subject of all her designs:  For lingerie assignment, Lisa designed padlocked panties and bras which would be made of a type of material which flattened the chest and hips to hide all feminine features. ... She had all the models wear masks from horror movies with all the outfits sewn up with a technique that made them look torn and the material was dyed to look bloody. She failed all h

158. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (Anchor Books, 1998; 235) is an interesting detective story set in Botswana. It is unique, in that it brings both the old and the new together. It is not superfluous with its description of Africa as a tomb for the death and the dying and only inhabited by wild animals as is wont of most novels about Africa, even by Africans themselves. In this novel, there is a sort of convergence between the modern and the traditional and the country is presented as a country in transition. Too often, novels, novellas and short stories set in Africa or about Africa are pathetic and pathos-seeking. They tend to address the extremities, ranging between negatives stereotypes and idyllic romanticism. It's as if the larger chunk of the people do not exist: it is either saintly or devilish. In this story Mma Ramotswe is a detective and the only female detective in the whole of Botswana. As an only child, her father, who had wor

Quotes for Friday from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle

"Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that's the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead." [68] "Christ, back in Chicago, we don't make bicycles any more. It's all human relations now. The eggheads sit around trying to figure out new ways for everybody to be happy. Nobody can get fired, no matter what; and if somebody does accidentally make a bicycle, the union accuses us of cruel and inhuman practices and the government confiscates the bicycle for back taxes and gives it to a blind man in Afghanistan." [89] "I know damn well they will be. The people down there are poor enough and scared enough and ignorant enough to have some common sense!" [89] "'Americans,'" he said, quoting his wife's letter to the Times , "'are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it

157. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle (Dial Press, 1963; 287) by Kurt Vonnegut takes a humourous look at science and religion and how scientists, even with the best of intentions, cannot in any way predict the effects of their inventions. It also provides a clear presentation of what is meant by religion being the opium of the masses. Vonnegut, through his ability to poke fun at will, treats his themes with all the apocalyptic concerns they deserve. His exploration into the dangerous effects of religion and science is germane even in today's world where the nuclear race is subtly raging and countries with such weapons have refused to completely denuclearised, using it as a bargaining chip - cleaning its innards anytime they want to flex their military prowess, and those without are eagerly acquiring it through any possible deception they can spin. Today, woe betides the country without nuclear weapons, a country incapable of destroying the world with one missile. For such countries, they move when o

Library Additions

The second quarter of the year has begun and I've still not shared with readers any book I've come into possession of. I have acquired fewer books compared to this time last year. Below are the books I've acquired since the beginning of the year: Paradise by Toni Morrison. [January] This is the first book I got. It was sent to me by a friend. Morrison is an author of whom I would be proud to say ' I've read the entire works of ... '. So far I've read three: Song of Solomon , Beloved  and Sula , and have two. Birds of Our Land by Virginia W. Dike. [February] I've already read this short but educative book. I got it from the publishers. Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories by Ama Ata Aidoo. [March] I got an autographed copy of this book at a reading organised by the Writers Project of Ghana and the Goethe Institute of Ghana. This will be the second book by Ama Ata Aidoo I've read, after Changes . Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. [April] This book won

156. SHORT STORY MONDAY: Invocations to the Dead by Gill Schierhout

Invocations to the Dead  was published in the Caine Prize for African Writing 2010 anthology, A Life in Full and other stories. Jonas Peterson was involved in a severe accident that left his pelvis crushed in seventeen places and a six-month stay in the hospital. At the hospital Jonas got on well with the nurses and got close to Grace Jaffe. Two years after Jonas was discharged he appeared at Grace's house, when Grace's relationship had gone cold and a divorce had occurred. Jonas was a helper, doing the things most men would not do. He did all the washing, the folding, the cleaning and tidying, and more. When a job opening was announced at the hospital, Grace encouraged Jonas to go for it. Consenting with her decision, he became a washer of dead bodies for the pathologist. One night Grace was shocked to find, what she initially was a hairless rat, a lung hidden in Jonas's clothes. With his secrets out, Jonas fled the house. The story begins another two years af

DISCUSSION: The Complete Works of...?

Many a time we read one or two works of an author, the ones which have become popular and everybody is talking about. Like music, people hardly listen to the entire works of ... except they are dedicated fans and incorrigible aficionados. As a reader I would like to know if there is any particular author whose works you read in its entirety or if there is any author whom you wish (or are on the course of reading) his or her entire works. I wish to read the entire works of Ayi Kwei Armah and Toni Morrison. However, since these authors have not stopped writing, one could only read as and when they write. What about you?

Quotes for Friday from Zadie Smith's White Teeth

I employ you to know things. To compute information. To bring into the light the great darkness of the creator's unexplainable universe. Archie Jones attempted suicide because his wife, Ophelia, a violet-eyed Italian with a faint mustache, had recently divorced him. But he had not spent New Year's morning gagging on the tube of a vacuum cleaner because he loved her. It was rather because he had lived with her for so long and had not  loved her.  Archie's second marriage felt like buying a pair of shoes, taking them home, and finding they don't fit. For the sake of appearances, he put up with them. And then, all of a sudden and after thirty years, the shoes picked themselves up and walked out of the house. She left. Thirty years. You must live life with the full knowledge that your actions will remain . We are creatures of consequence, Archibald... Desire didn't even bother casing the joint, checking whether the neighbours were in - desire just kick

155. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith's White Teeth (Penguin Books, 2000; 542) is a somewhat historical novel set in the not too distant past of two families, whose friendship was developed on the battlefield but fully fledged in London. It traces the life of Samad Miah Iqbal as an immigrant in Britain and his English friend Alfred Archibald Jones. Later on, the Chalfens - a middle class British family of Jewish descent - were introduced. Using a mix of humour, and a certain penchant (Smith's) for caricaturing, Zadie Smith portrayed the general issues of miscegenation, assimilation, acculturation, isolation and identity and their effects on the social, physical, mental, emotional and religious development of a migrants. And the extent to which one family went to in order to maintain the sanctity of their religious beliefs and traditional life, to preserve it from the invading army of bacteria. But what is the strength of a single man in the face of globalisation (spread through the television), prec

154. SHORT STORY MONDAY: Set Me Free by Clifford Chianga Oluoch

Set Me Free , published in the Caine Prize for African writing 2010 anthology - A Life in Full and other stories - is a story based on the 2007-2008 Kenya electoral crisis that resulted when Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the December 27, 2007 elections and Raila Odinga and his supporters claimed there has been electoral fraud leading to a somewhat Orange Revolution but worsened when some politicians invoked the tribal differences leading to violence. The resolution of the crisis led to the Kibaki-Odinga power-sharing government where Odinga became the prime minister and Kibaki remained the president. In this parallel story, narrated by the daughter of one of such rogue politicians whose name is on the list of the names the ICC has released, the woman tells of the events that took place within the next two days when the list came out. When as a temporary single-mother she had to make a lot of life-and-dead decisions amid threatening calls and text messages, and women who all wan

DISCUSSION: Do you read Introductions?

Most often the republication of books considered classics are preceded by introductions. In the Vintage Classics (2007) edition of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, there were two introductions: the first was by Margaret Atwood written in 2007 and the other by David Bradshaw in 1993. These introductions were then followed by the literary life of the author again by David Bradshaw and then finally there was a foreword by author written in 1946. All these together comprises 50 pages and also gave insights to what the story is about and more. The question is do you read these introductions and forewords as part of the novel? Do you read it at all? Do you read it before? Or do you read it after? What is your position on this? I do read all before the book.

Quotes for Friday from Bessie Head's Maru

The rains were so late that year. But throughout that hot, dry summer those black storm clouds clung in thick folds of brooding darkness along the low horizon. There seemed to be a secret in their activity, because each evening they broke the long, sullen silence of the day, and sent soft rumbles of thunder and flickering slicks of lightning across the empty sky. [1] And if the white man thought that Asians were a low, filthy nation, Asians could still smile with relief - at least, they were not Africans. And if the white man thought Africans were a low, filthy nation, Africans in Southern Africa could still smile - at least, they were not Bushmen. [6] It is preferable to change the world on the basis of love of mankind. But if that quality be too rare, then common sense seems the next best thing. [7] Those who spat at what they thought was inferior were the 'low filthy people' of the earth, because decent people cannot behave that way. [12] Something they like

153. Maru by Bessie Head

Title: Maru Author: Bessie Head Genre: Fiction Publisher: AWS Classics Pages: 103 Year of First Publication: 1971 Country: Botswana/South Africa In this book Bessie Head tackled an incipient but dangerous problem that Africans are not eager to confront but which had been the bane of the continent, stalling every development and fomenting and precipitating civil wars. Almost every crisis in Africa is either caused by this or act as a catalyst. It led to the electoral crisis in Kenya, the genocide in Rwanda, the Liberian war, the Ivorian crisis and more. Racism has been amongst us and has retarded our progress so much so that had it being eliminated a larger portion of our problems would have been solved concomitantly. For instance, if there were no internal racism (mostly referred to as tribalism or ethnicism) most forms of corruptions would be no more. Today in every country, there are those who think the country belongs to them and look upon all others (tribes) a

152. SHORT STORY MONDAY: The David Thuo Show by Samuel Munene

This short story is taken from the Caine Prize for African Writing 2010 anthology,  A Life in Full and other stories . David Thuo runs a column in the Sunday News on social issues; actually, he claims to be a consultant on social issues. He is also the head of the Thuo family comprising of his wife, two daughters and a maid. For the first time mother and father quarrelled, the wife was accusing the husband of cheating and the husband was counter-accusing her for sleeping with her boss. The household dynamics seems to be weaker and there is no single bond binding them together. Again, there seems to be great tension among them so that even watching television becomes a platform to inflame passions. The degeneracy of the family is not limited to the parents suspecting each other. Sharon the first child has two boyfriends and shares her time between them. The narrator, the second child, who pretends to be the best member of the household secretly reads a pornographic magazine she

DISCUSSION: Why Finish Books?

I was surfing the net as usual, reading those articles that attract my attention and I found this article  about why it is not that necessary to finish reading a book and that not finishing a book does not mean you did not enjoy it or that the reader's feeling towards the book was negative. According to Tim Parks, it could even be a credit to the writer. He writes To put a novel down before the end, then, is simply to acknowledge that for me its shape, its aesthetic quality, is in the weave of the plot and, with the best novels, in the meshing of the writing style with that weave. Style and plot, overall vision and local detail, fascinate together, in a perfect tangle. Once the structure has been set up and the narrative ball is rolling, the need for an end is just an unfortunate burden, an embarrassment, a deplorable closure of so much possibility. Sometimes I have experienced the fifty pages of suspense that so many writers feel condemned to close with as a stretch of psycholo

Quotes for Friday from Jose Saramago's Blindness

The sceptics, who are many and stubborn, claim that, when it comes to human nature, if it is true that the opportunity does not always make the thief, it is also true that it helps a lot. [17] To put is simply, this woman could be classed as a prostitute, but the complexity in the web of social relationships, whether by day or night, vertical or horizontal, of the period here described cautions us to avoid a tendency to make hasty and definitive judgments, a mania which, owing to our exaggerated self-confidence, we shall perhaps never be rid of. [23] Although it may be evident just how much cloud there is in Juno, it is not entirely licit, to insist on confusing with a Greek goddess what is no more than an ordinary concentration of drops of water hovering in the atmosphere. [23] It was my fault, she sobbed, and it was true, no one could deny it, but it is also true, if this brings her any consolation, that if, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the conseq

151. Blindness by Jose Saramago

Blindness  (Vintage Classics, 1997; 309; translated by Giovanni Pontiero) is a story that investigates human behaviour with political undertones; what makes someone do one thing and not the other; does the conscience behind an activity matter?  Jose Saramago, the 1998 Nobel Laureate, used this experimental book to investigate these issues in ways similar to William Golding's  Lord of the Flies . People are suddenly going blind in an unnamed city. A man in his car, waiting for the traffic light to turn from red to amber and then green, suddenly lost his sight. The Good Samaritan who took him home and later stole his car also lost his sight. The doctor who looked at his strange case lost his sight in his house whilst researching more on the man's conditions; a prostitute who had just left the doctor's place and was meeting her client got blind whilst having sex with this man. The authorities in order to contain, what became known as the white blindness - because the pe

150. SHORT STORY MONDAY: Happy Ending by Stanley Onjezani Kenani

After finding a love letter in his wife's handwriting with no name or address, Dama concluded that his wife of infidelity. He therefore sought the help of a spiritualist to deal with this offending man. The spiritualist, Simbazako, older than anyone in the village, listened to Dama's concerns and told him he had no problem. Simbazako is famous for the things he could do, though some were mere exaggerations. Before he proceeded he offered Dama the options available for him to make his choice. There was one in which the man could die as if stung by a puff adder a few hours after the act. There was another in which the lover could be tortured slowly, feeling like a million needles were pricking his stomach. There was another in which the lover could go on for a month, every second, every minute, until death put the victim out of his misery. Dama, however, had decided not to be so cruel, so he'd settled for kuthamokondwa. The man should die in the act , he thought. [125]