Writings of the general word's body

Monday, October 08, 2007

New Reads



The new issue of African Writing is now online, in a bumper package that you will read and read and read and hardly ever finish. Literary news, interviews, profiles, fiction, poetry, reviews, and stunning visual art. And where do we start with the contributors? Best not to start.
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Let's just have a look at the fiction - 15, yes that's 15, short stories by contributors including Courttia Newland, Nii Ayikwei-Parkes, Kola Boof and Akin Adesokan.
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In Dike Chukwumerije's Bus 73, a white man and a black woman regularly take the same bus at the end of the working day in North London. They are familiar in a way that only strangers who have never spoken can be. He is lonely, she is lonely. Each wonders if the other can fill the hole in his/her life. Does he have a name she can fit in her mouth, she wonders. Would she fit in at his mother's dinner table? The reader is on tenterhooks, reads with trepidation, wondering if the 'lovers' will find it within them to breach the gulf of loneliness.
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Here's an excerpt...
I wonder how my name would sound on his lips. She shakes her head at the persistence of her obsession. I must be lonelier than I thought. I wonder how my name would sound on his lips. Most probably, he would draw it out, misplace the intonations. I’ll teach him. My man must call my name right. I can’t have him calling me a flea bag instead of a precious stone. Different intonation, different meaning.

That’s what I fear about being with a white person; the nuances I would have to enjoy alone, the shaded meanings I would have to explain. She feels like she is talking out loud. And the music. Would he understand the drums? What would she do if he could not dance with his waist? This is madness, all these thoughts. But she found it interesting, talking to this white man in her head.

Can you dance with your waist? She asks him. No. Then, what good are you to me? You know how you always wished that Tumi would be the first to reach for your hand when you were in public — that’s what he says in her head — I will. She looks at him sceptically. If I will be all those things Tumi was not, will you have me? She thinks about it for a second that she says — Yes.

I wonder if she would have me. He looks at her. She is awake again, looking out the window. I wonder if she would deserve me; I have so much to say, so much to share. Are they not all like Lynn? They are not. He remembers Sarah. Sarah was not like Lynn. He remembers Sarah, with shame. With Sarah, I was the vulture, I was like Lynn. It is the wheel that has brought retribution. I have paid for my sins, he thinks. No more.

I would have you, yes, if you are not a vulture. If you are not looking to watch me die and feed off my flesh. She looks at her face in the glass. I would have you if you are a gardener with tender hands and you understand that I am a rose, or a daffodil. I will always want attention. Not just for one or two weeks. Always.
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A tale of excruciating tenderness. The vulture image reminded me of the horrible photograph by Kevin Carter.
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Chuma Nwokolo's literary whodunnit, Poetic Justice, is the latest in his 'Tales by Conversation' series. Laureate Sir Anthony Augusto died many years ago and his young trophy wife was imprisoned for the murder. Her conviction is a surprise to Gargazin who left England 8 years ago. Now a retired sleuth beats a path from the UK to Gargazin's door in Nigeria. There's an 8-year-old mystery to be solved, as the two try to outwit each other, in a clever story that's bound to make you crack up with laughter.
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Excerpt...
What are you doing in my house, Laurence?
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That’s exactly what I’m explaining. The turning point for me came when I was 50, when I stopped trying to prove myself. I had just joined the Thames Valley Police from Humberside. I went into the reverse of denial. I began to draw out my sentences. Sometimes I’d spend an hour at my desk, mulling over a piece of evidence and a blank sheet of paper. During the first few months in Oxfordshire, everyone thought my first performance review would sweep me out of service. Yet, when the reviews did come in, my bosses noticed something: case files did linger on my desk - but my cases were never thrown out of court. My success rate was at the top of the division.
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Mister Laurence…
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Then came the case of my career: the homicide of Sir Anthony Augusto, Poet Laureate of England. We got a conviction alright, which is now on my conscience. That’s the case that brought me to Lagos.
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I left Oxford eight years ago!
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The case is eight years old. - And It has taken me that long to decide we got the wrong person.
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Let me get this clear, Mister Hughes, you turn up on my doorstep under false pretences, you eat my wife’s jollof and sit under my orange tree - and all the while you were secretly interrogating me...
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5 comments:

Akosua said...

This short story by Kola Boof oh my god the most shocking thing I've ever read in life! But good not just good GREAT writing! What a tale it made me cry it made me post a comment and I never post a comment! This is a true story I believe I know the browning goes on in Jamaica an Africa really bad for the "fanta face" my god I love this story best of them Ive read so far but please no more shocks like that.

Wordsbody said...

Thanks for commenting at last, Akosua.

I'm yet to read this story, as I generally tend to avoid anything that might even hint "blood and gore". Squeamish I am, and after your feedback, I'm seriously wondering whether I have the stomach...

2plus2 said...

Oh my god! Mo, I love this blog. Just keep it up. Yes you are in London, but not to far away.

Akosua said...

wordsbody the short story is not "blood an gore" it is about Nadinola bleachers aka Fanta Face and is told very raw I have still not been able to get the story from my head but it is an important story an tragedy so many Africans wish to be white.

Wordsbody said...

Akosua - glad we had this 'chat'. Will give the story a whirl.

Iheoma - thanks!

MW