15 writers talk about the books that changed them. Hence Biyi Bandele and his editor, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey share the same page as they discuss the books that changed things for them. I reasoned very much with Bandele's choice of early 80's Nigeria reading of numerous titles by James Hadley Chase - "an English writer now completely unknown in England (in nearly twenty years of living in London, I'm yet to meet a single British person who admits to having heard of him)." Tell me about it, Mr Burma Boy! Coulda said the same meself! Who'd have thought it, all those years we were chomping down James Hadley Chase? Still we were hooked on the stuff (my own early teenage reading went in stages: some 400 Mills & Boon titles from which I graduated to James Hadley Chase from which I graduated to Harold Robbins - with Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer stuck in-between; and when I left each stage, I could never bear the novel that marked that stage again. It's a good thing I read my fill of populism before the age of 16, because I couldn't abide populist novels from then on). I digressed. We were talking of Bandele's impression of James Hadley Chase novels, some of which he names: Like a Hole in the Head, You're Lonely When You're Dead, This Way for a Shroud, The Doll's Bad News, The Way the Cookie Crumbles, Well Now My Pretty, An Ear to the Ground, & The Vulture is a Patient Bird. Funny, I read them all too, though I don't recall the 'Vulture' one at all. I was somewhat disappointed Bandele didn't mention, Tell it to the Birds, Miss Shumway Waves a Wand and the one that had me completely gobsmacked all those years ago, 'Believe This and You'll Believe Anything'. Ah, bless!
Blake Morrison's choice would probably be mine, if asked - Midnight's Children. And here's how I discovered Salman Rushdie's 'Booker of Bookers'. The writer was just someone I knew from TV bulletins including words like 'blasphemy' and 'fatwa'; none of which particularly made me want to rush out to buy his books. And so I was on a Bakerloo Line tube train in January 1992 and there on the seat beside me in an empty carriage, was a brand new copy of Midnight's Children. Finders Keepers, ehn? Dear blog reader, I alighted the train with the book, and it's as if I've seen the world through perforated sheets from then on. I still have the copy.
Anyway, back to Wasafiri, which embraces all of those Journals any reader worth his or her salt in Africa ought to read these days: Kwani?, Farafina... there's even an interview with Chimurenga 's editor, Ntone Edjabe.
And there's a short story by Nigerian Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, 'Cemetery of Life'. I've read the story and I'm intrigued by it, seeing as I love all that magical-mystery stuff. I remember E.C Osondu telling me in an interview, that 'Jimmy Carter's Eyes' was his own "attempt at allegory". Perhaps 'allegory' would describe Uzor Maxim Uzoatu's offering in Wasafiri. Loved it, but still scratching my head as to what it really means...
Meanwhile, I'm off to read more of the magazine.