Friday, December 29, 2006

My Books of 2006

The following are a few of the books I came across, and read, during the past year (mainly towards the end). I composed the first draft of this post in November, in response to Molara Wood's annual call to authors to send their favourite reads of the year. Her online list is published in Farafina Magazine. The print list is forthcoming - in some Nigerian dailies, I presume. (Apologies for earlier misposturing). Here, anyway, are a few of my engaging reads, with reasons.


NO SENSE OF LIMITS, by Araceli Aipoh

Why I like this book, I don't know. Maybe it's because I didn't expect much when I picked it up, yet I was pleasantly surprised when I finished with it - I'm finicky with cover designs - and I had not heard of the name much. "She's a foreigner who works at an Embassy in Lagos." My host had said. "You'll like her portrayal of Lagos. Take a look." I said OK and picked it up for the night. When I completed it the next day, it felt like watching an entertaining (and well made) Nollywood movie. I think I almost cried at one part even. Seriously. It must be towards the end when a relatively unknown grave-digging character found something familiar in a grave... (No spoilers here). Soon, I hope, the author would have the work at Amazon. I recommend it for reading. The story might not be so particularly Nigerian (as many reviewers have said.) You could change the names of people and places and still find it nice, equally as beautiful. The telling however is great.

ABOUT: I have said that it read at times like Soyinka's You Must Set Forth at Dawn and Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code both books which I read only days before, where all/most the action takes place within the course of the persona's journey through flashbacks and gradual disclosures. In Soyinka's case, it was a flight back from Exile while in No Sense of Limits, it was the femme fatale's drive through Lagos on a course of revenge.


THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES by Eve Ensler

Having heard so much hype about this book, I finally got a copy, and read it in a night. I must say that I did not get much impressed to equal the hype raised by critics. I am not a feminist. I read the book for information, and pleasure. And I wasn't disappointed. It is a nice book, though it could be kinda wierd holding it in your hand with the title sticking out so boldly in the presence of your parents and their church guests. You would save yourself the trouble of explaining if you would just put a paper wrap around the cover. My best part of the narrations was the funny/sad narration of a woman whose husband slept around ostensibly because the wife would not shave her pubis. If you would not read the book, you could watch Sex and the City instead. You wouldn't miss so much...!

My friends joke about a riposte, in form of the Penis Diatrible, (and maybe later, The Genital Dialogues) but, mischief and humour apart, it's always nice to read literature that seeks to defy conventions, and to shock. Great work.


ABOUT: A series of narrations by women, about their vaginas, and its influences on their lives.


YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN by Wole Soyinka

Also so much hyped, this lives up to some expectation as a record of history from the view/angle of one man who should know because he has been there. So what can I say on this that has not been said before? I guess it's that it's another result of an incurable restlessness of the author, slamming us with a work of prose (the third, I think) in the series of his memoirs with the size of the complete works of Shakespeare. It is however engaging enough not to be boring, except the bits about Nigerian history, for those foreigners more enchanted with the mystery of the man than perhaps his political motivations. Towards the end, however, I was stuck by his continuous use of one word, "chagrin", and not for want of more suitable synonyms. The professor also gets the "block" sometimes.


WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: Because why not? This is an account from a man who has lived life to the full, over and over, and his telling is, characteristically, entertaining. You'll know why the Ori Olokun in Ife is a clone of a lost original now in the British Museum.

Oh Paulo! And some other funny thoughts...

Oh Paulo!

"There was not anything that was not made without him." Paul Adefarasin 24/12/2006.

Tuface's Grass2Grace

His recent album has some really nice tracks. (I like about three: 5,9 and 12. Finito) But somewhere between justifying my likeness for his style and blaming myself for buying it, I was struck by his use of "Nigger" in a line. He said "Don't wanna come across to you like just another Nigger" in track 5. My mind immediately raced back to his first album Face2Face in which he sang "Just because... I no finish school/ some people take me for a fool..." and I thought, "OK, Maybe this is why!" Let's look forward to his next: Crass2Craze? Just kidding.

PDP

My brother sent me a list of meanings for the above abbreviation. I couldn't help but agree with a lot of them. Look below:

Perpetually Destructive Pestilence… Primitively Dignified Pigs… Professors of Devilish Policies… Permanently Delivering Poverty… Preferring Disease for the People…Pharaoh + Deceit = President… Plainly Dishonest Pack… Penchant for Detrimental Practices…Playing Dangerous Pranks… Possibilities of Disasters Persist… People Demanding Psychiatrists… Pioneers of Decadent Politics. Poisonously Decimating Policies…


and many more...

Disclaimer: I'm not a politician, but only a direct recipient of many indiscretions of the ruling party. The above does not represent the opinions of Headfirst into the Meddle and Bloggers. Use them at your own risk, and you are free to form some more.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

To Everyone

Here is wishing you a very merry Christmas and all the best joys of the season. May all your (good, sweet) dreams come true soon.

--
KT

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some Quote

"The secret of genius lies in the clear and impartial perception of the objective, the essential and the universal. By seeing so far, he doesn't see what is near. He is imprudent and queer; and while his vision is hitched to a star, he falls into a well"

- Arthur Schopenhauer
German Philosopher (1788-1860)

2006 Nobel Banquet Speech


By Orhan Pamuk. 2006 Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature.


Why do you write? This is the question I've been asked most often in my writing career. Most of the time they mean this: What is the point, why do you give your time to this strange and impossible activity? Why do you write... You have to give an excuse, an apology for writing... This is how I have felt every time I've heard this question. But every time I give a different answer... Sometimes I say: I do not know why I write, but it definitely makes me feel good. I hope you feel the same when you read me! Sometimes I say that I am angry, and that is why I write. Most of the time the urge is to be alone in a room, so that is why I write. In my childhood I wanted to be a painter. I painted every day. I still have that childish feeling of joy and happiness whenever I write. I write to pursue that old childish happiness and that is why for me literature and writing are inextricably linked with happiness, or the lack of it... unhappiness. In my childhood, I felt happy, painted a lot, and all the grown ups were constantly smiling at me. Everybody was gentle, polite and tender. I wrote all about this in my autobiographical book, Istanbul. After the publication of Istanbul, some people asked me this question: Aren't you a bit young to write your autobiography? I kept my silence. Literature is about happiness, I wanted to say, about preserving your childishness all your life, keeping the child in you alive... Now, some years later, I've received this great prize. This time the same people begin asking another question: Aren't you a bit young to get the Nobel Prize? Actually the question I've heard most often since the news of this prize reached me is: How does it feel to get the Nobel Prize? I say, oh! It feels good. All the grown ups are constantly smiling at me. Suddenly everybody is again gentle, polite and tender. In fact, I almost feel like a prince. I feel like a child. Then for a moment, I realize why sometimes I have felt so angry. This prize, which brought back to me the tender smiles of my childhood and the kindness of the strangers, should have been given to me not at this age (54) which some think is too young, but much much earlier, even earlier than my childhood, perhaps two weeks after I was born, so that I could have enjoyed the princely feeling of being a child all my life. In fact now... come to think of it... That is why I write and why I will continue to write.


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Mail From My Inbox

From Mr.Lisa Jones.
Bank Of Scotland Ltd,
11-16 Cockspur Street,
London ,
SW1Y 5BL.

Hello Dear,

Best of the season! I was reading through your profile on the internet and found it interesting.Be so kind to contact me at your earliest convenient for a possible business deal involving money transfer of about £15 Million.I ampresently in London working as an investment consultant with the above bank at their London office. I am poised to work this deal out if we cando business.As at this moment, I am constrained to issue more details about this business until your response is received.As we have not met before, I will give you every details you need to know about me as weprogress with the business.I thank you for spearing moments of your very busy schedules to read my proposal.

Send your response to my email address. Thank you for your time and attention.

Warmest regards,
Mr.Lisa Jones.

MY COMMENTS: Do you Yahoo?

The Kwansaba

You can call this a sub-post. It is culled from the mail I received from Eugene Redmond, the Poet Laureate of East St. Louis.

"The kwansaba, a 49-word poetic form invented during the Writers Club’s 1995 workshop season (in East St. Louis), consists of seven lines of seven words each; each word must contain between one and seven letters. Exceptions to the seven-letter rule are proper nouns and some foreign terms. Previous issues of Drumvoices have featured kwansabas for Katherine Dunham (2004), Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez (2005), and Jayne Cortez (2006).

Following is an example ofa kwansaba from Drumvoices #13:

Neo Kwansaba in Barakan Verse(Mali Newman)
Poetree grown from stanzas tongues my ears
Don’t play Dough Ray Mi Vaso Latte
Unless Dada Doowop Dadaism is dead, unless
Trans (it) Blues in C, major or minor
Died by volumes twenty one times, don’t
Play scale up/scale down, while Baraka
Breaks off a piece of his mind.

My comments: You are free to choose your style. You don't have to write as complex as above.

Kwansaba submissions should be sent by Jan. 1, 2007, to Drumvoices Revue,English Department Box 1431, SIUE, Edwardsville, IL 62026-1431. Submissions should be in hard copies as well as on Microsoft Word disk.

For more information, send email to eredmon@siue.edu, fax 618 650-3509, or write EBRWC @ P.O. Box 6165, East St. Louis, IL 62202.Founded in 1986 and named after East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene B.Redmond, Writers Club trustees include Amiri Baraka, Angelou, Walter Mosley,Barbara Ann Teer, Troupe, Dr. Lena Weathers, and Avery Brooks. Trustees alsoserve on the editorial board of Drumvoices Revue. Deceased Trustees includeMargaret Walker Alexander (1915-1998), Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), andRaymond R. Patterson (1929-2001).The Club is currently celebrating its 20th year of twice-monthly meetings(first/third Tuesday), 6:00-8:00 p.m., in the Library (Building B) of the East St. Louis Higher Education Center, 601 J. R. Thompson Drive. Meetings are held September through May. All writers, from beginners to professionals, are welcome.

You can also send your Kwansabas by email to eredmon@siue.edu. Deadline is January 1, 2007

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

White Christmas Dreams

Written just now, to wear off the boredom on my hands

I am dreaming of a white christmas
whether of dust or biting fog or snow.

I am dreaming of a white christmas
Just like the one I used to know

I am dreaming of a white christmas
whether of flour, grits or corn flour

Or elubo, with all nutri-flakes of white
and the long grins of Santa's borrowed beards.

* This year, no one in my compound will visit Father Christmas, having all finally grown. And I live in a very large compound.

The Many Sense of Ogunlesi's Post

Let us for this moment ignore the correctness or otherwise of my English in the subject, and look below with a little patience. It is an extract from Tolu Ogunlesi's post to Krazitivity on the denigratory remarks the new generation of Nigerian writers have suffered from the many mouths of the older poets. I have read posts after posts of young/er and new writers in response to the many challenges of the denigration they often suffer from the mouths of their elders, the most recent being from the eminent Professor of Literature, Ben Obumselu (of the Imo State University) who many have accused of not having even read any of the works he so easily disparages: He is quoted as saying of new Nigerian poems: “boring, totally uninspiring, empty and without a story”, blaming the emerging Nigerian poets for their inability to create popular poetry that will stand the test of time.

No doubt an ignorant generalisation, arising from a general unavailability of the new works for the critics to make available in the forms understandable to the likes of Prof. Obunselu.

Here's Tolu, in part*:

"Chiedu Ezeanah is sometimes said to be the "best poet of his generation". What is the likelihood of Obumselu "stumbling" upon a copy of Twilight Trilogy anywhere that goes by the name of bookshop. I have never seen The Oil Lamp or Madiba in any bookstore in Nigeria, other than the copies that I saw when Ogaga was in town for a reading at Jazzhole in October. I think that maybe we need a non-profit specialist bookstore (in Lagos, in the first instance) devoted to the work of Nigerian writers. Such that you are sure that if I go to [whatever name it is called] I will find every work ever published by Helon Habila (the pre-Caine non-fiction book for example), or Voices From the Fringe, or Nnorom's Letter To God & Other Poems, or Oguibe's A Gathering Fear, or Chika Unigwe's Tear Drops."

And here's mine though not much on the challenge as on the solutions to create accessibility for our much "invisible" works:

We need more than a bookshop. Call it a resource centre. What is ANA if it does not have a record of ALL books published by authors in Nigeria? Like an equivalent of the United States Library of Congress? What of an online resource? Something managed by custodians of art's growth (this falls back towards ANA or whomever will assume the responsibilities) that has first of all a list of ALL published works by Nigerian Authors (those living in and those living outside). I am not in doubt that Macarthur Foundation or equivalent grant making international bodies will be interested in funding such projects as this.

The sense in the above, among others, is to call attention to the absence of a place (on earth) where works of all writers in the country can be obtained. But we should be able to get the works of ALL writers, from Acbebe to Adichie, Okigbo to Ogunlesi, from Soyinka to Shehu without sweat... It may be the very first step in making New Literature available to all, including those who wish to speak authoritiatively on the aquality of the issues we engage.

On the other hand, I think it will also become an index of our creative/literary development/advancement.


* Tolu Ogunlesi is one of the new generation's prolific voices in poetry. His letter is used by permission.

** My first book "Headfirst into the Meddle" is not available on bookstands for reasons not far from the issues above, and is not just "forthcoming" as published in my latest profile on Sentinel Poetry, and I am myself interested in any such initiative as can help the above cause.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Sentinel Monthly Challenge

Usually works like this. A monthly theme is suggested, and the form. (Last month's theme was "Movement", and the poem must be thirteen lines. This changes every month.) Now everybody writes in, then after the closing date of submissions, the poems are displayed in the listserve without the names of the authors (to avoid prejudice), and the moderator calls for votes of everyone to rate all the poems in the order in which they want them to win, leaving their own out, with points differing only in one integer. E.g Five poems entered. I vote for the four other poems leaving mine out, in this order: Poem 1, 5pts; Poem 2, 4pts, Poem 3, 3pts; Poem 4, 2pts etc. the points are then added and the winner disclosed. More information at Sentinel Poetry website. And at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sentinelpoetry