Tag Archives: Friday

This Is Proudly African

Standard

In the space of two days, thousands of Africans have risen up and made their voices heard. In Dakar, Senegal, crowds successfully protested against President Wade’s proposal to amend the constitution to create a monarchy.

In the tiny kingdom of Swaziland, a “fundraising” concert which was supposed to be given by Jadakiss for the royal family was boycotted. Not surprising given the fact that pretty much all the revenue in Swaziland goes to supporting the king’s outrageous lifestyle.

Buoyed by this impressive show of solidarity, I embarked on a Googling frenzy. Here’s links to a couple of inspiring stories I found:

In Malawi, an ambitious project is underway to turn the country’s oldest ship into a floating clinic. This is going to save a lot of lives and wages for the 25% population who live along Lake Malawi and currently have to make a 16-hour trip to get to the nearest hospital. They are giving the clinic the unfortunate name Chauncy Maples, but that’s nitpicking.

The Sierra Leone Refugee AllStars are a group of musicians who came together during their years living in a refugee camp in Guinea. Out of two old guitars, a microphone and a shared love of music, their powerful sound was born. They’ve done world tours, put out two albums and appeared on Oprah. They also feature on a cover of the Rolling Stone classic Gimme Shelter as part of the Playing for Change campaign and World Refugee Day. Tragedy to triumph, non?

Advertisements

I’m Cheating on Zadie Smith

Standard

I was some place in the midst of Tea Obreht’s novel The Tiger’s Wife when it was announced winner of the Orange Prize for Best Fiction. I was hardly surprised, given the unexceptionally rave entrance she has enjoyed into the literary fold – she made The New Yorker’s 20 under 40 list with no published work to her name; and the youngest on that list at 25. Yugoslavian by birth, her family left the country when she was 7; Obreht taught herself English by watching Disney films.

The awesome thing about it all is that she deserves it. The Tiger’s Wife is a mesmerizing feat of work that combines elements of Magical Realism and Fabulism to tell the war-time stories of a Yugoslavian doctor Natalia’s unique relationship with her recently-deceased grandfather.

Everything in Obreht’s book has character; everything! The guns, the dogs, the peasants, the deathless man and of course, the tiger. Each has an incredible back-story, little anecdotes that are as exquisitely wrought and entertaining as they are imperative to the main story. Obreht is not a writer. She is a masterful crafter of stories.

Another contender for the Orange Prize this year was Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love, which I read after it took the Commonwealth Writer’s honor in May. The Memory of Love is an incredible book in its own right.

Incidentally, much like The Tiger’s Wife, it goes between two stories of war – this time, in Sierra Leone: in the 1960s and the 1990s. The 90s are represented by a young surgeon Kai Mansaray who is haunted by memories of the war, and torn over his decision to leave Sierra Leone for a better life elsewhere. He forms a friendship with a British psychiatrist Adrian Lockheart, through which we eventually learn of the terrible things he saw and did in the war.

It is also through Adrian’s work at the asylum that we learn of the psychological effects of war on ordinary people like Agnes and Adecali, witnesses to unspeakable horrors. Literally unspeakable. Adrian slowly coaxes stories out of them, which would otherwise have gone untold. And this is the crux of Forna’s book –

“It was almost as though they were afraid of being implicated in the circumstance of their own lives. Questions discomfit them. Remembering, talking … it’s as though the entire nation is sworn to some terrible secret.”

It is only Elias Cole, a professor on his deathbed, who willingly narrates to us a compelling story of betrayal and injustice set in the Sierra Leone of the 60s. Elias Cole is despicable – I haven’t met such an amoral character since Nabokov’s Humbert-Humbert.  While spewing my disgust on Twitter, Forna actually replied to say she was “glad. It means [my] moral compass is in good working order.” 🙂

And yet both Cole and Adrian’s asylum patients suffer what Forna calls the ‘fragmentation of conscience’ – he is tortured by the omissions of his history; they are tortured by the acts they are forced to commit.

The Memory of Love struggles a little to get off the ground, but on the whole, Forna has a very important message about post-war effects on the psyche of a nation. The Tiger’s Wife, on the other hand, is a thrill from start to finish which will leave you questioning superstition and science, and what it means to be an outcast.

I heartily recommend both books!

 

 

Come soon, June! (books)

Standard

I haven’t read a non-academic book in months! Okay, since March, but it feels like eons ago.

In that time, I have accumulated a handsome list of recommended reads and rave reviews and as a result I am this close to building a time machine that will take me straight to June,* when tests are done and winter break is here and I can curl up with a cup of coffee that I will ignore while I devour a healthy stack of books.

Presenting my Winter Booklist:

1. The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht, a literary prodigy whose first book – a mythological telling of the Yugoslavian war – has been gushed over by critics. I sneak-peeked it and must say I’m super-excited to read the rest of it.

2. The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky. Apparently I shouldn’t die without having read this book.

3. The Element: How finding your passion changes everything – Sir Ken Robinson. I love the humor with which he speaks about creativity development and education reform. I’ve only watched his TED talks so far, but I think this read will be worth it.

4. On Black Sisters’ Street – Chika Unigwe.

5. The Masque of Africa: glimpses of African belief – VS Naipaul. I have been meaning to buy this book for a year now, because I like Naipaul’s writing and the exploration of religions is almost always interesting. But after reviews like these, I’m not sure I’ll get it.

In other news, Jane Eyre has been adapted into a movie (again). I have never seen the 1983 version, so I’ll be heading to the cinema for this with a curious anxiety. Fingers crossed Hollywood does not ruin that classic story for us.

*not accounting for all the wild apocalypse theories being flung about lately.

 

LITTLE UPDATE: I added Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love to this list. I am 7 chapters in and I can already see why it got nods from both the Commonwealth and Orange Prizes.

I also added Unburnable – Marie-Elena Jones because I haven’t read a good Caribbean story since…. since the biography of Bob Marley 🙂

Meh.

Standard

Random Friday mind-vomit :

  • My head feels cavernously empty and my stomach full to the brim. I owe this strange feeling to an hour of sleep last night and an opulent Ethiopian meal at lunch today.
  • I owe that one hour of sleep to my colic nephew who kept us all up with incessant braying, refusing to be nursed or cooed or threatened into sleep. But I’m not mad at him. He’s too cute for that.
  • … hey wait a minute, we didn’t try alcohol. I swear next time (tonight) I am lacing that milk with hard liquor Baileys, and then no one in my office will squint their eyes at my bloodshot ones, mind-judging me for being up to all sorts of imagined raunch and debauchery on a Thursday night.
  • But now any mother reading this is mind-judging me for my proposed nefarious plan. Whatever. He’ll drink alcohol eventually, anyway.
  • So I stayed up watching Year One which I recommend highly to ye that haven’t seen it. Jack Black, Michael Cera. That usually translates to hilarious.
  • Especially in Nacho Libre. But not so much in that film where he was a radioactive weirdo.
  • I think my mind thinks more coherently when I’m sleep-deprived than when I’m not. It’s probably the same science behind how drunk people sometimes drive ‘safer’ than sober people.
  • When I’m not sleep-deprived, it’s been said that I exhibit ADHD tendencies. Such lies.  I have the attention span of a … of a thing with a long and enviable attention span.
  • I want alcohol.

Counting my blessings

Standard

“I’ve got something to live for
I’ve got surplus to give more
And we’re all welcome through His door
So I count my blessings”

Damian Marley says I should ‘give thanks to the Master’. And I happen to think he’s hot. So I’ll do what he says.

  • I’m thankful that I woke up to a great Friday morning, one of those sing-in-the-shower, crank-up-the-radio-volume, smile-at-strangers type of mornings;

 

  • I’m thankful that I can afford to pay quite some money to buy a def.i.ni.tion T-shirt*, even if it’s just to support family;

 

  • I’m happy that it’s Friday, after a hectic week, and I can put my feet up this evening and watch football with friends;

 

  • I’m grateful for friends who involve me in inane weekend activities like going to the zoo. No, seriously. I’m going to the zoo tomorrow – for the first time since I was 9;

 

  • I’m thankful for great music. For Marley’s wisdom, MJ’s funkiness and Sting’s laidback coolness;

 

  • And I’m grateful for my health. My weight-gain plan is having a slow start, but maybe after a few more Thursdays gorging on meat buffets, results will start to show!

Happy weekend! Count yours 🙂

*You don’t know what def.i.ni.tion is? You smell!

A post about my weekend plans as if they’re terribly interesting

Standard

I haven’t picked up a book in about 3 weeks! So I have every intention of making this weekend a book-y one. I am sitting in my favorite corner of the garden, with Jose Saramago’s Death with Interruptions, as my own little way of honoring this prolific writer’s life. He died on June 18 at the age of 87.

I have searched high and low for his book Blindness, after watching the movie, but no luck. No story has struck me more about the human condition and the moral questions involved in our instincts for self-preservation. [pretentious, me?]

About two weekends ago, I resolved to read Ali Smith’s The Accidental. So I took it down off my shelf and carried it to the breakfast table. My mother saw it and said, “The Accidental what?”

I said, “The Accidental nothing.”

She: How can nothing be accidental?

I: No. Not like that. I mean, it’s The Accidental. Just that.

She: What a silly title. It’s incomplete. What kind of a book is that to read?

My father chimes in: And what is she (girl on the cover) holding in her hand? A gun? Is she dead? Did she shoot herself? [?!]

I: No. I think it’s a camera. And she means ‘the accidental’ in the same way I would say ‘the unfortunate’ or ‘the monumental’.

Both parents sighed.

I wonder who I get this book obsession from?

After conquering Saramago, I have Ali Smith lined up. And speaking of, I have been having dreams about Zadie Smith! Will no one buy me her Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays?

Happy weekend, all!

the controversial cover 🙂

Look, a post with no football-talk!

Standard

I thought I’d let up on the FIFA chats for now. We’re launching our Resource Center at my work this evening. It’s kind of been my pet project, and there’s going to be diplomats and other fancy types and everything better go right or I will set myself on fire and kill everything that’s moving.

I’m not nervous, though.

Also, bungee-jumping with friends tomorrow. Wheeee!!! I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and certain people in the past have told me to go jump off a cliff so figured I’d take them up on it. Must remember to carry camera.

And now, an important message from the Cookie Monster:

damn straight

 

Happy weekend all!