The Joy of Books

Books alone teach us to judge of truth and good in the abstract: without a knowledge of things at a distance from us, we judge like savages or animals from our senses and appetites alone; but by the aid of books and of an intercourse with the world of ideas, we are purified, raised, ennobled from savages into intellectual and rational beings. – William Hazlitt

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?

Whenever critics praise something en masse, I automatically assume the worst, so I was pleasantly surprised when I flew through the first one hundred pages and felt engaged with the story.  I enjoyed the Nigerian section of the book, it was an insight into a culture and country that I knew little about, barring the football.

Americanah attempts to dissect many social problems, and as you would expect race is a big factor, as is class, a nod to how organised religion can fleece the flock, not to mention hair issues, which was something I didn’t expect to become interested in, although the more it was spoken about the less bothered I became.

After the first half of the book, I became increasingly disillusioned, because whilst there is plenty to think about, it’s ultimately a preachy novel and doesn’t bring much new to the table. The conclusion disappointed too, which annoyed me as it wasn’t a satisfying pay off for the grind that the latter half of the book was.

There were things I liked about the book, exploring the attitudes of Africans to each other when abroad, the struggles of fitting in versus retaining one’s own culture, the changes in attitude when returning to Africa. There were times when I considered if I had had any foot in mouth conversations, as its always good to self-examine. Continue reading “Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”

Precipitate Companionship

As it has been raining a lot here recently, it brings to mind one of those thoughts that is made for just such days.  The creative flows when the rainwater does…

Precipitate Companionship

The ‘pock’ sounds on the fabric of the umbrella,
jarringly unlike the gentle susurrus of those
which thud on the ground.
Surroundings tingle all the senses,
the rising scents
the tangy taste on the air
the cleansed colours.

The walk is a glorious thing
especially shared with the closeness of a companion,
shoulders sometimes touching,
Perhaps an entwining
of hands on handle
A sense of total togetherness, intimate,
through delicate and momentary caresses.

The way that makes one feel
in no particular rush to be anywhere
time slackened
just existing
under the brolly,
a closed world,
Shared solely between two.

 

 

*Picture found for free at wallpaperbetter.com

Woken Up

I recently had a moan about all the meaningless (and prolific) ‘inspirational’ posts that clog my Facebook feed, when all I want to do is have a quick and peaceful nosy into what people are doing in their lives.  I’m sure some find such slogans helpful and positive but stop to give even a brief thought to the actual content and it quickly becomes irritating.

After posting a somewhat, ‘grumpy’ status about the situation, (and having no one really react which, perhaps, tells its own story) I came across another nettlesome post on Instagram, that was originally a Tweet.  I’m assuming some of you came across this statement over the last week or so,

You’re not well read if all you read is white authors. 

It didn’t take long to analyse the flaw in that statement.  Whilst it is probably (hopefully) a well-meaning encouragement to people to read widely, the stench of identity politics is overwhelming. Substitute the word white for fantasy, people of colour (or your group of choice), gay, women, or men, and the point could still be taken.

White is the word that will get the most traction in terms of comments though and is most likely the reason behind the wording which will guarantee the fifteen minutes of internet viral fame so craved.  On reflection it strikes me as lazy, picking an easy target. Like Trump or George W. Bush jokes back in the day, for example, it lacks finesse and plays only to the easily pleased crowd. Continue reading “Woken Up”

Morning Coffee

The sights and sounds of the morning fresh
Are subsumed within your deep, black depths
For a time nothing else matters but that scalding, fresh kick
A jump-start towards the obstacles ahead.

An effervescent explosion of ideas begins
Soon lost to the diminishing aftermath
To be forgotten evermore
Just as soon as the banal everyday acts crowd in.

Yet in that diminutive, personal oasis of time
where calm battles a raging heart and mind
I find my contentment in this swirling juxtaposition
And reflect on just how flawless life can be.

Dissonant Silhouette

Cognisant Dissonance

~

Ways well worn

This familiar place of stone and brick

Temporal, yet not entirely material

~

Spectres of the past

Intermittently visible

Return

~

memories distant impose themselves

On the present,

An overlay of times a world away

~

Paths intersected,

Long faded,

Recovered only in reminiscences

~

The bustling city

Shorn of its socialness,

A perturbing reminder of the past

~

Often we meet in imagination

Do I dream

Or the city? 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat – and then for his wife as well – in a netherworld beneath the city’s placid surface.  As these searches intersect, he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists.

Reading this novel is certainly an arresting experience. There is a cold aspect to the writing, a sense of detachment, which makes it nonetheless strangely compelling.   The relaxed tone of the narrator makes this a novel of normality and functionality of life, which heavily contrasts with the extraordinary and the imaginative (or is it supernatural?) rabbit hole it soon encompasses.

Murakami doesn’t always join the dots, or at least not in an obvious way. I like that.  Instead he encourages the reader to consider the bigger themes. It’s a thought-provoking piece of literature in many ways, crammed full with lots of symbolism and elusive connections, and one exceptionally gory scene which was a bit much, when it came to the details.

There is a rare insight into the Japanese people and their history, regarding the occupation of Northern China and the Manchurian campaigns of World War II.  The themes of how different types of power and pain that can drive a person, and how different spaces can affect the mind are a constant companion, the book is about the physical as much as the psychological. Continue reading “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami”