Sunday, September 30, 2012


It's time to slow down once again, even if I live in Nigeria not the harried CalSci USA.

Sad fact of "producing" work is that one becomes so eager to get one's own stuff out there, up front, and winning, that there is little time to consume the work of others.
Imagine how filmmakers feel about watching films - ah well, I can borrow this and this from Scorsese; or don't have time to read/travel/dance I have films to make.
Reasonable to think this way sometimes, then sometimes of course you want to broaden your experience, so that what you create might actually be new and dee-lightful

Well, I am going to read.  The winners of this year's Commonwealth Short Story prize, starting with the overall winner, from New Zealand.  I really hope they're good.  Then I'm going to read some essays from Foundational Questions in Physics.
NUMB3RS - Math + Film
 I hear JK Rowling, who is loved for having made a fortune as the writer of Harry Potter, has a new novel out.  I am very interested in reading it, having read a scathingly negative review that compared it to Barbara Pym (who wrote one of the best novels EVER.)  I expect to find it very intelligent, with heartfelt insights about class.  I expect it to change the world, actually, especially since so many are going to read it.
But why does Rowling's book have to go over 500 pages?  One should rarely do that, but nowadays everybody seems to be going for the painfully long page count.  Short and sweet, people, short and sweet. 

Sometimes I can't believe how lovely it is to be in Nigeria. 
Hahaha, super-serious people make me laugh.  Why do "white people" like to make the most exciting things so serious? 


Folarin said...

hehehe...nice selection of books you want to read...including the physics books actually makes it I feel guilty 'cos there's this book I've been reading for months and am yet to finish. It's even less than 300 pages o. loll

Juan said...

Hey Tosin! I also love JK Rowling, I think she is grossly underappreciated. I think that the reason is that there are too many people out there directly assuming that any pop success is automatically shallow and low quality.
In my opinion, the Harry Potter series is a great accomplishment at many levels: Being appealing to kids and adults, character depth and development, and as you said, even including interesting social commentary. And of course, wizards. :-D

t said...

Thanks Folarin.
Maybe try something shorter, or something un-put-down-able, as they say.

Thanks Juan.
I read two HP books - they were nice. The films (the few minutes I managed to watch) were boring in comparison.


t said...

One month later:
The Winning Story is delectable. Read it. Then also read "Ghost Marriage" which is better.

I am a really good writing critic, and the trouble with Ghost Marriage is the intro, the first few paragraphs. I almost quit then. The author could have cut all that off and started with the narration.

I generally hate the past tense, past perfect, whatever, in literature. Generally too literary and unreal for me.

As for the physics reading, well, I don't know what I'm doing. I've read the two target pieces (Barbour and the Kenyan) but understand little. Now I'm waiting to see the overall winner named by FQXi. That one I'll read, maybe it'll be more accessible.

t said...

4 June: Regional Winner, Pacific;
8 June: Overall Winner
Emma Martin, New Zealand: Two Girls in a Boat

5 June: Regional Winner, Asia
Anushka Jasraj, India: Radio Story

6 June: Regional Winner, Africa
Jekwu Anyaegbuna, Nigeria: Morrison Okoli (1955-2010)

7 June: Regional Winner, Canada and Europe
Andrea Mullaney, UK: The Ghost Marriage

8 June: Regional Winner, Caribbean
Diana McCaulay, Jamaica: The Dolphin Catcher

My reviews:
Ghost Marriage: Chop off the first ten, even twenty, paragraphs and this becomes the best story of the lot, I think. Leave them in and you'll probably skip the story thinking it's lame, boring, disconnected.

Dolphin Catcher: choppy waters, halfway point, smooth sailing, choppy waters. Start reading this story at the middle. Then it's nice - very nice. If you have the misfortune of starting from the top like I did, you'll abandon the story. I tried several times to read it. Nothing happened. No sooner did I start to grab some type of thread than the thing would jerk me off the boat again. It gets boring again at the end. But the middle, say from .4 to .9 on a 0-1 measure, is excellent, five stars.

Two Girls In a Boat: Is the only story that never annoyed me, only delighted me. It was a smooth read. And like I said, it delighted, it taught, it was gentle, it was complex. Thank God it won.

Morrison Okoli: I breezed through this one, observing some wit, and feeling like it panders - let's explain the black man to the white people - to a point that annoys me. As I recall, it was not always authentic, like I said, it was sometimes funny. It reminded me a lot of "Letter To My Mother" (I think) in the very well executed short story collection Voices of America by E.C. Osondu. Osondu's story too bent over backwards to entertain the ones who don't know the life of the Nigerian man, but while it was only starting to grate, this Morrison Okoli did actually cross over. For me. I gave it a little chance and the title, which I'd originally found irritating, was explained in a way that I thought fun and original. I am going to read this story again today. A lot for me to learn here perhaps. And the author is Nigerian (celebrate) and the only male name of the five.

That leaves
Radio Story: I failed in my first attempts to read it. Trying again. OK, I gave it a good 3 minute browse to the end. There's a story in there, and there's some charm in there, about 0.5 -0.7 of the way through the story. It's very disjointed. The writer is talkative, smart, and the reader is listening to a stream-of-consciousness rant. I wonder if my writing is on average this good, or better.

Lesson learned - don't make the reader work to enter your story. make like the experts and make your first paragraph one hell of a teeease. And I still believe in shorter-better, but who knows?

Silly Commonwealth thing at the end of the stories, the writers have to sing God Save The Queen. Dude, Independence, have you heard of it? We've been independent over 50 years.