by Akumbu Uche
As a voracious consumer of fiction, I always look out for new and exciting writers to add to my shelves as enthusiastically as fashion tastemakers hunt for the next ‘it’ apparel.
My method however is less glamorous. Rather than attend runway shows and visit ateliers around the globe, I am more likely to surf the Internet and read as many short story anthologies as I can get my hands on.
One of such compendiums that I have read recently is the Naija Stories Anthology*. Subtitled Of Tears and Kisses, Heroes and Villains, the book features 30 fictional pieces edited by novelist and founder of the naijastories.com, Myne Whitman.
I know the interactive website well and I think it a good answer to pessimists who insist that Nigerians have no reading culture and the cynical notion that new Nigerian writing is only imitative of Achebe and Soyinka.
The same spirit permeates through its printed counterpart and though I must admit that I am unconvinced of the printability of all the stories, I cannot deny the writers’ talent and inventiveness.
Lulufa Vongtau’s Jesus of Sports Hall had me in stitches; the narrative of Bankole Banjo’s The Writer’s Cinema kept me guessing and I found Rayo Abe’s Mother of Darkness hair-raising. After a thrilling start, A Glimpse into the Mirror by Yejide Kilanko and The Devil’s Barter by Raymond Elenwoke, the alpha and omega (literally) of the collection, disappointedly turned out to be sermons in camouflage.
Given that non-residential Nigerian writers are well represented in this compilation, I thought it unfortunate that only one story (One Sunday Morning in Atlanta by Uko Bendi Udo) detailing the ‘Nigerian Abroad’ experience could be found.
On the bright side, Henry Onyema’s Rachel’s Hero, Kingsley Ezenwaka’s Best Laid Plans and Tola Odejayi’s Co-operate! with their larger-than-life, gun-wielding, reality-bending characters proved interesting reading, a foretelling perhaps of an imminent explosion of the crime/action genre.
I also predict that we will be reading a lot more from Gboyega Otolorin (What Theophilus Did), Uche Okonkwo (Blame it on a Yellow Dress) and Lawal Opeyemi Isaac (It’s Not That Easy). Not only do their stories stand out but also one gets the impression that they have fine-tuned their talent to construct unique literary styles.
Who knows? Maybe in the future, when they and a good number of the writers featured would have become household names, teachers of writing or much anthologized, the NS Anthology will be a collectors’ item.
* As of press time, the book is available on Amazon but not in Nigerian bookshops.