Books · Giveaway · Interview · Writers

EASTER BONANZA

Hey guys!

If you’re interested in poetry, names and African culture, you’ll probably like my interview with poet, Dike Chukwumerije, out today, in the recent issue of Saraba Magazine (Available for free download here)

And if you like freebies and giveaways, you’ll be interested to know that I’ll be giving away 2 autographed copies of his poetry collection, Ahamefula: The Cultural Significance of Names Amongst the Ibos

Ahamefula

To participate, all you have to do is:

  • Follow this blog (Click on the ‘Yes!’ button at the top right hand corner)
  • Leave a comment on this post telling us your name, its meaning and what language it is derived from
  • Don’t forget to add your email address so that you can be contacted (This will not be published)

Entries close on Friday, 29th March after which,  two lucky winners will be randomly selected and results announced on Monday, 1st April.

***Please note that, for logistic reasons, this giveaway is limited to people  resident in Nigeria.

 

This giveaway is now closed and the winners have been contacted. 

Books · Writers

5 YOUNG WRITERS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2013

by Akumbu Uche

 

Hello bibliophiles, here is a list of five writers I’m keeping my eyes on this year (and why I think you should do the same):

  • Jekwu Anyaegbuna

Forget art for art’s sake, it used to be that literature’s purpose was to serve as a code of conduct for society. Aesop’s Fables (or Akukọ ifo), anyone?

Whether depicting rural village life or Lagos-style hustling, there is no denying that morality lessons feature prominently in the Commonwealth Prize winner’s work however, it is worth noting that he spikes his tales with so much hilarity and inventive language they can’t be mistaken for sermons.

As Anyaebuna gets set to make his debut as a novelist, I’m pretty sure we have a new sage amongst us.

 

  • Esco

If ever I get fired, be sure my boss caught me laughing uproariously while reading Literati: Satires on Nigerian Life.

The chatty blog is the online diary of Esco, an anonymous 30-something, Lagos-bred, UK-educated, Igbo-speaking male Nigerian; lover of American R&B/Rap music, admirer of Nollywood belles and firm believer in the gospel that the world can be changed “through satire and blog literature.” (“Satire is the new attire”, as he likes to say)

He recently announced plans to publish his memoirs in book form. Could this also be the year he reveals his identity?

 

  • James Franco

You may know him from Hollywood movies like Eat Pray Love, The Spider-Man Trilogy and 127 Hours, but with two published books – Palo Alto (short stories) and Strongest of the Litter (poetry) – under his belt, the actor is keen to be recognized as a player in the literary world, too.

Unfortunately, his latest poem, Obama in Asheville (commissioned in honour of the 2013 US presidential inauguration) has been subjected to a lot of ridicule criticism; while it’s not the most coherent of verses, lines like How to write about a man written about endlessly/…/How to write so that it’s not just for the converted suggest the agony of a struggling artist anxious to be taken seriously.

With a new poetry collection, Directing Herbert White, in the pipelines, who knows, Franco may soon be nominated for a Pulitzer.

 

  • Marina Keegan (1989-2012)

Before her death in a car accident last May, Marina Keegan was a playwright, journalist and social activist.

If her essay, The Opposite of Loneliness and short story, Cold Pastoral – both written in fluid and graceful prose (and published posthumously) – are any indication, her writing was informed not just by talent but by soul-searching sincerity and innate wisdom.

I have a hunch more of her creative legacy will be shared with us this year.

 

  • Simon Rich

I can’t wait to get my hands on The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Stories, the latest offering from Simon Rich, an SNL staff writer and regular contributor to The New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs column.

His pieces, usually short, are characterized by a quirky and witty style but don’t let the oddball humour fool you. Stories like Unprotected, in which he imagines what it’s like to be a condom and Sell Out, in which he makes jest of himself, may be enjoyable, easy reads but they are ultimately critiques of the cultural values and attitudes of present-day youth.

Books · Giveaway · Writers

HAJO ISA’S SHADOW FALL

 

Hello, Lovers of Poetry!

I will be giving away a copy of  Hajo Isa’s debut poetry collection to one lucky reader.

For a chance to receive an autographed copy of her book, Shadow Fall, just do the following:

  1. ‘Follow’ my blog
  2. Leave a comment telling me what poetry means to you.
  3. Make sure to include your full name and email address (Your email will not be published)

This competition will end on Wednesday, 10th October and the book will be snail-mailed to the best commenter.

Please note that only those who have a NIGERIAN MAILING ADDRESS can participate

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED

Books · Reviews · Writers

WHISPERING TALENT

by Akumbu Uche

Every so often, a journalist will try his hand at fiction. Daily Trust’s arts correspondent, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is the latest to do so; prompting the question, do journalists make good fiction writers?

Put out by Parresia, Ibrahim’s The Whispering Trees is a slim collection of 12 stories, some earlier published on literary sites such as Hack Writers, African Writing and Sentinel Nigeria. (Parresia co-founder, Richard Ali is also an editor at Sentinel)

The Whispering Trees, makes easy, enlightening and occasionally, humorous reading and a subtly didactic prose style distilled with clear language, straightforward and short sentences – no doubt influenced by the author’s newspaper career – promises to secure this book a much better fate than Ibrahim’s literary debut, the poorly circulated novel, A Quest for Nina.

Ibrahim may be adept at compression but he is yet to perfect the sleight of hand needed to pull off suspense. For instance, in Night Calls, framed-for-murder Santi attempts to clear his name by recording the real perpetrator’s confession but when he half prophesies his running out of tape, the reader is cheated out of a climactic experience.

Sharper-eyed editors could have pointed out to the author that there is a thin line between foreshadowing and spoiling the show.

As indicated by the titling of the book as well as the stories Twilight and Mist and Cry of the Witch, magic is a recurring theme and characters are subject to the interplay of nature and the mystical in their lives.

A good number of the stories feature butterflies and moths as heralds of evil and enchantment. In Pledge of Fidelity, the mysterious Gambo not only wears a butterfly-speckled wrapper, the mere fluttering of her eyelids, imitative of “frisky butterflies dancing”, seduces the narrator.

Indeed, the author’s lepidopterophilia inspires a beautifully illustrated cover but when butterflies “bursting into incandescent colours”,  “flapping their wings”, flit from page to page, story-to-story, dancing and “floating giddily” across rooms and characters’ faces,  “sapphire lights glinting off their wings”, it borders on irritating.

There is much however that is good with Ibrahim’s work.

Dear Mother with its theme of domestic violence echoes the radio play A Bull Man’s Story, for which he won the 2007 BBC African Performance Prize.

Back then, he received praise for his ability to get into the mind of a child and now he displays an empathy for women.

An unhappy bride wrestles with guilt as she contemplates adultery and abortion in The Garbage Man while Closure is a depiction of two women mourning the death of their brother and husband in different but disturbing ways.

His male characters are just as emotionally fractured. In The Whirlwind, a father’s erotic attachment to his petulant teenage daughter puts his marriage under strain and the narrator in the titular story plummets into a deep, dark melancholy after losing his eyesight.

It is understandable that Ibrahim would wish to embellish his writing but in this collection, it is the stories portraying characters living their everyday lives, not the fantastic, which convey artistic beauty.

Books · Reviews · Writers

NAIJA STORIES ANTHOLOGY: A REVIEW

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.