DAY 28 of 30-day Book Challenge – Last book you read

The last book I finished was the second novel in the Spud series – The Madness Continues. I mentioned the first book on Day 3 and Day 4.

I thoroughly enjoyed Spud number 2, although I must admit that it was not as funny as the first one. John Milton (Spud) returns (along with Mad Dog, Rambo, Vern, Boggo, Simon and Fatty) for his 2nd year at the private boarding school. The absence of Gecko, who died in the first book, is duly noted.
We are introduced to a new set of first years (nicknamed the Normal 7) and apart from them there are hardly any new pivotal characters in the sequel. In the classroom and on the cricket pitch and rugby field the usual shenanigans ensue.
The highlight of the book ironically, is Spud’s trip to England with his family. Wombat is in top form once again, and if you thought that she’s one of a kind, you’ll be disturbed to learn that she has a sister – Dingbat, who’s clearly cut from the same cloth. We only get to meet Dingbat briefly however but we are still kept entertained by crazy Wombat and her imperialist tendencies and anecdotes.

I’m happy to report that nobody dies at the end of the Madness Continues. But there is a tragedy that takes the form of an expulsion (I won’t say who gets expelled), and the consequences of Rambo’s affair with Eve, finally come to fruition.

Sequels tend to have a bad reputation for not being as good as their predecessors. I don’t want to write off Spud the second as less brilliant but I’m beginning to understand why it wasn’t as exciting as the first.

In the first book, everything is new and we begin to suss out all the main players and decide who we like or who we don’t like. By the second book, we already know everybody; we already know the ins and outs of the school and what life at home with the Miltons is like. In spite of this, it’s still an enjoyable read, thanks largely to Wombat!
Let’s hope the movie version of The Madness Continues, when it eventually comes out (van de Ruit has apparently withheld the rights to the movie because he wants more people to read the book first!), includes more of her antics. That would do the title some justice.

NM 🙂

DAY 3 of the 30-day Book Challenge – Book that made you laugh out loud

This was a no-brainer for me.

Spud had me rolling around on the floor with tears in my eyes. Even my cats gave me quizzical looks when I found myself in stitches from reading the antics and quips of the Crazy 8, Wombat, The Guv and off course those parents from hell, the Miltons.

Aaah, Wombat. John van de Ruit really should write a book devoted solely to that mad crone. The Chronicles Of Wombat or something. In fact I don’t care what he calls it, I’d still be the first to go and buy that book. She’s the type of woman you love to read about but secretly relieved that you don’t know in real life. I still cannot believe she was based on an actual person.

The only problem with Spud? The humour only lasts to a certain point. Then the tears of laughter turn to tears of another sort and well, let’s just say I’m not looking forward to tomorrow’s post…

NM 🙂

Day 2 – Least Favourite Book

I’m dreading this but it has to be done.

There are too many ‘least favourites’ to name but I will draw your attention to two books.

The Ghosts Of Sleath by James Herbert will always hold a very special place in my heart. Not because I liked it, oh hell no! I absolutely hated it; I found it torturous to read. Ironically I feel very indebted to this novel, simply because it ignited a spark and woke up the dormant writer in me.
As I read it, it made me sigh with frustration so many times I just thought (without trying to sound arrogant) I’m sure I can do better than this. And that’s when I picked up a pen and paper, 8 years after squashing my dream of being a journalist. So the Ghosts Of Sleath actually inspired me but unfortunately not in a way the author would have hoped.

So strange, yet so true.

Another book I was terribly disappointed with was one I read recently: Disgrace by JM Coetzee.
Maybe it’s because I feel embarrassed after I bigged him up in one of my previous posts that my disillusionment with this book is more pronounced. The fact that it was a Booker Prize winner makes it worse. Having read this novella, I now have some doubts as to the credibility of the Booker Prize.
Anyways, award-winning or not, I didn’t learn a bloody thing from this book, apart from the fact that if you’re a young woman in South Africa, living alone on an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere with very little security is not exactly the smartest thing to do. You don’t need someone from Mensa to tell you this.
The ending was also a big letdown. That’s if you can call it an ending. I kept flipping and turning the last few pages, wondering what happened to the rest of the book.

Okay I think I’ll stop ranting now. I have now made my peace with Disgrace. I look forward to Monday’s post. Laughter, they say, is always the best medicine.

NM 🙂

Where’s the hype, people?

In my last post I mentioned Lauren Beukes winning the Arthur C. Clarke award and nobody making a big deal about it. Let me begin this one by relating how I came to know about this in the first place.
Now as much I like to be in the know about what’s going on in the world, every time I pick up a newspaper I get bombarded with crime, corruption and general negativity that always gets me depressed. So I resort to only reading the paper every now and again. It was on one of these rare occasions that I was perusing through our local daily and on reaching the editor’s page, I saw something very strange: an article written in English by Afrikaans singer and musician Koos Kombuis.
So I read what he had to say, you know, just for kicks. I was forced to chasten myself afterwards for I learnt more from Mr. Kombuis in terms of newsworthy information than I did from the rest of the newspaper combined.
Not only did he mention Ms. Beukes winning a major award, he ranted about going into a well-known bookstore, where the assistant was unaware of a book called ‘Zoo City’ and how it took them quite a while to locate it. When they eventually did, the book was sitting unceremoniously on a shelf partially obscured by other books on the same shelf. In essence Mr. Kombuis complained about the lack of media attention given to local achievers.
Having thought about this, I share his anger and frustration but at the same time I find myself pointing fingers at Lauren Beukes. Or rather her publishing company.
Now I have to admit that I’m still not very knowledgeable when it comes to the world of publishing but why was I of the impression that publishers have an in-house marketing team that deals with promoting the book, or is it much more complicated than that? I know that Angry Robot, Beukes’ publisher, is an international company who specialize in the fantasy and sci-fi genre. Did they spend so much time promoting the book everywhere else that they forgot about little ol’ South Africa?

Why I am slightly peeved at the moment is that if this was a movie star, a musician or a sportsperson, anonymity would not be the order of the day.
We all knew when Charlize won an Oscar, when Ladysmith Black Mambazo won a Grammy, when Seether was heating up airwaves in America. We all know when a Bafana Bafana player signs up with a European team, when one of the Proteas wins Cricketer of the Year or when a local swimmer marries the prince of a country that’s the size of my house (the country not the prince), we all get to hear about it don’t we?
Okay maybe that last one doesn’t count but to prove my point, has anyone heard of JM Coetzee? Anyone? If you do, well done. If you don’t: Coetzee, at one stage, was the only author to have won the Booker Prize twice, and in 2003 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. There, I rest my case.

Maybe I’ve missed the point here or something. Maybe it’s because I love books so much that I look at authors the same way everyone looks at Hollywood stars and other big celebrities. I also expect the media to treat them the same way. Maybe authors are a different breed of celebrity and things work differently for them but isn’t “exposure” the keyword here? No wait, let me change that. For me the keyword is: hype. H-Y-P-E. There’s not enough of it in South African Literature. Yes maybe writers in general are shy, sensitive types and we might not know what to do with ourselves if given too much fame and media coverage but what they don’t realize is that by neglecting the marketing and promotional side, you are robbing potential readers of the chance to enjoy something that you created and the chance to inspire many others in the process. I mean, don’t you WANT everyone to know your message?
Come on, publishers and media people, work together and create some HYPE!!!

Is local not lekker enough for me?

Back in the 1990’s when I was a music junkie and would sit by my radio, as if waiting for a secret message via Morse code from across the Atlantic, a new cause was created in South Africa as the country’s new found democratic freedom took over from an oppressive regime. I remember very vividly the fervour surrounding the South African music industry at the time and the “call-to-arms” in support of local artists. As a conscientious young teen (who never did her homework but preferred to read and listen to music instead), I jumped on the bandwagon. As a result Johnny Clegg, Just Jinger, Urban Creep and Qcumba Zoo (remember those guys?) became my local heroes who had my full attention and support.
More than 10 years have passed, and I now feel like a complete hypocrite. As I continue on my literary journey, I feel a sense of déjà vu as the lack of support for local talent comes under the spotlight once again. This time, however, the SA music industry is the least of my worries as my focus has now shifted to South African Literature instead.

It began two weeks when I found out that Cape Town author Lauren Beukes won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke award (for 2011) for her novel Zoo City. For those who are not sci-fi fans, let me tell you that internationally this is a very big deal. So why wasn’t a big deal made of it here then?
Even the manner in which I discovered this (from a ranting article written by a local music star of all things) is something I attribute to providence. (Look out for my next post)
It was then that I realized with absolute horror, that I do not personally own any books by South African authors. I haven’t even read John van de Ruit’s Spud yet(!).

Have I been so blinded by my bias attitude towards “classic European literature” that I have stupidly snubbed some great books without realizing it? The fact that the movie version of Spud starring the irreplaceable John Cleese was not enough to make me buy the book means I certainly have been blinded. But now its time to rectify this.

Exclusive Books, SA’s leading bookstore chain, is now doing what radio stations were doing a decade ago. Promoting home-grown talent. Their “Homebru” sales feature has got me excited and I will be redeeming myself today. As Seneca once said, we are citizens, not of a single country, but of the world. This does not mean, however, that we should ignore what’s right in front of us.
The one thing I’ve realized on my journey, is that the support and advice of fellow writers can be invaluable. How can I expect support from my fellow South Africans when I don’t even support them?
Forget charity, the road to world domination begins at home 🙂