Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Books Of 2014


I wish for every reader of this blog a prosperous 2015, may all your wishes become realities, and may you be careful what you wish for. Amen!
So, this time last year, I briefly reviewed a few books that I had read during that year. I will do the same this year, today. I read a lot of books this year, most of them were fiction a few were not. Unlike last year, I think this year, I read more foreign books than Nigerian ones. For the purpose of this, I would review just the ones that were fiction. 
     
The Fault in Our Stars
I will say this every time I get the chance, every single time I get the chance: Until another book comes along and takes its place, The Fault in Our Stars is THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ. It was written by John Green, a man who has managed to steal my heart and become my favourite author in the space of less than 365 days – believe me; it is HARD to steal my heart, harder to do it in less than one year.
The story is about a couple of teenagers – Hazel-Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters – who both had cancer and were in love with each other. They met at a cancer support group inside ‘The Literal Heart of Jesus’ that was where they became friends, fell in love. The author built this incredible, realistic world that had this amazing ability to be both dark with the stupidity that illness is and bright with the comedy that two extra-ordinarily intelligent lovebirds were. The book, I swear, will make you laugh now and cry in two minutes – no kidding, no hype. Be prepared to laugh, to cry, to cry when you laugh and vice versa. What makes this book more amazing is that there was also a book inside it, like, most of the story was based towards another fictional story within the book titled An Imperial Affliction. Hazel was reading this book for most of the book because she loved how real it was, how true it was. Eventually she… I’m not doing this. BuyThe Fault in Our Stars and read it. You will be absolutely glad you did. Thank you, John Green, Thank you.

Americanah
Americanah was written by one of my favourite Nigerian writers, interestingly, she has also become one of my favourite Nigerian celebrities, Chimamanda Adichie. Should writers be celebrities? Not my circus, not my monkeys. Americanah is not the best Chimamanda Adichie book I have read, in fact, I have read five thousand (5,000) word stories by Adichie that could give Americanah a run for its money. Wait. In fact, I have read Adichie articles that could give Americanah a run for its money. I’m just saying it how I see it, no beef. As far as I am concerned, the book did not live up to its hype. After she wrote ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ – a fantastic book that I reviewed last year – my thoughts were that her next book would be fire. Americanah was not fire; Americanah was an extinguisher, unfortunately.
It was a story of a Nigerian girl, Ifemelu, who fell in love with a Nigerian boy, Obinze, while they were in secondary school. Then, it was the story of a girl who went to America from Nigeria. Then a story of a girl who after suffering for a while and even giving a white man a hand job one time, became this successful blogger who had on an afro and blogged about race and hair. Then it was the story of a girl who came to Nigeria after years in America and got a job with a popular magazine or something. Finally, it was a story of Obinze cheating on his wife with Ifemelu. Buy and read Americanah.

            To Kill A Mockingbird
I know. How the hell have I not read this utterly prolific book before 2014? I have not the slightest clue myself, to be honest. To Kill a Mockingbird was written by Lee Harper and till today (She’s about eighty five [85] now), she has not written any other book. I think that says everything to say about this book. I was having a discussion with a friend some time ago on Whatsapp; I told her how some books are so unprecedented that the author just has to rest his/her pen after writing them because there is nothing further to say, there’s nothing further to write. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those kinds of books.
It is the story of a man called Atticus Finch, a model of a man, a man who we all ought to want to be like. There’s nobody I would rather be in the world than Atticus. The book challenges our morals. It challenges our standards for defining right, for defining wrong. It asks questions, important, salient questions and that is the singular assignment for fiction: ask the questions that everyone else is either too busy or too freaking afraid to ask. Take a look at the titular quote and think deeply about it: ‘Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.Buy and read To Kill a Mockingbird; because Mockingbirds don’t do one thing for us but sing their hearts out.
  
           The Road
The end of the world as we know it is bound to make for a fascinating story and an even more fascinating read, that’s what Cormac McCarthy got right in his wonderful book, The Road. He is of course one of the greatest writers ever to put pen to paper. Cormac McCarthy doesn’t just write on paper, he inscribes his crazy thoughts in people’s minds, and that is something. Once, he said that death is the major issue in the world and writers who do not address death are unserious writers. Lol! Whatever.
The Road is a story set after Armageddon and the world had become the gray of used charcoal, and mostly dead. The best thing about the book is that almost 75% of it had just the two characters: the father and his son. The first three sentences read: ‘When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.’ and ‘Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.’ and ‘Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world.’ His sentences were mostly short. His sentences are mostly short. The Road is a fascinating read, I swear, you would not want it to end, you would also not want to be alive when the world would end because of the way Cormac McCarthy paints this utterly colourless picture of life at the end: the only colours outside dreams are gray and blood. Buy and read The Road.
 
            
  
     The Perks of Being A Wallflower

I read this book last year but I read it again this year, four times. It’s small enough. It is one of the most personal books you would ever read. It was written by Stephen Chbosky, who, as far as I know has not written any other book after. Is it one of those books? Well, maybe. I read that he took five years to develop and publish the book creating the characters from his own memory; which is kind of interesting.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel about an introspective, shy, intelligent boy, he calls himself Charlie. He writes a series of letters to a boy who we do not know, who he refers to as ‘Dear Friend’. The first letter begins like this: ‘I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at the party even though you could have.’ There is this part on the first page that says: ‘I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.’ These excerpts should tell you a lot about the book and its main character, Charlie and him being a Wallflower and it should also help you understand why I said it is one of the most personal book you would ever read. Buy and read ThePerks of Being a Wallflower.
Perhaps from next year I would increase the books I review at the end of the year to ten.

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

What is Abuja?


Is it the man, the senator, who has nine cars: a few Mercedes’, a few Ferraris, many more? Did he buy any of them when he last travelled officially or unofficially to the United States of America the month before last? Does he have four different chauffeurs, each with a car of specialty? Does the senator eat at least three times in a day? Does he eat things like a few salad sandwiches for breakfast, pounded yam and egusi soup with lots of meat and or fish in it for lunch, the best fried rice with the most decently fried fried chicken for supper? At the end of the night does he go to a bar? Does he order the most expensive wine, champagne? Does he order bottles of the most expensive beer? Does he eat more meat, fish? – Suya? Fish pepper soup? Beef pepper soup? Is he living the Abuja dream?
Is it the rich man who doesn’t work half as much as he earns? Who goes to work every morning, his office, freezing in the absurd exuberance of a fitted air-condition turned to its coolest temperature? Does the man feel he needs to make more money because somehow his salary is not enough for him? Does he think his family – his wife who has three cars of her own and has a chain of departmental stores all around the municipality, his two sons who are studying in the best universities in the United Kingdom – are not living comfortably enough? Does he add one more zero to the five million to be sent to the presidency for approval? Once the presidency approves the fifty million, does he remove his share – forty five million? Does he do this alone? Is he assisted by someone? – A secretary? Two secretaries? Does he give these people a share of the forty five million?
Is it the randy businessman whose wealth was handed to him on a platter by his late, hardworking father? Who considers it an insult for a beggar to stray towards his company? Does he harass these beggars? Does he arrest them? Does he consider himself too rich to have beggars hover around his company? – Hover around his home? Does he have three wives that fight nonstop about things bordering the ridiculous, then the supernatural? Does he still go to the club every night and dance with little girls that are so utterly dumb, they think their bodies are objects? Does he collect their phone numbers at the end of the night? Does he call them the next day? Does he call them the next night? Does he tell them to meet him at a certain hotel room at a certain time? Are these girls young enough to be his daughter? Are these girls underage? Does this man pay them for whatever services they render to him at the hotel room? Are these girls prostitutes? Is this man living the Abuja dream?
Is it the streets bordered by yellow and white coloured street lights or the fast, flashy cars that drive through the twenty four hours of the day on these streets? Is it the closes named after local governments or the streets named after the countries? Is it the Chinese restaurants? KungFu? Chopsticks? Or is it not?


Could it be the man who lives in a suburb next to the refuse dump of that suburb or the refuse dump of the whole city? Next to construction sites that billows dust into his nostrils and probably cancer into his throat? Is it the man that builds his house from aluminum roofing sheets because he knows a demolition is inevitable in the future?  When will this demolition happen? In three years? In two years? Three months? Next month? Tomorrow? Does this man have a family? Does he have kids? Is he living the Abuja dream? Can he live the Abuja dream? Does such nonsense even exist?
Is it the cab driver whose home is the backseat of his cab? Where does he take his baths, this cab driver? Does he take his baths? Does he make enough to afford to feed himself? Is his cab in good shape? Does he need to change the engine? Does he need to change the gear? Does he need to change the shaft? Does it make infuriating noises every time he changes to a higher gear? Will he love to have a new cab? – One with an automatic gearing system, perhaps? Does he make enough to change anything? Is he living the Abuja dream? Does such ridiculousness even exist?
Is it the little boys and the little girls, dressed in rags or completely undressed, that sing as the airplane flies through the sky over the refuse dump in front of their hut, ‘Aeroplane bye bye,’? Is this airplane a private jet? Is it the senator travelling to the United States again? Will he buy another car this time around? – A Lincoln? A Citro├źn? A Lamborghini with the fancy doors?
Is Abuja a farce? Is Abuja overrated? Does Abuja exude fakery? Is Abuja the rich men with the many cars and money, the rich streets that look like heaven or is it the backyard of the animal farm where animal dungs are buried, covered up by sand and pretty cotyledons, to hide it's dirtiness? It's shame? It's unprecedented levels of inequality?

Thanks for reading this, if you read this. This writeup is an experiment, really - a series of questions that naturally answer themselves and tell a story.
You may want to read Donald Bathelme's Concerning the Bodyguard,  this. And Elnathan John's Politics, this. Great reads.
Till next time,, Keep dreaming!! 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Oblivion, Irrelevance and Other Things You May or May Not Fear


“There will come a time” I said, “when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought will be forgotten and all of this” – I gestured encompassingly – “will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that is what everyone else does.”

The above is a passage from the book I cannot shut up about – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It was the first thing Hazel-Grace (The MC) said to Augustus Waters (The other MC) (MC means Main Character.) It was at a cancer support group, and Augustus Waters was asked a question by Patrick (Patrick asks the questions.) The question, as far as I am concerned, is one of the most important questions in life: What are you fears?

Augustus Waters’ reply was that his fear was ‘Oblivion.’ To which Hazel-Grace gave him a piece of her mind which we saw in the first paragraph. Was she right? I don’t know. I don’t think so.
A whole lot of people fear oblivion, I am one of them but I do not fear oblivion as much as I fear irrelevance. I think what Augustus Waters meant by ‘Oblivion’ was dying without haven achieved anything, without leaving footprints on sand. Dying and not being missed except by one’s family and friends. It all hinges upon dying, as far as I know.
Irrelevance, however, is more or less the same thing but it does not hinge upon dying, it hinges upon living. Frankly, I don’t care what happens after I die, I don’t care if I am remembered or not. I care what happens while I live. I want to know that I have or I am touching a life, in one way or another. I fear irrelevance because irrelevance means you have wasted the time that God has given you here on earth; it means you have allowed yourself to flow like the waters in the river, uselessly. It means that at the end of the day, your whole existence was attached only to its immense pointlessness and nothing else. That the idea of your existence was only existent to you and your immediate family, nobody else was touched by your existence. We all need to fear irrelevance, to dread it even, if we do, perhaps the world will be a better place.

Hazel-Grace’s reply to Augustus was in some ways defeatist. Yes, we are all going to die, perhaps the sun will collapse eventually and its immense heat will seethe our skins and burn us all to our deaths. Maybe there will be no one left to remember Aristotle and Cleopatra, maybe all of this – gesturing encompassingly- will eventually be worth naught: all our buildings, all our writings, all our thoughts from all our beautifully designed minds. Perhaps there was time before organisms existed; perhaps there will be time after. But none of these mean that we should all fold our beautifully designed arms and wait for the sun to get bored of the sky and come to seethe us. We shouldn’t be afraid to live our lives because of the inevitability of doom. Is doom even inevitable? You want to be the judge of that? 

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Musings On A Harmattan Soaked Saturday

I take walks every night for several reasons. I don't know that these are good reasons, frankly, I don't know that good reasons exist. There's just reason, there's no good or bad. One of the reasons I take these walks is that some inexplicable strangeness occur during the day and gives me a sensation of having a clogged-brain. I don't know what a clogged-brain is even, but at any rate, I feel at night time, that my head isn't in shape. I like it when my head is in shape. It enables me think. I like to think. So I take walks every night to clear my head/brain, to rid it of all the day's ridiculousness; like, emptying a dustbin at a superior, central dustbin; DUSTBIN, to more aptly put it. Anyway, walking along the streets of Abuja late at night, taking in the yellow, blinding headlights of taxis hustling to make money for their drivers, buses, bashfully shouting their way through, does a fantastic job of un-clogging the clog that becomes of my brain at night. Though I live in the less fancy part of town, there's still this brilliance that the night gives: the streetlights that stopped working eons ago, the bus conductors that beg you to enter their buses even though you are walking the opposite direction from where they are headed, the blaring horns of overly excited drivers, the loud music from the barber shop, the loud music from the CD shop, the heavily Hausa accented Hausa (It's interesting how their Hausa accents reveal itself even while they speak Hausa)  from the suya seller conversing with the guy that sells air-freshners and screw-drivers and anti-mosquitoe creams and other hyphenated household materials that have nothing in common. If there's one thing I love about Abuja, it's the night life. The city simply does not sleep until you go into your apartment and lock your doors to it.
Another reason I take these walks is because I am a writer and I need to think of the world I have created or of the world I intend to create when I get back home. Like, last night for example, I got the idea for my next book, the book that would come after Dear Ella. I've had a vague idea of what the book would be about for a while, but last night, for the first time, it formed. Of course, it still isn't complete but you build a house by putting one block on another block on another block until you have these magnificent, utterly unprecedented collections of blocks placed over each other by the brilliance of men called 'bricklayers', so ya. For a long time I tried to run away from calling myself a writer because it takes a certain degree of confidence, guts to up and call one's self a writer, not confidence like: Okay, I'm confident that later today, my dearly beloved Arsenal will defeat Stoke City; confidence like: Okay, here I am calling myself the name that Cormac McCarthy calls himself, the name that Wole Soyinka calls himself, the name that John Green calls himself, that Lee Harper calls herself, that Suzanne Collins calls herself, and you, I mean you, the person reading this, can do absolutely nothing about it even if you wanted to. It's heavy. But yes, I am a writer because, to be honest, I am nothing else. There's nothing else I could call myself, there's nothing else I'm good at. 

I have nothing else to write except that I have been reading John Green's The Fault In Our Stars for like the fifteen thousandth time. The book still is the best thing I've ever read. I think every human being should read that book, not necessarily because it has some deep, metaphorical resonance at the end of  it, just for it's sheer phenomenal-ness and unprecedented-ness and extraordinary-ness and other words that have -ness at the end.
Oh Ya, and by the way, every human being on earth should also make it a point of duty to get Asa's new album, Bed of Stone. Think Of it as a duty you owe to earth for the continuance of this circular motion of utter jocosity that we call life. 

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!