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“One would be remiss to sleep on this collection” – Russell Grant reviews Megan Ross’s Milk Fever

It would be easy to write about Megan Ross’s Milk Fever as strictly a collection of poems about young motherhood, and while yes, this is the case, and a very good collection about young motherhood it is, I feel there is much more to this collection than its subject matter.

Not more in the sense that its subject matter is somehow trivial or incidental, but more in the sense that, technically, Ross is a very good poet, and just what makes her poems good should not be something that we ignore.

Milk Fever is published by uHlanga Press, a name which has been doing remarkable things in the South African poetry scene of late. They are responsible for bringing to the world Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia, a book which is breaking records in the South African poetry publishing game. Alongside Putuma, uHlanga have an impressive roster of poets including Genna Gardini, Douglas Reid Skinner, Francine Simone and Nick Mulgrew. Amongst these bright lights of the South African poetry scene, Megan Ross’s flame does not dim. Her work is mature and confident, despite this being her debut collection, and her growth as a poet is something we should look on with optimism.

It is almost a backhanded compliment in some ways to write of a woman poet that her work is Plathian. Whilst Sylvia Plath was a brilliant writer of verse, it can be a cliched and reductive comparison.

I do think Ross is Plathian, not because she is a woman writing about the deeply personal with a great degree of angst (which she is), but rather because the two both have a similar gift for effective, hard hitting imagery, and a knack for making the personal universal; for connecting the things that happen to us as individuals with the great big cogs of history, science, culture and language.

Ross’s opening poem, “Object” sets the scene:

“At night when it is the city’s turn to light the sky,
She dreams of creation splitting open under teacher’s pen,
Ink-spliced parts dictated by biology, geography, mathematics, cosmology.
(as if time really is an endpoint a corporeal destination as if seas really do part)”

It is a testament to the immense confidence that Ross has as a young writer to open with a poem that is so confrontational.

In it Ross lays down a challenge both to society in general (“even without sons we still are…”), and to language and poetry in particular: “punctuate us if you dare”. It reads like the voice of a woman claiming space for herself in a space which is yet to fully understand or accept her. In it the poem itself becomes a metaphor for an inadequate world in which, despite its inadequacies, one still wants to live.

Ross is trying to write herself both into and out of language and history. This ironic tension gives the poem its power, and lays down the themes of futility intermingled with hope that dominates this collection.

The groundwork for the collection’s focal imagery and symbolism is laid in the first few pages. Imagery and symbolism which is, arguably, exploded as it progresses. The middle part of this book is kaleidoscopic, as Ross fiddles with (nay, ratchets) form and meaning, diction and syntax, until the very fabric of the universe starts to come apart at the seams. For instance:

“Your milk comes apart   so it can   be held
Like soft frangipanis   inking   your skin”

Ross’s allusions and associations are strange, yet they are held together by an imagistic vocabulary that develops as the book proceeds. Images of dryness, wetness, bodily fluids, flowers, blades and a host more are developed and re-used and re-contextualised as the book goes on. The effect is surrealist stream of consciousness that somehow retains a sense of central logic.

These images and themes are used as vehicles to confront a range of topics, of which young motherhood is but one. Old relationships, platonic and otherwise, familial bonds, love, death, self-harm… these are all dealt with in this book, and it would be a crime to ignore all of these things in favour of the book’s supposed selling point, that is, a book about young motherhood.

There is a great deal to love about the middle portion of this book but also a great deal to miss if one is not careful.

Ross’s diction can be deceptively simple, and to truly do it justice would require several readings. Here, in the belly, Ross masterfully weaves a web of interconnected images and allusions which connect like strings on a conspiracy theorist’s pin board. It would take far too much time to break it all down here.

One simply has to dive in and trust that one will emerge unscathed on the other side. Or not. I don’t think unscathed is what you want to be when you emerge at the end of this collection, and I doubt that anyone actually would.

Ross manages to take us a fair distance from the shore in this collection, and the effect can be disconcerting. However, she does a good job of reeling us back in whilst doing minimal damage to the integrity of our psyches.

Whilst the middle of the book has a quality of formic dissonance to it, the end resolves like a melody settling on the first note of the scale. There are some truly memorable lines here, like, “In the drying there is life”, and “I know genesis has its place”, both from subsections of “Love in the Year of Bleeding”.

Both go a long way to heal the wounds inflicted by the beginning and middle. Dryness is synonymous with death in most of the book; the dryness of ageing, of the vast salt plains of youth we mistook for flavour but which ultimately drain us of our vitality; but here she offers us hope.

The same goes for “I know genesis has its place”, a deceptively simple, almost tautological line that alludes to the genesis of the bible, but also to genesis as a kind of change; change which can be violent but ultimately necessary and productive.

Admittedly, sometimes, Ross’s lines can get caught up in themselves, and some may find in this collection the kind of baffling deliberate opaqueness that makes much modernist and post-modernist poetry inaccessible. There are certainly instances of lines falling flat, or syntactic structures that repeat themselves just once too often, breaking the spell (“refrigerator eggs stained to teeth and bone” is one such syntactic device).

Overall, however, I think one would be remiss to sleep on this collection. Dive in, get lost, find yourself, and don’t for a second try to punctuate any of it.

Book details

Africa Century International Writers Conference call for papers open

Released by the wRite associates and partners

The seventh annual Africa Century International African Writers Conference (ACIAWC) call for papers is now open.

Papers and panel proposals, interpreting the theme “Unifying Africa: Writing and reading in African languages” are invited.

Delivered by the wRite associates in partnership with the national Department of Arts and Culture, UNISA and Archie Mafeje Research Institute (AMRI) at UNISA, the Conference will take place on the 6th and 7th November 2018 at the Dr Miriam Makeba Concert Hall, University of South Africa (UNISA), Muckleneuk Campus.

The deadline for submission of papers is seventh September and the acceptance/ rejection responses will be sent between August first and 14th September 2018.

Areas of inquiry may include, but are not limited to, the following sub-themes:

1. African languages as a vehicle for a Pan African reality.
2. Books in African languages.
3. African languages in the curriculum.
4. Decoloniality and African languages.
5. African languages in the public and cyberspace.
6. Writing in African languages with and for posterity.
7. African languages and the reality of other languages.

The Scientific Committee of the conference will select the best papers for those who send full papers for inclusion in a book that will come out in November 2019, at the 8th Africa Century International African Writers Conference. A full paper must be a minimum of 6000, but not more than 8000 words. The book will be peer reviewed to meet the DHET requirements.

Founded by the wRite associates in 2012, the Africa Century International African Writers Conference is a legacy project of the South African Literary Awards, a project of the wRite associates in partnership with the Department of Arts Culture. The Conference was inaugurated in Mangaung, Free State Province, in partnership with the University of Free State.

“This year the two day conference will gather authors, literary scholars and historians from home and elsewhere, to explore the role of the writer in redefining pan-Africanist principles in the development, preservation and restoration of Africa’s identity, dignity and unity. The conference will be opened with the 7th International African Writers Day Lecture on the 6th November 2018, followed by robust seminars and panel discussions”, said Mr Morakabe Seakhoa, convenor of the Conference and SALA.
He said they “are also very excited that the conference will produce a publication, which will also include papers from the previous conferences. This will certainly highlight the significance of the conference and its contribution towards building and archiving Africa’s narrative and perspective in the global academic, social, political and economic spaces”.

The publication will also include the previous keynote speakers who delivered the lectures, i.e. Prof Zodwa Motsa, Minister of Arts and Culture, Hon Nathi Mthethwa, Prof Micere Mugo, Dr Samia Nkrumah, Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission; and former President Thabo Mbeki.

Applicants are required to submit an abstract of not more than 200 words, along with a short biographical note and contact details to: info@writeassociates.co.za.

Book Bites: 12 August

Published in the Sunday Times

Mr Peacock’s Possessions
****
Lydia Syson, Zaffre, R265

The idea of living on a small, fertile island has engaged the public imagination for centuries, but in this literary novel Syson tweaks the tropical island trope to present us with a somewhat bleaker take of the real dangers a community might face when isolated from society. In 1879 the Peacocks were entrepreneurial gypsies, moving from one Antipodean location to another with an ever-growing family, driven by the ambition and the discontent of the family patriarch, Joseph. The Peacocks and their young children settle on one island but discover they cannot work the island alone, and send for workers who are shocked to discover the Peacock offspring lack even the basics of literacy. Narrated from the points of view of Lizzie, Joseph’s favourite child, and Kalala, the worker who teaches the Peacock children to read and write, it examines how the threat to a family and community often comes not from foreign elements, but the worm within the bud. Aubrey Paton

The Tattoo Thief
****
Alison Belsham, Orion Books, R285

Francis Sullivan has been promoted to Detective Inspector in Brighton and his first case turns out to be the work of a serial killer who is targeting people who have tattoos by well-known artists, cutting the inked flesh out while the victim is still alive. Sullivan has a lot to prove and with everyone working against him, even tattoo artist Marni Mullins, who seems to have all the answers, is not sure he’ll be able to catch the tattoo thief. This is the first in a planned series by the author and if this fast-paced thriller is anything to go by, we’re happy to accept seconds. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story
****
Christie Watson, Chatto & Windus, R320

Christie Watson spent 20 years as a nurse in the UK’s national health service. Her memoir walks readers through the halls of hospitals, where she deals with critically ill children, mental health patients and the elderly that society forgets. It opens with a clinical tone, gradually warming, until, by the final quarter, it is nearly impossible to read without the sting of tears. A tale that will make readers champions of nurses, while wondering why access to quality healthcare is too often reserved for the privileged. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Book details

RIP V.S. Naipaul (17 August 1932 – 11 August 2018)

Via Times Select

By Andrew Donaldson

There has been a flood of tributes and career appraisals following the death at the weekend of VS Naipaul, arguably the greatest and most infuriating figure in post-colonial literature. For more than five decades he gave his readers often searing and withering portraits of societies in the developing world.

That honesty earned him severe criticism – and not just for his particular point of view on the colonialism and post-colonialism so unequivocally detailed in his novels and travel writing. He was just as brutal when it came to his own failings as a man, so much so that his violent behaviour threatened to overwhelm his literary reputation.

He spared his biographer, Patrick French, nothing – so much so that the latter’s The World Is What It Is: The Authorised Biography of VS Naipaul (Vintage, 2009) is a gobsmacking page-turner.

Naipaul was fairly open about the humiliation he caused his first wife, Patricia Hale, and the 20-year affair he conducted with Margaret Gooding, a women he regularly assaulted. When the affair began, his editor Diana Athill rebuked him for his behaviour. He told her: “I am having carnal pleasure for the first time in my life, are you saying I must give it up?”

Pleasure meant degrading Gooding in bed. As Naipaul told French: “I was very violent with her for two days with my hand; my hand began to hurt … She didn’t mind it at all. She thought of it in terms of my passion for her. Her face was bad. She couldn’t appear really in public. My hand was swollen. I was utterly helpless. I have enormous sympathy for people who do strange things out of passion.”

What to read, though, of the 29 books that Naipaul produced? His first collection of short stories, Miguel Street (1959), details the lives of ordinary Trinidadians in a run-down corner of Port of Spain. The novels A House for Mr Biswas (1961), The Mimic Men (1967) and A Bend in the River (1978) are pretty much essential. Of his non-fiction work I recommend The Loss of El Dorado (1969), his India travelogues, An Area of Darkness (1964), India: A Wounded Civilisation (1977) and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990), Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981) and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples (1998).

He was particularly scathing about South Africans in The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief (2010). An uncomfortable experience, you could say.

The World is What it Is

Book details
The World is What it Is: The Authorized Biography of VS Naipaul by Patrick French
EAN: 9780330455985
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Miguel Street

Miguel Street by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780435989545
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A House for Mr Biswas

A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330522892
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The Mimic Men

The Mimic Men by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330522922
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A Bend in the River

A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330522991
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The Loss of El Dorado

The Loss of El Dorado by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330522847
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An Area of Darkness

An Area of Darkness: His Discovery of India by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330522830
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India: A Wounded Civilization

India: A Wounded Civilization by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330522717
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India: A Million Mutinies Now

India: A Million Mutinies Now by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330519861
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Among the Believers

Among the Believers by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330522823
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Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330517874
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The Masque of Africa

The Masque of Africa by VS Naipaul
EAN: 9780330472043
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“The MeToo movement has allowed people to speak in a heightened, sharpened way that they couldn’t do before.” Meg Wolitzer on her new novel, feminism, and meaning-making

Published in the Sunday Times

Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion. Illustration by Kate Gavino.

 
The Female Persuasion
*****
Meg Wolitzer, Chatto & Windus, R290

Meg Wolitzer is finally getting the recognition she deserves as a powerful author who has big things to say. It’s her moment. She has two major things happening. The film The Wife will hit the screens this month and it’s based on Wolitzer’s 2003 novel of the same name. Starring Glenn Close, everyone is pitching it as an important film that will at last net the star her Oscar.

Close plays the angry wife of a famous author who is going to receive the Nobel literature prize. In the film, her character tells her husband, “everyone needs approval”. This is also the theme that runs through Wolitzer’s new book The Female Persuasion, the other major thing to happen to Wolitzer this year.

The Female Persuasion, her 12th book, is receiving rave reviews for its keen perception of being a woman in today’s MeToo world. It centres on two women: Faith Frank, an older second-wave feminist who encourages Greer Kadetsky, a younger fourth-wave feminist. It is about female empowerment, women mentoring women and the dangers of placing our mentors on pedestals.

In a phone interview from New York, Wolitzer explains why she chose to write about this.

“I’m somebody who has been helped and encouraged by older women and that feeling of being heard, being respected, perhaps for the first time, is very powerful. It’s important to be seen. To believe in yourself and an outside person giving you this permission. I have a friend who calls these people permissionaries.”

Her character, Faith, is a permissionary. In the early ’70s, Faith was one of the founders of Bloomer magazine – filled with acerbic columns and sharp articles about women’s rights. Faith is described as “a couple of steps down from Gloria Steinem in fame”.

Faith gives Greer permission to own her own story. Greer is innocent and green when she goes to college with no guidance from her stoner, uninterested parents. On her first night at Ryland she goes to a frat party where Darren Tinzler sexually assaults her. Greer wants to see him punished. Other young women too, as “other Ryland students had their own Darren Tinzler moments”. Unfortunately, the story follows a familiar narrative – he apologises for his inability to read signals from the opposite sex and gets off with a stint of therapy. It is 2006.

Greer’s need for justice grows. She and her friend Zee buy cheap T-shirts and print Darren’s face on it with the word Unwanted beneath it. They are wearing them the night they meet Faith, who comes to the college for a talk. Greer uses what she calls her “outside voice” to ask Faith a question. Faith is impressed. Greer finishes college and starts to work for Faith and her female-empowerment organisation called Loci. We see a clash of different types of feminism.

Wolitzer says the only way we can navigate this difference is for women to talk and listen and understand where we all come from.

“Women of second-wave and third-wave feminism grew up in a different world and their experiences of when they were young were different and this shaped how they have come to perceive being a feminist in the world. All we can do is inhabit our own lives, know about the past, learn about our mothers and their lives.

“There’s been valid criticism about inclusiveness as an important need for feminism. There are angry voices. I think we are in a moment right now; so much has happened, so much has been set into release. The MeToo movement has allowed people to speak in a heightened, sharpened way that they couldn’t do before. The idea of being believed and heard; these are fairly new things. We are in the middle of a change. I don’t know how it will shake down, nobody knows.”

Even though the book delves into all these issues it’s not a feminist manifesto, rather it’s telling a bigger story with many different layers. This is where Wolitzer excels – her novels are big in scope – in themes as well as in the time frame. The Female Persuasion is epic; Greer and Faith’s entire lives are on display.

Wolitzer explains: “I don’t think I can say for definite that this is only a bildungsroman. Without a doubt it’s a coming-of-age story but it’s not only about that. It’s also about how we make meaning and find our way and that’s not only about young people. For instance, Faith has to decide what legacy she wants to leave the world. I do want to say something about how we live and how we do good in our lives. I think in this way it is a big story.”

She didn’t try to write the quintessential MeToo novel.

“When I wrote this book (except for the last chapter), I assumed that we would have our first woman president. Assumed that it would be meaningful and lead to other things. Then my notion of feminism shifted. The notion that maybe sometimes in feminism things are a little bit worse or a little bit better and you keep on working. It got pulled away like a tablecloth in the magic trick. I then added the next chapter of the ‘big terribleness’ – after the Trump election. Now the need for the fight is stronger than ever.” @jenniferdplatt

Wolitzer’s Best Books

Mrs Bridge by Evan S. Connell
This is a 1959 American novel about a Kansas City housewife’s life right before WW2, and it’s brilliant, hilarious, tragic. A perfect, compact masterpiece.
 
 
 
 
 
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
What a shattering exploration of voice, among all its other gifts.
 
 
 
 
 
 

What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
This recent collection of stories by a gifted writer moves from vivid depictions of Nigerian life into the fabulisitic.
 
 
 
 
 

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
As a writer and reader, I return to this book again and again for its language.
 
 
 
 
 
 
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
This slender, devastating book about a long-ago wedding night is economical and deeply emotional.
 
 
 
 
 

Book details

“Who’s going to get lucky tonight?” Kate Sidley on her three current literary love interests (and not to worry, Steven – they’re only books!)

Published in the Sunday Times

I arrive home from the book launch with a new love interest. Maybe it was the wine. I shouldn’t have had that second glass, we all know how it lowers the defences. Not that that’s any excuse. I know it was entirely my doing. Be that as it may, here I am with not one, but two … shall we say … prospects.

The one was a given, I knew I was going to purchase the launch book, The Season of Glass, the new novel by Rahla Xenopolous. But then the bookstore owner, who knows me and my weakness so well, said, “That book you were asking about just came in.”

It is Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, and it’s fresh and new, all decked out with the gold stamp of the Pulitzer Prize 2018. The very many cover shouts are glowing and there’s the word “hilarious” – nothing does it for me like hilarious – and then “bedazzling” and “endearing”.

I take both books.

I get home and clamber over the mountain of unread and partially read books that I believe was, some time in the early 2000s, a small bedside table. On top is my avowed current partner – Ken Barris’s award-winning The Life of Worm & Other Misconceptions.
 
Ooh, I love it. Properly, deeply love it. Wouldn’t leave it for anything. But this wouldn’t be leaving. It is a short story collection, and short story collections are by definition polyamorous. They don’t mind if you go off and frolic in other pastures for a bit. In fact, they expect it. After a dalliance, I find that I return to the relationship with renewed interest and delight.

Having made peace with a small break from Worm (it’s not you, it’s me, I tell him) I read the first few pages of The Season of Glass. You have to read the first pages on the night of the book launch. It’s the done thing. Well, it’s my done thing. The book’s a beauty, really a knock-out, but I’m not shallow, I don’t want to objectify my new love interest. It’s marvellous on the inside, too and though it’s early days, it feels like we’ve got something going.

This morning, when honest to God I should be working and not mucking around in bed with strange new books, I spot Less. In the spirit of research and professionalism (I am after all a book reviewer, and we have responsibilities), I open it up. Just a page or two. To see what all the fuss is about. I won’t lie. I’m intrigued.

Help me, then, with the eternal question of the reader – who’s going to get lucky tonight? @KateSidley

Kate Sidley is the author of 100 Mandela Moments (Jonathan Ball, R190)

The Season of Glass

Book details
The Season of Glass by Rahla Xenopoulos
EAN: 9781415209578
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Less

Less by Andrew Sean Greer
EAN: 9780349143590
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The Life of Worm

The Life of Worm & Other Misconceptiosn by Ken Barris
EAN: 9780795707957
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“I was thrilled to get a chance to finally write something in isiZulu – my love for storytelling came from the language.” A Q&A with novelist Zandile Khumalo

Nal’ibali Column 19 Term 3, 2018

By Carla Lever

Zandile Khumalo

 
Congratulations on your upcoming novel, published by Kwasukela Books! What does it mean to you to be published in isiZulu?

I was thrilled to get a chance to finally write something in isiZulu – my love for storytelling came from the language.

What has the reaction to your upcoming novel been from your family and friends?

I honestly don’t think it came as a shock to them to realize that I’ve published something, even though writing is not really something I talk much about. My family and my few friends already know me as a bookworm – they’ve become very supportive!

Can you tell us a little about what your upcoming novel is about? What does the title mean?

uNtsika Ezweni Lesethembiso is about the story of two siblings who find their way back to each other after they’ve fallen victim to an unfortunate incident that threatens wipe out their whole family, which the whole story is centered around. The title basically means ‘Ntsika In The Promised Land’.

uNtsika eZweni leseThembiso is a young adult novel, but it’s also historical fiction – set in 1500-1600 South Africa. Did you do any historical research to write the story?

I’m currently using every opportunity I have to research more and more, so I’ve come across some interesting facts. One thing always leads to the other as far as information gathering goes and that’s what making this process more fun for me. It’s research in progress!

You actually adapted this story from a short story that you published in the 2017 isiZulu anthology Izinkanyezi Ezintsha. Was it hard to adapt the plot from the original short story?

No, it was more natural because I always felt the story was meant to be longer. I’m enjoying writing it in more detail.

What kinds of books did you grow up with? How did you fall in love with reading?

There were some isiZulu titles that I used to borrow from our small community library back home in Mariannhill, which I enjoyed thoroughly. I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Oliver Twist when my grasp of the English language was still shaky but I really had fun doing it. It was my teenage years that led me to the Harry Potter books after a toxic relationship with the Sweet Valley series.

How did you discover you could also be a writer, not just a reader?

As a teenager I kept a journal for personal thoughts – I also kept a different one for cheesy poems and song lyrics! There were times when I would read my journal to myself when I was bored and find my views entertaining. With doing all that writing I slowly began to feel comfortable expressing myself and, with practice, better.

Was it hard finding the time to write?

No, time to write is never much of a problem because it’s something we love as writers. I feel like perhaps the most frustrating thing is having time to write but no inspiration. Feeling stuck is the worst, but luckily I don’t find it lasts long.

How can we get more isiZulu literature published, read and appreciated?

Now is not a good time to be social media shy! It’s time we made use of those platforms in order for isiZulu literature to be more accessible, just like we are not shy to show off the latest movies that we like. Let’s create viral isiZulu #hashtags! Also, if packaging makes a product stand out from the rest, why not have exciting and creative book designs like the beautiful Izinkanyezi Ezintsha cover?

What advice would you give to people who want to find more published stories in African languages?

They should ask for it! The law of demand and supply will apply to everything we consume so why are books different? We can start by creating book clubs so we can have a stronger voice as a collective when trying to get the attention of distributors and bookshops about what we would like to read.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.

In his business autobiography Nic Haralambous discusses the truth about the last 15 years of his entrepreneurial journey

Anyone can start something. Your chance of failure is almost guaranteed. Most people won’t learn. Almost no one does it again.

Are you bored and baffled by spin doctors telling you how to succeed, how to make $1 000 000 or how to build the best business in just 30 days? Everyone claims to have the next best short cut or hack to help you along the path of entrepreneurship.

It’s all bullshit.

In his business autobiography Nic Haralambous discusses the truth about the last 15 years of his entrepreneurial journey. Nic openly discusses his failures and sacrifices over the past decade and a half spent building businesses.

There is advice all over the place about the rules to follow if you want to succeed, the do’s and don’ts of running a company, the how-to of how-to do this, that or the next thing.

There are also many personalities out there telling young entrepreneurs to hustle non-stop, risk everything and never sleep if they want success. No one talks about how hard it is, how lonely it is and how difficult it is to build a business.

No one is willing to forgo their ego and be honest. If nothing else, Nic Haralambous is honest about his journey.

Nic has lived the hustle; he has pushed through physical pain, mental suffering, business failures, personal torment and relationship strife all in the name of building businesses. Nic decided to write a big book of his failures so that entrepreneurs around the world can begin to understand that it is not always glamorous, easy or fun to build a business. If entrepreneurship is calling you then you absolutely cannot miss out on the truth, behind the business, written by Nic Haralambous.

Nic Haralambous built his first website when he was 12 years old. His first real business was a band that didn’t go very far. He was 16 when he first tried and failed to sell product for money. He has spent over 15 years building businesses, failing and learning hard lessons through intense times. His crowning accomplishment is how many failures he has learned from in his career as an entrepreneur. He started out in the world of journalism, moved into technology and then onto building a global retail business online.

Book details

Book Bites: 5 August

Published in the Sunday Times

The Girl in the Moon ***
Terry Goodkind, Head of Zeus, R315

Born to a meth addict, Angela is raped by her mother’s drugged-up boyfriends in her trailer home. But she transcends the abuse by focusing on getting revenge on the men. The drugs her mother took during her pregnancy created in Angela the ability to identify killers just by looking into their eyes – and she can actually see them committing the crimes. When her grandparents are shot dead, she moves into their remote cabin in the mountains where she lives off the grid. Her life’s work is to dispatch every rapist killer who walks into the bar where she works. A fast-paced read filled with blood and gore. Gabriella Beks @gabrikwa

Death is Not Enough ****
Karen Rose, Headline, R295

Gwyn Weaver survived an attempted murder and is as tough as they come.She’s always had romantic feelings towards friend and business partner Thomas Thorne and feels it’s now time to act on them. Thomas feels the same but as he is about to make a move, he wakes up to find himself covered in blood next to a dead body. It’s the start of a vendetta against him and the reader is taken into a web of intrigue. It’s a long read with many names and much background to keep straight, but stay the distance and you’ll be rewarded with a solid thriller that cements Rose as a force to be reckoned with in the genre. Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

Ill Will **
Michael Stewart, HarperCollins, R285

One of the great mysteries in Wuthering Heights is Heathcliff’s three-year absence when he got his wealth. In Ill Will, in those missing years, Heathcliff returns to Liverpool. While travelling, he meets Emily, and the pair make their way together, and seek answers to Heathcliff’s questions. It is a mammoth task to add to a narrative penned over 150 years ago. This book is jarring, much like Heathcliff himself, and has a contemporary voice filled with anger and violence. Heathcliff was unpolished, Stewart’s style is a contrast from the gentle darkness created by Brontë, making the two narratives incompatible. Samantha Gibb @samantha_gibb

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A boy finds redemption with a disgraced priest in a magnificent new novel by Tim Winton, writes Michele Magwood

Published in the Sunday Times

Tim Winton. Picture: © Lynn Webb.

The Shepherd’s Hut
*****
Tim Winton, Picador, R290

In Tim Winton’s 2017 memoir, The Boy Behind the Curtain, he describes his upbringing in an evangelical church. His parents were latecomers to religion, joining the church only after Winton’s father, a traffic cop, nearly died in an accident. They made up for lost time. The author remembers the twice-on-a-Sunday, “no-frills, bare-knuckled” services where they bellowed hymns “until we saw spots and our limbs tingled”. But mostly he remembers the epic sermons.

“It was church that taught me the beauty and power of language,” he writes. “Recited and declaimed from the pulpit week after week and year after year, these stories and their cadences were deeply imprinted.”

It was here, too, that Winton became aware of the notions of grace and redemption, faith, sacrifice and mercy. Though his books are never overtly religious, these are recurring themes in his writing, gleaming just under the surface.

Another of his overriding themes is masculinity, especially in the form of young, damaged proto-men who he sends on physical or metaphysical journeys. And in every one of his books the landscape is paramount, less a backdrop than a character itself.

In The Shepherd’s Hut all of these themes are rendered down into a hot ingot of a story, forged by elemental forces as blinding as the saltpans in which it is set but utterly transcendent. This is ur-Winton.

Jaxie Clackton is just 15, a rough, punching, furious boy whose whole life has been one of loss and pain. His mother has died, as if in self-defence against the endless beatings of her drunken husband, the local butcher in their fly-blown, one-pub West Australian town. With her gone, “Captain Wankbag” as Jaxie calls him, turns his fists into his son. There is only one good thing in Jaxie’s life, his love for Lee, the only one who understands him. But Lee is his cousin, their love is taboo. Broken and barely surviving in a community that turns a blind eye to his predicament, Jaxie prays to God to “kill this c**t off once and for all”.

But when his father is, indeed, killed off in an accident of his own making, Jaxie knows he will be blamed for it.

Gathering a few provisions he flees to the bush. He has no plan other than to hide and eventually reach Lee hundreds of kilometres away.

From the arresting opening paragraph we know he will make it out: “When I hit the bitumen and get that smooth gray rumble going under me everything’s hell different. Even with the engine working up a howl and the wind flogging in the window the sounds are real soft and pillowy. Civilized I mean. And that’s hectic. But when you’ve hoofed it like a dirty goat all these weeks and months, when you’ve had the stony slow prickle-up hard country right in your face that long it’s bloody sudden. Some crazy shit, I tell you. Brings on this angel feeling. Like you’re just one arrow of light.”

Deep in the wilderness, when he is half-starved and hallucinatory, “burred up and narky as a feral cat”, Jaxie stumbles upon an old man in a hut on the edge of a salt lake.

This is Fintan MacGillis, a disgraced Irish priest, cast out by the church. He is no abuser, though; he is more of an ascetic, an anchorite, and the reference to John the Baptist is clear. He feeds Jaxie, clothes him, bathes him and restores him.

The boy is leery of him, and rude. They have to learn to trust each other but they settle into a fitful companionship.

“A couple times I had to tell him to go and get himself fucked. Then he got all pursy and red and said I was an uncultured ingrate. I said he was a knobjob and he called me a juvenile delinquent. But he never flogged me. So I figured I could put up with his stupid nonsense.”

Gradually Jaxie sheds his spikes and begins to alter. The brutal landscape shapes him too. He becomes minutely attuned to nature and stripped to the core of his young being. MacGillis sees something in him, a base material of goodness.

“When you do right, when you do good,” he tells Jaxie, “well, then you are an instrument of God. Then you are joined to the divine, to the life force, to life itself.”

And an instrument of God is what he becomes when the narrative erupts in a hideous violence. Jaxie will be tested beyond what he could ever have imagined.

At that moment “All the birds landed, the sunlight landed. The song landed. All the decent things in him landed. On me. On my head. And I knew where I was, and who I was, and what I was. Yes, what I am. And it was just like he said. What I laughed at him for. It was like the sun and the moon going through me. I was charged.”

Everything of Winton lands in this book, his preoccupations and perceptiveness, and his matchless writing.

Harrowing but tender, it is profoundly charged. @michelemagwood

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