Jurassic London has shared an excerpt with Books LIVE from its new short story collection Irregularity, edited by Jared Shurin, which features stories by Richard de Nooy and Henrietta Rose-Innes.
Irregularity is published to coincide with current exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London; one focused on a quest for longitude at sea, and a steampunk show at the Royal Observatory.
Irregularity is about the tension between order and chaos in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men and women from all walks of life dedicated themselves to questioning, investigating, classifying and ordering the natural world. They promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual rigour in the face of superstition, intolerance and abuses of power. These brave thinkers dedicated themselves and their lives to the idea that the world followed rules that human endeavour could uncover … but what if they were wrong?
Read the two excerpts, the first from “Animalia Paradoxa”, by Rose-Innes, and the second from De Nooy’s “The Heart of Aris Kindt”:
“Animalia Paradoxa” by Henrietta Rose-Innes
“In Cap d’Afrique,” I tell Michel, “the cattle are more beautiful than the French varieties. Great spreading horns. Red or grey, or speckled.”
Michel grunts. He watches me with suspicion as I rearrange the bones on the long table in the Countess’s orangery.
Through the glass doors and the dome above me, I can see bats flitting in the evening sky. A few lamps burn in the upper rooms of the chateau across the terrace. The Countess is no longer here. After the recent troubles in Paris, she left with her retinue for the countryside, perhaps even for another country. I did not speak with her before she departed. Perhaps I am simply shunned. Perhaps she is seeing other suitors, charlatans selling her the usual curiosities: misshapen bears, dull tableaux of common birds, amusing scenes of mice and foxes.
It is a cool autumn evening, but inside the orangery the weather is warm, even tropical. For a moment the expanse of glass makes me feel observed, as if I am placed here for display.
Michel is very slow, and has no sympathy for the material. He is an old village soul, accustomed to the creatures of the old world. He knows how they are put together: four feet, two horns, milk below.
“This cannot be just one animal,” he says. He is laying out the long-bones, and indeed there seem to be too many of them, and oddly sized. Everything is in a sorry state. Some of the more delicate items have crumbled to dust in the sea-chests.
“Linnaeus himself does not account for all the creatures of the world,” I tell him. “Not of Africa.”
Michel shrugs, and lets a femur clatter to the table. “Monsieur,” he says. “I am leaving now. You should go too: it is not safe.”
But I cannot go, of course I cannot, not when I am so close. Late at night in the lamplit orangery I work on, fitting femur to radius, long bones to small. Boldness, I think, boldness and vision are needed here. But the bones will not do my bidding. They do not match up. They do not create a possible animal.
The streaks of light fade from the sky; it is that slow cooling of the day, so different to nightfall in southern climes.
I miss the boy’s quick hands, quick eyes.
I remember the shape of his head. Jacques, Jakkals. He was a thin child, dressed in nothing but ragged sailor’s trousers, held up by twine and rolled to the knee. Hard-soled feet, skin tight over ribs and shoulder-blades. All of him shades of earth and ochre, but flashed with white, like the belly of a springbok as it leaps away. Ostrich-eggshell beads at his neck, teeth like Sèvres porcelain. And that round head, close-shorn. One could imagine the bone beneath. When I first saw him, tagging behind as our party struck north from the Cape, I thought: there are men in France who would like that cranium in their collection. A pretty piece to cup in the palm.
Shadows gutter on the ceiling as the last of the lamp-oil runs out. Outside I see points of light and at first I think they are stars, burning low to the ground: the sky turned upside down. But no. They are flames, moving up the hill from the village, torches lighting faces in the crowd. The voices build.
The last time I saw Jacques his skull was crushed on one side, the front teeth gone, face caked with blood and dust.
I imagine he was buried with the usual native rites. Sitting upright, as I have heard it is done, in the old hide blanket, with nothing to mark the place but a small pile of stones. The vitreous black stones you find there in the north, in that dry country.
Cape of Good Hope
Venter was a chancer from the start. I met him on the church square; he was selling skins and ivory. With what was left of the Countess’s money, I was procuring oxen, muskets, what men I could afford.
“I hear you’re coming north,” he said, his face shadowed by a leather brim. “I hear you’re looking for animals.”
“Special animals,” I nodded. “Rare ones.” I had been in the Cape a month by then, and my own rough Dutch was improving.
“Visit with us,” he said. “We have a hell of an animal for you.”
“Ah. And what kind might that be?”
I was not overly excited. Already I had received several offers of specimens. There had been enough European adventurers in these parts for the locals to imagine they knew what we sought. On the docks, a hunter had thrust a brace of speckled fowl at me, their bodies stinking in the heat. In a tavern, a wrinkled prospector had produced a pink crystal, its facets glinting in the candlelight. But the Countess wished for something she had not seen before. The foot of a rhinoceros, a pretty shell — these would not be enough. One of the slave-dealers had promised more exotic sights, native girls with curious anatomies, but this, too, I had refused. I was looking for something spectacular, something to cause a sensation; but not of that kind.
“It’s big,” said Venter.
“Like an elephant? An ostrich?” I said. “Perhaps a whale?”
“All of those things,” he said, and tilted his head so that his pale eyes caught the sun, colour piercing the hues of hide and roughspun cloth. He was a handsome man, tall and with a strong jaw under his yellow beard, grown very full as is the habit of the farmers here. “It’s all of those things, God help us.”
I tried not to smile at his ignorance. “Come now, it must be one thing or the other. Fish or fowl.”
He shrugged. “It flies, it runs. Here,” he said, leaning forward and pulling off his hat. A waft of sweat, a herbal tang, the coppery hair compressed in a ring. “That is its skin.”
I did not wish to touch the greasy hat, but he pushed it into my hands, pointing at the hide band. Spotted, greyish yellow. It might have been hyena fur, or harbour rat for all I knew.
“Keep it.” He spat his tobacco into the dust. “You are welcome on my land. Ask for Venter. Up north the people know me.
“The Heart of Aris Kindt” by Richard de Nooy
“Who stitched him up, sir?”
“The preparator. He was at work when I came in.”
“But we …”
“They took the heart, Ferdinand, and the rest of his innards.”
“There will be no incision in our painting.”
“But that’s preposterous, sir!”
“Tulp’s letter is on the table.”
The young apprentice removes his cloak and rubs his hands until they squeak and tingle. January’s stinging chill draws deeper into his bones as he circles the naked cadaver of Aris Kindt. The callous morning light falling from the high windows of the Theatrum Anatomicum lends the dead man’s skin a translucent sheen that leaves no blemish undisguised. Hurried sutures have raised an angry, Y-shaped seam upon the dead man’s abdomen.
The young apprentice bows his head and mumbles a brief prayer before unfolding the surgeon’s letter with his winter-clumsy fingers.
Amsterdam, 18th Day of January 1632
It is with some regret that, after due consultation with my esteemed peers, we have decided that we would prefer to see the torso depicted unopened, as it detracts from the overall composition and may cause consternation among our guests, particularly emissaries of the Church, who might question such a bold display of our enquiry into God’s intentions and creative genius. We assure you that our decision has nothing whatsoever to do with the manner in which the organs have been rendered, as this was of the high standard that prompted us to commission you in first instance. Should you feel that our decision has necessitated additional effort on your part, we would like to assure you that we are already considering future commissions that we would almost certainly leave in your good hands.
Nicolaes Tulp, Praelector Chirurgic et Anatomie
“He makes no mention of the heart, sir!”
“Indeed, Ferdinand, indeed.”
“Are these men of science, sir?”
“Among the foremost, Ferdinand, but our friend here evidently confounded their principles.”
“This is absurd. First the hand and now this!”
“The client is king, Ferdinand. Let me hear you say it.”
“The client is a meddlesome tyrant, sir. Why would they do such a thing?”
“Ours not to reason why, Ferdinand.”
“Whatever crimes he may have committed, sir, this man, too, is a creature of God and it is our duty as artists to celebrate the glory of His creation by rendering all of that creation as precisely as we can — alive or dead.”
“Of course, Ferdinand, but God does not pay our fee, and the surgeons have every reason to conciliate the emissaries of the Church. To work. We have a great deal to do. And our silent friend will not stay fresh for ever.”
“My father shall hear of this. The Guild of Surgeons in Dordrecht would never…”
“That would be imprudent, Ferdinand. Bear in mind that it will be our word, as humble artists, against that of two dozen surgeons, well versed in matters anatomical and very well connected with the city council, before a committee of their peers. And what might we hope to achieve, Ferdinand? Do we wish to cast a shadow of ill repute upon the city’s finest surgeon? Will it bring Aris Kindt back to life? A man hanged by the neck is dead, Ferdinand, even if he dies a second time.”
“Consider your career, Ferdinand, and at what expense it has been purchased. Your father’s investment must be recouped and I have mouths to feed. To work, young man, those details will not draw themselves.”
16th Day of January 1632
Master R and I today had the honour of attending the public dissection of Adriaan Adriaanszoon in the Theatrum Anatomicum at De Waag, presided over by Doctor Nicolaes Tulp, praelector of the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons. It was truly a privilege to sit among the city’s most influential councillors and learned men to witness this rare event, which — as you know — takes place only once a year and is subject to the strictest protocol.
We were permitted to sit in the front row in order to make our preliminary sketches, which I did with immense discomfort, knowing that some of the city’s mightiest men were looking over my shoulder. This was further compounded by the unnerving butcher-shop scent of the dead man’s viscera, deftly laid bare by the Guild’s preparator, who stood constantly at Dr Tulp’s side, scalpel in hand like a Sword of Damocles. I am not ashamed to admit that I had to make a concerted effort to retain my dejeuner, which rumbled like an angry behemoth in my guts. Fortunately, I did not defile and embarrass myself. Instead, the experience redoubled my respect for surgeons such as yourself and Dr Tulp, who conducted his duties with immense grace and precision under such gruesome circumstances, all the while enlightening the audience with the most fascinating revelations regarding the workings of the human body.
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The vision of Book Dash is so revolutionary, so boldly audacious, that it is hard to comprehend fully the scope of it upon a first hearing. One can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the notion of giving (yes, giving!) each South African child a hundred books by the age of five. On Mandela Day last week, this grand dream stepped closer to becoming reality when some 250 children at Jireh early education centre in Mitchell’s Plain each received three books, made by a team of volunteers. For some of the children, these books were the first they have ever owned.
Books by the big-hearted authors involved in Book Dash include:
Behind this project is a formidable trio of radical thinkers: Arthur Attwell, a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and award-winning publishing entrepreneur has an impressive track record as the founder of Paperight, Electric Book Works and Bettercare. He is also a poet and the author of the collection, Killing Time.
Senior manager at Paperight, Tarryn-Anne Anderson, is a talented short story writer who contributed to the Feast, Famine and Potluck anthology and an anthropologist by training. She is the community manager for Book Dash. Michelle Matthews, a publisher and award-winning writer, specialises in sustainability and corporate social investment. She is the managing editor of The CSI Handbook and the author of The Whole Food Almanac. With their feet planted firmly on the ground they envision an outcome with astronomical potential.
They want to see the publishing industry being shaken from its roots and predict that this can happen if the needs of the youngest reader are met as a priority. “This is how the future of publishing in South Africa is not only going to survive, but grow and flourish,” Attwell said.
It is widely believed that a range of interwoven social ills and contemporary crises can be avoided and solved by enhancing the cognitive skills and developing the child’s imagination by ensuring that a vigorous love of reading is instilled before children even get to school. But how can that happen in a society where the all too real constraints of poverty seem so overwhelming?
Book Dash’s solution is to make books freely available as downloads so that schools – or anybody who needs a free children’s book – can print them out on a standard photocopier. The cost of the books is reduced substantially to the expense of printing. All the expertise has been donated. No royalties are paid as books are created under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
Attwell also believes it is crucial to support fathers in the task of reading to their children. The logo on the back of each book depicts a father in an armchair holding a small child on his lap, reading from an open book.
The big push for this project took place just three weeks before the Mandela Day handout when a team of 40 industry professionals got together bright and early on a cold Saturday morning. Writers and artists brought their previously planned story ideas and sketches, channeling them through the various tools of the trade: tablets and paintbrushes, laptops and scanners.
The mood in the room was electric, as designers and editors tweaked and touched up the texts, authors consulted other authors, and images took shape, matching the narratives. By the end of the day ten new books existed that would soon be touched and held and loved by the children who hunger for stories. This staggering book-making marathon occurred on 28 June this year at the City of Cape Town’s Central Library, in a collaborative gesture of generosity, care and creativity.
“In essence,” says Attwell, “South African children need more books. However, books are prohibitively expensive for most families in this country, who struggle to put food on the table.” His way around this? Make them available for free! To that end, he wishes to see each child in the country owning 100 books before their sixth birthday. Yes, reader, your eyes do not deceive you. And laugh aloud if you must. But, Book Dash has started making this remarkable dream a reality.
“The cheapest books have no publisher – then the only cost is printing. So our participants do the work of publishers in a single day. After that, anyone can get print runs sponsored and put finished books into the hands of children,” says Attwell. Do the sums on that and some 600 million books are required to meet this ambitious goal. India’s Pratham Books and the African Storybook Project offered Attwell a way to refine his thinking and models on which to base Book Dash.
We believe every child should own a hundred books by the age of five. In South Africa, that means giving 600 million free books to children who could never afford to buy them. Every day we lose, more children grow up unable to read and write well, and to enjoy the worlds that books open up.
An integral part of this concept is the concept of ownership. According to Attwell, this means putting books into children’s hands. “Ownership should be sealed by writing the child’s name on the book-plate page. They must be able to collect many of their own books throughout their childhood,” he said.
Facilitated by Tarryn-Anne Anderson with Michelle Matthews hosting the event, ten teams each comprising a writer, illustrator and book designer, were plied first with coffee and muffins, then quiches and fruit, and later, wine and pasta. Each trio had a designated work space where the creative collaboration took place on the upper floor of the old drill hall. The intense focus required to produce a book in a day, the sharing of tasks between team member, and the convivial goodwill that spilled regularly into laughter was a profound experience.
The team of workers included Rachel Zadok, Candace di Talamo, Nick Mulgrew, Michele Fry, Amy Uzzell, Jennifer Jacobs, Tracy Lynn Chemaly, Robert McEwan, Sarah-Jane Williams, Paul Kennedy, James Woolley, Louise Gale, Liesl Jobson, Jesse Breytenbach, Andy Thesen, Sam Wilson, Michael Tymbios, Thomas Pepler, Maya Fowler, Katrin Coetzer, Damian Gibbs, Nicola Rijsdijk, Karen Lilje, Sam Scarborough, Kerry Saadien-Raad, Elsabé Milandri, Mathilde de Blois, Vianne Venter, Genevieve Terblanche and Lauren Rycroft.
The capable squad of editors who ensured that the texts were suitably age-appropriate comprised Marion Smallbones, Glynis Lloyd and Martha Evans. Videographer, Shaun Swingler, ensured that a visual record of the event took place. Archivist and storyteller, Kelsey Weins, explained the Creative Commons Attribution licence model and took care of the twitter feed on the day. Art director, Pete Bosman, worked with the illustrators and book designers, to advise, facilitate and ensure that the images worked within the specific parameters of the project.
Watch the video made by Shaun Swingler on the day of Book Dash, held at the City of Cape Town Central Library:
Three titles of the original ten books submitted on Book Dash day were selected for printing and distribution. A Fish and a Gift by Liesl Jobson, Jesse Breytenbach and Andy Thesen; Come Back, Cat! by Karen Lilje, Nicola Rijsdijk and Sam Scarborough was translated into Afrikaans by Maya Fowler as Kom Terug, Kat!; and Sleepy Mr Sloth was created by Paul Kennedy, Nick Mulgrew and Graham Paterson. Anybody may download the source and PDF files for children needing books.
Authors Liesl Jobson and Paul Kennedy assisted the Book Dash trio with the handout at the Educare Centre. On arriving the team was greeted by strains of The Wheels on the Bus and You Are My Sunshine. The children watched with quite some bemusement as box-carrying grownups passed their music ring and then set up stacks of books on tables in the hall. Soon enough the excitement grew as they queued for their books, then received them with their names inscribed. After tea and buns and a farewell song, the day’s programme resumed. Story time will never be the same again.
Despite their phenomenal intellectual capacity, multiple degrees and highly literary pedigree, the team of Attwell, Matthews and Anderson are softly spoken and unassuming face to face. In a focused, pragmatic and determined fashion they are quietly getting on with making a significant difference to the future of the children of South Africa. They are also seeking sponsorship. What better way of honouring the legacy of Nelson Mandela?
Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from both events using the hashtag #BookDash
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Alert! The Mail & Guardian have released their annual list of 200 Young South Africans celebrating people under the age of 35 who are excelling in their respective fields.
This year’s list features three authors who published their debut novels in the last year. Marli Roode, author of Call It Dog, and Charlie Human, author of Apocalypse Now Now, are both featured in the Arts and Culture category, while Al Jazeera journalist Imran Garda, author of The Thunder That Roars, is listed in the Film and Media category.
Roode’s debut was shortlisted for the 2013 Dylan Thomas Prize and she is in the process of finishing her second novel, Subject, Object:
Writer Marli Roode has almost finished her second novel, is working on a collection of poetry and is contemplating tackling a screenplay for her next project.
Her debut novel, Call It Dog, was shortlisted for the international Dylan Thomas Prize in 2013, and saw the UK’s Guardian describe her as “an astute and unusually gifted observer”.
Kill Baxter, the sequel to Human’s debut has already been published in the UK to positive reviews and will be out in South Africa shortly. Human has been included for being a “standout voice in South African speculative fiction”:
Author Charlie Human has been internationally recognised as a standout voice in South African speculative fiction since the release last year of his debut title, Apocalypse Now Now, bringing a much-needed flavour of braaivleis and table-shaped mountains to the literary scene.
He’s a down to earth soul who finds it a real honour to be a part of the speculative fiction community as it gains momentum across the country.
“I like to consider myself an observer, a chronicler, someone who explores the craziness of this world, but also someone who questions what is taken for granted,” Garda says. He has gone from a Supersport journalist to senior presenter and senior producer at a digital start-up specialising in mobile content:
Imran Garda has gone places. He began his career as a journalist in 2002 at the age of 20 at Supersport, where he worked as a presenter and reporter, covering mainly cricket and soccer.
Four years later, when international television news network Al Jazeera decided to launch an English channel, Garda was one of the first South Africans summoned to join them in Doha as a sports journalist with the flexibility to do news.
The Mail & Guardian have tweeted a QR code for the tablet app showcasing the list:
Images courtesy City Press and Random Struik
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Alert! The full programme for Jenny Crwys-Williams’ The Bloody Book Week 2014 has been released. The three day event, which celebrates crime fiction and non-fiction books on crime, will be held from Wednesday 6 August to Saturday 9 August at 22 venues throughout Johannesburg.
British crime fiction writer Peter James was set to attend last year but had to pull out after a car accident, so he will be attending this year instead. He is joining an impressive line-up of local crime authors including Deon Meyer, Amanda Coetzee, CM Elliott, Jacques Steenkamp, David Klatzow, Katy Katopodis and Jo-Anne Richards. Journalists Mandy Wiener, Alex Eliseev and Barry Bateman will be discussing their forthcoming true crime books.
As well as a selection of fascinating talks, including one with Glynis Breytenbach and Mandy Wiener discussing the National Prosecuting Authority, there will be a number of interactive events, including the return of the popular “Murder on the Gautrain”, “The Bloody Book Week Masterclass” and a crime-themed music and food evening.
Read more about the festival and view the full programme below:
Africa’s only crime book festival is celebrating its fifth year, with super stars Peter James, Deon Meyer and many others jetting into Joburg to celebrate one of the hottest book genres around between the 6th August.
It’s been estimated that up to a quarter of all books published in the English language have crime at their heart.
Twenty two different venues across Joburg (including the Gautrain) will host the writers and audiences. These range from small bookshops to auditoriums, from coffee shops to swish restaurants, as a variety of experiences are brought before the audiences. We have included lunchtime bookreadings by the authors at Exclusive Books.
Some of the events are participatory – Murder on the Gautrain, The Bloody Book Week Masterclass with tuition coming from Peter James, Deon Meyer and Amanda Coetzee, as well as Great South African Crimes with Sean Brokensha, The Music Guru, setting crimes to music, and foodie Anna Trapido feeding the audience with the ‘last meals’, and so much more.
Discussions take place at the GIBS Auditorium (Peter James and Deon Meyer looking at their anti-heroes Bennie Griessel and Roy Grace) and Mandy Wiener, Glynnis Breytenbach and others asking: Can the NPA be rescued? With sponsorship from Bentley, Porcupine Ridge, 54 on Bath, Exclusive Books and many others, the Bloody Book Week web site is the portal for information and bookings (www.thebloodybookweek.co.za)
Founded by Talk Show host and avid crime book reader Jenny Crwys-Williams over five years ago, its precursor was Fright Night where the cream of South African crime writing gathered for a night of great writing, conversation and books. The scope has broadened with local crime writers rubbing shoulders with some of the best crime writers – fiction and non-fiction – in the world.
Previous superstars we featured included Peter Robinson, Jeffrey Deaver, John Connolly, Stuart MacBride, Mark Gimenez and many others. International crime writer Peter James (14 million copies sold) is joined by local writers Deon Meyer, Amanda Coetzee, Penny Lorimer, CM Elliott, Dr David Klatzow, Mandy Wiener & Barry Bateman, Alex Eliseev, Paul O’Sullivan, and guests such as Glynnis Breytenbach, Ray White, Sue Grant- Marshall, Katy Katopodis, Gia Nicolaides, Sean Brokensha and Anna Trapido. Jo-Anne Richards and Richard Beynon of All About Writing are managing our Bloody Book Masterclass.
Bloody Book Week 2014
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Image courtesy The Bloody Book Week
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