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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

World Cup Babelaas Beater: Gumede, Gevisser, Hafajee and Others Answer the Question, Did SA Win the World Cup?

FT Discussion

Feel it, it is gone! – and the nation, bereft of its glorious football World Cup, is a collective bubbling wreck.

BOOK SA is here to hold your hand. There’s life yet in the embers of the glory that was the soccer spectacular. All this week, we’ll feature World Cup babelaas beaters to rekindle the warmth and light your way through the five stages of grief, until you are whole again.

There’s no better place to start than at the Financial Times, which ran a lengthy interview with Ann Bernstein, William Gumede, Sanza Tshabalala, Mark Gevisser and Ferial Haffajee, who examined the overarching question, Did South Africa win the World Cup?

The Poverty of IdeasThabo MbekiThe Case for Business in Developing Economies

It was a peculiarly South African exercise. On a beautiful Johannesburg winter’s morning, five smart South Africans gathered around a kitchen table and, over coffee and pastries, talked about how the World Cup had changed their country.

We had been wrestling with many questions about the tournament and South Africa. All five were fiercely independent; no one had come to the table to spout the official view. First of all, was it worth it? After all, the World Cup has cost the country a lot of money. The bill for stadiums, roads and related transport infrastructure has exceeded R30bn (£2.56bn). And was the World Cup worth it in a more intangible sense? There has been a lot of talk of a new spirit of social cohesion in the “rainbow nation”. Even before the first ball or opposing player was kicked, Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, and Danny Jordaan, who runs the local organising committee, had drawn comparisons with other “rainbow moments” of national togetherness. Nelson Mandela’s release from jail in 1990, for instance, or the day in 1995 when President Mandela handed the Rugby World Cup to the captain of the Springboks, a team beloved of Afrikaners.

Image courtesy the FT

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Book Excerpt: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

A no-brainer this week. David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet has burst on to the world lit scene, attracting raves from dozens of reviewers, including Kasia Boddy at The Telegraph and Dave Eggers at The New York Times. The latter newspaper also provides an excerpt:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De ZoetEvening of July 20, 1799

“How else,” demands Daniel Snitker, “is a man to earn just reward for the daily humiliations we suffer from those slit-eyed leeches? ‘The unpaid servant,’ say the Spanish, ‘has the right to pay himself,’ and for once, damn me, the Spanish are right. Why so certain there’ll still be a company to pay us in five years’ time? Amsterdam is on its knees; our shipyards are idle; our manufactories silent; our granaries plundered; The Hague is a stage of prancing marionettes tweaked by Paris; Prussian jackals and Austrian wolves laugh at our borders: and Jesus in heaven, since the bird- shoot at Kamperduin we are left a maritime nation with no navy. The British seized the Cape, Coromandel, and Ceylon without so much as a kiss-my-arse, and that Java itself is their next fattened Christmas goose is plain as day! Without neutral bottoms like this”-he curls his lip at Captain Lacy-”Yankee, Batavia would starve. In such times, Vorstenbosch, a man’s sole insurance is salable goods in the warehouse.Why else, for God’s sake, are you here?”

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Stoffel Cilliers resenseer Die Onbekendes deur Francois Bloemhof

Die OnbekendesUitspraak: wortel

MET sy jongste roman kom die veelsydige en produktiewe Bloemhof vorendag met wat maar selde aangetref word: ’n stilistiese spanningsverhaal.

Want waar ander rillerskrywers gewoonlik spanning bewerkstellig deur kleurryke karakters of ’n knap intrige, doen dié verbeeldingryke skrywer dit hier deurgaans deur oorspronklike segging in die algemeen en uitmuntende woordkeuse in die besonder.

Dit is dus die meesleurende styl, meer nog as selfs die interessante gebeure en deeglike karakterbeelding, wat dit ’n boek maak wat die leser nie wíl neersit nie.


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Hands On The iPad: A Special Report by Mandy J Watson

While I waited (in fact, I’m still waiting) for an iPad review unit to be sent to me that was promised by a third-party retailer months ago, Ben kindly offered to let me try out the BOOK SA iPad. I had seen iPads in passing before, being lovingly stroked by tech journalists who had access to some of the first units to arrive in the country (still unofficially, by the way – the “official” local release date is still up in the air). However standing and watching someone else be enthralled by the device doesn’t come close to experiencing it for yourself.

I spent a few hours with the iPad trying to absorb as much as possible. For this article I’m primarily focussing on aspects of interest to people who read or write rather than other functions such as e-mail integration, the larger web browsing experience, or multimedia applications. I will do my best to describe the experience, rather than the technology, to help you decide if this device might be for you.

Keyboard And Input
The keyboard is not like anything you have experienced before. The screen supports multitouch functionality, which means that it can differentiate between, interpret, and process more than one point being touched at the same time. I’m not a particularly fast typer but I’m not a hunt-and-peck typist either and the iPad kept up with me when I typed in the same way as I would on a traditional keyboard. This was one of the most unexpected – and welcome – features. However, the tactile and sensory experiences (or lack thereof) took some getting used to as you’re just tapping away at the flat screen – there is no key clicking noise or movement; in fact it feels exactly the same as if you were to pretend to type on a glass table.

The keyboard is also context sensitive, so some of the keys will change depending on what program you’re in. For example, there’s a “.com” key in the browser and the Enter/Return key is called “Go” whereas in iBooks the Enter/Return key is labelled “Search” if you’re performing a text search.

Navigation and other control functions that don’t require keyboard input are handled quite easily with finger swipes and tapping, much like on an iPhone. It’s intuitive and you’ll figure out what to do quite easily – one of the iPad’s biggest selling points, and why it’s already so successful, is that it’s easy to use and completely uncomplicated.

Orientation And Display
There is no such thing as “right way up” with this device – there is only landscape and portrait orientation and whatever you are more comfortable using. Most apps, including e-readers, e-mail, and web browsers, support either and only a few that require a specific orientation can’t be flipped. The flipping was very fast and smooth.

The resolution (the number of pixels wide by the number of pixels long) is 1024×768 in landscape (or 768×1024 for portrait), which is a standard that the majority of web sites (should) conform to. I checked out my site,, on the iPad and the experience was amazing. I built it specifically to fit a 1024-pixel width so everything flowed and fitted well and the quality of the screen made the text and images appear more vibrant than on a traditional monitor.

I tried a few other sites as well and even those that weren’t built to fit well at 1024 pixel still looked better than on your average computer screen, due to the higher quality display of the iPad.

Eye Strain And Ergonomics
I don’t suffer from any particular eye maladies so I can’t speak for those who do, but I used the iPad for four to five hours and suffered no ill effects or tiredness. I’d have to test it for longer to see if I might experience any problems but I think I am personally unlikely to because I spend all day starting at lower-quality screens with no adverse effects (so far). I tested the device inside, however, and not outside in sunlight, so I don’t know how that might affect one’s experience.

Ergonomically, desk placement is probably the iPad’s biggest problem. It’s basically a giant iPhone so the back is smooth and flat. If you place it on a desk you end up hunched over it because, of course, you don’t flip up the screen as with a traditional laptop, so a desk device that can elevate it is recommended if you intend to use it for long periods of time and don’t want to hold it, although that would make typing awkward. The alternative for typing would either be to rest it on your lap or cradle it with one arm while tap-typing with your free hand, which I expect will eventually lead to cramps in your arm.

When you wish to read, however, the tablet design makes it an ideal device to use in an environment away from a desk, such as while sitting in a comfortable lounge chair, or outside under a sun umbrella at the pool, or beneath a tree.

iBooks And iBookstore
BOOK SA’s iPad is linked to a US account so it has the full functionality of what is available to that market, rather than the more insipid offering open to South Africans. iBookstore is similar to the iTunes App Store and the iPad, of course, also supports apps. You can browse bestsellers or search for authors or titles, and then often download sample chapters or purchase a book via the familiar log-in-and-pay procedure. Books that are free or whose copyright has expired are also acquired via the “buying” process, you just don’t pay anything for them. Once you’ve requested sample chapters or bought a book it appears on your iBooks “bookshelf”, and from there you can select a title and read it.

iBooks is a well thought out piece of software. In portrait mode it will present one page at a time (which feels like a web page); in landscape mode it will present two side by side (which feels more like a book). You have controls to adjust screen brightness, font size, and font face. If you change any of the font settings the app will reflow the book without losing your place and if you close the app it will automatically remember where you are for the next time that you open it.

Getting around a publication is a different kind of experience. The page numbers and progress (for example “76 of 281″) are listed at the bottom of the screen. You can turn pages by touching at the corner and dragging upwards to “flip” them across and you can also scroll through a book’s chapters with a swipe of your finger on the dotted bar at the bottom of the page. A pop-up window will appear at each dot with chapter information.

There is also a search function (the keyboard will pop up for you to enter a term), which will list all the instances of your search term in the book in a pop-up window. If you touch a word on the screen you will be presented with your choice of a pop-up dictionary definition, a search box, or the ability to bookmark at that spot. Touching and dragging allows you to select text. To make it easier the area that you are touching will be magnified above it in a pop-up window to help you select with more precision. Similar functionality is available in the web browser to aid you in selecting text from a web page.

The entire control process is easy to master and surprisingly not frustrating, though the text-selection process can still be a bit fiddly. It is a bit strange, however, not being able to flip through an e-book in the very physical manner is which you would flip through a printed book. I’m not sure that that’s something to which I will ever quite adjust.

Kindle App, E-Books, And Multimedia Publications
Amazon, realising that dedicated e-reader devices are becoming obsolete, has slowly been making the Kindle available for other devices, such as Windows and Mac OS computers, the iPhone, and the iPad, in the process transforming the Kindle from a hardware device to a software service. The iPad version presents similar functionality to iBooks but there’s a certain flair to the interface – and your interaction with it – that’s missing. However, if you’ve invested in a Kindle and its e-books and are now thinking of switching to an iPad, you won’t have wasted all that money.

A number of US newspapers and magazines have developed apps for the iPad, some complete with embedded ads, which results in a hybrid between traditional newsprint/magazine publishing and electronic print works. Once again the quality of the screen makes a huge difference. Photographs are rendered in high-resolution colour and some publications allow you to zoom in to see detail – National Geographic is a wondrous experience in this regard (though I still prefer the print edition). Although I didn’t see an example during testing some publications are taking advantage of the fact that the iPad is a multimedia device and are experimenting with the possibilities that this presents, such as embedded video and interactivity. You can imagine what this might do for travel blogging, nature and science reporting, infographics, and even photographic essays.

Battery Life
The biggest surprise to me was the battery life. I was immensely sceptical about the claims (based on years of product testing and the manufacturer lies that come with devices), especially because a screen is usually the biggest consumer of energy and the iPad isn’t much more than a giant screen with a processor behind hit. During the roughly five-hour period that I used the iPad (much of it on the Internet, using Wi-Fi, which is another big battery drainer) the battery drained at about 10% per hour, which means that for normal use you will probably have 10 to 11 hours of charge available to you.

For perspective, the average netbook has either 1.5 to three hours or 4.5 to six hours, depending on the battery type. The iPad’s 10 or more hours allows you to read throughout the duration of a long-haul flight, or utilise Google Maps for navigation on a day trip/touristy wander on foot in a foreign city, without the fear of running out of power.

Final Thoughts
My feelings regarding the iPad, after testing it, were quite a surprise. Although I’ve done my best to describe the experience you cannot understand what it is like until you have a device in your own hands. Other opinions may differ but I don’t see it as a device that will replace technologies and hardware that I already use. Rather, it would augment certain things I do; for example I spend a lot of time reading on the Web and the iPad would be a much better, higher quality, and more comfortable platform from which to do this. There are certain things that the iPad does so well that you begin to think of brand-new uses for it that would fulfill a need that you may not have had before – and, remember, this is the first version of the device: Apple usually only hits its stride around the third version. This makes the possibilities for the future even more intriguing and enticing.

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Christopher Merrett Reviews Debunking Delusions: The Inside Story of the Treatment Action Campaign by Nathan Geffen

Debunking Delusions: The Inside Story of the Treatment Action CampaignVerdict: carrot

IN the early nineties, HIV/Aids in South Africa was a manageable problem mainly confined to a ­distinct sector of the population. Crucially, only one pregnant woman in a hundred was HIV positive; yet ten years later the pandemic had become a national disaster. The reasons for this are complex, bizarrely illustrated by the demented belief of a former KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health that the virus was created as an act of bioterrorism.

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Jaco Jacobs resenseer Witboy in Afrika: Reise in die donker kontinent deur Deon Maas

Witboy in Afrika: Reise in die donker kontinentUitspraak: wortel

AS ek die slag reisverhale lees, is dit met min of meer dieselfde ingesteldheid as wat ek Stephen King lees: diepe dankbaarheid dat alles in die boek met iemand anders gebeur het. Maar selfs vir ’n geswore huishaan en uiters gewillige bestuurder van Jan Tuisbly se karretjie soos hierdie leser is Deon Maas se versameling reisvertellings ’n heerlike leeservaring.

Minstens ’n deel van die lekkerte, moet ’n mens erken, kom uit ’n soort schadenfreude.

Die situasie op Lagos se Murtalla Mohammed-lughawe met een van Maas se eerste besoeke aan Nigerië, klink byvoorbeeld na niks minder as ’n nagmerrie nie: “Anders as in ander lande sit die doeanemense hier op ’n verhoog. Wanneer jy jou paspoort oorhandig, kyk die amptenare af op jou. Voor die verhogie is daar ’n streep. Jy mag nie oor die streep trap nie, jy moet oorleun om jou paspoort te oorhandig. As jou voet oor die streep trap, word jy teruggestuur om alles van vooraf [sic] te doen.” (bl. 93)


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Wium van Zyl resenseer Oom Kootjie Emmer deur André Brink

Oom Kootjie EmmerUitspraak: wortel

Een, nee twéé skrikbeelde, het opeens voor my opgedoem by die lees van die nuwe heruitgawe van André P. Brink se Oom Kootjie Emmer. Die eerste is ’n Afrikaanse letterkunde sonder die feno meen Brink.
Op ’n binneblad word die titels van sy 22 romans genoem. Maar dan is daar natuurlik nog sy dramas, reisboeke, literêr-kritiese werk en ’n skat van vertalings. ’n Breë publiek het hy seker die meeste vermaak (en lering!) deur sy humoristiese werk besorg.


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Book Excerpt: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Zoo Girl, Lauren Beukes

BOOK SA is excited to bring you the first-in-SA excerpt from what is certainly the SA Lit book of the moment: Lauren Beukes‘s much-awaited Zoo City.

In the following passage, taken from chapter one, we are introduced to Zinzi, the already-famous girl with a Sloth on her back, and Benoit, whose misdeeds have earned him a Mongoose. Fans, you’ve been waiting for it!

* * * * * * * *

Zoo City

In Zoo City, it’s impolite to ask.

Morning light the sulphur colour of the mine dumps seeps across Johannesburg’s skyline and sears through my window. My own personal bat signal. Or a reminder that I really need to get curtains.

Shielding my eyes – morning has broken and there’s no picking up the pieces – I yank back the sheet and peel out of bed. Benoit doesn’t so much as stir, with only his calloused feet sticking out from under the duvet like knots of driftwood. Feet like that, they tell a story. They say he walked all the way from Kinshasa with his Mongoose strapped to his chest.

The Mongoose in question is curled up like a furry comma on my laptop, the glow of the LED throbbing under his nose. Like he doesn’t know that my computer is out of bounds. Let’s just say I’m precious about my work. Let’s just say it’s not entirely legal.

I take hold of the laptop on either side and gently tilt it over the edge of my desk. At thirty degrees, the Mongoose starts sliding down the front of the laptop. He wakes with a start, tiki tavi claws scrabbling for purchase. As he starts to fall, he contorts in the air and manages to land feet first. Hunching his stripey shoulders, he hisses at me, teeth bared. I hiss back. The Mongoose realises he has urgent fleabites to attend to.

Leaving the Mongoose to scrolf at its flank, I duck under one of the loops of rope hanging from the ceiling, the closest I can get to providing authentic Amazon jungle vines, and pad over the rotten linoleum to the cupboard. Calling it a cupboard is a tad optimistic, like calling this dank room with its precariously canted floor and intermittent plumbing an apartment is optimistic. The cupboard is not much more than an open box with a piece of fabric pinned across it to keep the dust off my clothes – and Sloth, of course. As I pull back the gaudy sunflower print, Sloth blinks up at me sleepily from his roost, like a misshapen fur coat between the wire hangers. He’s not good at mornings.

There’s a mossy reek that clings to his fur and his claws, but it’s earthy and clean compared to the choke of stewing garbage and black mould floating up the stairwell. Elysium Heights was condemned years ago.

I reach past him to pull out a vintage navy dress with a white collar, match it up with jeans and slops, and finish off with a lime green scarf over the little dreadlock twists that conveniently hide the mangled wreckage of my left ear – let’s call it Grace Kelly does Sailor Moon. This is not so much a comment on my style as a comment on my budget. I was always more of an outrageously expensive indie boutique kinda girl. But that was FL. Former Life.

‘Come on, buddy,’ I say to Sloth. ‘Don’t want to keep the clients waiting.’ Sloth gives a sharp sneeze of disapproval and extends his long downy arms. He clambers onto my back, fussing and shifting before he finally settles. I used to get impatient. But this has become old routine for the pair of us.

It’s because I haven’t had my caffeine fix yet that it takes a little while for the repetitive skritching sound to penetrate – the Mongoose is pawing at the front door with a single-minded devotion.

I oblige, shunting back the double deadbolt and clicking open the padlock which is engraved with magic, supposedly designed to keep out those with a shavi for slipping through locked doors. At the first crack, the Mongoose nudges out between my ankles and trots down the passage towards the communal litter tray. It’s easy to find. It’s the smelliest place in the building.

‘You should really get a cat-flap.’ Benoit is awake at last, propped up on one elbow, squinting at me from under the shade of his fingers, because the glare bouncing off Ponte tower has shifted across to his side of the bed.

‘Why?’ I say, propping the door open with my foot for the Mongoose’s imminent return. ‘You moving in?’

‘Is that an invitation?’

‘Don’t get comfortable, is all I’m saying.’

‘Ah, but is that all you’re saying?’

‘And don’t get smart either.’

‘Don’t worry, cherie na ngayi. Your bed is far too lumpy to get comfortable.’ Benoit stretches lazily, revealing the mapwork of scars over his shoulders, the plasticky burned skin that runs down his throat and his chest. ‘You making breakfast?’ He only ever calls me ‘my love’ in Lingala, which makes it easier to disregard.

‘Deliveries,’ I shrug.

‘Anything interesting today?’ He loves hearing about the things people lose.

‘Set of keys. The widow ring.’

‘Ah, yes. The crazy lady.’

‘Mrs Luditsky.’

‘That’s right,’ Benoit says, and repeats himself: ‘Crazy lady.’

‘Hustle, my friend. I have to get going.’

Benoit pulls a face. ‘It’s so early.’

‘I’m not kidding.’

‘All right, all right.’ He uncocoons himself from the bed, plucks his jeans from the floor and yanks on an old protest t-shirt inherited from Central Methodist’s clothing drive.

I fish Mrs Luditsky’s ring out of the plastic cup of Jik it’s been soaking in overnight to get rid of the clinging eau de drain, and rinse it under a sputtering tap. Platinum with a constellation of sapphires and a narrow grey band running through the centre, only slightly scratched. Even with Sloth’s help, it took three hours to find the damn thing.

As soon as I touch it, I feel the tug – the connection running away from me like a thread, stronger when I focus on it. Sloth tightens his grip on my shoulder, his claws digging into my collarbone.

‘Easy, tiger,’ I wince. Maybe it would have been easier to have a tiger. As if any of us gets a choice.

Benoit is already dressed, the Mongoose looping impatient figure eights around his ankles.

‘See you later, then?’ he says, as I shoo him out the door.

‘Maybe.’ I smile in spite of myself. But when he moves to kiss me, Sloth bats him away with a proprietary arm.

‘I don’t know who is worse.’ Benoit complains, ducking. ‘You or that monkey.’

‘Definitely me,’ I say, locking the door behind him.

The blackened walls of Elysium Heights’ stairwell still carries a whiff of the Undertow, like polyester burning in a microwave. The stairway is mummified in yellow police tape and a charm against evidence-tampering, as if the cops are ever going to come back and investigate. A dead zoo in Zoo City is low priority even on a good day. Most of the residents have been forced to use the fire-escape to bypass this floor. But there are faster ways to the ground. I have a talent not just for finding lost things, but shortcuts too.

I duck into number 615, abandoned ever since the fire tore through here, and scramble down through the hole in the floor that drops into 526, which has been gutted by scrap rats who ripped out the floorboards, the pipes, the fittings – anything that could be sold for a hit.

Speaking of which, there is a junkie passed out in the doorway, some dirty furry thing nested against his chest, breathing fast and shallow. My slops crunch on the brittle glitter of a broken light-bulb as I step over him. In my day we smoked crack, or mandrax if you were really trashy. I cross over the walkway that connects to Aurum Place and a functional staircase. Or not so functional. The moment I swing open the double doors to the stairwell and utter darkness, it becomes obvious where the junkie got the bulb.

‘Well, isn’t this romantic.’

Sloth grunts in response.

‘Yeah, you say that now, but remember, I’m taking you with me if I fall,’ I say, stepping into the darkness.

Sloth drives me like a Zinzi-motorbike, his claws clenching, left, right, down, down, down for two storeys to where the bulbs are still intact. It won’t be long until they too find a new life as tik pipes, but isn’t that the way of the slums? Even the stuff that’s nailed down gets repurposed.

After the claustrophobia of the stairwell, it’s a relief to hit the street. It’s still relatively quiet this early in the morning. A municipality street cleaning truck chugs up ahead, blasting the tarmac with a sheet of water to wash away the transgressions of the night. One of the transgressions in question dances back to avoid being sprayed, nearly stepping on the scruffy Sparrow hopping around between her high heels.

Seeing me, she pulls her denim jacket closed over her naked breasts, too quickly for me to figure if they’re hormone-induced or magic. As we pass, I can feel the filmy cling of a dozen strands of lost things from the boygirl, like brushing against the tendrils of an anemone. I try not to look. But I pick up blurred impressions anyway, like an out-of-focus photograph. I get snatches of a gold cigarette case, or maybe it’s a business-card holder, a mostly empty plastic bankie of brown powder and a pair of sequinned red stilettos – real showgirl shoes, like Dorothy got back from Oz all grown up and turned burlesque stripper. Sloth tenses up automatically. I pat his arm.

‘None of our business, buddy.’

He’s too sensitive. The problem with my particular gift, curse, call it what you like, is that everybody’s lost something. Stepping out in public is like walking into a tangle of cat’s cradles, like someone dished out balls of string at the lunatic asylum and instructed the inmates to tie everything to everything else. On some people, the lost strings are cobwebs, inconsequential wisps that might blow away at any moment. On others, it’s like they’re dragging steel cables. Finding something is all about figuring out which string to tug on.

Some things lost can’t be found. Like youth say. Or innocence. Or, sorry Mrs Luditsky, property values once the slums start encroaching. Rings, on the other hand, that’s easy stuff. Also: lost keys, love letters, beloved toys, misplaced photographs and missing wills. I even found a lost room once. But I like to stick to the easy stuff, the little things. After all, the last thing of any consequence I found was a nasty drug habit. And look how that turned out.

* * * * * * * *

  • Zoo City is published by Jacana Media

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