Thursday 14 March 2013

“Excuse Me!” by Victor Ehikhamenor

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Of Humour, a Slip-on Shoe and Witches

Excuse Me!, I spend hours reading every day. The more I read, the more embattled I am. The more I am embattled, the more I hate overbeaten themes and plots. When you are a consistent book blogger, you suffer several headaches from reading junks by fame-seeking-and-instant-publishing-upcoming writers. Life is too short for such insignificant wahala. I already have problems of my own. Any breather will just do; a big relief I wouldn’t lose. “Excuse Me!” provided that opportunity.

Humour is a great gift in the face of nippy tribulation. Nigeria is presently a mess and we all are partly too. This book can’t have been timelier than now. We indeed need humour to ford the muddy water Nigerian is in. Honestly, you are missing out on a lot of humour if you have not, by some unlucky fate, read “Excuse Me!”. You really are. That may be a pointer that your life is being threatened by your village witches. And village witches are real, that’s no cheap stereotype. Take that from me. Take that from “Excuse Me!”, but don’t quote this:

“I was born…in a village full of gods” {witches} – (“Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned” pg. 20)
I had saved on getting a slip-on shoe before parting the money on “Excuse Me!”.  I am still angry though. However, “Excuse Me!” could really be a good substitute. But I will save again and get the shoe. I love books, I love shoes. I am no geek. Simple!

“Excuse Me!” creatively simplifies complex matters and the conscious manner this is done makes the very writing a rousing read. Wars are changing us. The troubles we carry around are ageing us. What makes all those bearable are spices of affective humour. “Excuse Me!” has got an overdose of that. You should read this book. If nothing spurs you to, at least, know you would be walloping your village witches for doing so. By reading this book, you would be triumphing over them; over their plans not to make you to. Remember I said village witches are real? But don’t tell them I said so.

Anger, Resignation and Language

Language is brought to magnificent use in this book. The words are all at once serenading and enthusing. “Excuse Me!” giddy word craft elevates simplicity with grace; the reading is light but the art in them refuses to tediously trundle. Words lively speak in this book, you will feel it. And suddenly, that will almost seem heavenly. Check out Lagos on a rainy day;

“When it rained in Lagos, it doesn’t pour. Broken sewers rise and things long forgotten resurrect in a fetid regatta. Dolls and dung float lazily in tar water. Men and women take turns in increasing the water level by pissing into stagnant waters… The only thing moving in the traffic is the incessant wiper blades clearing the tears off crying windscreens… Conductors’ lips are condensed, gripping tight unlit sodden cigarettes… Okada riders have no holiday as they submerge in broken drainages and emerge seasoned swimmers… Shoprite plastic bags take the place of helmets passengers holding dearly to nothingness. Move. Stop. Move. Stop. Between two to twenty the okada riders form a colony of vultures seeking dead carcasses in wetlands, happy that the hyenas, Nigeria police, don’t dampen their feast” (“When It Rains In Lagos” Pg. 150)

You read some other essays and the humour is lost, giving way to deep-seated anger and resignation. Not everything could be so taken lightly when reality bits, even Victor Ehikhamenor’s flair fails fun in this one. Nothing could be bleaker than this is;

 “Your child’s mouth is wide open. You wiggle to seek and give comfort. None seems available in the jam-packed metal scrap called molue you transit in. In this blurry journey, you seek food and future but nothing is within reach. The bus windows are broken for they can’t be rolled up, a situation akin to our GDP.”  (“A Blurry Journey” pg. 103)

Slouchy-Fading Generations: Hasty Conclusions

Highly unfitting is Victor’s imbalanced obsessiveness of the past over the present. Victor’s reminiscences are absorbing, you are easily drawn to them. Humour could be that deceptive, you swiftly flung your opinion as if you never really had one. When Victor writes in Love Letters, I was taken in by the memory. Memories of my exploit at the craft quickly flooded me. I am a veteran at love letter writing. Being born in the very early 90’s has its joys and pains. For the joys, you straddle the worlds before and after the internet. But the lines at which these two worlds blur into each other are your pains. There was a level of writing confidence that came with love letter writing then. I wrote many. Some never really made it to the recipients. Others got my palms blistered and kneecaps' skin bruised when nemesis overtook me. This was before mobile phones and its SMSes. I would still not know why I never scored an A in my O’level English paper. I will just take it that the exam marker never had the head for my dictions (as if that is the only thing needed to pass an English paper. Lol) I knew dictionary, friend. I was a walking one. Love Letter writing taught me good.

However, having gone through that world and still experiencing the presently cyber driven, I won’t easily accept Victor’s careless conclusion. His and many others of the fading generations always come out clumsily. Scorning the internet for the present days’ malaises is nothing near genuineness and that incenses me. Victor’s drive to quickly make rubbish of this internet age in Love Letters falls tiredly supine. It is just so lazy to be that hasty in linking what was obtainable then to the woes youths battle with now. The present system may have been corroded, but that is just the singleness of the total good internet has given to this age. Believe it, it really is. Excerpts like these below are rather frivolous:

“Unfortunately we no longer write love letters – this vital learning class  that helped raise future poets has given way to text messages (txt msgs), which is the biggest threat to the English Language as we know it.” (pg. 7)
It sounds ridiculous to think that text messaging singularly wrecked that evil. There is no conclusiveness as regard that.  So, when Victor haphazardly includes it there, I am disgusted. It is time somebody started talking about the creativity of words that came with this innovation too? Who will show how Text Messaging has also helped erase verbosity? Certainly, this will not be with the likes of Victor of the fast fading-slouchy generation.
And this too:

“A contemporary village girl would rather accept a txt msg with rchge crd than a well written love letter that can’t boast of one minute call credit” (pg. 7)
The above is another attempt to commonly bring many under a lazy speculative mirror. The thrill that comes with love SMSing overrides what Victor attached to the recharge card power. Many a lady would admire a guy’s pert SMSes over flimsy exhaustible recharge vouchers. But Victor’s single view wouldn’t accept that.

“When was the last time you wrote a love letter? No, I don’t mean those headless and tailless ones on Blackberry chat, Twitter flirts and other forms of instant messaging; those are like pissing in the wind.”  (pg. 3)
Only in Victor’s world are those (Tweets, BBMs, etc) seen as such. How piteous.

Victor never ceases to amuse me and he does hastily jumps again in Ever Jolly Valentine. It is a great worry when an over-contented memory-drunk elder speaks. In his world, everything is pristine and nothing of yours could stand up to his. He doesn’t want any other memory cleaning his out and so, he faithfully holds on to his, running down your own. Ever Jolly Valentine is very much akin to that attitude. Victor’s reliving and tail-end creative analogy is outstanding though. His messages are not rushed until they hit you at the very last paragraph, but that could come off as a dogma too, with Victor leaving you with little room to disagree. Narcissistic Romanticism so plagues many pieces in this book, so when Victor put it this way again in Ever Jolly Valentine, I wasn’t comfortable:

“Ekpoma still has the Ever Jolly Supermarket but it has lost its glamour (and the monopoly) it enjoyed back then. Ambrose Alli University has also lost its innocence. The place is filled with fakes now. Facebook and text messages have replaced the greeting cards that made Olu great. I shudder to imagine the Valentine Day celebrated there now and in many of our Federal run-down universities today.”  (“Ever Jolly Valentine” pg. 10)
The past may have been heavenly and the present hellish, but please save us that tired mantra. This present is different with its innovations in good ways. In the above excerpt, there is once again a subtle attack on the two mediums of Facebook and text messages. Victor will have to do better than making languid connection between what constitute morals and otherwise with the popular use of the new media. What does one call that attitude if not a blind glorification of the rustic past over this dynamic present?

Well, humour may easily buy Victor a pardon when he misses his points and come to marshy conclusions on many matters, but an observant mind wouldn’t when he goofs. I love this book, “Excuse Me!”.


  1. What I like about this review is that you weren't carried away by the humour. Humours have a way of cordoning people off from the reality of things. You also have made a point by justifying our internet-ed generation. I like that. However, both the past and the present have their plus-es.

    My saving for something dear is on its way to some bookshop's drawer because I can't wait to read the book too.

    Well done boss.

    1. Thank you so much, Ayo. Please do read the book too. Thank you.

  2. Joseph, your analytical mind is always balanced.

    When I grow up, I want to write brilliant reviews like yours.

    Keep at it my brother.

    1. Thank you so much, Abdalmasih. Your words have always been encouraging.

  3. Please how can I get this book. Hard copy