Thursday 28 February 2013

"Dyed Thoughts" by Nwachukwu Egbunike

@omotayome for Twitter

“We are a people with no sense of history. Either that we choose to forget or that we have selective amnesia” - What Happened to Abacha’s Vision 2010? (pg. 81)

Dyed Thoughts is a collection of essays collected into a single book. Nwachukwu delivers memories of our consequent forgone pasts. Forgetfulness is a Nigerian antidote to piled-up decades of sufferings. How piteous! This book attempts so many things in one. Moreover, it endeavours a merger between the real world and the cyberspace. There is always a clear struggle between the upwardly mobile adopter and laggard receiver of the internet. With Dyed Thoughts, these two worlds are married, bringing into a paperback numerous essays of past print and online publications. Again, the internet has another shared victory. Indeed, this book is partly a testament to the internet inspired way of writing: the internet is breeding an army of daring writers.

“It really started as a joke: Patrick Enahalo proposed the idea that I start a blog. I really did and not take it initially, thinking that it will only serve as an avenue to massage my ego. However….he made me see it as a good opportunity of expressing my thoughts…and since then it has been writing nonstop.”  -  E Se Baba! (pg. 55)
In an effortful medley of several articles (past blogposts, print essays, previously unpublished write-ups), history is shoved to your face. And you suddenly wonder if what you have been tagging change has not been the effect of your traumatized delusional memories. Frankly, nothing is changing much, if not at all. All we have are hypocritical vagary of shoddy actions mocking us. Nigeria is a typical instance at that, Dyed Thoughts’ abundant pieces aptly informs us so.

“In Nigeria each household is its own municipal council. The success of this council depends on its ability to provide and maintain basic utilities. My municipality has been very efficient; we supply power (with a generator), water (through a borehole), security (with vigilante groups), and refuse disposal (with a waste contractor)” - Power Play (pg. 43)
For anyone who yearns for closure on our current sordid state, Dyed Thoughts is a comprehensive archive. Schools should have this book added to their libraries, it is a grounded material for further research. Dyed Thoughts prepares itself as much with well cited sources and a rich index. In reading this collection of essays, memories will come rushing over and the furies will be much. You will anew lament over long-decayed destines and your emotional strength will be quickly spent. Nwachukwu's nonfiction cleverly arranges our past woes to portray where we presently stand.

History is copiously packed in this book. There are loads of issues in it. You simply get the feel of the confusions this writer suffers as a Nigerian. He does not spare out an issue. In just a book of over three-hundred leaves, it would seem you have walked through this nebulous jumbled up country bound by seeming unity. But this is Nigeria, it easily can overwhelm even the best storyteller; the creative archaeologist; the astute historian. Nigeria is a massive rottenness, in telling her stories, brevity is game.

In this book, however, brevity fails Nwachukwu and the book is gravely affected. See why Nigeria may be overwhelming? Even in the words to describe her, you are manacled to your own retelling, convulsing from numerous reliving. Nwachukwu should have primed this book up some bits and spare us the boredom of going through the usual in a tediously stacked way. Everybody knows the usual: Nigeria is a failed state; there is no constant power; maladministration is rife; resources are being purloined. So what? We need a breather. The usual can only be appreciated when it is told in new wittier ways. These, just a few from a host of them, are not enough,  they are rather clichéd and trite:

The N628 million scam cries for justice. It is also a matter of public opinion because the people involved are public officials who had sworn to uphold the collective trust and not bring their office to disrepute. - Justice First and Later Mercy! (pg. 9)
Nothing seems to work here. The government whose primary responsibility should have been to provide the enabling environment for the blossoming of talents is unfortunately engulfed in corruption- Hope for a Troubled Land (pg. 16)
“Anambra elections have generated so much tension and trepidationElections in Nigeria have never been easy. Things have so degenerated that with each passing poll, the violence and godfatherism had risen to an idolatry pitch.” And the Winner is: Peter Obi (pg. 85)
Considering that some of the articles compiled in this book were written formerly for blogs and the print media, it would suffice if more creative editing had been done to fine tune the writings for current reading. Without that, what one has are only stacks of monotonous articles for the flexible media and the rigid writings associated with the print journalism. In that regard, the book bores. Dyed Thoughts regrettably lacks the literary strength for interesting reading. This book should never have been published this way; this is the opinion I hold after numerous readings of Nwachukwu’s book. Or maybe, what that opinion alternatively means is that the book was rushed over, with so many undesirable issues throttling it. Issues like lumpy mix of pieces, clichéd essays and dull language use. Many pieces in this book should be taken back to the press, stripped off its jagged wordiness and polished for more literary grace. The rich materials in this book are worth the rework. Nwachukwu’s book critically shows, in the space of some far and near recent years, the country’s ills, her nemesis and struggles. It shouldn’t be killed by textual ineptness.

Believe this: this book is hotly brimming with matters. With nine sections and over one hundred pieces, conversations are never lacking on any issue that may have spurred news within the period the pieces were written. From mundane chitchats, political discourses, intelligible rants, to foreign concerns subtly affecting the country; words are not miserly. Dyed Thoughts is a priced researcher’s tool. This book is deep and its thoughts many too. Nothing is spared.

Friday 15 February 2013

“Nothing Comes Close” by Tolulope Popoola

@omotayome for Twitter

In romance books, you already know what will happen: a guy meets a lady, the lady is swept off the ground, they both surmount obstacles and the ring comes, they wed. But we keep reading them anyway. We even binge on them. Something, however, is true; romance is a revolving genre. It spins around every pain we pass through; the intrapersonal and interpersonal woes that we daily confront. In that regard, romance is a psychological genre, it deeply relates with our minds.

Tolulope’s Nothing Comes Close is nothing short of the aforementioned. While the plot may be so typical of the romance genre, it delves into the psyche of the reader and his emotion is left unbidden. I love this book for that. Alternatively, I may say the genre is good at communicating more with the inner-human person and I may still be right. Every day we fall in love, in sustaining the love, we battle confrontations and in facing them, we become who we presently are. Now, never say a Romance novel is stereotypical, even the stereotypical is life. Every day, it is a fact, you eat. Call that usual, hate it, starve yourself and die altogether.

Nothing Comes Close flexibly narrates love with the complex mishmashes of life as its characters battle different torments. It is in the battling that the reader is hooked to the book. He suddenly sees his life in scattered shards in the characters’. In Lola; you will be the lady thrashing around to be loved, hurting with every move. When you are Maureen; your life will be free, you will set your own rules, abide by them, damn cautions but will eternally succumb all the same. Becoming Titi might be desperate as you will many times condition yourself to emotional upheavals, believing only what you will and forsaking others’ because you just must love. Be Temmy if you can, however, finding love might be hard but your last story will pay off. About seeing yourself as Funmi, conjugal bliss might smile on you, but what of your Wole’s crush? When you become Wole, you are the book and the readers must follow you; your pasts, evils and love alike.

In Nothing Comes Close, love twirls everything, leaving in its wake disgusts, pains, hurts and fulfillments as the chapters in the books are skillfully divided between Lola’s and Wole’s point-of-views.

“Nothing Comes Close” Slips

No single book, certainly, can be the total representation of a thing. This is why everybody must write, we must always write. From the incessant facebook statuses, the micro and long blogposts to the twitter short words, technology is fast filling the gap, breaking single opinions and offering various and equally important sub-thoughts. There is a snag to the depiction of what attracts women to men in this book and that does not sit well with me. Admittedly, I do not hold the right to say this is how things should be written about, that could only be prejudicial. But most importantly, I must demand originality when things are cobbled together to maintain fake pristineness or continue a tradition of lazy make-belief. And this is my case:

“I turned and looked properly. A tingle travelled up and down my spine. Indeed the taller of the two guys were handsome. Not only his face or his very athletic body but the way he carried himself when he walked. I wanted to stand and stare at him. It had been ages since somebody had that effect on me… ” (pg. 10)

Now, that is a cheap description. That alone stands for the manner we have always had to pander to stilted portrayal. You really want to question the inventiveness of that excerpt, the first crushing encounter Lola had with Wole. And the more you do that, the deeper your frustration goes: Must Wole have to be tall to be handsome? If he hadn’t been tall, will Lola have been thrilled by his looks? Does the height advantage Wole has over the other single him out and make him more preferable of the two? What if both of them were tall, would Lola be emotionally confused as to whom to fall for? If they were both short in height, would they have failed her attention? It is these questions that call to certainty the fakeness of that excerpt. That place in the book and other few instances are only a prolonged tradition of the perfect person being the object of love; an overbeaten continuation of Loretta Chase’s, Jude Deveraux’s, LaVyrle Spencer’s material.

In months’ time, I will get a-three-pack fitness, nearing the minimum required four packs a prospective lover once demanded. And maybe then, I will be successful at love. But really, nobody should become an exact Wole for another Lola. One day too, I will catch my 5ft height. I am in my early twenties now but who says I cannot be taller. I really must become Wole to be loved. Nothing Come Close subtly advises me so, however ridiculous that is.

Not Too Good

“ ‘You know who Dimka was?’ {Wole}
‘No’ {Lola}
Oh, little children of nowadays. You know nothing about the history of Nigeria… We had a Head-of-State called Murtala Mohammed… He was killed mafia style… Dimka was one of the guys responsible. They were all caught and executed, but Dimka stayed longer than the others because he sang like a canary, giving the names of co-conspirators….” {Wole} (pg. 102-103)

That conversation between Wole and Lola is a weak attempt at revisiting that part of Nigeria’s history. It is a nice highlight of the Dimaka’s evils anyway. However, when Tolulope debases her Lola-character as not knowing who Dimka was, the attempt becomes, aside from being weak, misleading. Moreover, I am of the opinion that patriotism rarely reflect in our education curriculum as we go hugging everything Western and foreign, favouring them over what are ours. What especially comes out flat in that excerpt is the way the author chooses to do it. For goodness sake, Lola finishes her degree in Nigeria before migrating to London. So, how come during her University days, she never comes across the history relating to Dimka? True as that portrayal of Lola may fairly seem, it still comes across as a careless inclusion of Dimka’s history in the novel. It does not align with the character background of Lola.

Tolulope again fails in showing the parlance that goes between men playing basketball. She is not familiar with the sport, the reader can clearly see that. But a little research would have done the job. The following conversation is dull. I love basketball and I play it with friends, so I know Tolulope’s attempt at creating that environment in the book is simply a fobbing-off effort. Any basketball lover will know that.

“ ‘Slam Dunk!’
‘Great shots’ …
‘Someone is on fire today’. Mark grinned as he retrieved the ball. He was playing for the opposing team.
‘For sure!’ I called back” (pg. 11)

Get Nothing Comes Close, curl up in a chair and enjoy the beautiful fast-paced read. Tolulope’s simple yet elegant writing allures.