A blog and an anthology

I spent the afternoon catching up with one month of blog entries I’d missed reading. Vivaldi was playing in the background, and after a while all I could feel was music flowing in through all my senses. I was reading Abdul-Walid.

His writing reminded me of my English course in my second year at NCJ, where “Things fall apart” was one of our texts. Our English teacher – I miss his name now – was in love with the book, and I cannot forget the manner in which he swooned over each African proverb he came across in the text while reading it to the class. Like a fan intoxicated by the poetry in the air at a kavi-sammelan, he would go “wah-wah” each time, leaving us in no doubt – whether we understood it or not – that we were in the presence of genius. It was only much later – long after the exams were gone and I no longer had to think of conjuring up half a page of text explaining the relevance of the novel’s title – that I really enjoyed the book. And somehow, I now tend to associate Abdul-Walid with the essence of African wisdom I carried out of that book.

He writes:

“The hippopotamus does not attempt to school the crocodile in the art of swimming.”

” There’s a debt to pleasure. At times, the payment plan is tolerable. “

The recent edition of The New Yorker featured three “debut-fiction” writers, one of them an Afro-American of Nigerian origin. When I first saw the photograph of the three authors, I instantly turned to the contributors page to learn more about the young black male in that photo. Could that be Abdul-Walid? I wondered. The first sentence was about his origin (Abdul-Walid is also from Nigeria!) but the next one dashed my hopes: this man was a Jesuit priest, and I cannot imagine Abdul-Walid leaning towards any institution, leave alone an orthodox church.

But I should have looked at the story first – the prose offered clues that could not be mistaken. It lacked the sharpness (acerbity?) and melody of an Abdul-Walid sentence; I also could not find much poetry in that prose.

* * * * *

The Harper’s collection of articles I picked up last month from the library is turning out to be a collector’s item. Spanning 150 years of the magazine, this eclectic collection contains host of well-known American authors. There’s a letter from E.B.White to Henry David Thoreau, two diary entries (one from Adam, one from Eve) by Mark Twain, a justification for having dropped the Atom bomb, an argument in favour of art for art’s sake by E.M.Forster and many others I haven’t yet read.

The chronological order gives the reader an idea of the major themes or ideas passing through each decade: for instance, the 1940’s section has many war related entries.

It’s going to keep me busy for months, which means I’ll have to purchase a copy.