Monday, July 30, 2007

"upon reflection, a wave of rage came over me"

It's great when one's work carries emotional resonance over time. A Rian Malan profile, which was published by the now defunct Living Africa Magazine sometime in the last millenium, elicited rage from a person calling themselves Annesu in a post on LitNet.

"The part that incenses me, is where James Whyle says the “kids”, of all people, should be reading Malan's eloquent testimonies of South Africans undoing one another.."

I said, scholars, Annesu. I said the book should be on the syllabus. And I'd be careful of Huck Finn, if I were you. Those be deep waters. You won't want your offspring thinking too much about your American neighbours. Best stick with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Getting Your Baby Out There

Writing a book on spec is very different from commissioned work because there is no feedback. You’re out there on your own. But there are two sites I’ve discovered that address the problem.

Litopia is run by literary agent, Peter Cox of Redhammer Management Ltd. You send a writing sample to Litopia, and, if the moderators like your work, you get to join the site. You do some crits of other people’s work, post your own, and start assimilating the response . Litopia is at present rejigging a system whereby your work can rise through the slushpile and get pitched to The Agent himself. It has the advantage of fostering long-term relationships between writers who can get thoroughly familiar with each others aims and ambitions.

YouWriteOn is backed by the British Council. There, you post your work, and, as at Litopia, earn crits by doing crits. The difference is, it’s a much bigger pond, members award marks to each other, and the top five chapters each month get feedback from industry professionals.

Both sites have seen member writers find representation and publication, and both are free.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Death On High

Well-written climbing books tend to have interesting protagonists with challenging goals and simple and fascinating narratives. Among the best are Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void and Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.

The latter tells the story of events on Everest in May 1996. A storm hit the mountain when there were too many people near the top. Eight lost their lives. I remember hearing, via Radio 702, Rob Hall talking to his wife in New Zealand. Hall was on a cell phone, straddling Nepal and Tibet, just below the Hillary Step. It was night, and very cold, and I think they both knew he was going to die.

A number of climbers froze to death on the South Col, only meters from the safety of the tents. Blizzard and darkness turned an area as big as couple of rugby fields into a deadly wilderness.

So I was fascinated to read Lene Gammelgaard’s Climbing High. Lene sumitted Everest that day. And she was in the group that got lost on the col. She and another climber took advantage of a brief lull in the storm, identified the peaks of Lhoste and Everest, oriented themselves, and made it to the tents. The others were too weak to follow…

Amoung the interesting survivors were:

Sandy Pitman.

Beck Weathers.

Anatoli Boukreev

And among the dead:

Scot Fischer

Rob Hall

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thank you, Madiba.

Nelson Mandela turns 89 today, and I remember reading his speeches when I was running away from the army in Swaziland. And, years later, seeing him come to pick up his grandchildren from the play school behind the Shul on The Curve in Bez Valley.

I remember the TV debate with de Klerk when Madiba said: “Mr de Klerk is being less than candid.” And you knew, watching, that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the senior man. And that he told the truth, and that de Klerk was lying. And he did it so beautifully that by the end you got the feeling that de Klerk, like all of us, was grateful just to be in his presence.

Happy birthday Mr Mandela.

And thank you.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Speaking Truth to Mbeki

"...the essential point is that if Mbeki felt or still feels that he is misunderstood, there are only three words he needs to say to put it right. It goes like this: “HIV causes AIDS.” "

Well, hello.

"Roberts also suggested in his book that Mbeki’s critics were abusing media freedom. Mbeki has himself suggested it.

...suggesting that critics are abusing their freedom is - when it comes from those who wield state power - one step towards legitimising action to curb them."

Both qoutes from Anton Harber at: The Harbinger.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Three Balls

With reference to the post below, Vidal's father was a big sportsman. His teams had a practise of making bets with the opposition: bet you our team has more balls than yours. Apparently they made quite a bit of money this way.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vidal on Kerouac. Literally.

I’m reading Gore Vidal’s Palimpsest. What other writer can go from lunch with Princess Margaret in one chapter to casually remarking to Alan Ginsberg of Jack Kerouac, “I fucked him,” in the next?

This is Vidal on the Clintons, who were about to visit him in Italy in 1994:

"The Clintons are now under attack because they would improve a society that is a heaven for, perhaps, one tenth of the people and a hell, of varying degrees, for the rest. I doubt he will survive his first term. He will experience either the bullet or a sudden resignation, and cousin Albert, the Cromwell of Washington’s Fairfax Hotel, will be Lord Protector. Naturally I hope I am mistaken."

One page further on he has his father telling his mother: “I have three balls.” I can’t recommend it enough.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Real South Africa

The South African Insult has an interesting post, via the Sunday World, on Jacob Zuma. Apparently Mr Zuma has been bust by the King Mswati of Swaziland of not paying a debt. The payment, 90 head of cattle, is owed for the King’s niece, ex police officer and friend of Shabir Schaik, Princess Sebentile. Mr Zuma is betrothed to the Princess, but unable to afford her. I’m confident Mr Zuma will put these lobola issues right should he become President of South Africa. One does not want this kind of diplomatic embarassment with one's neighbours.

I’m reminded for some reason of the Reverend Canaan Banana, who used to ask the press to please NOT describe meetings with Reverend Banana as “fruitful.”

It's not Mr Zuma's right to have many wives that I take issue with. It's that he didn't keep his side of the deal.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Intelligent life on the Internet.

A person going by the charming name of Dusty Muffin has a fascination with Luka Jantje who was beheaded by the English as part of their mission to civilize Africa. Not that they didn't mind you. Nelson Mandela is a product of English Mission School education. But still.