Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Richard Clarke, quoted in the Pennsylvania Gazette
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Meanwhile the ANC continues its ongoing revolutionary struggle to ensure democracy and justice for all South Africans. By bussing its supporters to COPE meetings so that they can throw chairs at them.
Everything the ANC DOES lately, rather than says, suggests one thing: the rule of the mob. It’s the Malema vision: Onwards to the Zimbabwefaction of our beloved South Africa. Viva, Comrade Malema, Viva.
It’s time to vote them out of power
And we can.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. “I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.
Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” — he asked.
“Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”
Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?”
Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah -- you have scored a point there.”
The Times Online
Moral: even the Bush presidency has had positive outcomes.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The other, from Camille Paglia writing at Salon.com, is measured, mature, educated and on Palin’s side. What a great writer Ms Paglia is.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
We can have a country that respects its constitution.
We can obey the law and charge and try those who don’t.
We can have a country which says no to a fascism which threatens to kill those that disagree with it, wants to send youth to re-education camps and boasts that it will rule till Jesus returns.
We can pump money and work and care into infrastructure and education instead of arms deals.
We can create jobs, and citizens educated and equipped and keen to do them.
We can have direct representation so that if something goes wrong in your area you can go to YOUR member of parliament to sort it out.
We can vote the ANC out of power and The Congress of the People in.
Friday, October 10, 2008
The courts must be independent of political influence.
Beware those who sing songs of death or threaten to kill people who disagree with them. They are the real enemies of South Africa.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
"Now we are saying, no, in a particular case - of the state vs the president of the ANC - there must be a political solution. What has happened to the clause in the freedom charter: All shall be equal before the law. “Who is deviating from the Freedom Charter? Why did we spend years and years of suffering in exile and in jail for this clause?"
"Let the people of South Africa decide whether they want the Malema’s of this world or whether they want sober leadership. “In the coming weeks we will consult … to call a national convention to determine how to proceed, to defend democracy in this country. “We paid the price for these principles. We paid the price for these principles. It would be a betrayal on our part not to rise to defend the legacy."
Full story: The Times
Friday, August 22, 2008
COSAS “asked our teachers and organised a train for us to come here. But we were not well informed about the reason why we are protesting,"
Nomsa Mabona, pro-Zuma “protester” to a Times Reporter.
This is yet another example of the fall of standards in the Rainbow Nation. In the old days, people were always told simply and clearly what they were protesting about. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they often knew what they were protesting about even without being told. In some cases, the need for protest was so clear that people just got up and protested straight off without being told anything.
I think we should go back to that old system. I think that if someone experiences something terrible, like apartheid or Thabo Mbeki, they should just protest all by themselves without COSAS being involved at all.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
“Never have I encountered so much good writing in the service of an absence of dramatic tension. I’m fed up. I want a main character who is in crisis, who cares so damn deeply that he/she can’t see straight.”
Got me thinking.
Recently, for the first time in a year or so, I read a book that kept me up at night instead of putting me to sleep. And the next morning I finished it when I was meant to be typing for money. I’m still thinking about it. Why?
It was Tobias Wolff’s Old School. The hero is a schoolboy in a private school who wants to win a literary prize. The prize is half an hour in a garden with Hemingway. The hero finds himself unable to write and steals an old story from a student at the girl’s school next door. He steals it because it is more true to his life than anything he has ever been able to write himself. His time at school has been spent in trying to create the impression that he comes from the same background as his peers. He is, in fact, a scholarship student with troubled and relatively poor parents. He is a liar who wants be a writer. He is starting to realize that to achieve this end, he will have to be truthful. Stealing the story is the most honest thing he’s ever done.
Why is it a page turner? The hero is trying to find something nebulous. Himself. Mysteries, granted, are set up. Why did the Dean, reported to know Hemingway personally, resign on the day of the hero’s expulsion? Will the hero ever manage to live in the world as himself?
The mysteries are unravelled. (Spoilers ahead) The Dean didn’t know Hemingway. He just allowed the boys to perpetrate the impression that he did. This grew. In the end he couldn’t live with the lie he had allowed. (A subplot that thematically mirrors the main plot) And the hero? Well, he wrote the book. A fiction. Which fills in the gaps between two pieces of great non-fiction: This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s army. Taken together, they are an extraordinary portrait of a man called Tobias Wolff. They make the point that life is richer and more complicated than the average well constructed best seller would have us believe. Old School, by the fact that it was written, demonstrates that the hero of Old School now lives at ease with his roots. Its existence is the answer to its own dramatic question.
I suppose my position is this. As a television hack, I buy everything Bill says. As a reader, I’m not so sure. Because often that moment where someone thought: I have to up the jeopardy, make the worst thing happen, is also the moment I go: I don’t believe you.
On the other hand, the stakes in Old School are high. Tobias Wolff could have become a conman like his father. What’s at stake in Old School is the quality of a man’s life.
But why is it a great book?
My mother would have said: “Because he writes so well.”
Sunday, August 10, 2008
At the border a man introduced himself. He looked at the third party insurance document as my wife was filling out forms.
“Allied Insurance,” he said. “My company.”
He appointed himself to see us through border formalities. He instructed us and said he would meet us on the other side.
“My name is Nervous,” he said.
We handed in our passports and were waved through. My wife disappeared into Mozambican bureaucracy. I pondered names. Nervous. A reassuring moniker. More so than Grifter, say. Or Con Man. A man from a rival insurance company warned us that the fee for the vehicle was ten rand only.
My wife reappeared, Nervous in tow. Nervous said we owed him a hundred rand. For the vehicle. We’d already paid for the vehicle, but we gave him twenty for effort. The Mozambicans waved us through. We entered a flat desolate plain. Thorn scrub and dust. Occasional piles of firewood on the side of the road signalled human industry. We paid our toll fees in Meticals. A reed hovel clung to the dust.
Then we were in Maputo. For a long time. Mini bus taxis, markets, VodaCom TuboBom, Señor Jesús Cristo. More markets. Goats. Stalls, shops and sand encroaching on the road. We turned north onto the Xai Xai road. We travelled through many villages. Some buildings were still derelict from the war. We bought Cashew nuts on the side of the road. VodaCom TuboBom. Flat hills, tropical. Many trees. Trucks barrelled through, straddling the middle line. We got the fuck out of the way by the grace of Señor Jesús Cristo.
We crossed the great, grey, greasy Limpopo on an old steel bridge in the late afternoon. We’d been travelling for eleven hours. Mist clung to wide, still waters. Palm trees rose spookily from the banks. Apocalypse Now. Señor Jesús Cristo. VodaCom, TuboBom.
Xai Xai is big. We dawdled through the throng. A man smacked another man across the face. Friday evening. Payday. VodaCom, TuboBom. Señor Jesús Cristo. We stopped at the last garage and let the tire pressure right down for the sand.
Thirty K’s on we spotted the sign for Zona Braza and turned right onto a track. It wound through dense bush. The sun was a red ball on the horizon. Big cows, long horned, stared at us out of the gloom. There were forks in the road. I chose randomly, not wanting to stop and get bogged. But the tracks always joined up again. They’re part of the design. It’s how you allow other vehicles to pass. We wound down to a lake, then up steep dunes, relying on momentum and soft tires. A sign said: Casas - Reception. We piled out and lost each other in the dark. We found the bar. We drank Laurentina beer and ate Barracuda. It was good. We left early because the barman still had to walk home. Ten K’s to the tar road. He was scared of snakes. He wanted to work in South Africa and earn money for a bicycle.
The Casa perched in the dune forest at the top of a dune. It was thatch roofed, and mosquito nets hung exotically over the beds. It looked east along the beach. Monkeys came to visit. Whales cavorted off the reef. We slept in cool breezes and the sound of the sea. My dreams were vivid and lingered long after I opened my eyes.
We walked and slept and read. In the evening we lit a fire and grilled our supper on red coals. Five days. No TV, no papers. Just the beach and us. I asked the children if they wanted to come back. They said yes. I asked if we should invite anyone. They said, no. Just us. They said Zona Braza was the best place we’d been in Mozambique.
The drive back only took eleven hours. VodaCom. TuboBom. We travelled safely beneath the gaze of Señor Jesús Cristo. There was no sign of Nervous.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
DeLois will be working with editor, Jackie Cantor, whose list includes New York Times bestsellers Diana Gabaldon, John Lescroart, Eloisa James, and Hope Edelman, and Helen Fremont, author of the acclaimed memoir AFTER LONG SILENCE. Recent acquisitions include THE ROAD FROM CHAPEL HILL by Joanna Catherine Scott, author of the Booksense Top Ten THE LUCKY GOURD SHOP; PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY by Jennifer Niesslein; and WHAT FRENCH WOMEN KNOW ABOUT LOVE AND SEX by journalist Debra Ollivier.
So if anyone is wondering which peer review and networking site for writers is home to the talent…
Note - This post should in no way be interpreted as a disparagement of Litopia. Litopia is also an excellent peer review and networking site for writers.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
In answer to Thomas Huynh's post, the REAL Shakespeare:
Well, Thomas, what is a genius? I think the man was a working writer. Very good one. But like his friend Ben Johnson, who loved him, "this side of idolatory," I think he gains from editing. "Would he had crossed out a thousand." Lines, Ben meant.
I think Titus Andronicus is the work of a man whose friend at the studio says, "It's Vin Deisel, Willie. They want gratuitous violence. They want blood." They play is abysmal, and I'm glad I didn't write it. I think Merchant of Venice is the work of a man whose co-producers asked for an anti-semitic play. So he whacked a Jewish character into one of his silly romance plots. But, being the writer he is, he got under Shylock's skin (I mean, what a name?) and made him human, and ended up with a great tragedy stuck in a romantic adventure.
I think Will could have got the Venice stuff from talking to one person who'd been to Venice. There were quite a few around. Always a cosmopolitan town, London.
The other thing is, I don't think Will thought his texts were that important. Point was to get the thing into production, and rake in the ticket sales. He was a mainstream populist. If he lived now, he'd be writing television. So the texts do have bits written by other people. It was theatre. People collaborated.
The best book I've read about Will is A LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE, by Hesketh Pearson. Perhaps the best argument for Shakespeare as author is to read the plays and intuit the nature of the man behind them.
On the other hand, we know he was in an acting troupe. We know he had shares in a theatre. We know he went to the city and made money. If it wasn't from theatre, what was it from? We know he was successful enough as a playwright for at least one other writer to accuse him of upstart pretensions.
And Ben Johnson, a friend, and playwright, worshiped him this side of idolatry.
As a writer.
Let's apply Occam's Razor here, chaps.
Friday, June 20, 2008
And some folks are having fun with it.
Here in South Africa, we have a politician who suggested that if the leader of the ruling party was tried for corruption (his partner in this corruption is already in jail by the way, which seems to suggest that said leader might just be guilty) people should kill to defend him.
Maybe John McCain should join the ANCYL. Right age, right temperament...
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"We have noticed a distortion, misinterpretation, vulgar insults and defamatory comments which have been hurled against ANC Youth League".
Malema said it was all part of a political agenda to discredit the Youth League. - The Times.
This seems unnecessary, and I would urge all those involved to stop. Mr. Malema is quite capable of doing the work by himself.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
“The SA Human Rights Commission has given ANC Youth League president Julius Malema 14 days to retract his controversial "kill for Zuma" remark.” - The Times.
This is a good thing. Mr. Malema’s remarks reminded me very much of Nat politicians in the old days. Then it was communists and terrorists. Now it’s “enemies of the revolution”. When questioned on ETV, Mr Malema said these enemies of the revolution cropped up all over the place. I know exactly what he means. He means enemies of his own agenda, which is to empower himself. That’s why he’s so confident of his ability to identify these enemies.
In so far as such as thing as any enemy of the revolution can be said to exist, Mr Malema himself is a prime example. He is clearly a big enemy of democracy. Like Robert Mugabe, who cannot understand why a ballot should be more powerful than a bullet, Mr Malema is one who aims to rule by fear and murder.We have to watch out for people like this. People like Mao Zedong. They invent new sins and then attach the death penalty to them. They are enemies of humanity.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Red Room is an EXCELLENT SITE, and this post in no way denotes criticism thereof. I think South African authors interested in broadening their market should join Red Room with all haste.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The BookShed awaits.
The BookShed is a peer review and networking site for writers of fiction or narrative non-fiction. It welcomes genuine talent at whatever stage of development. Most members are aspirant, but some have recently signed with agents, and two are in the process of signing deals with major publishers.
If the BookShed doesn’t work for you there are other excellent sites, like Litopia and YouWriteOn.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Burning people to death, whatever their origin, is also illegal. And the state has an obligation to charge, prosecute and punish.
This government has some work to do.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
March to defend immigrants.
Joburg, Saturday May 24.
Gather at 9am,
Marks Park, Empire Rd, near Hillbrow.
Bring placards, banners, friends
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
"The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) said that over the weekend, Spot FM aired a number of "political songs" ahead of the country's coming Independence Day celebrations. One of them, "Mr Government" by Man Soul Jah, celebrated the government's land seizures and called for the decimation of perceived political sellouts.
The song said: "We are living like squatters in the land of our heritage... give me my spear so that I can kill the many sellouts in my forefathers' country."
Thursday, April 10, 2008
You can find the full story, and learn out how to put pressure on Amazon to change their policy, at The BookShed.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
An Eskimo takes his car to the garage. The mechanic says 'Have you blown a seal?' and the eskimo replies 'No, that's frost on my moustache.'
Sunday, March 30, 2008
They don’t say what.
Whatever they are, I don’t want them, but if you do, please contact Zonal Coordinator, Mr.Micheal Adamz, on his e-mail address: (firstname.lastname@example.org). Or try Mrs.Rose Mosa, the national co-ordinator.
Friday, March 28, 2008
If you want to live it vicariously, to see someone do it with style, with what Hemingway called "grace under pressure", look no further than Patricia J DeLois' blog, Pencils and Whatnot.
The good folk at Litopia should really take note of how this is done.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
"At one time there was talk of Joan posing as me. I first typed Buffleheads on a Mac Classic that I bought from Joan. She pointed out that the software was still licensed to her, so if any issues of authorship arose, she could claim to have written it. Should any appearances on Oprah be called for, I'm sending Joan. I've sent you the book cover."
You can find out how DeLois discovered Sophie, or vice versa, at IdentityTheory.
Monday, March 10, 2008
As editorial director for our publishing company, I critique writers - it's a fact of life and it most certainly isn't personal on my part. The same goes when I critique on Litopia - it isn't personal - yet you've chosen to interpret it as so. This says far more about you and your inability to accept critique than it does me, as an editor.Would you post untruths about Kirkus or Publisher's Weekly if they gave you or one of your friends a less than stellar review? All this does is reveal how little you understand the industry and about maintaining a professional demeanor.
I'd also be interested to know what makes you believe only my fingerprints were on your friend's initial rejection. Litopia works by getting a quorum of input - not just one opinion. Your belief in my influence and blind rancor is quite misplaced."
Lynn Price - www.behlerpublications.com
Gosh, Lynne. You didn't make the judgement call by yourself? There were others involved?
The author who caused all the trouble: Patrica DeLois. Her book: Bufflehead Sisters.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
"Like Binhoudt, Khoza was in a position of authority and was not to be questioned. He used the word in the same way Binhoudt used it on Biko. In saying, "Stop thinking like a kaffir", couldn't he be suggesting that there are people who can legitimately be referred to as kaffirs? "
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Patricia J DeLois celebrates a second victory in the adult category for 'Penguins in Amsterdam, and Dave Wardale is one of the winners in the Children's category for 'Get Santa'.
Read the full story here.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
Dear Customer, Fault ref no: xyz has been created. Telkom will endevour to resolve the problem ASAP.
It might not be quick, but at least I didn't have to hold on for three hours.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Thursday, February 7, 2008
These leaders are angry about Nadvi’s “racism”, but pretty relaxed about the rape of their own students? Let’s leave the rape situation as it is, rape of African students being normal, and fight this evil racism thing!
Good thinking there from: “Professor Nceba Gqaleni, the deputy dean of students, Bhekithemba Ngcobo, and three student leaders.”
Friday, February 1, 2008
A number of BookShed authors feature in the Arts Council England (ACE) YouWriteOn Book of the Year long list.
From almost a hundred eligible novels, twelve adult and eight children's novels were chosen for consideration. The winning novels will be offered the option of publication as a Print on Demand (POD) book...
The long list includes Bookshed founder member Patricia J DeLois, who made the list with 'Penguins in Amsterdam' the follow-up to last year's Book of The Year, 'Bufflehead Sisters'. Other Shed members to make the final cut include Mo Fanning, Perry Illes, Nick Poole, Ben Twemlow and David Wardale..."
See... The Shed
" As a writer, I've been to writer's groups and classes. I always felt like an impostor. People were taking writing so seriously. I was doing it all for fun."
Now, the attention garnered from the book has blown her cover.
"I've been 'outed. When I go home alone, people know what I'm doing."
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
“We shall never forget that the anti-Scorpions campaign was launched by people such as Brett Kebble and Schabir Shaik, both of whom actively went about buying influence in the ANC."
Bantu Homomisa as qouted by Don Makatile in The Sowetan.
I was in a meeting once, many years ago, where I heard Mr Kebble's spin doctor embark on this very campaign.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Re: Sony Ericsson W300i
This phone was handed in for repair at Rosebank Mall (shop165) on 02/01/2008. Nearly a month ago. It was returned with exactly the same fault on 16/01/2008. And sent back for repair once more.
As a professional free lance writer I rely on the phone for communication with clients. I have paid for a month of contract from which I have had no benefit whatsoever. None.
Please inform me ASAP as to the status of this phone. Or should I switch to a provider who does care?
Friday, January 25, 2008
With sun and wind behind us giving lift,
We stand upon the hill and fly our kites,
Against the rising ramparts of the Berg.
Just cheap and plastic things. Mine wears an eagle
And his a sign unknown, and this I call the spirit.
They’re metaphors for the soul, I say,
Attached to the body by a shining thread.
This does not interest him. He wants to give
His kite more line. He’ll take it from my eagle
And climb to higher places in the sky.
A tricky thing to do with flying kites.
You have to hold the strings and tie the knots
Against the constant tug of void on soul.
Alright, Captain, I say. Go for it.
We steal the Eagle’s extra line and tie
Her handle on again. He adds the line
To his. There’s one knot left to tie when he lets
Slip. So much for Captain, he says.
We watch the kite soar up towards the cliffs.
It looks as if it wants to clear the Berg
And find its freedom in a higher land
Than ours, where kites are pulled at last to earth,
And travel back to Joburg in the boot.
Perhaps, like some of those detained, it feels
That death is to imprisonment preferred,
Or exile in a country far from home.
But in my hand the eagle tugs and calls,
And then we’re jumping down the grassy slope,
My focus split between two leaping feet,
And the tension in the line. The kite will fall
In any gap in my, or wind’s, attention.
What if the steep hill hides a mortal cliff?
But we both know what it is we want,
And so we’re moving fast and in control,
Down to the left where spirit’s tail
Points possible location of its thread.
We ease on down until the angle’s good,
And then turn right and up the valley, hunting.
Now line is firm and steady in my hand,
A steady pull from bird that sees its prey,
And leads me up the hillside to its fall.
Because then I see the eagle swoop and hang,
Lifeless, in a bright and cloudy sky.
I’m raving, winding, shouting up the hill,
It’s hooked, I shout, and wind the precious thread.
I pull them in. But then the eagle falls.
It lies, just plastic litter in the veld.
So I deduce from that that I’m a fool,
Imagining I flew and caught a soul.
The thread is slack and flaccid in my hand,
And tangled in the grasses of the hill.
I must untie the knots, and trudge back up.
Between us there’ll be only one to fly.
So, shrugging, turn to shout that I have failed.
And there it is. A vision, curving down
From edge of cloud it shines against blue sky.
It curves down, shining, till it meets the grass.
I shout. It’s moving past him as the kite gains height.
I shout. It’s there. The thread. It shines. It shines.
He does not understand. He cannot see.
It’s moving past behind him up the hill.
A change of light, and then it’s gone.
And faith with it. A beam. And there it is.
I shout. Behind you. It shines. It shines.
And then he sees, and runs to catch the thread.
I reeled my kite in from the earth, and he
I don’t know what from miles up in the sky.
It’s five and twenty years since it was done
And between us, only one to fly.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
We now know that it wasn’t. The need to confront and combat prejudice is as great now as it was when we became a democracy. And so we must revive — and improve — the programmes aimed at challenging deeply ingrained racism. We must again place the fight against attitudes of racial superiority at the centre of our society’s agenda. The task is neither easier nor less urgent than it was when apartheid ruled."
Steven Friedman on Thought Leader
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The section on the build up to the negotiations, all through to the elections in 94, is as gripping as a great political thriller.
Gevisser argues convincingly that it was Mr Mbeki more than anyone else, even Nelson Mandela, or Cyril Ramaphosa, who brought disparate South Africans together at the negotiating table. He might have sometimes dangled carrots that were later removed uneaten, but he did the work. He saved our bacon, and he deserved to be the New South Africa’s second president.
But then there is his response to Aids. One has to come to the conclusion that, on his issue, Mr Mbeki has tragically internalized his oppression. Unable to follow the scientific facts: HIV causes Aids; Aids is becoming a big problem in the African heterosexual community; therefore we, as South Africans owe it to ourselves to examine and change our sexual behaviour, he chose to believe that the thing was a racist, capitalist plot. People were dying not of Aids, but of the secondary diseases. Either because they were poor, or because they had become too rich too quickly and were undone by a decadence which injured their immunity. When he said that he knew no one who had died of aids, he wasn’t lying. He really believed, and still does, that his friends had been killed by ARVs.
The sad truth is that Mr Mbeki is a great man with a tragic flaw. And that tragic flaw has been not dissimilar in it’s effects to the prophecies which led to great cattle killing. Mr Mbeki, if he had not been stopped by his party, would have had us believing in the Dreams of Nongqawuse all over again.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
I read most of Hotel Hawaii, by Paul Theroux, and a wonderful Elmore Leonard. Elmore Leonard rules. Both books were fiction, and both, I’m happy to say, contained colons. There are colons in fiction, period.
I read a book on Gauguin and van Gogh in the yellow house. They believed that painting could make the word a better place, and maybe theirs did in a small way. It made me look a little more at the colours of False Bay and the mountains. Every evening there were ten minutes at sunset when the sky was a canvas and God did some brisk experimentation with hue.
I read a biography of Mao which reminded me to beware the middle class intellectual who is hungry for power. Some time in the eighties I gained some impression of Mao and heroism on the Long March. Well, the man only got included in the Long March by lying and cheating. He would send twenty thousand men to their deaths on a strategic whim whose aim was to get him onto the right committee. He hated the poor and used them as counters to buy the bomb from Stalin. He was a warlord when it suited him, and if you voted against him he accused you of “ultra-democracy” and had you purged. Communism was an excuse to appropriate the goods of those more well off. To push home your moral superiority you had them humiliated and tortured and killed. He was, to use his own kind of terminology, an I’ll-kill-you-because-I-can-ist. One grows up thinking Hitler was the greatest evil. Then you read about Stalin. Mao was worse, if only because he had more lives at his disposal than his competitors.
I got for Xmas, Mark Gevisser’s biography of Thabo Mbeki. Who is revealed to be… a middle class intellectual which grave reservations about the poor. A Leninist who advances his cause by strategically getting his people onto the right committees. A skill recently learnt by his enemies in the Jacob Zuma camp. God have mercy on South Africa. At the moment the best lack all conviction, and the worst…
There are some nice details in the book about the genuine warmth and kindness of Soviet Russia. I learnt that Mbeki was a fan of Brecht’s line about the ever present danger of fascism, “the bitch is in heat again.” The book is, sentence by sentence, well written. I’m not finished yet, but I suspect that Gevisser has been led astray. His publishers wanted a big book, and his “muse demanded it,” but his subject gave him only a six hour interview. His subject is, like a good revolutionary, secretive. So the book is unbalanced. For every plum of insightful fact about Mbeki (his family was part of the Mfengu who collaborated with the British and became middle class by incorporating European culture while the rest of the AmaXhosa were still at war for their land or engaged in a millennial national suicide) …for every little plum of fact there is a pound of icing by way of the author’s theorizing. One needs more cake, but the cake has been locked away in the offices of the secretariat.
Then I got the first of the books I ordered from Amazon (no sign of the Bufflehead Sisters yet), The Spooky Art, Thoughts on Writing by Norman Mailer. And it’s full of gems:
“I learnt to write by writing… the ability to put words on a page comes through years of experience and… bears resemblance to the sophisticated instinct of fingers that have been playing scales for a decade…”
“Writing a best-seller with conscious intent to do it is, after all, a state of mind that is not without comparison to the act of marrying for money only to discover that the absence of love is more onerous than anticipated.”
“The ideal, and as you get older you do try to get closer to the ideal, is to write only what interests you… If you try to steer your way into success, you shouldn’t be a serous writer. Rather, you will do well to study the tricks of consistent best seller authors while being certain to stay away from anything that’s well written. Reading good books could poison your satisfaction at having pulled off a best-seller. I don’t think Jackie Susann went to bed with Rainer Maria Rilke on her night table.”
“It’s counter productive to think, I’m going to put this in because it will sell copies. Usually that doesn’t work. There is an integrity to best-sellerdom – it is the best book that the author is capable of writing at that time. He or she believes in the book. …Stephen King was a desperately clumsy and repetitive writer when he started, but best-seller book readers responded to his sincerity. That was present on every badly written page. The popularity of bad writing is analogous to the enjoyment of fast food…”
(Paul Theroux, incidentally was also a little sour about Mr King’s success. Mailer does go on to say that King’s style has improved.)
“If I were in the Tarot deck, I’d be the Fool. I used to try to keep a stern separation between the public legend and myself, but you know, you get older, and after a while, you can feel at times like an old gink in Miami with slits in his sneakers. At that juncture, it’s pointless to fight the legend. The legend had become a lotion for your toes.”
Gevisser says that his muse demanded a big book. Mailer has, not a muse, but “the bitch goddess”. “Only poets and writers of short stories have a muse.” And just as the specifics of sex reveal character, so…
“A man lays his character on the line when he writes a novel. Anything in him which is lazy, or meretricious, or unthought-out, complacent, fearful, overambitious, or terrified by the ultimate logic of his exploration will be revealed in his book.”