Together: Stories and Poems, 2011,
Genres: Poetry and short stories
Literary Elements: Imagery, wit
Comfort Level: Easy reading….but attention to detail is advised
Synopsis: The reader will find that John Eppel’s political side is unleashed ‘sans’ the covert references noted in his novel Absent:The English Teacher (2009). Together is about the fraternity of two political writers. Julius Chingono’s works are showcased in the early portion of the collection. John Eppel’s works follow. The poems of John Eppel entitled ‘The Coming of the Rains’ and ‘Charles Dickens Visits Bulawayo’ stem from the vast literary repertoire of the English teacher. Eppel can summon Rousseau, Kafka, and Dickens in a manner that facilitates the reader’s ability to implement ‘relevancy’ as a means of contrasting and comparing past political issues with those occurring in contemporary Zimbabwe. The author’s methodological (*classic John Dewey style) skills, as an English teacher, surface here. The short story ‘Who Will Guard the Guards’ is quite universal in the message illustrated. Eppel fashions an honorable, White, Zimbabwean character (perhaps) filled with guilt for the past colonial atrocities suffered by his Black kinsmen. The White Zimbabwean displays enough compassion and empathy to provide residency for a needy kinsman. But, the ‘needy’ man responds to the noble gesture in classic socio-pathetic fashion. The compassionate character goes on to find that ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ And the new keepers of justice are as corrupted as those of the past. Is this all a form of reparations for past victims or mere revelations for the new victims? The reader must judge this one alone. The last poetry selection in Eppel’s segment ‘Waiting’ calls upon the reader to look back to Juilius Chingono’s own short story ‘We Waited’. In both selections, the writers Eppel and Chingono look and wait for change. The reader sees that these men are definitely of a similar, literary and political thread. Each man waits and beckons change in his writings. But will change come soon…or too late?
Critique: It was a pleasure to read this treasure. John Eppel continues to educate his students and readers. He is able to master the genres of poetry and short story writing with ease. This is no small feat. The works in Together appeal to the ‘literary’ scholarly set and those politically in tune with today’s events. Each segment of Together is a joy to read and savor. I do look forward to future works from John Eppel. We need brave writers to remind us of our obligations as citizens… and humanitarians, universally.
Reviewed by Dr Rosetta Codling