Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why I Read by Philani A. Nyoni

Philani A. Nyoni. Photo by KB Mpofu

Okay, we can do this, shouldn't be too hard... it's only writing, we've been doing this since we discovered 'AH-AIR-EE-OH-OOH' wasn't some device devised to torture infants. Maybe we discovered that much later because we were in too deep: so in love with words we had to learn the science of language and autopsied languages alive while other childrens were calling corpses cadavers in medical campus.

And why do we keep referring to ourself in plural? Are we possessed?! Legion!

Oh dear, that wasn't very clear at all! You lack grace, no, panache... no... that's not it... what's the other fancy word I'm looking for? It's so cute I could pat it all day. What's it now? It's not lustre, it's something... yes... to do with texture... but... oh darn it! I had it yesterday, I should have written it down. Well yesterday I didn't know I would have to use its absence to ascertain why my writing is appalling today! Now which book did I read it in? My-my. I can't believe this... ah yes, the Rushdie. Which Rushdie? Dear god, look at the size of them! I'll never find a single word in there!

Maybe I should just settle into the task of writing instead of trying to describe a piece of writing that doesn't really exist. I mean, here I am, haranguing (fancy word, we should put it in the story by-any-means-necessary!)... raking my brain...is it raking or racking? This English of theirs. Let me find out but in the meantime, see what I did there? I went from harangue to rake. Because I am Ndebele you see, and we didn't have rakes in our white-man-free-utopia of dysentery and spear-chucking megalomaniacs, so when we finally got one on Amazon we called a rake a hara, etymology: harrow. Oh figured it out, it's racking, comes from some ancient torture device. Well we didn't have that either, why torture people when you can just stab them?

Who am I talking to? It sure made sense when we were using the plural...ah, it appears again; we are sane.

Maybe instead of trying to be all classy and shit, I should focus on that... idiosyncrasies. An African story in African English, not quite pidgin, not creole, more like a dialect and accent on paper... what the fuck am I saying?! I know what I mean anyhow; I'll break that English, be really black about it. It's important to be very black about things sometimes, and mispronounce croissants and Paris; it shows you are not an Uncle Tom. It's important not to be an 'Uncle Tom' (add to reading list, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'), peculiarity should be the province of characters, not authors. 

Best idea I've had all day! How we will break that English, wrap it in a cute ribbon and send it back to its queen in a coffin (like take that your Queeniness!)! We will use words like kaka in place of 'crap'. Bukowski would probably say that, crap, he's one of my 'Andy Capp' writers; you know, the 'okes whose words read like every line was composed with the author leaning his head to the side trying to keep the ciggy smoke from smarting his one open eye? Squinting at the goddamn thing, coaxing his quill with devil-dick-shrivelling curses to course at the speed of thought. I should read him again soon, just to remind me not to be superficial.

Hey, do you think it's superficial to use words like superficial? I mean...

Yeah, I'll reread that Bukowski alright, but not today, today I want to write something black, bad gramma like skin-tone was a handicap! Oh how about this: use words like kaka, no time for that quote-mark nonsense on dialogue, because I'm gansta and African. Nigroence, that's my new word, my new genre. The arrogance of negroes. Sounds great.

Now about that kaka writing... wait... why does that sound familiar? Where have... oh kaka! that was We Need New Names! Blasted; we need new ideas... and names for characters. Unless you are Brian Chikwava pulling off a literary Fight Club, characters should have names. It's in the bible... somewhere; it has to be one of those commandments that people don't like facing because you read and realise 'you know what, Christianity's not for me, God's probably gonna smite me for choosing catfish over Him but there'. It has to be in there considering some characters got names they didn't even need... the only screen-time they be getting is between the same word: beget. Now that's how you use up that word-count! It's like the guy H. Christ's dad commissioned to holy-ghost-write for Him was billing by the word!

Not naming characters is like being that guy from that book, what's-his-face? Adam. He didn't name his childrens for over a year! Now that was a damn good book, tingles my spine just saying the title... watch me shiver: East of Eden. See?! I didn't cry at the end of it, I don't know why I have to announce that each time I mention the book but I didn't cry. Ruined my prose though, suddenly my characters felt hollow, no depth at all like... I really need to use 'Agamemnon said' each time said Agamemnon says, otherwise readers wouldn't know who was talking. Gourd-dam those characters were sooooo alive! It's like he was writing his dialogue in Dolby Surround! I should never read that book again, makes my writing seem awful, and nobody wants to write awful stuff. Medium-rare I can stomach: never go too deep on some texts, unlike Tendai Huchu; went 'full retard' on his debut now everyone thinks he's a homosexual. Ha! Idiot.

Ignorance is bliss my friend, remember that one time we wanted to do a whole novel set in one day? That was an awesome gimmick until we realised Dan Brown has been doing that since aforementioned holy-ghostwriter's now-famous line: 'In the beginning'. One-trick-pony... two actually, his second trick is transcribing encyclopaedias. Oh dear, my horns are showing, grumpy-grumpy-grumpy. Serves you right for reading popular fiction... sparkling vampires and all that.

Well, clearly this writing thing isn't working out today. I read somewhere you need a ton of patience because you only write cocaine when you're like... super ancient and God sometimes mistakes you for his dad and you need viagra just to sit through a book signing. What's on TV? Programming. Ha! Sounds like we're stuck in a George Orwell novel. Animal Farm, or 1984? Eenie-meany-my-knee-more... Hey what else did that guy write? Maybe I should just get some Borges up in here, get all esoteric and shit. 

Philani Amadeus Nyoni is a writer, spoken word performer and actor. He is the author of three poetry anthologies: 'Once A Lover Always A Fool', which received a National Arts Merit Award in 2013, 'Hewn From Rock', (with John Eppel) and 'Mars His Sword'. 

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