A brief update and a couple of books:
This month, a fair bit of reading done but only a trickle of writing due to ill health, with much thinking. Many things don't come on demand, no matter how much we may want it. Healing is one such thing. It has its' own momentum, its' own agenda-creating space for it doesn't guarantee it will happen. All things have their own pace, their own particular and implicit story.
Cue two books with widely differing plots but (to me at least) a similar underlying essence, once distilled. We live in a brutal world-a world of such horror that in S.L. Grey's The Mall, the two main protagonists (spoiler alert) choose at the end to return to the harried, fraught and shocking mirror-Mall world. The Mall is a dark and gripping South African satirical speculative fiction novel that bounces between its black-white, male-female narrators, echoing the distorted mirror images and beings in the hidden depths of an alternate shopping Mall. Such little redemption as there is; comes in the form of the relationship that grows between the two protagonists, moving beyond initial loathing towards genuine Eros. There's still hope then, however small...
In Lavie Tidhar's Osama, the 'real world' is so horrific it can only exist as pulp fiction. The central character-a universal 'Joe'-goes in search of the author of the 'Osama' books, in noir detective mode. But there are men out to stop him...
Osama is a deceptively slow, beautiful, dense and detailed read, dripping with rich and resonant references that saturate the text. One is drawn into the central narrative quest with the realisation that this is Joe's raison d'être, a focus he needs to keep returning to, in order to give his life direction and purpose. Around him, a world unfolds as he moves across it, Asia, Europe, America-and back again. Gradually one realises Joe has a shadow existence-he is a 'refugee' or a 'fuzzy-wuzzy', an explorer who hovers on the edge of the world, perhaps 'dead', perhaps liminal, but held together by the intensity of his focus. As, perhaps, are we all?
In a meta-fictional twist at the end a woman attempts to bring the narrator of 'Joe' back to his 'true' identity, citing specific tastes, desires and beliefs. 'Are these Tidhar's?' I wondered for a brief, intrigued moment and then realised that's actually not the point. We constantly create stories about ourselves and others-some are more privileged and powerful and gain greater leverage in the world, but they are not necessarily more valid and 'true'. '(The War on Terror' for instance-whose (W)ar, which terrors?)
As it is, Osama now haunts the liminal world with Joe, where more stories and ghostly people (potentially) proliferate.
As for healing, it's all around us, within and between us-as are death and lands beyond, including 'Nangalima'. Tidhar shows that there are no neat, nor hard and fast borders-both within this world and between this world and others.
Thanks for that Joe; I'll have a drink on you.
Nick Wood - August/September 2011