Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Naijastories Anthology: A review 2

The First Volume of the Naijastories Anthology, of tears and kisses, heroes and villains, launches today March 27th, 2012.
Here's another review by Tolu Oloruntoba, Publisher of Klorofyl Magazine.

The NS Anthology: Of tears, kisses, heroes and villains, and might I add, empathy.

Why do we love Nigerian stories? Those tales of the improbable, the fantastic, the quotidian? These fountains of dramatic justice bubbling with every emotion known to man? Nigerians are born raconteurs, you see? We'll dip you into it, willing or not.

What makes a good story? We forget ourselves in the instant. We abandon decorum. Clapping and cheering for the dramatis personae. Shrieks of horror, or delight may escape us. We laugh, cry and sniffle, sometimes in spite of ourselves. We're at the edge of our seat, at times. We let out the occasional involuntary chuckle.
A good story is like the unrehearsed banter of a mischievous friend, the earnest storyteller. And like most Nigerian stories, has a moral- an agenda, if you will. And surprises aplenty. Most Nigerian stories abandon the fluff and reach directly for the good stuff: our heart strings. I suspect, too, that this is why Nollywood is so loved, world over. It interacts with the basic motivations of us story-loving humans.

This is not to suggest that the offerings in the anthology are basic.Far from it. The first volume of  Naija Stories contains stories, as the rider goes, "of tears, kisses, heroes and villains", is nuanced with the contradictions, unseen difficulties, and surprising turns in the road that we have found life in Nigeria replete with. The anthology of 30 stories will be launched on the 27th of March, 2012, although digital copies can be procured already.

It is true to life, examining issues, horrors and concerns of the day, and our national lives: Militancy in the Niger Delta, murder and armed robbery, corruption, sexual abuse, cultism, child marriage, (unsafe) abortion, prostitution, mortalities from AIDS, and sectarian violence. It also, however, speaks of bereavement; love, lust and adultery; family; peer pressure and rivalry; long distance relationships; over-salted food, and the kindness of strangers. It's not all gore. We still recognise our country.

The authors live in Lagos, Abuja, Ilorin, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, and Niger State, but also Canada, London, The US and the Netherlands. Theirs are voices of the new, cosmopolitan Nigerian youth.
We recognise, too, the dialogue, and settings. Very congruent with our authentic, emotive patterns of speech, and which manage, in several instances, not to look contrived. We recognise these voices. We are the ones speaking.

The anthology is a snapshot of that most elemental of artistic forms: the Nigerian story. Rising above the fray, however, are several pieces I will highlight, which I found striking and unforgettable for several reasons.
The anthology begins with A Glimpse In The Mirror. Yejide Kilanko's touching tale of a young coffin-maker moistened my eyes at some point (I could be a softy, I know J). Other striking stories were, Mother Of Darkness, by Rayo Abe, a supernatural tale of teenage 'experimentation' with the occult; Blame It On A Yellow Dress, by Uche Okonkwo, which approximates the innocence and violation of a little girl at home, from the viewpoint of the child; and Damilola Ashaolu's poetic cadences of illicit love in Nothing Good, which are nothing, if not good (you'll excuse the pun).

Others include Adiba Obubo's Visiting Admiral John Bull, which explores the armed insurgency in the Niger Delta, a lawyer's disillusionment with peaceful dialogue, and the fallout from hideous acts of the 1999 Odi Massacre. What Theophilus Did, by Gboyega Otolorin is an immersive story, with particularly enjoyable dialogue. In Illusions Of Hope, Ola Awonubi reads, true, the pulse of a populace gripped by uncertainty and insecurity, and the editor of the volume, Myne Whitman, writes of an essential kind of courage, in A Kind Of Bravery.
Two Straws In A Bottle, Remi-Roy Oyeyemi's mellow romantic tale, ends with quite a flourish; Wiping Halima's Tears is simple, yet poignant; and in Meena Adekoya's story of a vengeful Abiku in Catalyst, you'll likely find an interesting read.

My absolute best of these stories, however were Tola Odejayi's Co-operate!, of a midnight encounter with armed robbers that unfolds, and ends in unexpected fashion, for everyone; Lulufa Vongtau's short, pithy and cheeky Jesus Of Sports Hall, an adolescent story that still ends up being a grave indictment of our society at large; and Rachel's Hero by Henry Onyema, an action story complete with grenades, Uzis, masked men, and one desperado Bruce Willis type, is a hackle-raising tale of heroism, and maniacal terrorists besieging a school.

The volume ends with a heart-pounding thriller/horror story– by Raymond Elenwoke- The Devil's Barter, which leaves us like we were at the end of tales by moonlight, the Nigerian Stories we grew up on- excited, and wondering, probably, when the next will come.

The longest of these stories come in at about 13 pages, while the shortest average about 2 to 3. The disparity is somewhat worrying, though. There doesn't seem to be a followed convention on length, and there are several pieces that could work just as well, or better, at a third of their current length. Segmentation across themes, or better navigation across stories, particularly with a more coherent contents page, or perhaps numbering the stories or introducing them with a synopsis in the contents, would also have served the layout of the book better. One may not be interested in reading back to back, but maybe I'm just speaking for myself.

I may not have been crazy about the cover design and was irked by the odd typo, several instances of worn expressions, and the occasional dead-end story, but I found gems, and pleasant surprises, as you will, too. Very often, the stream of the narrative rises to very admirable heights, and the one thing you cannot say, is that these stories were told without heart. It's a fairly accurate portraiture of the lives of Nigerians, as they are currently lived, and a reasonably enjoyable aggregation of our stories. And, find it palatable, agreeable, or not, you cannot deny that it speaks truth. Could a greater compliment be paid?

Tolu Oloruntoba is a physician, prosist and the publisher of Klorofyl Magazine.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

Naijastories Anthology: A review 1

The First Volume of the Naijastories Anthology, Of Tears and Kisses, Heroes and Villains, launches today March 27th, 2012.
Below is a review by Abayomi Ogunwale.


Short stories are truly one of life’s understated gifts; and a well spun tale in the hand of a skilled writer has within it enough power to amaze and transfom us. But stories -good stories- are also like desperate suitors; they turn you in, out, and around with their advances. Compiling a perfect anthology is therefore a difficult undertaking, akin to the task of designing a hostel where all a woman’s suitors can comfortably co-habit, and allow her to transit, unhurt. It is difficult, the task. In two hundred and forty-eight pages, the NS Anthology made it look all so easy.

From the moment I stepped into Durosinmi’s coffin- making workshop in Yejide Kilanko’s ‘‘a glimpse in the mirror’’, I knew I was in for a delightful journey. And even though you feel a little offended and betrayed by Kilanko’s skillful arrangement of Durosinmi’s final plunge, you feel the need to forgive her only because her voice leads you into the arms of another guide: Salatu Sule‘‘If tears could speak’’, they would surely fail to match Sule’s eloquently executed coup de grĂ¢ce. He delivered a sad story in a language that makes you happy. That must be illegal, the execution maybe.

The socially instructive message in Seun Odukoya’s ‘‘Can I please Kill you’’ was well balanced out by the equally well delivered, though lighter prose of Uko Bendi Uko in ‘‘One Sunday morning in Atlanta’’. Such is the authority of the writing that, you feel a certain kinship with Okon; and his words seem to proceed from a part of you.

Rayo Abe Delivered. Her story ‘‘the mother of darkness’’ takes you right back to secondary school. There is something beautiful and even enviable in that ability to capture and sequester all the emotions of a life-phase into one story. The mother of darkness will scare you a bit. But not when you are reading it. The fear comes after you leave the story.

Babatunde Olaifa’s ‘‘Showdown at Rowe Park ’’ is a short read. What it lacks in lenght is adequately compensated for in the vivid and hilarious language of its delivery.

‘‘Blame it on a yellow dress’’ is a story of loss; the loss of innocence. The frail looking Uche Okonkwo writes in a language that belies her phizog. She indicts too; she calls us to more vigilance.

Time would not allow me to tell of the healing humor of Bankole Banjo’s ‘‘the writer’s cinema’’, or of the amorous leanings of Ugoji’s ‘‘seeing off kisses’’, or even of the sobering message in Odeshilo’s ‘‘too late’’Obudo will compel you along in ‘‘visiting Admiral John Bull’’, and the dark politics of the Niger-Delta Oil Struggle. Otolorin and Vongtau both command admiration, but in different ways: one, in a short Hilarious story, and the other in a more serious but tight prose. Iruene and Lawal will also make you laugh, while Ezenwaka and Awonubi explored more challenging genres with amazing craftiness.
Whitman and Oyeyemi remind you of their quality, with two mature deliveries: ‘‘a kind of Bravery, and ‘‘Two straws in a bottle’’. I stand, hands facing one another; I applaud.
Unfortunately, I do not have the required space and words to comment sufficiently on Ashaolu’sOsinowo’sAdekoya’s,Onyema’s, Ilevbare’s, Chukwubuike’sTurtoe’sOsi’s, and Elenwoke’s deliveries; a honor that their talent undoubtedly deserve, and which the reader of the NS Anthology will realize at first glance.

The NS Anthology is not perfect; there is no perfect anthology anywhere, no perfect collage in the world. But it is good. Sitting here and typing this review, I know how it feels to read through and summarize a very good book: content, excited and honored. That summarizes the emotions I wish to convey to the fortunate reader who will get a copy of the book. I wish I could, in Oyeyemi’s words ‘‘now to find the words to seal the deal!’’


Abayomi Ogunwale is a writer, medical doctor, poet and social commentator. His articles have appeared in the Sentinel Literary quarterly, Subjective Substance, Firsteditions and the Sun Newspaper amongst others. He is currently studying in Texas, USA and working on his anthology of short stories.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Naijastories Anthology and My Favourite Things To Watch!

Hi People!

How you doing out there? I have good news. The Naijastories Anthology has been released! Click on the NS ebook on the right to read more. Will post more reviews and stuff before MARCH 27th the official launch date.

For now though, just wanted to share some of my favourite things to watch with you.

Jamie Grace, she's really young  and I like her voice.

I originally wanted to post Francesca Batistelli's Beautiful, Beautiful Video, but I found it hard, so this is Free to be me; just as great as this young woman after God's heart.

Courageous!! Please watch this movie. Thanks to my boss I didn't watch a pirated copy *tongue out*
But seriously, everyone should watch it. It's great, inspiring and totally awesome!

Okay! I have watched this movie gazillion times already and it never fails to make me laugh and cry and laugh some more. I totally love it. It's not new though, but please see it if you haven't.

That's all folks.