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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Three Fools of Melville: Book Reviews

Here is a review I wrote of some books for the Chim Chronic:

Chimurenga Chronic: Three fools of Melville by CityPress

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aryan kaganof reviews johan van wyk’s autobiography, “man bitch”

Man Bitch

“there is such a vast difference between a thought, and writing a thought. the gap between them can never be bridged.”

i have never read a book that so perfectly describes the abject uselessness of being an academic as does johan van wyk’s “man bitch”.

“literature that is moral is boring.”

man bitch is structured as a tryptych – durban/europe/durban followed by a lengthy coda – durban/mozambique/durban/poland/durban. the european sections of the book describe the protagonist johan van wyk’s journeys as a traveling literature professor. the inanity and emptiness of “professing”; of literature itself as a means of making a living – is excoriatingly portrayed.

“i read dostoyevsky’s possessed, an old everyman’s edition. i was surprised by the relevance to my own situation. i felt like his character, stephan trofimovitch, who was overtaken by historical events, and who felt that all the social changes amounted to was ‘that he was forgotten and of no use.’, i thought that, similarly, my life was useless, and my book was an attempt to remind the world of my existence.”

the real life of protagonist johan van wyk takes place in the seedy bars, clubs and hotels of durban where he meets a succession of women whose working hours are after dark but not once in the book does he refer to them as “prostitutes”. he loves these women, or at least experiences the nausea that would appear to be the most consistent symptom accompanying the condition of love; and the many women that he is variously engaged in relations with all confess to varying degrees of love for him. but what is this love? perhaps the book’s most important project is to try to understand what love means in the context of a life as unrelentingly grim as is lived by these characters who share a great deal in common with the ubiquitous cockroaches that, according to van wyk, “only fucked.”

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review: gary cummiskey’s romancing the dead

Romancing the Deadpravasan pillay’s tearoom books has published the chapbook of the year.

there’s no escaping it.

the moment you see gary cummiskey’s face you start screaming


there is fire in the enema of art

he put it there


not yet free of the dream nor of the memory of when you came to me not wearing panties beneath your light summer dress

but the moment you got on top of me and you saw my face you started screaming

as far as south africa is concerned a reason for gary cummiskey’s neglect may stem from the fact that he spent almost 20 years in randburg, and by the time he returned to settle down in sandton, the political situation had changed and so cummiskey’s surrealist work seemed out of place. thus gary had become a marginalised figure as a result of poth psychogeographical and cultural factors.

he writes in “european writers” “some people became poets after corresponding with european writers. i became a poet after sleeping on a razorblade.”

and this means that gary is sharp.

he’s busy looking for a magic wand – no strings attached.

another problem that may account for the relative obscurity of gary’s work is the difficulty of placing it within the various ‘movement’ categorisations. while romancing the dead contains a number of poems dealing with the colonial city scene in joburg, the rest of his work does not particularly reflect the social context in which it was created.

in the end it boils down to the “painting”:

i am hungry and dirty.
my feet stink.
i want to brush my teeth.

however, it can also not be ignored that cummiskey’s illness sometimes made him an extremely difficult person, and most publishers and editors were reluctant to deal with him. for this reason alone pravasan pillay must be commended. despite there being no physical attraction pillay liked cummiskey as a friend.

gary was aware of his outsider status, and openly declared that he did not wish to fit in with any particular group or category. but there is a difference between being an outside and being marginalised to the point of neglect – and cummiskey’s work is neglected. (although stephen gray would probably not agree).

romancing the dead is a funeral ceremony and all gary’s sleeping relatives sit on the floor of the bathroom around the bath where his corpse is laid. once the sleepers have been given the pills to swallow when you left you took them out from your handbag and slipped them back on.

some people become poets after sleeping with european writers. gary cummiskey is a razorblade. very sharp.

aryan kaganof

Book details

this post originally appeared at kagablog

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12 Shooters Reviewed by Helge Janssen

12 Shooters12shooters

a novella by Aryan Kaganof reviewed by Helga Janssen

There is one film I have viewed more times than I can remember. It is Frederico Fellini’s “Satyricon”. Apart from astounding visuals of extraordinary power and depth there is a scene which (there are many) blew me away. An extraordinary beautiful youth is contemplating suicide and is just about to do it, when the building he is in, begins to collapse:

suddenly he is fighting for his life!

It is this extraordinary turn of events which underpins 12shooters – an aimless person, doing his utmost to drink himself into oblivion, night after night at a bar, skimming within the very belly of despair, without hope, refusing to work, yet believing totally in his self, succumbs to……life!!

He is demonstrating the indomitable human spirit.

He is demonstrating how being informed by literature, how being anchored in the self, sum into liberation!

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“For centuries a small number of writers were confronted by many thousands of readers. This changed toward the end of the last century. With the increasing extension of the press, which kept placing new political, religious, scientific, professional, and local organs before the readers, an increasing number of readers became writers – at first, occasional ones. It began with the daily press opening to its readers space for “letters to the editor.” And today there is hardly a gainfully employed European who could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances, documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. The difference becomes merely functional; it may vary from case to case. At any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer.” Walter Benjamin, 1936

great art daily

over 150 contributors:

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kagablog: sms sugar man reviewed by mary corrigall

sms sugar mansms sugar manShooting a film with cellphones is obviously going to result in a unique cinematic experience but it is not just the unconventional medium that makes SMS Sugar man novel. Director and writer Aryan Kaganof has produced a film with a visual and ideological character that is not readily associated with South African film-making. It doesn;t deal with any of the clichéd South African themes and it has an extraordinary visual texture that sets just the right level of sombreness required to relay a twisted contemporary fairytale.

Centred on a pimp, Sugar man (Kaganof), and his clique of prostitutes, dubbed “The Sugars” (played by Leigh Graves and Deja Bernhardt) the narrative delves into the underbelly of Joburg, where sex is a precious commodity and violence a form of communication. But it’s not a gritty reality that Kaganof presents; mostly set in luxury hotel rooms and starring a trio of prostitutes who look more like Sandton schoolgirls than skanky Hillbrow hookers, it;s a glamorised rendition of a seedy counter culture. And with Sugarman decked in a retro suit and cruising around the city in a dated Valiant, SMS Sugar man exudes a Quentin Tarantino-esque vibe.

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Mphutlane wa Bofelo Reviews Isabella Motadinyane’s Bella

Belladon’t miss these great book reviews by mphutlane wa bofelo on kagablog — like this one of bella by isabella motadinyane:


AUTHOR: Isabella Motadinyane

PUBLISHER: Botsotso Publishing

REVIEWER: Mphutlane wa Bofelo

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