Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Friday, 16 October 2015

Put the single story to bed

2015 Man Booker winner Marlon James

IT was a good week for those of us listening hopefully for the recognition of new voices in world literature.

Marlon James became the first Jamaican born winner of one of the world’s most highly regarded literary awards, the Man Booker Prize.

His winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings traces a murderous lineage in Jamaica and the United States which began with the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976.

James, who teaches creative writing at an American college, received the prize along with a big bauble of £50,000 Great Britain pounds (J$9.2 million Jamaica dollars) at a black-tie dinner at Guildhall in London.

But the glitz and the gold could not cover the irony that James in hoisting the trophy above the stage would be looking down on some of the publishers who collectively rejected his first novel John Crow’s Devil, 78 times, before it was eventually accepted in 2005.

The moral to the tale is, to my mind, not perseverance, essential though that is to a successful writing career. But the take-home from this episode is it was a leap on the way to putting the single story to bed.

In a TED talk closing in on two-million views, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reveals the danger of the single story. I will place the link toward the end of my single story so we don’t lose track of where I am heading.

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Nigerian author tells of the danger of the single story through a series of amusing anecdotes.

One of the first is of how Adichie grew up on a diet of English children’s books where people ate apples, drank ginger beer and talked incessantly about the weather,

Adichie points out she loved these stories as they were an introduction to the glory of books but they were alien to her experiences in Nigeria.

It is important that she enjoyed the stories because it suggests readers drowning in one story will likely embrace the lifeline of a foreign voice such as Adichie or James or even a Bent Banana Books author.

Of course some readers are lost causes. One reviewed an eBook by Bent Banana Books author Jane Sharp, giving it one star. The reviewer warns readers Vision the Reluctant Psychic is not set in the U.S. It is set in England, she cries. Vision is actually set in Australia but you cannot expect precision from a literary bigot.

My own novel Iraqi Icicle drew a friendlier reference to exotic Aussie slang from a US reviewer. “Seriously, at one time I had dreams of going to Australia. Thinking they spoke English...,”she wrote before awarding the novel 5-stars, praising it amusingly.  "I told you (character) Steele (Hill) was weird, and so's the author...I like weird..."

Literature often has two quite opposite purposes. One is to explicate the world which the author shares with readers. The other is to propel the imagination to fabulous artificial territories and experiences.

Melding these two strands can create books of unexpected joy for the reader.

Buy a Bent Banana Books eBook now from our website  to go on a different journey.

As promised here is the delightful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warning of

The Danger of a Single Story.

And here is today’s moral expressed in our song.

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