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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

'Through the Gates of Thought' by Nana Awere Damoah

Staring excitedly at Nana Awere Damoah's title in my hand, I am filled with feeling of utmost fulfilment and mutual connection to a friend (Nana) of strong letters and powerful reasoning.  I can't say more than that I now have, firstly, on my hand and on my bookshelf, a hard copy of Through the Gates of Thought. What follows below is my review of the book after I've read the author-sent-soft-copy on my computer last year. The review was also published HERE and HERE. Out of the tender generosity of the author has he thought it good that I have the hard copy which I'm now a proud owner of. To Nana Awere Damoah, I'm grateful! Though Nigerian Postal Delivery never got it to me since it was sent more than six months ago, Nana's insistence that I must have a copy, no matter what it would cost, delivers it to my doorstep yesterday at last. Now I can show off my copy of Through the Gates of Thought on my shelf and proudly flip through its pages once again as I guzzle its contents once more. If you haven't got this title, your library is incomplete. Read this review and you will surely see reason why your previous must-read list was imbalanced.


Here is the REVIEW:



Our Thoughts Are Gates Too

After reading Nana Awere Damoah's short story in African Roar, a collection of short stories by different authors, I was certain about having a worthwhile reading of Through the Gates of Thought. What I however never envisaged was the fact that the book will be an author's reflection of his past and encounters in a pedagogic manner. A quick leafing through the book to the Contents page shows how our thoughts could be classified in gates that are opened when a need arises and shut when the desire had been satisfied. Though Through the Gates of Thought is a test-book of one's deeds and characters, it is also a book that any reader could quickly associate with as thoughts are shared in written words. This book is Nana Awere's attempt at archiving histories, experiences, lessons and encounters in a more secured medium of communication – writing. This piece has indeed shown that aside the bible, it could still fit in as a book which could instruct, correct and bless. Just like a daily reading manual, Through the Gates of Thought's reading is never exhaustible even when one gets to the last page. It is didactic in how it makes the reader sinks into his personal introspection. The step that Nana has taken through the writing of this thought-provoking book restates the fact that; if we were able to access the story of how our forebears rise, fall and get to the thrones that are willed to us, we wouldn't have taken a strut induced by the euphoria of the little comfort that was of the striving and labouring of our ancestors. Little wonder successive generations become poorer. Had it been the ways by which our forefathers make their well armoured enemies to flee the battlefield are shown to us; men with only jackboots as implements of war wouldn't have scared us from our homes. With Through the Gates of Thought, the times when one's problems proliferates because history is not available to help out is put a stop to. Nana Awere readily feeds the readers with past happenings as he leads us through the Gates in the way one would never rue passing through a previous Gate unsatisfactorily.  A cursory summary of what are obtainable in the book that is paginated into '24 Gates' in all will make you see the thin line that exists between this book and the one you have always dreamed of.


A Quick Read:

You might not know why it is necessary to be jumping around and singing for that little that you have got in your hands until Nana Awere unlocks 'Gates 12: Bed Twelve – the Really Important Things', a piece contributed by his friend, Dr Moses Ademola, and takes you through it. The write-up lucidly shows how important things we often trivialise can be one's strong yearning when some circumstances deprive us of them. As the character in this 'Gate' relays his story on a sick bed labelled 'Bed Twelve', the reader start acknowledging that every opportunity, no matter how small it could be, is a blessing to be adored.

Though extending your hand to help others in need can be at times hurtful at this age when evil manifest through all manner of guises, but spitting at the rags of others can also be an inhuman thing to do too. Nana Awere opens 'Gate 16: The Challenges of a Twenty-first-century Good Samaritan' with the analogy of the biblical Samaritan who displays neighbourliness, and juxtaposing it with how people now turn blind ears to the shrieks of pains of the needy out of fear of being haunted down. It is like not wanting to rescue a palm-oil seller because you are clad in white robe. In 'Gate 16', Nana Awere confirms the fear everyone has towards offering hospitality to a stranger.

It is true that children are the blessings from the Lord, they could also become the bane of any family and society when they go wayward. 'Gate 2: Why we Have Kids' Parties' posits that while it is good to be dissatisfied with kids' misdemeanour, one shouldn't pound the head with a pestle just because it aches. The adroitness used in tacitly driving the piece's message home is awesome. It started as a letter written by a strayed child to her mum and ends with a short note that informs you that the child only writes the letter to her mum that there are other worst things than the failure- riddled report card that had kept her from coming home.

When anger is given a chance to feed on one's emotion and guide one's action, unimaginable loss can be its prospect. 'Gate 9: The Written Letter' flings open and you learn from the costly mistake of Nana Awere Damoah when he is in Ghana National College in Cape Coast, Ghana. Nana perceives injustice at the way which the uniforms given to his set in school are not different from what are given to junior pupils. Nana vents his grief and anger in written words to the principal of the school. What causes trouble for him is how he allows his very strong anger to smudge the tone of his letter to the principal. This almost gets him an expulsion from the school. Nana Awere Damoah uses this experience of his to inform the reader that when anger drives a person in proffering solution to a problem, he would only succeed in adding more stones to the already-heavy-load.

Nana bewails the rate at which the combustion of oil laden tankers kills Africans whenever their contents are overturned on our roads in 'Gate 23: Oil Tankers and Us'. But for the abject poverty that plagues Africans, the losses would have however been avoidable.

A Reader's Seal:                                                                                         

The creative peculiarity of Through the Gates of Thought is seen at the artistic method the author adopts to give corrections through the recalling of his vivid past and present thoughts as 'Action Exercise' accompanies each story that is classified into 'Gate'. The Action Exercise that comes at the tail-end of each Gate advises the reader to reflect on how his personality fares in comparison with the story told or thought shared. The stories featured in the book become more in-depth with citations from proverbs, words of past leaders and reasoning of great philosophers. One cannot help the literary awe this book commands than to keep nudging one's head at the end of each story (which are in Gates). The messages in the book fulfil its aims; to instruct, correct and encourage. The book is multi-dimensional as each lesson is carefully unfolded. In the few books that I have read, Through the Gates of Thought will etch more on my memory because some 'Gates' leave my lower jaw lower, few make me tut-tut at what I have been doing, while the rest inspire my courage to keep forging ahead.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nigerian Men & Sizes

What African men and not only Nigerian men flaunt about is sizes in lieu of qualities and functions. Well, if you're in a rush to think my discussion does not hold grip because you consider it's a mere drivel, then wait to read some couples of lines/paragraphs before you walk out on this discussion. Almost everyone is a willing victim to this size-syndrome. My father's farm is bigger than yours; do you get where I'm driving at now? The only time a Nigerian man would place priority over quality than size is when the issue of money is involved. When he is facing financial constraint as regards getting the desired size he wants, he begins to give a tripartite lecture on the reason why small sizes with qualities rather pay off.

My going for a netbook/notebook when I wanted to buy a laptop was not a deliberate gesture. Every day, I would dream of having a laptop that I would readily show off to whoever wants to know that I have one. It was when I walked into the seller's shop one sultry afternoon with money in hand that I realized that the price of the laptop I wanted could buy a plot of land in my village. A hundred and something kini…? Abeg my parents no go hear that one, na die be that for me. I had to re-strategize and the re-thinking was what paved the way for my choice of a netbook. In spite of the truth that a netbook could be more operational-responsive and faster than some elephantine structured computer-like plastic gadgets, I still had to convince myself that was the better decision to be taken since the price the netbook was to be sold for halved the price of a bigger laptop. Poor me; pity me?

Umh…, you want to talk about the craze African men have for size? You only need to understand the reason why *chinko* phones was able to penetrate the Nigerian mobile phone market and almost threatened to uproot Nokia long standing years of quality phones. One thing I really do admire about the *chinko* phone manufacturers is that, unlike Nokia producer that boasts of operational-sophistication, they had to closely understudy the psyche of Nigerians before launching their products into the market. Their findings were worth it! Bigger and strange sizes than we have never come across in Nokia brand began flooding the market. Phones of two sims in a phone. A friend told me some times ago that we now have the ones of four sim cards… kai, China dey try, no be small. People thought I was just being a clown when I strongly opined that, with the sizes and hummer-listic structure of some *chinko* phones, if we place them on a well tarred road, especially express lanes, they would speed faster than some cars on the road would. Chei! You only need to know how big these models of *chinkos* were before you understand why I said they could run as cars too. Even blackberry is not curing the malaise any inch. I almost passed someone for a cripple, when he firmly held out his right hand holding a blackberry out in a stiff posture while he was riding a bike. It took me some reasoning and logics before I knew what he was trying to impress about. "My blackberry fine and dey costly, even though he no big; this is it in my hand, because you might not get to appreciate it if it is in my pocket."

Nigerian men's flair for sizes cannot be removed from the desire to get sexual attraction. As it is with animals, so is it with man. A research conducted to find out the object of sexual attraction of chimpanzee was able to identify their objection of sexual attraction in the things they most desire to have. Sometimes, inconsequential things that trigger the sexual hormones of their opposite sex. Though, I knew very soundly what a computer can be used for and the purpose of my wanting to have it clearly defined, I still was clouded in reasoning that only size-intimidating ones would get me the respect from the girls around. Especially those skimpy skirts of Bola and Tosin, who made cartoons of me when I was having only flash drive as a sole means of storing the files I had prepared on friends' numerous computers.  Any true Nigerian man will always feel inferior when his size is challenged. Size in cars, in house, in gadgets and even in that piece of flesh supported by the thighs (for so I heard that we now have pumpers for those whose things are too small. Don't be surprised numerous divorces are on that basis)

I was embarrassed when someone jeeringly asked the amount my netbook went for, while I knew what he wanted to say was if it was more expensive than his DVD player at home.  That man only need to know that I've just typed in more than nine hundred words on this post to know why my netbook shouldn't be as big as his DVD player before it is appreciated.

If you think this post is too short to be objective on this topic, you might be a sufferer of the size syndrome too. Don't rant jo… the better you could do to this post is tell us the readers why the size syndrome is…

Happier moment awaits me this week as I've just gotten some eclectic books from Lifestyle Store and Terra Kulture's library. Don't come borrowing any book from me o. For now, my library is on fire, don't touch it. File! It's a danger zone…

I'm out of here!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Meet the Writer, Adunni, of Under The Brown Rusted Roofs

Abimbola Aduuni Adelakun is the author of the pastoral novel, Under the Brown Rusted Roofs, a book which perfectly uses Yoruba's folklore to mirror the malaises of the country, the joy and sorrow that exist in the communal relationship of the Yoruba and the polygamy of the patriarchs. She writes for the Punch Newspaper as an Opinion Columnist. If you don't know her, it is possibly you have not been reading Punch Newspaper every Thursday. She studied Language and Communication Arts at Ibadan University, receiving BSc. She also graduated with Masters at the same institution.

In this interview, Adunni humorously speaks about writing, her book (UTBRR) and the impact of her journalism work on her creativity.




True Talk: Who is Abimbola Adunni Adelakun?

Abimbola Adunni Adelakun: Frankly, I don't know myself. I believe I am still being unravelled. The part of me that is visible now is a young feisty spirited woman who is going from one level of strength to another.


TT: How did you come about writing?

AAA: I think it is more appropriate to say writing came about me. It started when I penned words in school big notes to stave off boredom and document my wandering thoughts. Most of the things I penned down have gone with the wind but then, it helped me to build some self confidence. Then, I didn't see myself writing because I wanted to have a book. A book ke? I thought that was for geniuses and very very on top people. I didn't think I could do it. It never crossed my mind. I just wanted to write because my hands were itching and my mind was full of lots of stuff I thought I should put down. Then, it was therapeutic for me too. If I felt depressed or down or anyhow, I turned to writing and I would be fine. Writing, for me, thus started as something I was doing to keep my hands occupied and to help myself feel good about my life. For a long time, I never imagined it would be taken serious. I had written several pieces and they are all in my wardrobe in Ibadan, rotting away. I believe one day I will do something about them. My BA project is a novel too and I believe all those things that I have written have helped me to be a write Under the Brown Rusted Roofs.


TT: Your write for the Punch, what has your experience been?

AAA: Fantastic! That is another level of experience in writing. In this instance, there are rules that must not be broken. News writing is a technical thing but the discipline is worth it, frankly. Then, writing a column is another discipline entirely which has its own rules but allows for more creativity. It has been a hell of interesting experience, one which I am glad for because it helps me learn the ropes and at least ensures I do not stop writing.


TT: How does your writing for a print medium impact on your creative writing?

AAA: It affects me both positively and negatively. Positive in the sense that at the end of the day, writing is writing but doing various types of writing is a superb experience. I can flow in between technical and creative writing. I can learn from one and bring it into another. I can write everyday and that is a lot of advantage.

It could be negative in the sense that if you are not careful, you begin to sound like a journalist in creative writing and then stifle your own creativity.


TT: Aside the challenges of meeting up with deadlines, what part of you does it take to always measure up to standards, especially when it comes to Opinion Writing which you do for the Punch?

AAA: You want to know the truth? Research. Nothing kills a well written opinion like a badly conducted research. There are people out there who know one or two things more than you and are waiting to jump on your back and say, 'yeah, I got you! You are daft!!' So, you have to really really be sure. Besides, people tend to say 'You are wrong' when they actually intend to say 'I disagree' so you need to let them know that what you are touting is your opinion and be decisive about the matter.


TT: True Talk has been following you for quite a while now, you were writing for the Literary Column and Super Thursday spread of the newspaper before you progressed to getting featured on the back page. Was that really some kind of promotion in your journalism career?

AAA: Yes and No. It is a promotion because it is the highest form of responsibility that can be given to a journalist or writer anywhere. It is not a promotion because I still remain where I am. I still do stuffs other journalists on my rank do and I still obey my bosses.


TT: What brought the idea of Under The Brown Rusted Roofs?

AAA: I wanted to write a book about Ibadan, that was where it started. Prof Femi Osofisan gave a tripartite faculty lecture then and said Ibadan has fallen because the city no longer produces writers. As a proud Ibadan girl, I felt bad and swore I would do something about it in my own little way. That was where the whole thing came from. Even then, I didn't have the story or the least idea but I knew I wanted to do it.


TT: You meshed the folklore of the Yoruba, Nigerian politics and Ibadan lifestyle skilfully, what inspired the story. Why do you choose Ibadan as your setting in the book?

AAA: Like I said above, I just wanted to redeem the image of Ibadan as a place that was no longer producing books. Then, most importantly, the story came to me. It was inspiration merged with desire.


TT: What problems did you face when seeking for publication? Can you say KRAFT has done well in giving the book the necessary publicity?

AAA: Not many problems and I believe that is the root of all the challenges the book later faced. On the second question, the answer is No.


TT: You agreed KRAFT never gave the book the needed publicity it should have had. Where do you think KRAFT failed in making the book a reader's choice? Do you really believe a publisher's effort in advertising a book pays off?

AAA: Not at all. I didn't agree on anything.

I would not say Kraft failed in making the book the reader's choice. Kraft didn't give the book the needed publicity but I will blame myself 10 ten times before blaming Kraft. There are some things I should have known and done for myself. UTBRR is a reader's choice 99 times out of 100 from the feedback I have been getting. People love the book and when we are done with repackaging, we will distribute further.



TT: How has the book being doing on the shelf?

AAA: Much more than I thought but it could have been better if I had more exposure than I do now. I have learnt every serious lessons, bro.


TT: If you had known better than what you knew about publishing a book, would you still have given it to KRAFT?


AAA: I wouldn't know, frankly. But I do know that there are some things I would have insisted upon.



TT: Apart from the NLNG three years ago, what competition have you entered the book for?

AAA: After the book has been repackaged, I plan to enter it for some serious competitions.


TT: You implied NLNG is unserious in the way books are judged to be winners of prizes by saying the book will be entered for more serious competitions after its repackaging. Does that show your lack of confidence in NLNG? Why?


AAA: I don't have problems with NLNG. If I did, I would not submit my book to the contest. What I mean is that I will look for contests that offer you more than money. Nigerian prizes gives you money but not opportunities. I have not met a writer who thinks his/her book sold more because it was shortlisted for NLNG. That is not the fault of NLNG of course but then, I want a broader market.



TT: The book was among the eleven shortlists for the competition. How has that feat helped in creating awareness for the book?

AAA: It has not helped in any way that I have noticed.


TT: It's been a norm with contemporary writers now; they leverage on the power of the Internet to push their books to the readers. Do you think that encourages reading in any way? Why haven't you been doing that for Under The Brown Rusted Roofs?

AAA: I am sure putting a book on internet helps the book but what I am not exactly sure is how and to what extent. I could have done same for UTBRR but it has been off the market for a while. It was actually a tacit withdrawal and it was to help touch up one or two things in the book and then relaunch it. It will be concluded soon.


TT: You said UTBRR was withdrawn from the shelf/market because of some fallings in the book. What were the spoilers? Is it still going to be published under the same platform?

AAA: The editing was not properly done. We have corrected that and even changed the cover. Now, we have a new improved packaging. Yes, it's still Kraft.



TT: It's been three years since Under The Brown Rusted Roofs was published, the last creative writing True Talk read from you was a short story you did for ATE OGBON LITERARY CLUB in Osogbo. Are you presently working on any book? When should the next publication be?

AAA: I am done with a manuscript but it is currently going through levels of reading. I have given it out to members of the Jalaa and some have started reading it and giving me interesting feedback. I don't want to rush it. I hope by the end of the year, it will be done. If not, next year. No rush.


TT: Is it only going to be Prose as far as Abimblola Adunni  Adelakun is concerned?

AAA: Actually, I cannot say. I wish I can write poetry but it doesn't come to me like it used to. When I was younger, I used to write it but now, I don't feel it. I get distracted when I try to do plays so I gave up. Let's see, it might still happen.


TT: Give a sentence for the blog.

AAA: I love y'all. Where will I be without you?


TT: It's been good engaging you, Abimbola.

AAA: Me sef.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Weaverbird Collection {An anthology of 14 Short stories}

The reason why I have a bias for prose anthology is simple; unlike a full fictional piece that compels you to go through the gamut of a particular writer's thought in order to make reason of the message it passes, a collection of short stories rather gives the reader the choice of random selection of piece that appeals to his literary taste. In an anthology of different writers, whenever a story put you off, there's the likelihood that succeeding stories might make up for the dourness. Weaverbird Collection, a show of literary deftness, mingles skills in a way a compilation of such should. What excites a reader more is in the exactitude that some of the stories are told with. Though, it is of a truth, that an anthology does not only showcase motley of knacks, but also uneven balances that smear some. I wouldn't know if open submissions were really called for in this publication or the literary clique that dominates the Nigerian scene was a factor.

Weaverbird Collection streams definitions across themes that express the new Nigerian writing. The new Nigerian writing that comes with the age of the Internet with patches of emigrant experiences. Ikhide's and Khalidah's pieces are an attestation to this fact. Some are daring enough to stir fantasy with concocted literary adroitness to bring attention to issues the society may consider permissive. Uche's, Shylle's and Tade's pieces bear this tale. Others only regurgitate known matters to our terrain in a way that make them new. Tolu's story of deep-eaten corruption, Ike's contribution that brings to memory the plight of the Niger Delta and others, fit into this portion.

The collection's categorization makes a whole as its various themes dazzle readers of different understandings of what Literature is or should be. Weaverbird Collection is an anthology of fourteen short stories by different writers.


A Peep into the Book:

Seafood Pasta (Mogbolahan Koya-Oyabola) - When Sownade is in Nigeria, what the Whites mean to him is only seen from the hospitality of his half-caste Uncle's wife, Dane. When he is exiled to UK to seek greener pasture in a Restaurant, though as a would-be lawyer, his views about life generally change.

Hair Memories (Khalidah Aderonke Bello) – Hair memories recounts the ordeal Khalidah goes through in the name of making her hair less kinky. The story depicts the hypocrisy of female hair fashion. It is a side swipe at the manner African women tends to follow everything Western. Khalida crinkled hair moves her to frustration. The personal reinvention of the psyche of Khalidah at the tail end of the story passes judgment on what boundary African women shouldn't cross in looking good and 'beautiful'.

How Sergeant Redwood Lost His Penis (Ike Okonta) – A vacancy for a bodyguard at Imperial Oil in Port Harcourt opens up and Tom fits in as the only experienced candidate for the job. Tom Redwood's job is simple; his task is to help contain the restiveness of the tribe that poses constant threat to Imperial Oil. For Redwood and his 'aid-de-crime' Major Okuntime, the job becomes a game of blood and free sex. During bloody raids, Major Okuntime will let his libido lose on married women in the presence of their husbands and Redwood will have his privately.  By some stroke of luck, Major Okuntime escapes karma, leaving Redwood alone to narrate the story, years after, of how he pays with his scrotum.

Digital World, Analogue Planet (Ikhide Ikheloa) – The narrator relives his memory in the land of his ancestors with ambivalent feelings. His homesickness gradually transmutes into boredom as the narrator quickly longs for the clinical serenity of his American home few days after visiting his ailing mother in Nigeria. The narrator repulses the static state of the country on his visit. The American comfort he revels in is denied him in Nigeria. His journey to Nigeria is able to bring to light how stagnant the condition of Nigeria has been over years.

Shadow of Eclipse (Adebayo Ayobami) – Folashade's plan of surviving on campus without support from her parents would have paid off if the table hadn't turn against her. Folashade's hunts for rich men who pay young campus girls for sex, her search turns successful when Chief Bamgbose becomes her symbiotic sex partner {aristole}. One thing Folashade Ogunroke shares with the eclipse is uncertainty. Just like the eclipse will suddenly change the weather, Folashade regrets her fortune of meeting Chief when she realizes her mother is once Chief's Abeke {darling} and her the pregnancy Chief runs away from when he dumps her mother in his days as a teacher who cashes on the innocence of her mother as a young girl-student.

How I Became An Assassin (Tolu Ogunlesi) – Tolu's contribution in this anthology catalogues the life of a man who repulses corruption like an excreta one spits on. The man fights the menace with the emotion that later translates to the unsuccessful death attempt he plans against the corrupt Local Chairman of his borough. Eons later, after he has tasted the juice of office himself, he metarphosizes from a poacher to a gamekeeper as he becomes morally rotten than the Chairman he almost kills. His transfiguration as a puritan to the social ill he wants to erase lends a voice to the weakness one faces when what one loathes becomes one's daily bread.

Walking into my Groom (Unoma Nguemo Azuah) – This story infuses mythical belief with the currents of the present day society. Nneka, an archetypical character of the sufferers in modern day civilization cuts a good picture. Nneka marries Ikwe, a man who is later known as a being who lives after death {akudaya}. After so many quarrels and heated arguments, she is able to get the location where Ikwe is from. Her discovery of Ikwe's hometown turns everything called reality into a mirage of some sort for her. It is then she knows the truth. The truth that Ikwe, Ubani (the friend of Ikwe she has always known), Ikwe's children she once visits in school and Ikwe's wife; have all died in an auto crash years before she knows them all.   



Letters To The Authors:

I always have matter to settle with the works of writers that try so much beyond their literary muscle to remain African. As a writer, if what you are used to living with everyday are sleet and snows while seeping coffee, don't try writing about how tasty amala with egusi or eko with ila (Okoro soup) could be. You could miss details if you do. Remember, the frosty weather of your exile might have rendered your thinking blurred about the scorching sun of your fatherland. Khalidah Aderonke Bello's Hair Memories nearly pisses me off the reading. I understand she wants to romance with the language of her pantheon so as to have an identity. What she should have done is to see how the rhythm of the narration would not be affected. The input of Yoruba expressions amidst the conversations of the story deskills her effort as she struggles to interpret them in English. She should know one of her expressions isn't it in the way it blunders what the real one should be. "Me o ni time fun awon are oshi yi!" reads better as "Mi o ni time fun awon are oshi yii!"

A short story is in its meaning; simple, short and succinct. When the conversation becomes so wordy and lengthy, writers struggles to give hasty conclusion to it. Mogbolahan Koya-Oyagbola's Seafood Pasta is one story of untidy climax. I find little connection in the exchanges between Sam and his cousin, Daphne. The conflict of the story is farer from it. If Mogbolahan would say it is to support his description of Nigerian political situation and any other thing in the story as Galump, then the effort is not near necessity.

Gorge Orwell posits that what makes a good book is when the matters it systematically tells you are things already known to you. The subject matter of Shylle's Seventh One is easily decipherable. Reading few couples of words, you would know what the story is all about. Even at that, Shylle crafts her plot with the majestic confidence a good storyteller uses while everyone already knows tortoise to be the conman in the fabled animal kingdom. The temerity Shylle absorbs the reader with is splendid. Three things make hers a good read; Confidence, Diction and Plotting Creativity.



·         With Weaverbird Collection, my anthologies of short stories are gradually heaping up on my shelf. I'm glad I have it.


…to be updated later. More to come under 'Letters to the Authors'




Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Differences Between a CREATIVE WRITER and a CRITIC

In November 2010 when I 'poped' a friend of mine, Dami  Ajayi, up on facebook, I thought it was going to be the normal chatter that one indulges in on the social media while other important things pile up for attention. As it turned out, the conversation we had became a foray into a topic that would never stop leaving controversy in its trail whenever it is dragged into any discourse. Within the hours that my subsisting Internet connection could allow and many eye-blinks at the glare that beamed from our various computers' screens at different ends of the cyberspace, we gave our opinions on what could differentiate a Writer from a Critic. To shed more light on the topic, I have also enlisted the pen of a friend, whose write-up shows nothing but the assiduousness that could only come from the effort one makes after one sleeves had been rolled up to the elbow before picking up the pen to write. Oyebanji Ayodele's versed article on the topic comes up after the chat history.



The Chat History


Omotayo: how are you doing?

Dami Ajayi: i am fine

nice work with ur reviews

Omotayo: you read them?

thank you.

Dami Ajayi: yeah, i did read them

but is that what u really like, reviews?

Omotayo: what do you mean?

I don't understand your question, could you simplify it more?

Dami Ajayi: are u a critic or a creative writer? or both?

Omotayo: both.

Dami Ajayi: now, that is dicy

cuz they are opposite roles that are not necessarily equal

Omotayo: It quite depends on the perspective you are taking them from.

Dami Ajayi: no perspectives man

am laying it down like it is

Omotayo: well, I'm open to learning, tell me more about the two as they are.

Dami Ajayi: i will always take a creative writer over the critic

its like balance and checks

balance is d creative writer, who churns out literature

critics seek patterns in this works by comparison and aligning it with deir personal aesthetics and pass a verdict

Omotayo: so you are saying a critic could be personal and imbalanced in his judgement of a work?

Dami Ajayi: of cuz d crtic can be personal, but imbalanced? u wud have to dilate that

Omotayo: could this not also be aligned with writers too as their pieces could be fed from their experiences which could at times be shallow and not rational enough?

Dami Ajayi: d writer seeks to create or in this context recreate

d crtic seeks to assess the created works. sort of like an exam

Omotayo: creation can be deceiving when the origin is not well defined too.

Dami Ajayi: creation cant be defined

i think

creation is an act rather than an act

it is a subliminal process that spurts from the act of living

Omotayo: what if the view the origin is defined from is blurred by faulty reasonings?

Dami Ajayi: there are a lot of faulty reasonings that have given birth to real works of art

faulty reasoning is not a setback; it's not of importance at all, i think

Omotayo: then where is the beauty in the works that are riddled with hoaxes that only set out to confuse?

Dami Ajayi: pls be exact

are u refering to a piece of work

Omotayo: call me to correction if I have deviated... where was that?

Dami Ajayi: ur last statement connotes that u have a piece of work that u are referencing

Omotayo: I'm sorry for the grammar... I really sidetracked there.

Dami Ajayi: ok

Omotayo: I have really enjoyed the lessons my man.

Dami Ajayi: lessons?

no man

there are no absolutes in literature

i cud be telling lies, for all i care

Omotayo: lessons are eye-openers to some resources that could still be explored - they are not necessarily the absolutes as you said.

They nudge one to keep searching to build more flowery arguments around things that might not actually exist in the real sense.

Dami Ajayi: ok sir

it was nice engaging u

Omotayo: u are welcomed. I've been indeed engaged.

thank you.

Dami Ajayi: tk u too.




Oyebanji Ayodele's Article on the topic

When a subject like this comes into view or is meant to be discussed, a sight of frowned faces, crossed legs and grins at inexplicable intervals among the discussants cannot be prevented. This is because a perfect treatment of the subject takes what philosopher will refer to as "critical thinking". It is because as inseparable as a creative writer and critic are, they are both germane to the art of writing.

Creative writing requires the ideas of an individual; his proficiency in the use of language and how distinctly he achieves that; his painstaking discipline to labour by his desk putting and ideas together and more than not cross-checking or distilling his output with his aesthetic sense. Thus, a creative writer has the following trappings:

·         He is more concerned with how his ideas are germane to his environment.

·         He is interested in charging language with the vigour of his experience. Therefore, he rhapsodizes.

·         He is prone to every detail he encounters and consigns them a place in his art.

·         He is interested in getting public recognition and making money.

Someone said, "Writing is a witty way for recognition and money". Writer of all genres of Literature fall under this category. Writers of essays and articles are not left out.

A critic on the other hand is a person who forms or gives judgments about works of art, especially Literature. A critique can be as positive as it can be negative sometimes. Something is worthy of note about a creative writer and a critic is that between them exists a sort of symbiotic relationship. Thus, a critic is as dormant as an animal on hibernation until a literary work is released.

Moreover, one other thing one must not ignore is that a creative writer can be critical in the presentation of his work. Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown and The Scarlet Letter, Odia Ofeimun's Go Tell The Generals, Athol Fugard's  Sizwe Bansi is Dead and the like are examples of this. Therefore, taking a closer look at the two kinds of writing, it becomes glaring that they have their similarities as well as discrepancies. The following are the criteria with which one can examine the differences between the two:


A very important way of differentiating between a creative writer and a criric is the motive for which they do what they do. The primary aim for writing to a creative writer is quenching the thirst to live up to the epithet "creative". The secondary aim can be seen from two perspectives. First is the recognition and the other, making money. These are intertwined – a creative writer's prowess ascertains his level of recognition and probably, the amount of money he makes.

However, the case is different when one examines a critic. All a critic is poised for is to appreciate or find faults in the works of writers. A critic cogitates on the subject matter, the thematic preoccupation and the other devices in the creative work.


The flow of ideas in the mind of a writer based on his experiences or day-to-day encounter in his environment and the like are some of the things that trigger picking a pen for scribble. The paper then assumes life as it inhales everything that diffuses out the writer's mind as well as his wealth of creative experiences.

In contrast to a creative writer's source of inspiration, a critic is inspired by what the creative writer produces {output}. Writing is not scientific and thus, a critic sees either praiseworthy side or otherwise of the book.



The massive or otherwise acceptability of the works of creative writer and a critic is another point that emphasizes the differences between them.

Every literary age produces a sizeable population of admirers of creative work irrespective of age, sex or area of specialization. These admirers go extra mile to satisfy this urge. For instance, an age like ours has taken creative writing to another level – the internet which enhances a wider acceptability of creative works.

The case is not the same with a critic. Literary works like critiques can never be appreciated efficaciously without attaining a particular level in Literature. As a result, the rate of acceptability of critiques is in no way equal to that of the works of creative writers as most issues treated in critiques go beyond the cognizance of laymen. A creative writer, most times bridges the furrow between laymen and specialists in the field.

If getting a Philistine to appreciate a work of art is close to impossibility, getting a laymen who finds pleasure in reading a critique compared to a short story is closer.


Functions in Inter-relatedness:

Being a creative writer and a critic are two threads in the same web. Considering the ebb and flow of their activities asserts that a critic despite his creativity depends solely on the creative writer to achieve his aim

To the creative writer, a critic is a builder. The critic tends to build the confidence, credibility and creativity of the creative writer by means of "constructive criticism". The life span of a creative work depends on nothing else but its ability to withstand criticism. Anglo-Saxon writings {such as "Beowulf"}, Shakespearean works and other works that have failed to bow out of the stage of this literary age possess this ability.

A summation in the case of a subject like this seems impossible even if it is taken to a place farther that Timbuktu. "Literature is life", most people will say. Critics and creative writers make this possible.


·         Dami Ajayi of Saraba Magazine featured in the chat.

·         Oyebanji Ayodele, a poet, contributed the article

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