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Monday, December 5, 2011

Reporting Book 'n' Gauge 6

It has become so trite to say African timing always plays the undertone in matter that should be held sacrosanct for proper effectiveness. Such utterance is exhaustible that one finds lateness a usual thing. I knew I would be the early caller at the November's edition of Book 'n' Guage reading. When I straddled motorcycle from Ikorodu to Mile 12 to beat traffic, before boarding the Fadeyi plying BRT en route Yaba, I was sure of arrival at the event's venue minutes before the official time. When I arrived at Debonair Bookshop, the venue for the programme, the chairs were grinning white, all still begging to be sat on. I wouldn't be angered. My time wouldn't be trifled with. I had to reinvest the moment in prospecting books that would later gobble the thousands I had. Sometimes, the unpunctuality that trailed event of this makeup leaves one to wonder about the tattered seriousness people couple their actions of empowering reading culture with. We could adeptly espouse theories about the beguiling matter of bad reading culture; but what is it with the tardy way we strategise solutions to it? Ayodele Arigbabu was honest enough. He later revealed what brought about his belatedness to the event; a reason contrary to the previous tenuous excuse of traffic difficulty that was made up for him. He had been watching TV with his siblings for a proper mood adjustment, even when timeliness was paramount. Let's not call that inane. I wouldn't be frustrated anyway. Ayodele is creative than that adjective. The creatural issues of the two writers' worlds later spruced up the event into the engaging interactions that eventually commanded full attention.

Writers are stereotypically a bore denuded of social activities and inclinations. Such fixed image follows them persistently. At Book 'n' Guage 6, Ayodele Arigbagbu (author of A Fistful of Tales and publisher of Dada Books) and Ebi Akpeti (authored the film adapted book, The Perfect Church) quite exuded other characteristics. In their worlds were pressing issues of Censorship, Publishing, Writing and Morality; foundational matters cementing the societal features of our own world.

Having published a book that was role cast into film, Ebe Akpeti explored the encounter she had with Wale Adenuga, the movie producer of The Perfect Church:

"I never had any pre-connection with Adenuga… It only started when I was watching a series of SuperStory on TV. I realized what the man's vision was. He wasn't just trying to input one foreign culture into another. He really was producing the real African story.  And I thought of the script of The Perfect Church. I took it to him. He rather received me coldly. It was later I got to know he constantly receives up to a thousand scripts daily. That night he called me to come over the next day to discuss how the film will go about. From his account; I got to know how impressed he was with my story that he had to sit in his car some while when he got home to finish the reading. After which he passed it to his wife and daughter. Both of whom confirmed that it was good to go"

When asked what age group she writes for and if she had no worry kids could pick up her work to read, she chirped; "My books are for adult. If it were to be for children, there will be a note informing that it is a children's fiction."

Ayodele's response went the other way round Ebi's view of censorship in literature. In his opinion, Ayodele posits; "The book has a life of its own. All I do is write and let it gets its own life. I don't censor my writing. I only write and allow the book find its group… "

Among the audience, which was largely peopled by writers seeking publication of numerously rejected manuscripts gathering dust, muscles tightened and fists clenched as Ayodele's tutelage untied the knotty subject of Mainstream Publishing and Self Publishing.

''If you can promote your book and go through the hassles; then self publish… There are known authors that self published before getting a publisher. If I were to publish you, getting your royalty might take years after the debt I incurred in producing your work must have been settled. But when you self publish, you get to take the profit yourself and also get instant feedbacks on your work directly… It depends on the kind of career you have in mind. If yours doesn't grow with self-publishing; then get a publisher. Mind you, publishing has processes, there are editing and marketing too…"

In supporting Ayodele's stance on the issue, Ebi cited the resilience of Adichie in the face of almost a hundred rejections from publishers. She more of backed the good virtue mainstream publishing has to offer.

Ayodele didn't believe in anything called Writer's Block. He called it a phantom and a fiery monster in the deep sea that is only talked about but never really seen. He wouldn't admit ever succumbing to it once in his writing career. He countered;

"…That I have not written for months does not mean anything. Any time I want to write, I just keep everything aside and focus on the writing only. Meanwhile, I don't just write anything. So, I don't get stuck in the middle of the writing and dump it half way. I write when I am ready."

Ebi's contribution was more factual. She rather was of the view that one should only write what one knows and can see. She stressed the fact that one rarely shuts down during writing when the issue is not farfetched. Only that her perspective called to attention the place of science fiction of far-drawn imaginativeness.

Ebi's time frame for the completion of the book was 6 hours. Another proof she supported true writing with. She knew what she was going to write on and wrote it expressively, though she admitted the first publication was fraught with unforgivable errors. However, her honesty to the story she set out to tell paid off in the long run.

"It only took me six hours to write The Perfect Church. It was on a Saturday at work. I started in the morning and finished in the afternoon…"

On why she has chosen to write about the church, exposing the histrionics behind the façade of preen up Christianity, she spoke defensively. A defense that only showed the weak level of confidence she has as a writer. She read from her dedication note in the book;

"To the Giver of all Good things. I have nothing to prove but your grace upon my life."

I have read The Perfect Church; it isn't clearly a taunt at Christianity or the church. It only speaks about the awful mixes co-opting fake holiness. So, why the defensive notice in the book?

Ayodele's read Lacerations, a story in the collection, A Fistful of Tales. When his attention was called to the incompatibility of the pictorial illustration to the lead character of the story, his rejoinder was trivial. If his cartoonist drew the opposite of what he meant in the book, then the connection is lost. His reply that the cartoonist has the independence of interpretation is ill-informed. What then is the artistic partnership between him and his cartoonist if the later interprets something else?

Ebi gave a taste of the book to the audience when she read few pages from it. Through the reading, the book's exposition was known.

During the intermezzo of DTone, the audience is serenaded with love blues as he incandescently crooned Sun Kun Ife and Katikati. But when Femi Kayode versified philosophical in Questions and ended up positing there is nothing in the world. He was informed there are still books. Isn't that why we were holding a reading?

Book 'n' Guage is a worthy platform encouraging art and celebrating writers and their works. However, for literature to be reviltalised and bad reading culture put a paid to; more readings of this nature would have to be initiated. Not just on Saturdays in tucked-away bookshops but in open streets and schools around the country. Book 'n' Guage effort is only a contributing exertion solving some part of the enormous tasks. Others should follow suit. Let's have readings in the 36 states of the nation and observe how things will gradually improve. 

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