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Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

#UnhappilyEverAfter The Municipality of Hamelin v. Peter “The Pied Piper” Picklethwaite

pied piper “You are charged with the abduction and murder of 36 children. Is that correct?”

“I’m innocent. They followed me. And I was unaware they couldn’t swim.”

“Are you a full-time piper?”

“Well, I don’t pipe constantly. There’s a lot of travel between venues.”

“Are you licensed to pipe?”

“I have a full busking permit, which allows me to play any instrument, including the lyre and pianoforte, in a public place.”

“Could you estimate your gross annual income from piping?”

“A couple of crowns a day.”

“And from the purveyance of pies?”

“Pies?”

“Your nickname, the Pied Piper, clearly suggests that you partake in the purveyance of pastry of one sort or another.”

“It’s actually a reference to my outfit.”

“Your pie purveyance outfit?”

“There are twenty-two colours in my jerkin, and seven in my hose. Twenty-two over seven equals pi.”

“Moving swiftly on: what is your annual income from the installation of said piping?”

Five Twitter Poems | About a Brick

Brick
I.
The makers of arms
have humbly agreed
to lovingly compose
eulogies, biographies
obituaries for those
who perish in their fire

II.
We don’t want the death toll
nor to see their bloody bodies
let us look into their rucksacks
see their notes and doodles
know their dreams

III.
A poem about a brick
is what I want to write
a rust-red, face brick
reserved for those
who dare to build
an annex to
their fathers’ house

IV.
At dawn I ride out
to round up any
night-strayed poetry
so that I may drive it back to join the grazing flock upon the fields of prose

V.
Gone is the fire from my feed
Gone the hellish flames RT-ed
And through clearing smoke we see
The next ephemeral tragedy

Pre-Emptive Letter of Refusal to SA PEN

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Amsterdam, April 2015

Dear Mandla Langa,

Thank you for your kind letter inviting me to become a member of SA PEN, so that – as you so eloquently put it – “[my] writing may find a home instead of wandering aimlessly through the literary wasteland halfway between South Africa and the Netherlands.”

Unfortunately, I must decline as I feel I am not eligible for membership on the following grounds:

1. I renounced my South African citizenship in the mid-1980s, partly because I felt the Apartheid regime had sufficient young, white men to subjugate the uprising that was underway at the time, and partly because I never fully developed the predilection for mowing down poorly armed protesters.

2. I currently write my novels in Dutch first, before rewriting them in English. This implies that the English works I publish in South Africa are actually translations, as I pointed out to the judges of the now defunct M-Net Literary Award. It is rumoured that the panel subsequently disbanded itself as well as the award, as they were unable to decide whether they should assign my writing to the English or Afrikaans category, or whether they might create a special category for Former South Africans Writing in Proto-Colonial Languages. I’m sure you’ll agree that my alleged role in the loss of this illustrious award is sufficient reason to disqualify me for membership of your organisation.

3. My contributions to various South African short-story anthologies were requested based on the misapprehension that I am a South African citizen. That said, you can imagine my relief when my short story, Stowaway , was not selected as one of the twenty best stories published in South Africa since the first democratic elections and, more recently, when the judges of the Lambda Literary Award did not disqualify the Queer Africa anthology on the grounds that one of the contributing authors was neither queer nor African.

4. Thankfully, my South African publishers have stopped submitting my books for any awards, as I have advised them I do not have the time to keep selecting worthy causes to which I might donate my prize money every time I win. The fact that my mother saved the prize money from the UJ Award for Best First Book to buy a one-way ticket out of South Africa to the Netherlands is indicative of the gene pool from which I crawled, strengthening my guilt-fuelled resolve to decline your kind offer of membership.

5. Were I to accept membership of your illustrious organisation, my credentials as an honorary South African author might make me eligible for a host of other Commonwealth and African awards, compelling me to disappoint innumerable other officials (including HRH Queen Elisabeth) who wish to nominate, acknowledge or reward me for my paltry efforts on behalf of the muse.

I sincerely hope this letter has not caused you undue distress and that you will find comfort and support in the warm embrace of your fellow committee members. I also hope it will not deter you from approaching other authors deemed to be sufficiently South African to warrant membership.

Yours in writing,

Richard de Nooy

(Click here for more pre-emptive letters of rejection.)

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#NightFlow with Ndumiso Ngcobo

JFK, brilliance, gibberish, dreams, sleep and happy endings – they’re all summarily dissected in the 22 tweets below, posted somewhere around midnight on a random Wednesday. Sometimes you toss out a line on Twitter and someone living thousands of miles away takes the bait. It’s the latter-day version of popping out for a smoke together, before heading back to the keyboard or the busy bar or the warm bed where a spouse or lover lies waiting. More often than not these brief exchanges are swiftly washed off our timelines, like messages scrawled on the cyberbeach with a stick. Some are certainly worth saving and sharing. I hope you agree.

#BookWalk | Terra Incognita – New Short Speculative Stories from Africa

terra incognita coverTo celebrate today’s launch of Short Story Day Africa’s latest anthology Terra Incognita (18.00 at The Book Lounge in Cape Town), I revisited the stories that I had previously judged together with Samuel Kolawole (Writers’ Studio, Ibadan) and Jared Shurin (Jurassic London). Fortunately, I had already marked splendid passages in some of the stories, and it wasn’t difficult to lift striking excerpts from all the others. Hopefully, they’ll tempt you to order a copy of this superb anthology, featuring work by some of Africa’s finest experienced and emerging voices. Last year’s SSDA anthology, Feast, Famine & Potluck, included the winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing – My Father’s Head by Okwiri Oduor – so you can rest assured that you’ll be treated to some quality reading, although I urge you to so during daylight hours, to avoid being haunted by the many spirits and powerful images that populate this anthology.

“During her lunch hour Joanna had gone to The Emporium, searching for an outfit that would make her look like the girls she spied on in Mister Pickwick’s: thinnish, hungover, imperfect girls who would skinny-dip in waterfalls with your boyfriend or produce large-eyed love-children with French seamen.”
From Diane Awerbuck’s winning story Leatherman

“Jacob Lunga could feel the granite throat constricting every time he blinked the blood from his eyes. He was bent double and rushing into that darkness as fast as he could – drawn on by the retreating light.”
From Caverns Measureless to Man by Toby Bennett

“I love coffins. But seeing a coffin with a corpse in it arouses in me the feeling that only poetry can evoke. It is the hunger for this feeling that makes me turn to reading every obituary I see. I would take down the date and venue of the funeral of the deceased.”
From I Am Sitting Here Looking at a Graveyard by Pwaangulongii Benrawangya

“She’d been concerned that, only the night before, she’d begun to hear things: a carthorse, for instance, lumbering through the private driveway of the block of flats where she lived. But of course there was no carthorse in Killarney, no leather strapping, no nose-bag, no metal or wooden side shafts.”
From Marion’s Mirror by Gail Dendy

“He looked ordinary, but I knew he was a god. I confirmed it the day he showed me the egg-shaped thing. It stood on two bird-like legs that were as tall as a man, and it had a pair of wings that were so large he must have skinned twenty cows to make them.”
From How My Father Became a God by Dilman Dila

“I never had any great faith in traditional medicine. I believed in science and antibiotics and clean, cool, sanitary hospital rooms.”
From In the Water by Kerstin Hall

“Everyone in Flora agreed that it was a terrible thing, a terrible thing to happen to a young girl, and she’d been so pretty before that, they said, but Elsie knew it wasn’t disease that took her teeth.”
From Mouse Teeth by Cat Hellisen

“My head is sore and thick just now, my throat rough. I don’t know where anything is, only that I’ve been dead – a long time now, I think, looking at him. But I remember nothing about it. I feel cheated.”
From Spirit of the Dead Keep Watch by Mishka Hoosen,

“I looked to my hands. There was no trace of chalk. My nails were bitten as they ever were, but I was clean. I had no bruises, no bones protruding from my skin. My skin had never looked so soft.”
From Stations by Nick Mulgrew,

“There is a veil that separates this world from the world of the spirits. It is invisible to all but a few who know where to look. In the oldest parts of this world, the veil is worn thin in places, like a skin stretched taut over the mouth of a drum, and traces of what might be described as magic dance in the rays of sunlight.”
From Editöngö by Mary Okon Ononokpono,

“I never had much of an idea what I was going to do beyond leaving this town, but Vi was going to become a mad scientist and would cook up the cure for cancer in some basement lab, and CJ would be Nigeria’s first foreign-born astronaut, hopping from star to star.”
From CJ by Chinelo Onwualu

“So it was little wonder that Ojahdili soon ran out of men to defeat in a wrestling bout and stumbled upon the idea of travelling to the spirit world, for was it not common knowledge that no man had been known to defeat the spirits?
From There is Something That Ogbu-Ojah Didn’t Tell Us by Jekwu Ozoemene

“He is waiting for you, not just anywhere, no, he is seated on YOUR chair on the veranda. You have named him Jonny, despite your intentions of shooting him down. He is the leader of the pack, he is fearless, he deserves a name.”
From Ape Shit by Sylvia Schlettwein

“Hugh sat at the kitchen table wearing his helmet, in a special chair of his own design. It had a seatbelt harness not at all dissimilar to that found in a racing car. Miss Swan strapped him in and returned to the stove to warm some soup.”
From What if You Slept? by Jason Mykl Snyman

“Giving cyborgs memories will enable them to process responses to situations organically. The only problem is that synthetic memory creation is rather a lengthy and unstable process, which hasn’t been perfected yet, but exciting breakthroughs in neuroscience are helping to sidestep that issue.”
From Esomnesia by Phillip Steyn

“I hear a voice that does not flow over the air. It is as if I am repeating the words myself, an echo of something heard only in my mind. It is crisp and cold, a winter voice, a dark voice, like ice on a deep lake.
From The Lacuna by Brendan Ward,

“Ever since the great event which had occurred over 200 years ago, when the people of earth fled underground, the main problem that had befallen society was one that was completely unanticipated by the scientists of the day; mass boredom.”
From The Carthagion by Sarah Jane Woodward

“Minutes rushed past his open window and they dragged with them trees and houses and people, and still Bowuk Jana held his breath. He was amazed that he could do this, it was way past a minute, past two minutes, past three minutes, and now he held his breath out of fascination for his ability to do so, the dead dog long forgotten by now.”
From The Corpse by Sese Yane

Click here to order a copy.

Pisztoly | Hungary | Xenophilia

bridge-geograph-156819-by-Chris-Hart

You’re a killer, hiding in the bushes near a bridge. On the fourth day, the Turk pulls up. Every cell in your body is on full alert as you hear the car slow down and stop. It’s a quiet road; you and Falics made sure of that when you built and stocked the shelter. Four or five cars cross the bridge every hour during the day, and one or two at night.

Only one other car has stopped on the bridge. On the first day, as night fell. Trembling in your fortress of stinging nettles, the claw hammer heavy in your sweating palm, you watched the driver get out of the car, hastily open the boot and toss two dustbin bags off the bridge. They fell next to the river. After the car left, you had sneaked over to pick them up, weighing them to assess the contents, before opening them. You found no newspaper among the household garbage, nothing to tell you what you wanted to know. So you tied the bags up and tossed them under the bridge, where the water was so shallow that they lay like twin islands.

In the days thereafter, the little plastic atoll began to annoy you more and more. As you sat picking at your tin-food in the sun outside your shelter, you tried to imagine who would do such a thing. Nature was a magnificent woman, who always did her best to don her finest garb and welcome you with open arms. Why would anyone want to insult such a superb and unselfish hostess by throwing turds at her? Why would you maim her and spoil her beauty for others? What drove such people? Ignorance? Thrift? Haste? Thoughtlessness? Egotism?

Then again, you mused, people might well ask what drives a man to strike another down from behind with a claw hammer, thumping down again and again upon his bald skull, until his fat and bloody body, naked save for big, white underpants, moves no more. You knew exactly what drove such a man: vengeance. Or more accurately: the settling of a score. The alderman had simply failed to realise the high price he would have to pay for his misconduct.

Through your little binoculars, you see the Turk cautiously emerging from his olive-green Mercedes. When the inside light comes on, you see that there was also a young woman sitting in the back seat. She is leaning against the window with her tight headscarf, following the movements of the Turk, who steps up to the parapet, looks around and then pulls a white plastic bag out of his jacket pocket. He peers down into the darkness to gauge the depth of the river, ties a knot in the handles of the plastic bag and lets it drop into the water. The sound of the splash hints that there was something heavy in the bag. The Turk curses when he sees the knot of the bag sticking out above the water like the head of a white rabbit, swimming. The Turk walks over to the steep embankment and looks for a path through the dense, dark bush. He then crosses the bridge and checks the embankment on the other side. You know that the least risky route down to the river can only be reached via a sandy track that runs off into the woodland further down the road. That’s where you and Falics parked the car so that you could head back up along the wooded riverbank to build and stock the shelter.

Suddenly the Turk hurries to the car and drives off. Only then do you hear the heavy engine in the distance. Soon thereafter a truck thunders across the bridge. As you wait and listen, you fix the strap of the lamp around your head. When all is quiet, you flick on the lamp, part the nettles carefully with the long stick and make your way down to the river.

The white rabbit with the handle-ears is near the opposite bank. You consider taking off your shoes and wading through the water, but soon decide that is far too risky. Instead, you break a longer branch off a nearby tree and, after a couple of near-misses, manage to hook one of the rabbit’s ears on the tip. By the bending of the branch, you know that there is something heavy in the bag, possibly made of metal. Once your prize is landed, you carefully finger the plastic bag. The hard outlines hint at the deadly nature of the metal inside. But when you open the bag, the contents come as a surprise, giving you a new quandary to occupy your mind in the long days that follow: What possessed the Turk to wrap the pistol in so many layers of duct tape?

(Photo © Chris Hart)

The Unsaid Limited Edition Poster

Ace designer Joey Hi-Fi is selling limited-edition, A2 posters of The Unsaid! For just R899 you could decorate your Bat Cave with one of two variants (see below). He only has 25 available, so you’d better hurry.

Click HERE Contact him via Twitter. Or contact me a richarddenooy at live dot nl

Joey Hi-Fi posters

Platform Fatigue

platform fatigueWith the exception of the ultra-famousest and bestsellingest, most writers have to make an effort to promote their own books. There are myriad ways of doing so, ranging from light-hearted banter on Twitter and Facebook (If you think I’m funny, buy my book) to the butt-clenchingly, toe-stubbingly annoying hard-sell shtick preferred by some US authors (I will keep plugging my self-published tome until you unfollow, block or arrange to murder me).

Back in the old days, when the web was little more than a basketball net compared to world-wrapping dragnet it is today, South African authors posted their blogs on BooksLIVE and spent many merry hours commenting on each other’s posts and discussing literature and more frivolous matters into the wee hours of the night. BooksLIVE was our literary salon; a place where we could meet to engage with one another, often oblivious to whoever might be listening in or reading over our shoulders.

Then someone alerted me to GoodReads. This was back in 2007, when my first book was published. It wasn’t always easy to connect with readers via the site, because even then they were wary of literary gnomes bearing tomes.

Then Facebook arrived on the scene and we all set up shop there, trying to connect with one another as we had done in the past, reaching out to readers, we hoped. We kept blogging here, but our comments and discussions now took place under our Facebook posts, where they could only be read by friends and acquaintances.

Then came Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and you name it – the list of platforms keeps growing.

A recent discussion in the Good Book Appreciation Society on Facebook has convinced me that it is pointless to try plugging your work – in whatever way – on all these different platforms. I think the modern web dictates that we – writers, publishers and other bookish folk – need to seek a single, perhaps slightly exclusive place to post our blogs, reviews, excerpts and discussions. A place where readers are welcome to eavesdrop and read over our shoulders.

In short, I think we bookish folk all stand to benefit from returning to our literary salon. Here’s why:

- This is where we post our blogs. More comments = more attention for our writing/thoughts/discussion.

- Unlike Facebook, this is an open platform where anyone can read which books and topics are hot and happening.

- It’s almost impossible to keep track of the discussions on all the other platforms, to keep liking and retweeting and sharing stuff. Enough!

- By choosing a single platform, we not only create an exclusive space that is unique and interesting to others, but also save ourselves hours and hours of time spent scrolling through threads flung far and wide across the web.

- And most of all, I miss the sense of community and solidarity we once had here, the intensity and depth of the discussions, and the razor-sharp puns and jibes that were exchanged.

That said, I will of course be posting the link to this blog on Facebook and Twitter.

However, I have decided to ditch Google as my homepage, replacing it with BooksLIVE. I hope some of you will do the same.

Five Twitter Poems – The Rusty Knife

I.
All great poetry
juxtaposes two
disparate elements
like a banana and
the word juxtapose
with hard returns

II.
I’m as nervous as the night
I wrote and ripped up
my first love poem
to a girl who said
she was not ready
for my love
of poetry

III.
As ek in Afrikaans dig
dan sny die landskap
as ‘n roestige mes
droog deur my strot
om my bloed as rooi
blomme te plant
in die dorstige sand

IV.
A falling tree
is mostly just
a falling tree
hollowed by age
leafless, nude
splintered, breathless
waiting for words
to water its roots

V.
I will leave this here
to ensure that our
glasses never run dry
as we watch the birds
warm our hearts
with their wings
over chimneys

(Click here to get the poems fresh via Twitter.)

Five Twitter Poems | Darker Cargo

I.
I will not write poetry
I will not write poetry
I will not write poetry
I will not write poetry
I will not write poetry
I will not write poe

————————

II.
When you wake up
if you do
it may be just
another morning
depending on where
and who you are
and whether you
wake up or not

————————

III.
Did some thinking
about #Ferguson
watched some clips
out of #Gaza
remembered
#Marikana
worried a bit
about #Ebola
hashtagged
my conscience

————————

IV.
Sometimes the night sneaks
into the day as a stowaway
fumbling blindly at the lids
of darker cargo in the heart

————————

V.
Let us celebrate
our complacency
by sharing deep
thoughts echoing
ephemeral empathy