Imagine That. Now,.. Imagine This. 

​”As a writer, you read all books – good and bad. You learn what works from the good ones. You know the pits to avoid from the bad ‘uns.” – Stephen King (paraphrase)
First, in my opinion, there are no bad books. Badly written ones, maybe. There are books poorly crafted, books with a plot that has been fleshed in exactly the same manner a thousand times, books with grammar so poor you’d think they jumped from first draft to printing press. But there are no bad books. You, of course, are welcome to disagree. 
But that quote did factor into my decision not to read Imagine This by Sade Adeniran as I thumbed through the first pages. 
“It’s a diary?”
My host looked up and shook his head. “Written like one,” he said, and I knew it never would make my reading list. No amount of persuasion, not even having the novel in proximity for two weeks could change that. 


So, one night, when I walked in and spotted the book in a closet, the you-should-read-all-books guy in me said, “You are reading that book.” Sixteen hours on (plus sleeping and eating and tackling a few chores), I closed the last page and sighed; an interesting read. Here goes the review. 
I learned this week that reviews are intellectual and emotional. The intellectual considers the structure – grammar, flow, pace, setting, redundancies, cartoonist characters… The emotional delves into the emotions. Hence, I’d be dividing this in two parts. 
ONE

The best worst thing that could befall a writer is… not writers’ block. It is having to develop a novel through the lenses of one character, that is, one point of view. The author not only did it well, she made it enjoyable. There were instances where I longed to peek at the mind of another character – Lola’s father mostly – but the denial is why people read fiction. They want something. They don’t get it, and neither does the hero –  Lola. 
Lola starts the book at nine, ends at nineteen. She’s the typical I-was-born-in-England-but-returned-home-due-to-some-unpleasant-situations girl, save she doesn’t live with her father on arrival. She’s sent to fourth-finger-related relatives (uncles and aunts from my mother’s brother’s family). She starts the journey with a father and brother and an absconded mother and ends with no father, no brother, and a mother she speaks to in the last chapter. Amazing story. Plot, pace, style, voice, all awesome. I got reminded of some words – asinine, affable, sagacious, antepenultimate – because the hero had to learn new words. Maybe a few cliched events, but heck, there’s nothing new under the fireball that lights the day. 
I have a few issues, however. There are a bit too many deaths, the type allowed in thrillers and horrors but not Nigerian literature – except there’s a war, which wasn’t recorded. Two, as a result of one of the deaths, twelve or fourteen year old Lola fasts forty days and nights, drinking water for the first 23 or so days. Who does that? It isn’t impossible, yeah, but these are spiritual things, not what you do because you want your bro resurrected. And she did pull through. And she did get her wish. 
I’m not saying it’s unrealistic – emotions do get the better of us, but then, hmm… 
TWO
Now, my name is Michael. To be clearer, I’m a Christian. So, when I began to read serious fiction, I steered clear of anything not Christian fiction – Nigerian lit, genre fiction, cross-genre fiction, classics. Only John Grisham squeezed himself to my reading list, and I jumped over every sentence that started with ‘He smoke a pack of Marlboro’ and ‘The beach was warm and swarmed with bikini-clad women’.
Naturally, Nigerian/African lit was the last thing I opened up to. This is why: they have a way of leaving me cracked up. Fiction is supposed to answer questions, yes, but also give hope, joy, gratitude, excitement, encouragement, relief, maybe a little sadness. But if everytime you do something, you feel like you’re at the edge of a cliff and all you see are tracks of tears and you can’t just resist shedding them, you should be careful. 
It didn’t catch me as a surprise when I experienced the same emotions when I finished Imagine This. The character felt like me, too much like me, and she wasn’t exactly happy throughout the story. 
This got me the most – she let her boyfriend explore her for the first time the night before she broke up with him. Twas bad. Looking back, I see it was a literary pun, not to the girl’s life alone, but to the whole script. She gave up what she treasured most and got what she desired the most, albeit in totally different ways. 
Got me shaking my head pitifully. 
But that’s it. I’m done. I’m reading more genre fiction in the coming weeks. Now I can go back to The War is Over by Andrew Wommack and be my good self. Till we exchange again, keep reading. And yeah, there’s an excerpt:
11th August 1979

Dear Jupiter, 

Ronke and I got into a fight and I broke a bottle of ice water on her head. There was blood and water everywhere and Father and her mother have taken her to the hospital. I’ve locked myself in the room… (Page 96.)

They Never Came… 

Your phone rang again. Again, you let the tone fade. You knew what Mother would say. Rent was almost up. She cooked the last pack of spaghetti. The soap you brought the last time was cheap. Sometimes, you wondered if she kept a list of complaints. 

Having successfully mastered the temptation to put up a rushed writing in the bid to blog, I have finally found the perfect post. 

Or maybe not. That’s a debate for another occasion. 

The last few days, I’ve – read stories, written a handful, read Scriptures, watched one movie (not more), added another year and, slept. 

Today, I’m blogging fiction. It’s a first for this year. Hint me on your thoughts when you are done. Thank you for stopping by. 

**************************

II. 

He called on Monday. 

“Mr Cooke?”

“Wale,” he said, his voice thick, as if it was plucked from a bass guitar. “Good morning.”

“Morning. Is it ready yet?”

“Patience, Wale.” Your name came out as way-lay, like his tongue was pegged back. “Did you register the names?”

“Yes,” you said. Your heartbeat sounded behind your ear. 

“Perfect. All that’s left is the transfer.”

“Okay.”

“You have the details?”

“Sure.” Your head began to spin.

“I’d be expecting the cash.”

“Okay.” You set the phone down. You closed your eyes. Calm down. Calm it, Wale. One more step. Just one. You were so close now. 

The clock ticked 8. You snapped awake. Your eyes danced to the souvenir timepiece. You’d change the clock first. Then the velvet couch, the set of pots bent at the edges. So many things. 

You took another breath. 
III. 

The cashier stared at you like you spoke a French dialect. The thick frames of her glasses enlarged her black eyeballs, transforming her into a village witch. Those witches. You were escaping their clutches today. Not one more day. 

“I want to transfer via… No, I need to transfer via Moneygram.”

“And I said the network is teetering over the edge.”

“You don’t understand,” you said, barely keeping your curled fists under control. “I need to do this within the hour.”

She shrugged. Nothing. No seductive smile. No sorry from those full lips. You didn’t think. Your hand shot off, flew over the slab, cracked her lower lip. 

Only it wasn’t a lip, but a strong hand. The cashier squealed. Your senses came back. You stared into the face of a bouncer. 
IV. 

“Take two lefts, walk straight ahead, until you arrive at a pawn shop. The bank is a couple buildings away.”

You thanked the bouncer and hurried off, grateful your eyes were still in their sockets, grateful you only had to part with your hand-me-downs Rolex. Your head was throbbing. A wave of heat slapped your left wrist. It felt naked, that spot on the wrist where a watch once abode , like a celeb feels when paparazzi gets a picture of her in the tub. Naturally, she wouldn’t feel anything. But when she stumbles upon the front-page of Entertainment Today and is greeted by her nude torso, she realizes she, like every other species, goes naked. 

You found the bank, a tall building masked by red glasses. You heaved once and go in. 
I. 

One day earlier. 
You sat behind the laptop, your chins propped up on both wrists. The screen shuffled pages, displaying ads and stupid pop-ups. Stupid because you’d click on one and it’d automatically expand into six tabs, all repeating the same monotonous information. You stared for ten minutes, twice checking the time at the bottom right corner of the screen

Your phone rang again. Again, you let the tone fade. You knew what Mother would say. Rent was almost up. She cooked the last pack of spaghetti. The soap you brought the last time was cheap. Sometimes, you wondered if she kept a list of complaints. 

You ran your finger slowly across the screen, across the invitation link flashing twice in three seconds. 500k, ten days, eighty percent profit. It was risky, but heck, everything worthwhile was. 

The phone rang again. You opened the link. 
V. 

You called Mother. 

“Hello?”

“Mum, are you home?”

“Why do you ask?”

You stifled a laugh. “Had breakfast yet?”

“Warmed the rice from yesterday’s party.”

Bitter air seeped into your mouth. No more of that. “I’m coming over,” you said. 

A grunt filled your ear, then a tone that sounded like a warning signal. But you did not heed the warning. Instead, you bought wheat bread, two sardines, half a dozen tins of milk. She met you at the gate, as you alighted from the bike. The milk worked magic, her sour greeting instantly replaced by…

“My son, you didn’t tell me God had done it.”

“Cooke, not God. Cooke did it.”

You sat her on a wooden chair and explained. You were a bit afraid, yes, but all would pull through. 

Definitely, she said. She’d even fast if necessary. Everyone took risks, she said. 

You needed cold water. You dipped your hand into the fridge and brought out a glass. The water burnt your tongue. You spat into the sink and flushed, watching it go in a swirl. You arranged a mental list of things to change, starting with the fridge. 
VI. 

The sun stung your cheeks. You blinked and held its gaze, oblivious to the track of tears crawling down your face. A Camry honked and drifted by. Two joggers in waist-tight pants slowed and exchanged mumbles. They stayed for thirty seconds, then resumed. The female did not look away until she rounded the corner.

The sun grew hotter. The joggers completed three runs. The kiosk inches away opened and welcomed customers. Some of them greeted you with suspicious smiles, their noses folded over cheekbones. 

But you did not budge. You wouldn’t budge.

It’s been ten days, you’d told Mother. Ten days since your fat investment should yield. 

Your phone rang. You snatched it.

“Cooke?”

“Wale,” he said. 
VII. 

“Good evening and thank you for joining us on News at nine…”

The reporter’s words slipped from hearing range. You stared at the phone. At the laptop. One million and sixty thousand, your balance read. But that was on paper. Really, you had nothing. Nothing. 

The noodles you ate for dinner was from a neighbor. She wouldn’t give you anymore, she’d said. The phone rang. It wasn’t Cooke or Mother. It was the agent from the loan bank. You did not pick. It was a matter of decisions, you knew, and they’d be at your door. 

You dropped the phone and picked the Bible. Ecclesiastes. You picked the words one after the other, as if doing so would somehow dump a million in your account. 

“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for after many days, you shall find it again.”

You’d wait. You’d wait for the many days. Hopefully, you wouldn’t be six feet under by then. 

You slapped the Bible close and slumped on the couch, the same one you should have changed. You closed your eyes and waited for sleep, for death. 

But they, like the money, did not come. They never would. 

Knowledge,… Huh,… Fear 

Walk to a library or bookshop. Skim a section you wouldn’t stumble upon if you were in blindfolds. Pick a book. Read in a posture unfamiliar to you.

​”He who reads lives a thousand times. The non-reader lives a measly one.” – Paraphrase of a famous quote. 

Today, I called at the library. It was not a first.  The sun had resumed and a passive wind blew about. Outside, students wandered in flocks, throats gurgling with anticipation, with zeal, with a certain fear of the unknown.

Two buildings towered opposite the library – a techie theatre and a computer center. (Notice the alliteration)? The theatre, a gray edifice seated on an uneven patch of grass, drew few heads. The center did. Once a while, a pinch of undergrads would trip out from the north side and would immediately be buried in a sea of students-turned-reporters. The question? “What came out in your exam?”
Can we ever avoid fear? Not all the inquisitive students were unprepared. I can testify of a twin who read till they misplaced each other. Yet, they panicked. Noticing the unpleasant trend, I slipped into the library. 


Nothing had changed since the last time. Not the porter’s desk that curved like a sharp arrow. Not the male cloakroom littered with a gob of black bags as if they contained secret documents. The man behind the desk was bent on a recent newspaper. He acknowledged me and… 
I was in. The air in the general reading room was redolent of a ghostly silence, like God demanded it. I paused for seconds, then ventured in, two steps, before veering left. A leather chair smiled at me and I smiled back. “No, thank you. I would not be tempted to sit and doze away while my mates are writing exams.” The space allotted for books were stuffed with mahogany shelves, the distance between each allowing room for one athletic body to weave his way. I went past the first two as if they did not exist. Then, on the fifth, and with a lot of zigzag motion, I discovered a treasure. 
Are your eyes popping? They should. The treasure was not the typical chestnut gleaming with coins, but a paperback coated with Spring dust. I walked to the carrel and picked a specific chapter. And my brain opened as if in a cooling system. I read about genes. I saw the 46 chromosomes in every human. I studied the soft blue eyes of a patient suffering Downs Syndrome. I exchanged words with Genghis Khan, the famous – maybe infamous – Indian warrior. 

If you haven’t attempted this, do. Walk to a library or bookshop. Skim a section you wouldn’t stumble upon if you were in blindfolds. Pick a book. Read in a posture unfamiliar to you. Read, letting each letter bloom, as if you don’t need the knowledge. What happens is that your head and heart synchronize like you’re witnessing the rapture, and your eyes soak in data at a rate the fastest computer can’t match. Don’t think about the subject being absorbed. Try to yield to those unexpected burps. Laugh and shriek like Brad Pitt stopped by your house. 
It was awesome. It was riveting. Really, we’ve deprived ourselves of so much by turning away from books, or grabbing them for the sake of examinations. While I boast many more e-books than the printed stuffs, nothing matches the pleasure of holding a book. 
I would eventually leave, but those moments are wedged in the unknown places of my subconscious. I returned two hours later and surveyed three chapters of No-Tech Hacking by Johnny Long. The information would come in handy, I know. 
It’s evening as I punch these words. An uncertain, calming breeze lifts nylons on a baked pavement. I concluded the rereading of Divergent (e-book, as hoped) some minutes back. I still have exams this week, and I’m not in the top ten Dazzling Minds yet. 
However, this I’ve learned – we can not avoid fear. But we can overcome it. It’s a running theme in the Divergent series. And besides, we can do this in Christ. It’s always a simple step of coming to Him. 
P.S: I intended writing about knowledge, but, huh, fear poked its face. So, it’s two tastes in one serving. Think about knowledge. Think about conquering your fear. 

My phone didn’t tag along, so the picture credit goes to Ted Dekker’s Facebook page. Thank you for reading. 

In Dependence and Other Things 

Vanessa existed in the way Oliver Twist did, the way Shakespeare defined love for us.

​  All fact is fiction, and all fiction is fact. It is a mystery the individual can, and should, never unravel, much less, understand. 
  I accept the above statement, and rather unwittingly, live by it. I think I’d have preferred to say, I find myself living by it – like a student finds herself bored in a French class she’s forced to attend. In retrospect, she realizes she’s not just bored of the class, a seed of boredom for the lecturer has brewed into a cauldron, therefore controlling her subconscious self. In like manner, we find ourselves in a habit, while, really, we’ve allowed the roots of that habit plant foot. 
  But, we aren’t talking about these things today. It’s fact and fiction, and the fuzzy line between. Hear this: I fell in love with Vanessa while I squatted on my decrepit bed. She was comely, and with a plaid shirt, appeared to be a character cut from Miss World. She held my stare such that I felt a breeze of comfort, even if I was being defiant. I strolled up and saluted. She smiled, the smile that says, “He’s actually interested in me. Me. Oh my gosh, like really!” We talked for a few minutes, and as I turned to depart, I requested her number. 
  Her response was a knockout. 
  “You’ve got none?”


  She grinned, clear blue eyes misted. “Dude, I don’t exist. I’m just a means to an end, not the end itself. Sort of…”
  Something in me snapped, like a ram pushed to the edge of the cliff. I lifted my head as the door swung inside, spewing an athletic young man. He approached me and took the book. It was then, when he sniffed the purple cover, that it came in clear words. 
  Vanessa existed in the way Oliver Twist did, the way Shakespeare defined love for us. Thrice, I had become enamored of a character. A mere character. 
  Maybe they are not mere characters. Maybe the people we read in magazines and fiction are as real as the lanky girl who hawks dried fish past our gate. Maybe Oliver Twist was once a young boy and not Dickens’s brainchild. Maybe Ishmael was in all forms aboard the ship hunting Moby Dick as there were captains steering the wheel of Titanic. I’m not much into folklore, but what if the stories we heard by the moonlight were events in some people’s lives. 
  And, how about facts being fiction? Would it be awesome if Trump being president was an upcoming writer’s imagination. What would your response be if you learnt your spouse was your spouse because a crazy writer wrote it at such? Or that the child who laughs at every tickle happened to be your son because it raised the stakes of a bestselling novel. 
  A glum stare fills my face as I imagine the story in Showdown playing itself out – kids who have been schooled on good and evil being able to write events into reality, then watching these realities spiral out of control (purchase the novel to enjoy the juice). 
  See, it’s back at takeoff. We can not separate fact from fiction. We can not hate one because of the other. And we cannot understand it either. It’s like Ted Dekker said, “The questions shouldn’t matter. It’s about loving as Jesus loves us, and knowing He does.” Amen? 
  Vanessa is the heroine in In Dependence, a novel by Sarah Ladipo. She’s British, unlike the one before her, an American detective. You, as I did, may peruse how I came to like a detective. It’s the magic of books, good books, great books. They slip into our world – the one built on facts – and swoosh their wands. Out it goes, through the window, and we are immersed in fiction. Until we get jerked out of the ‘fictive bubble’ (Dekker’s words). Do we for these purpose dump books in a bonfire? By all means, no. 
  No, we read. We accept. We let these things shape us, not too much or too little. Enough to make us understand who we really are. Whose we really are. 
  For that is the greatest quest, the most noble of all. 
Here’s an excerpt:

“Care for a drink?” someone asked. 

“Would love one.” She took the glass and drank the wine quickly. 

“I’m Charlie,” he smiled, “and you?”

“Tired.”
P.S: Miriam was her name, the first lady I loved. She was cultured in Saudi Arabia and fled to America, falling in love with a Clairvoyant geek, while on the run with the same man. Of course, she’s Muslim, and I thought it so real I nursed the idea of marrying a Muslim for a week. Is that fiction? Or is it fact? 

This Monday…

This Monday, I awoke knowing I should blog. I could feel the urge to share a story on this platform, but I did not know what to write. Even a more sorry case, there was no means to write. And perhaps the most pitiful of all, I was battling underestimation.

Having read thousands of words, and penned a fair share of the lot, I wondered if my stories were all hogwash, junk letters that would suit the trashcan better. I felt others were made to write, I, to read.

But then…

This Monday, I read a novel. It’s titled Renegade, the third book in the Lost Book series. Or perhaps, one of the fifteen novels that are The Book Of Chronicles, scribbled by Ted Dekker. He’s my favorite novelist, and perhaps, I should write like him.

This Monday, I realized we all have stories. Ted Dekker said of The Book Of Chronicles, “If you were made to read these stories, maybe I was made to write them.” I agree. No one can write a story the way you would, and I’m not saying the sleekness or the knotting of metaphors.

Story, the essence. Stories that breathe and give life.

This Monday, I saw God. Not the man in white flowing garment with beards sweeping the streets clean. Not the fiery One who no man can behold. Not the lion or the lamb. They are all dimensions of God. I saw God as I would see God. In the beauty of nature.

This Monday, brother came home. His legs are unstable at home as a chameleon in a singular skin. Always changing, chameleon. Always moving, brother. But he’s home. And the extra layer of cream is this – he just came from a writing event. I’m happy. I’m still trailing him in the hours spent writing.

This Monday, I decided to blog just as the second hand ticked a quarter to eight pm.

This Monday, I’m saying, Thank you. Thank you for always reading my blog.

This Monday, that’s all.

Who Am I

“Every single story,” the teacher said, “every story that has ever been written or is yet to be penned. From Shakespeare to Steinbeck, Dickens to King, travelling from African literature to American fiction, with settings in British colonies to the sea in China. All genres, all tales of romance and horror, revenge and justice, forgiveness and betrayals.

“They all look to answer three words. Who am I?”

who-am-i

A line in a movie a year back, expanded upon. Essentially, the greatest question we seek answer to isn’t why we behave the way we do. It isn’t conflicts and resolutions. The most important probe in the universe is unrelated to politics, sports, religion, race, and all other lines of divide.

It is simply: Who am I? Who are you?

Continue reading “Who Am I”

The Kaleidoscopic View

A line I saw months back said, “There are three truths: My truth, your truth, and the truth.”

I’m thumbing up the inventor of that quote, though Mark Twain would greatly disagree that no one is the real inventor of a thing. All new discoveries are old ideas refined, or bits by bits dropped by a gob of people packaged into one staggering presentation, delivered by one human who forgot, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Continue reading “The Kaleidoscopic View”