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.)

Block F 

​Ugh. 

Exclamation expressing disgust, horror or recoil, says Wordweb. Disgust is not what I feel. Neither is it recoil or horror. Perhaps ‘ugh’ covers it best. It’s like having prayed and prayed till the point of being drained of words and all you utter is a full sigh. Like fetching bucket after bucket into a plastic barrel and then heaving at the last pour. Like punching keys away through the night then hitting the nearest couch for four hours – waking and giving a long druggy yawn. 


That’s how the past few weeks have left me. Without syllables. Imagine that predicament for a writer (and we all are writers, we don’t just face the work). I’d go through each routine while humming, “I’m going to sit my butt and write. Really am,” like the grasshopper making mental notes to gather food against winter only to find itself starved then. 
Over the weekend, something happened. So many things. And one of the results is this – blogging. No, I didn’t forget the need to blog, or how to write. Neither was I deprived time. I just couldn’t put together a blog. Well, not anymore. This one is called Block F. 
The block has no entrance or exit, bordered by intertwined steel wires with holes tiny enough to swallow a newborn’s fist. It has to its left Block C and Block D as rearguard. A trail of white paint runs on all four corners of the block.
A boy comes out of Block D, wearing dark shorts. His face, hidden in the darkness, is pressed into wrinkles. His shirtless tummy is as flat as the decrepit land before him. He takes a step and coughs. He spits loudly into the gutter, taking in the splash. Another fellow grouches, “you people are the ones keeping this hostel dirty.”
The boy closes up to the guy, one hand balled, the other balancing a bundle. The grouch quickly looks away and retreat, bread and beancakes in both hands. He must have had too much, the boy concludes, while he is in dire need. The boy watches him disappear and hisses, then clears his throat and spits again. It’s a missed shot. The boy steps over the pavement supporting the walkway and is hit with an overdose of howling wind. He doesn’t shield his chest. 
He takes another lazy step. A mass of white light blinds him. Sheathing his eyes, he gathers his bundle closer. The lampbearer is now at him. He mutters a weak, lifeless, “sorry” and is in Block B in an instant. The boy considers trailing him, dragging him by the neck and beating him to excitement. He lets the thought fade. Wind picks intensity, accompanied by rumblings in the sky, like a kettledrum cadence. 
The boy smells rain. 
He hastens steps, crossing patches of grass before arriving at the concrete floor. He unties his bundle and retrieves a thick cotton which he spreads slowly. He picks the only other item in the bundle and lays atop the cotton. The boy steps back, assessing, like a mason supervising a project. He smiles. He steps on one end, facing his entry point, and goes on his knees, as if participating in a liturgy. He utters no words of reverence. 
He doesn’t know when he sleeps off. His last thought is the rain been like drops from an Alaskan river. 

Seven Lessons

This would likely make the records as my shortest blog post so far.

It’s eleven pm. The whir of a copter’s propellers drift pass my window as I pen these words. Here are the things I realized or stumbled upon as I waged through today.

  1. A stitch in time saves one. A stitch before time saves nine. A stitch after time is no stitch.
  2. It doesn’t matter how the day starts, or how the day ends. What is of utmost concern is this: How did you make people feel?
  3. Zooming into each day with goals should actually encourage flexibility. Having a deadline means opportunity to provide a fella a lifeline.
  4. He who can keep his tongue can control his whole body. But to do that, you have to keep your mind. Transformation.
  5. You might not be the best in your field despite years of practice, but you are the best you. No one can do you better.
  6. Keep at it. It pays.
  7. Take account of all the good things you’ve enjoyed, and don’t be affected by them. Be pushed to your knees in thanks. Get back and put in more efforts, and finally, do all like you’d never do another.

So, there they are. My shortest blog post, shy of midnight posting. Thanks for reading.