This writing life: Ranting, cutting, grunting and pasting

Vintage Pa Ikhide

Pa Ikhide

For you…

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
– Lawrence Kasdan

The other day my friend was bemoaning a writing slump. The words were stuck somewhere, refusing all entreaties to come out – and play. My friend is a fairly prolific writer; multitasking on a book, a blog that could use some more tending and an active Twitter and Facebook account. If my friend’s tweets and Facebook postings were cobbled together, the result would run into thousands of words that make delicious sense. This is the same for many other folks that I know who are regularly afflicted with anxieties about that affliction called the writer’s block. They should perhaps get off Facebook and Twitter to write what the world considers writing. I hope they do not flee into the dying warmth of books. That would be sad because like my…

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Fifty Shades of Censorship, or How We Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Let Kids Read by Rosemary Hathaway

I can perfectly relate to this. Hard similar experiences of censorship as a kid.

“…But it often seems that the concern isn’t so much about a book’s potential to disturb or “corrupt” its reader as it is anxiety about the very private and personal nature of the act of reading itself…”

“…Concerned parent sees child deeply engaged in a book, oblivious to the external world (oblivious, in fact, to the parent), and becomes suspicious. What’s in that book that’s so interesting? And why can’t I monitor that experience? The process of reading, and the images and thoughts that reading generates, are largely internal and invisible, and some adults find that completely unnerving…”

“…Adults who challenge books are more often trying to protect themselves and their ideas about what childhood and adolescence should be than they are trying to protect real children and adolescents…”

Nerdy Book Club

Sometime in mid-July, I got a text from an English teacher friend at a local high school. She’d just heard, via her principal, that a parent had complained about The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s brilliant short-story collection based in part on his own experiences fighting in Vietnam.

The book was assigned as summer reading for the student’s upcoming AP language and composition class, and the parent—having looked through it—asked for an alternate text. My friend texted to ask for ideas about what she might suggest. I made several recommendations—Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels among them—but the parent rejected all of our candidates and made her own choice, John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

Given that we’re just coming out of Banned Books Week, I’d like to use my Reading Lives moment to address not the dramatic cases of book challenges, like the ongoing battle over The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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He lay on the floor, saved from the cold reaches of the cement flooring by the kindly ancient rug which his uncle had gotten for a bargain price from the okirika clothes vendor who was all too happy to be rid of the disproportionately heavy merchandise constantly conspicuous on display. He lay there, staring at the ceiling, bemused at the two shameless flies romping with abandon within the area delineated by the square wooden frame of one of the ceiling boards. He wondered if they ever had such conflicts of their own. He tried to wonder on more fly related matter, but the war raging in his head was too much of a distraction.

Rebel-A pushes itself to the limelight.

‘Me, Me’, it yells. ‘You know I’m the concluding part to your memoirs. Surely you aren’t planning to leave your readers in the middle, just when they are starting to get interested.  It is their right to get the complete picture. You have to…’

Rebel-B shoves him out of the way, puffing and gasping for neural breath, and bawls,

‘You have to pick me! Surely you have to. How can you deprive the human race of such life-changing experience with the daughter of eve, prior to relegation to the recesses of oblivion? That ain’t right! You should know better than to….’

Thus continued the assault on his cerebral functions by the two vocal brothers, and yet in the midst of the melee, the still small whimper of Rebel-C still manages to resonate from within the dark alcoves of his white matter, pleading for attention.

‘Me’, it whispers. ‘In me lies the capability to positively touch souls. I give hope to the discouraged, and succour to those enmeshed in great tribulation. I am the essence of human existence. I preach inner peace. I preach gratitude. I preach contentment…’

The din never seemed to end. He felt as if he would soon be needing a shrink.

Then nothing.


Momentary silence.

There he was on a journey to Nsukka for his transcript, safely afloat aboard some air transport. Not an airplane though, he realised to almost joyous relief. DANA has made enough news already. There he was, floating seamlessly over the hilly and greenly landscape of 9th Mile area, soothing atmospheric breeze on his tail, oblivious to the slightest of all conflicts of mind and matter. Soon, Nsukka emerged in the distant horizon, the ground sporting a dark kaleidoscope of vaguely moving objects which on closer inspection turned out to be a sea of bodies excitedly pointing and beckoning, reminiscent of the triumphal entry. He imagined himself as the Nigerian superman…

He started. For a few seconds, still in the lying pose, he lay dazed, taking in the fuzzy burr burr burring of the ceiling fan as it laboured to overcome the friction on its mechanical parts, spurred on by the surge of new infused energy relayed through the wires. Up NEPA! The ever reliable UPS it was that startled him out of his trance with its ‘plunk’ sound set off each time jolts of precious PHCN energy slams into it. It momentarily amazed him that the UPS is more reliable than even his mind, or how else would he have been given this opportunity to take pleasure in the hourly grace PHCN had the  good church-mind to offer this area per twelve hours.

His mind was clear by now. No more dazes. Up he flips the lapee and powers it, sitting up and assuming the position, all in one movement.

‘Greece must die today!’ he swore under his breath, mentally setting strategy on how to deal with them conclusively this time. Last time, he was already two goals ahead when stupid PHCN connived with them to snuff out the lapee’s precious power source.

‘Who is Greece to stop my Italy from winning this competition’, he mused, with a wry smile on a gritty face, moving a little closer to reach the touchpad. He moved the cursor to icon with the swift dexterity of a trained hand and a focused mind and double-tapped, then grabbed the nearby gamepad.

Thus began the action packed indulgence devoid of pestering, bickering and interfering attention-seeking imps embedded in his mind. An armistice is in full force until the next PHCN blackout, at least….