Unbridled Delight: A Pre-Review Of ‘The Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ by Chimamanda Adichie

When was the last time you stumbled on a piece of writing that made you laugh, then made you cry? Then made you laugh through your tears?

When was the last time you read a piece that said all you have always wanted to say yet couldn’t quite find the words or the time or the skill to say it? And did so in a few hundred words?

When was the last time you read something that touched you, gripped you, wouldn’t let you go?

For me the answer is simple: tonight.

It had been a long day, a tiring week and I was just scrolling through the ‘Please Read’ links littered on my phone without missing a beat. Experience had taught me that most weren’t going to be my idea of a pleasurable read. Even the writer’s ‘big name’ wasn’t enough to get me reading:

‘The Miraculous Deliverance of Oga Jona’

It is probably just another drawn out opinion piece harping on the things we know already. I thought. What else was there to say? That hadn’t been said already?

But I was wrong. Ah, I was so wrong.

The story begins with an awakening. Oga Jona, the main character, wakes up miraculously delivered. Upon rising, he discovers all he had been doing and saying wrong and has logical, tangible ideas on how to get things done right.

And wonder of wonders, he starts to do them.

I won’t give anything away here, but let me say the responses of his erstwhile praise singing minions alone are worth your eye time. Plus, there are enough generous spoonfuls of allusion, sub-text,irony and sharp jabs stirred in throughout the tale to make you wish for more.

Midway through the piece I found myself laughing, but as it drew to a close, tears were dripping down my cheeks. They were tears of hope and hopelessness, a rivulet of unspoken dreams and wishes for my dear country Nigeria.

Ms Adichie has done something special here. She has expertly woven the searing pain of the patriotic Nigerian, the possibilities of our desperate situation and the potency of literary magic into an adorable piece that will certainly outlive our time.

One can’t help but wish that this story and @zebbook’s stirring piece “The Gospel According To Farouk”, the best of @elnathan’s “How To Be A Nigerian…” series and a some other great works of contemporary Nigerian satire were made into a book/e-book.

Moreso, one can’t help wishing some Nollywood director would be bold enough to buy the rights to this and make it into a film. I would buy one.

Why, I would buy a hundred.

Because, the message here needs to be shared, needs to be talked about, needs to shown in every Nigerian salon, bustop, market,home and phone.

Today, we still marvel at Fela Kuti’s music and it’s timeless classic message. Fela used his gift to speak about the ills in the society of his day. I can’t sing Afro juju. And well neither can most of us but we can read and we can write. We can ping, and we can tweet. So let’s read and write and act and share.

Let’s get the ‘Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ All the attention it deserves and some.

Let’s share it on BBM, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Whatsapp and Beyond.

Also,
Please let’s read ‘The Miraculous Deliverance Of Oga Jona’ here and comeback back here for some healthy discourse.

And possibly a proper review.

Stay tuned.

http://www.thescoopng.com/exclusive-chimamanda-adichie-miraculous-deliverance-oga-jona/

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7 Things Great Literature Does

Literature, the first discipline known to man after all, what was the Spirit hovering over the water if not back story? And what was “Let there be light.” If not Act one, scene one?

So literature has always been part of being human. It has helped carry our stories from age to age. It has warned us, shaped us, comforted us and entertained us. Literature is us.

Consequently, we always searching for new ways to experience our reality, fantasies and ideas. Billions of dollars and aeons of time is spent making, publishing, reading and receiving literary inventions like books, poems, texts and blogposts.

We don’t want good work, we want great work. The problem is, no one seems to agree on what great work is. Thankfully, it is easier to agree on what great literature does.

Here, I am sharing some of the things great literature does.

1. Great literature makes a good read.

2. Great literature lends itself, is quotable.

3. Great literature lingers after the last word, is memorable.

4. Great literature stays relevant, is evergreen.

5. Great literature touches people.

6. Great literature inspires people to create.

7. Great literature says something important.

8. Great literature leaves readers better than it met them.

9. Great literature is re-read, again and again.

10. Great literature is shared, from one generation to another.

One reviewer of Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go said when you read the book, “you will know what great literature can do”. The jury might still be out on that, but if it does, that will be amazing.

What else does Great Literature do ? In your view?

Americanah: 7 Questions

It is hard to read a book like Americanah without having an opinion about it. We want to hear yours.

Here, are 7 questions based on the book to help you express those opinions (yes, you have to read it to answer). As a good sport, I’ll answer first.

P/S I can’t wait to read your replies. 🙂

Questions

1. Did you like Americanah?

No? Why?

Yes? Why?

Yes & No? Why?

2. Would you recommend it to a friend?

3. Do you think you will read it again?

4. How does it compare to Half Of A Yellow Sun?

5. Who was your favourite character and why?

6. What was the best part of the book for you?

7. And the worst?

Bonus: Did you notice the -nesses and -ilys?

Me:

1. Yes/No
I liked it because it did show long, hard work and a touch of finesse.

I disliked it because it lacked compassion for most of the characters. The scorn in the narrators voice was heavy and oft times ridiculous.

2. Yes I would.

3. No, not at all.

4. Poorly. Half Of A Yellow Sun is 5X better than Americanah.

5. Blaine; because he strived to do the right thing at all times.

6. The high school romance beween Ifemelu and Obinze.

7 The authorial intrusion; almost every scene had a sermon to preach.

Bonus: What??? They almost blinded me!

Americanah: The Rave, The Rant, The Questions

AMERICANAH: The Rave, The Rant, The Questions

Hello,
Welcome to my blog. As you must have heard on Twitter, I read Americanah and I wanted to discuss it with other book lovers. After reading the book I had so much I wanted to discuss. There were things I liked and things I disliked. There were a lot of questions raised. To encourage the discussion across barriers of time and space I decided to write a couple of articles about it. That way we can all share and learn despite being miles apart. I am aiming to provide a place where we can rave, rant or question the book; and become better for it.
While I act as host. 🙂

It is becoming normal popular culture to stifle dissent from consumers especially readers. If you read a book and you don’t like it you are at risk of being labelled ‘envious’ ‘beefing’ and a ‘hater’.

I believe such talk is the work of intellectual assassins. They want to create a mob of mute zombie fans that can not speak up about their feelings even after spending hard earned money to buy their books. Nonsense. It is interesting that the wise words of Pa Achebe where he encouraged everyone to tell their stories are now being used as a shield against critical discourse.

People tell car companies things they don’t like about a car. This leads to improvement, innovation and better vehicles. I have never heard a car maker say “Go and build your own car!” And I think the idea that you must write a novel before you can say what you didn’t like about a book is absurd.

The days of insular writing and continental navel-gazing are gone. Now, any writer regardless on descent will find her or himself on the world stage, This implies constant improvement. So if you really care about your craft, you will appreciate those that take the time to give specific suggestions for improvement. That said, not everything you read is going to be true or helpful. Take the sugar cane juice and spit out the chaff. In any case let’s not lose our curiosity, our right to ask questions and our honest appraisal of literary work. If we do, we will find ourselves relegated to the fringes of the new frontiers of writing. God forbid, I forbid, what do you say?

To make things easier I will post different articles over the next few days. I plan to update the page as new things come up so you might want to follow the blog/ follow us on twitter to keep up. This is not an academic exercise; it is a book lovers hang out.

Comments found be abusive will be deleted but efforts will be made to air all views.

2a and 3a are ready expect the rest during the week.

1. Articles for those who haven’t read the book.

a. Americanah : Exploring Choice and Identity

b. 6 Things I learnt from Americanah

2. Articles for those who read the book and liked it.

a. 6 Things I Liked About Americanah

b. When You Have The Mic, Shout Your Heart Out.

3. Articles for those who read Americanah But didn’t like it

a. 6 Things I didn’t like about Americanah

b. The Nesses And The Ilies

4. Articles For The Neutral.

a. You Didn’t Know You Were Black? Seriously?: Thoughts On Agenda Writing

b. Authenticity Vs Plausibility, Fiction Or Memoir?

c. Pentecostal Christianity In Adichie’s Single Story

d. Who Likes Soft Wimpy Men?

5. 7 Questions, Tell Us Your Answers.

6 Things I Didn’t Like About Americanah

6 Things I didn’t Like About Americanah

1. The Nesses And Ilys

This deserves a full post. However this list would be in complete without a mention. Words ending with -ness and -ly were all over the book like weeds. When I moaned about it a friend said they were typical of Ms Adichie’s books. This sent me looking for my copy of Half Of A Yellow Sun. There were hardly any of them seen. Was this an oversight of the editor? Does this mean we have better editors at Farafina than Knopf? More on this in a fresh post soon.

2. The Blog’s Name And Many Of It’s Posts

I don’t know if the name: Raceteenth Or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) By A Non-American Black, was meant to be humorous but it gave me instant nausea. If books do out live blogs I hate to imagine my grandchildren thinking we actually called our blogs such ugly names. ( Please emerging African writer, help! Redeem us!)

And then there is the issue of the blog posts. While it might be argued that they lent some credibility to the narrative, many of them sound fake. They also add bulk to the book. I think they ought to have been trimmed and re-edited. One post had a sentence that was 125 words long. Why???

3. The Scorn In The Narrators Voice.

The reviewers at the Wall Street Journal did a micro dissection of this, I’ll just say that it didn’t help the book much. It comes across as boring and self-obsessed. Everywhere the narrator looks she sees black and grey. Everywhere there is something to put someone down for. If it isn’t Brooklyn smelling of sun warmed garbage, it is Michelle Obama being made clamped flattened and tepidly wholesome. An unpleasant world view to say the least.

4. The Cliched Portrayal Of The Pentecostal Nigerian Church.

I have read Ms Adichie’s work, Purple Hibiscus, The Thing Around Your Neck , Half Of A Yellow Sun and even some little known shorts like Time Story and Crazy African Woman. One thing that puzzles me is her persistent stereotype of pentecostal Christianity. It seems she can’t write without devoting a row of boxes to be checked on that issue alone. And always it is the same stories, the same characters, the same cliched portrayal of a one-sided narrative. Pleeeease.

5. The Box Checking.
It might be one of the only subtle thing about this bold book, but the box checking in Americanah is alive and well. On it’s own that would not be a bad thing; it would just serve to broaden the discourse. It becomes worrisome when no scene exists merely to drive the plot or show character but also to check a box. It made me read each scene with a smirk knowing there would be something shoved in for extra depth. Some scenes ended up feeling fake because of this. Who gives lectures to a total stranger about the magnanimity of oil companies? Which office girl dares tell a superior she has a husband resisting spirit? The effects of box checking, writing with an agenda and refusing to let go even when it is obvious that it is uncalled for.

6. The Vague Description Of The Characters.

This is another thing that has drifted over from HOAYS. In HOAYS we are told thepat Kainene is ugly and Olanna beautiful but we have no idea how or why. In Americanah we meet Obinze and Ifemelu but we can’t describe them to save our lunch. Obinze is short. How short? Not short enough to consider the name Ceiling derogatory but then how short is that? Ifemelu is slim, dark, pretty and has a generous bosom. Pretty how? what are her best facial features? We don’t know and we wonder why this wasn’t well developed.

7. The Sense Of The Book Trying Too Hard.

A combination of box checking, a scornful narrator and a thousand -nesses and many ilys give a sense that the writer was trying too hard. It feels like she was forcing greatnesses into the work. It reminds me of David looking ill-dressed in Saul’s armour. It seems like a cook that wants more than anything for his the food to taste good but ends up with an over-spiced dish that burns the palate. One wonders if the book wouldn’t have fared better with a lighter touch in some places. That said Americanah is out and selling. As every businessman knows production should precede perfection. Who knows maybe there will be a new edition. One weeded of -nesses and -ilys and devoid of forced dialogue.

6 Things I Liked About Americanah

I liked a lot of things about Americanah, here are a few of them:

1. The Depth
In an interview following her win of the prestigious Women’s Fiction Prize, the British author A.M. Holmes said that after spending years writing a book she would like to think that she had made wine and not grape juice, Americanah certainly isn’t grape juice. It is nuanced and robust; full of sub-themes and sub plot. All sorts of delicious conversation starters about books, sex education, western oil companies in Nigeria, religion, Naipaul, Achebe, immigration, sham marriage; and of course hair, love and race. Americanah may be many things but it is not flaky and it is not flat. A literature teachers delight, so many things to talk about. 🙂

2. The Characters.
I don’t envy the student that might be asked to list all the Characters in Americanah, but I enjoyed meeting them. They were as varied as the black broke self-righteous Ifemelu and the wealthy white woman Kimberly. They were kept mistresses, school girls, security men, construction workers, publishers and a little fatherless boy. They were a delightful cast that might some day make a fine film. They made the book fun to read.

3. The Finesse.
Writing a book that spans three continents and two decades isn’t sandwich making. The finesse with which Ms Adichie tells this labyrinthine tale deserves applause. There is a fluid, confidence in the way she steps in and out of cities, situations, people’s thoughts and seasons that is simply beautiful. Using flashback for most of the novel would have been quite tiresome for a lesser talent  but in Americanah it seems the tale could not have been told any other way. Having read half a dozen reviews , it was pleasant to find out that the book could still surprise. The pacing and conflict in the book is excellent. Kudos for a well woven narrative.

4. The Language
Americanah is written in a mature voice but the words used are simple ones. There are no jaw-breaking, Eye- smarting mouthfuls to befuddle and bamboozle. This a work of a writer who is sure of her craft. She needs no verbose fillers, no highfaluting words to confuse. She uses everyday words that anyone can read and understand.

5. The Boldness
Americanah has been called Ms Adichie’s most political novel yet and I agree with that assessment. It is rare to find a novel that says quite clearly that the residents of western countries aren’t all saints. That they also pee by the street, pooh on toilet seats and cheat at driving licence tests. It is books like these that make we wish all Africans could/would read. Maybe if we did we would realize how similar humans are to one another, and the potential we still have to develop as a continent.

6. The Romance
If there is one thing alone that made this book worth reading for me, it was the early romance between Ifemelu and Obinze. Every bit of it rings true down to their swapping of Igbo proverbs, wanting to go to same schools and wearing their love like a banner. It is Americanah’s redemption, the thing that keeps you going though you are tempted to stop mid-way. It is real and messy and comforting as only true human love can be. And it strikes a cord with most people that have felt teen love.

As a bonus, I will add At 477 pages many people felt Americanah was too big. Some felt that in the digital age many people would find it impossible to finish. I disagree. I finished it in two days and If it were longer, I would have read more. I appreciate Americanah being a full luxurious tome not a flimsy pamphlet.

Have you read it? What did you like about the book? No spoilers!