Dear Ms. Paper: Roughly two months ago, I decided to expand my cultural horizon. I curbed my obsession with Nollywood movies and thought I’d try reading African novels instead. A bookworm friend gave me a list of 6 novels. They all sounded the same to me, meaning boring and tiresome, so I decided to pick the one with the cutest author. Thanks to Google! Of course Teju Cole’s face did not prepare me for my total inability to comprehend Open City. I have only been able to stomach one page a day for the past 2 months. The last time I read anything this unentertaining with such commitment was in catechism when I had the bright idea to read the entire bible, one chapter a day. I’ve not seen a Church pew for 10 years, so you know how that went. Open City is such a drag. How much more of Julius’s disoriented ranting would I have to put up with? The most annoying part is not knowing whether I’m supposed to like him or feel sorry for him? Right now, I’m hovering between hatred and indifference. Can I please just ask point blank: what is the point of the book? And please don’t tell me the point of the book is that it has no point. I really want to finish the novel, if nothing else at least for the superstitious significance of succeeding in my first attempt at being a cultured African woman. Can you help me fall in love with the novel?
No, can’t do! First of, while I have no opinion on Teju Cole’s cuteness, what I can tell you is that choosing a book based on how the author looks is the first mistake you made.
If you like Nollywood movies, my guess is that you like fast-paced, plot-driving, sentimental dramas with a thousand sudden twists and turns.
Well, Open City is the opposite of that. It’s about a man who walks, reads, thinks, talks, and walks some more.
He has no life, but that’s the point. He is so overwhelmed by the broken lives around him that he is not able to live his own. Even when it comes to sex he’s a creepy, cold fish. The moral of the story? It’s infinitely easier to walk and talk about life than it is to live it.
So, sorry, when you bought the book, you invited Julius and his ranting underpants into your life.
You have two options.
Stop reading the book. Life is short. There are far too many African novels in the world. Pick up any of Buchi Emecheta’s novels, and you’ll be in novel heaven. Joys of Motherhood is Nollywood drama meet literary awesomeness.
Warning. You may begin reading Joys of Motherhood and still find that it bores you. If that happens, go to option two.
Leave novels alone and return to Nollywood movies. No one would say you didn’t try. We can’t all be cultured, can we?
#DearMsPaper is a fictional agony-aunt series that parodies readers, critics, and writers in the African literary scene.