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Ranting of a Twitting Twat: Silly Habits of The Novel

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Novels take time to write and way more time to read. They take themselves seriously. If there is one thing they love more than telling stories it is teaching. Never mind that at different points in history, certain kinds of novels have come along and wailed, “Oh, teaching is for creeps. We do not teach. We do not care.  Read us for the nothing we offer you. We give nothing. So expect nothing.” Don’t be fooled. Novels are always teaching. They do not even have to mean to teach. They just do.

I hate to admit it, but they travel well and love to pick up new habits as they hop around the world. Achebe says as much in one of his many essays. Notwithstanding, novels always have a core set of values on which they never compromise. These values that help the novel stay true to itself are guarded by a strange clique of cemetery watchmen called literary critics.

Novels are stuck up. Everyone knows that. There are many reasons why, but I’ll only mention one…maybe three. The main character in a novel always has to be unique or different. Part of the crowd, but set apart nonetheless. Even when characters in a novel are ordinary, their ordinariness is extraordinary. That just about disqualifies most of us from having a chance at being characters in a novel. Doesn’t it? Of course, some of us like to think of our lives as cute little novels being written in realtime. But that, my dear, is one of the many necessary fictions of our lives.

Novels are at their most cheesiest when they worry about their age. I am yet to meet the novel that is totally okay with coming around, staying for a minute, and then disappearing. Every novel has the dream of becoming a classic. In the world of novels, money talks but so does shelf life.

Novel readers are far less interesting. They are members of a vanishing race who love shrink-proof stories. Stories that would not fit in a blogpost or a tweet or a Facebook status.

 

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

7 Responses to “Ranting of a Twitting Twat: Silly Habits of The Novel” Subscribe

  1. Ose May 27, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Really enjoyed this piece, well written as usual!

  2. Chibuzor May 27, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    Lol! Ths is just beautiful and insightful. But then lets bring ths home to africa, where supposed fiction writers go investigated about the sad sad part of euery day africa, thusly there books are at best a mere flicker of flame, just a enough to win the commonwealth/caine prizes, and there you get it, most books authored by africans are more than oft. Stereotyped. But then there are a few exceptions, eg. The secret lives of baba segi’s wives by lola shoneyin. Etc.

  3. Sel May 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    No fair Ainehi, if you want to look at it that way then, there is absolutely nothing that is anything on this Earth that does not teach. Intention is not even relevant.
    Even nothing teaches something and I just realizes that my mind cannot even conceive of nothing.

    See, I’m even teaching myself something just by typing this without meaning to mean to.

    For me a novel is an escape. Sometimes it becomes a trap though, especially when it forces/tricks you into contemplating something you did not want to. eg. Coetzee’s Disgrace (I do NOT reccommend that pretentious book)

    But do read Ngugi’s Matigari.

    We might be uninteresting – a vanishing race – but the final implosion will carry the world along.

  4. Ainehi May 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Sel

    I love ur comment. It has the seeds of what could well be a good response to Twitting Twat’s bashing of the novel. If u develop the comment into a short response I’ll be happy to post it on Brittle Paper.

  5. Sel June 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    …and I love your blog.
    I shall see what I can scramble up.

  6. Ainehi June 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    @ Sel,

    Email it to brittlepaper@gmail.com when you have it. Thank Sel.

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  1. The Novel: A Response, an exhortation « In My Own Words… - July 20, 2011

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