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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. 

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

11 Responses to “Dear Ms. Paper: Save Me From This Boring African Novel” Subscribe

  1. Nambozo August 15, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    This is a series I look forward to. It is very telling. I have heard Teju explain the polarised reactions to Open City. He also had three degrees in Art History which reveals his own attraction to observation.

  2. James Murua August 15, 2014 at 4:11 am #

    Julius strikes again!

  3. Obinna Udenwe August 15, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    Oh, please don’t stop this series. I love the carefree voice too. This is good.

  4. Tee August 15, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Haha. The end of the letter ehn? Serious agony aunt. To read or be cultured no be by force nah? Lolz. Its okay to just carry the book around even if you never opened it. No worries, it won’t reduce your coolness ratio 😉

  5. Umar August 15, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    Lovely

  6. Mildred August 15, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    This is very good, Ainehi. Looking forward to reading more series. This new kind of response might end up bridging the gap between ‘how we read–with our perceptions’ versus what the story is or trying to do, which could be how the story explains itself, something that has nothing to do with our perceptions, preferences and tastes. This will perhaps help us to glimpse into the minds of critics and readers to understand how they evaluate stories based on how they read–which again may have nothing to do with the stories themselves.

  7. badmusace August 18, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    Or maybe you should try to read “Nine lives” by El Nike ya. A fast paced thriller. Don’t be deceived by the name, it is Nigerian; it is Ayokunle spelt backwards .

  8. badmusace August 18, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Or maybe you should try to read “Nine lives” by El Nukoya. A fast paced thriller. Don’t be deceived by the name, it is Nigerian; Ayokunle spelt backwards .

  9. Darkowaa August 19, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    LOVE this!!

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  1. Dear Ms. Paper: Can I Dump Him For Not Knowing Who Achebe Is? | Brittle Paper - September 12, 2014

    […] Dear Ms. Paper: Save Me From This Boring African Novel […]

  2. Dear Ms. Paper: Help! I’m In Love with an African Novelist | Brittle Paper - January 18, 2015

    […] Dear Ms. Paper: Save Me From This Boring African Novel […]

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