The author, most recently, of the novel “An Orchestra of Minorities” is “hardly turned off by considerations of genre. … I have found even manuals — of how to hunt wild birds in West Africa — fascinating.”
What’s the last great book you read?
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” It was suggested by a student of mine who wanted to reverse the student-professor relationship by stipulating that I read a particular book. Needless to say I obliged, and now thank her for it. Jean-Dominique Bauby’s extremely affecting memoir of being damaged by a stroke is as beautiful as it is disturbing. Yet what makes the craft worthwhile is how, through extremely mitigated prose and skillful curating, it manages never to become sentimental. It is an achievement.
What classic novel did you recently read for the first time?
I think it may now be called a classic, since he recently won the Nobel Prize: Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day.” It is one of those books you can safely call “quiet” or “deceptive simplicity.” You begin reading Mr. Stevens’s eccentric account of the fall of the British tradition of the “great” butler only to find yourself slowly drawn into something larger, something achingly sinister. It is as if Ishiguro creates a controlled quicksand into which the reader slowly falls and falls until submerged.
What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?
It really depends. While working on “An Orchestra of Minorities,” I read a few books on Igbo cosmology simply to augment my knowledge of the cosmology and better recreate it in my fiction. But I sometimes find myself rereading works by great writers whose prose I envy. A slim census would include Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, Alan Paton, Arundhati Roy and Elizabeth Bowen, among others.
What I don’t read while working on a book is any book that remotely resembles what I’m working on. I had to read George Saunders’s “Lincoln in the Bardo,” for instance, for a class I was teaching, and halfway through I wished I hadn’t included it in the list because the transient state of spirits and the liminality of some of the characters marginally resembles my new book.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
There are many, but the one I remember quite often is that revenge is not justice. This wisdom is from “Cry, the Beloved Country,” by Alan Paton. It is basic human instinct to want to unsheathe the sword once things have swung in our favor, now that the world can hear us, see us and pay attention to us. It is instinctive that we mount the hill and attempt to stomp on those who have oppressed us. It is common for us to say: For so long you made us feel this way, now we must make you taste what it’s like. This is what Paton’s character Msimangu — foreseeing an eventual end to the heinous crime against humanity, apartheid — means when he says: “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.”
What moves you most in a work of literature?
Language. When a sentence jumps all of the rhetorical hurdles that life and our saturated minds place along the way to reach sublimity, I become moved to near tears. Consider this paragraph from Arundhati Roy’s novel “The God of Small Things”: “Being with Chacko made Margaret Kochamma feel as though her soul had escaped from the narrow confines of her island country into the vast, extravagant spaces of his. He made her feel as though the world belonged to them — as though it lay before them like an opened frog on a dissecting table, begging to be examined.” I call this audacious prose, and celebrate it enthusiastically.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
My people say that a poor maid does not reject the embrace of a wealthy prince because of bad breath. I’m hardly turned off by considerations of genre or type. So I have found even manuals — of how to hunt wild birds in West Africa — fascinating. That said, if one returns to a well again and again and finds only bad-tasting water, it is difficult to keep returning there. This is why I tend to avoid works of fiction in which plot isn’t a function of character but the reverse, in which a set of events is orchestrated and characters are thrown in as fillers. I have this sense of the Dan Brown books especially. So I tend to avoid “upmarket crime thrillers.” Although, a few pages in, I’m liking “My Sister, the Serial Killer,” by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or night?
All of the above. But I do prefer reading books during the day in paper form, and at night, for some reason, I have gotten hooked on my tablet.
How do you organize your books?
My work space is disorderly. I have books on the floor, even though my original intent was to designate one shelf for purchased books and a separate shelf for books sent to me by publishers to endorse. I find everything mixed up, with copies of The New York Times poking out between stacks of galleys and issues of The Virginia Quarterly Review.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” In 2008, I went from North Cyprus (where I was in college) to Mersin, Turkey, to spend the summer with a friend’s family, and they gave me a copy of the book. I found myself tearing into the riveting tale for the better part of the vacation.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
The books that stick with me include “The Palm-Wine Drinkard,” by Amos Tutuola; “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet,” by William Shakespeare; “The Concubine,” by Elechi Amadi; “Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale,” by D. O. Fagunwa; and the beloved Nigerian children’s book “The Sugar Girl,” by Kola Onadipe, a novel about a poor girl who, through suffering and resilience, becomes very successful in society. It’s a book I wish had a more international appeal.
[Read Chigozie Obioma’s essay about how he came to love reading.]
What’s the last book you recommended to a member of your family?
“Cry, the Beloved Country.”
If you could require the American president to read one book, what would it be? And the president of Nigeria?
I doubt if the United States president is a “yuuuge” fan of fiction, so I’ll not go there. Instead I’ll recommend Barack Obama’s “Dreams of My Father.” Should Trump choose to read it, not only would he develop a deeper appreciation of Obama, he would find himself reading great prose from a great writer (I often joke that Obama became president because Americans were smitten by his prose). With the Nigerian president, I expect there will be no luck with fiction either. So I’ll recommend Chinua Achebe’s “The Trouble With Nigeria.” First published as a kind of pamphlet, the book is easy to read, and should not be much of a challenge to Buhari, who — as I hear — has been struggling with the English language lately.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Writers one admires aren’t often the best to share tables with, I’d think! I wish I had met Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe, and still imagine the conversations we would have had. John Milton, the great mind and one of the greatest writers ever to live. I would want to sit by him at the table and inquire into how “Paradise Lost” was composed. Luckily, there is a writer alive whom I’d love to sit down with anytime! That would be Jennifer Clement, the author of the National Book Award-longlisted “Gun Love.” She is a remarkable writer and a great, warm person.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
Ha, interesting question. Perhaps my child?
What do you plan to read next?
“The Waves,” by Virginia Woolf. I have been meaning to finally read the one book of Woolf’s that I hear is just as great as the all-conquering “Mrs. Dalloway.” I have it on my desk right now. But I also want to finish “The Bible of Dirty Jokes,” by Eileen Pollack, who I think might be one of America’s most overlooked writers. And I hope to read the last part of “Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems,” by Kwame Dawes. It is the last of his books in my collection of about five that I’ve yet to finish.B:
“【想】【不】【到】【斗】【气】【大】【陆】【还】【藏】【着】【这】【种】【秘】【密】，【真】【令】【人】【惊】【讶】【啊】！” 【天】【府】【联】【盟】，【药】【尘】【摸】【着】【心】【脏】，【那】【里】【有】【着】【奇】【怪】【的】【波】【动】，【正】【是】【灵】【种】。 【萧】【炎】【回】【想】【起】【这】【些】【秘】【密】【也】【忍】【不】【住】【唏】【嘘】：“【贪】【婪】【是】【人】【类】【的】【本】【性】，【灵】【胎】【终】【究】【没】【有】【和】【人】【类】【有】【过】【深】【的】【接】【触】。【这】【也】【让】【他】【付】【出】【代】【价】，【从】【三】【十】【万】【年】【前】【的】【精】【神】【奕】【奕】【变】【成】【今】【天】【的】【颓】【废】【落】【魄】。” “【唉】！【其】【实】【先】【民】
“【啊】？【还】【要】【那】【样】？【真】【是】【麻】【烦】！”【他】【沮】【丧】【地】【叹】【了】【一】【口】【气】！【开】【始】【打】【起】【主】【意】！【必】【须】【要】【让】【孩】【子】【们】【做】【得】【更】【好】【才】【行】，【要】【不】【然】【不】【知】【道】【要】【在】【这】【里】【待】【到】【什】【么】【时】【候】【才】【能】【离】【开】？【嗯】！【就】【那】【样】！“【好】【吧】！【咱】【们】【的】【孩】【子】【个】【个】【都】【是】【很】【聪】【明】，【相】【信】【他】【们】【一】【定】【会】【做】【得】【更】【好】！【到】【以】【后】【咱】【们】【就】【去】……”【他】【说】【出】【了】【以】【后】【将】【要】【去】【游】【玩】【的】【地】【方】，【地】【方】【的】【名】【字】【非】【常】【多】！ 福利彩开奖结果双色球【花】【钿】【委】【地】【无】【人】【收】，【翠】【翘】【金】【雀】【玉】【搔】【头】。——【白】【居】【易】《【长】【恨】【歌】》 （1）【秋】【风】【踉】【跄】(【上】） 【这】【天】【是】【唐】【糖】【与】【王】【简】【成】【婚】【的】【日】【子】。 “【哎】Candy【你】【以】【前】【说】【过】【想】【去】【海】【边】【办】【婚】【礼】【的】，【没】【想】【到】【成】【了】【草】【坪】【婚】【礼】。”【陈】【念】【念】【对】【正】【在】【戴】【耳】【环】【的】【唐】【糖】【说】【道】。 “【你】【以】【前】【不】【是】【还】【说】【过】【要】【跟】【我】【一】【起】【办】【婚】【礼】，【两】【对】【一】【起】【度】【蜜】【月】【吗】？”【唐】【糖】【看】【着】
【言】【虎】（**【南】）【突】【然】【回】【过】【神】【来】，【回】【过】【神】【来】【时】【心】【里】【也】【是】【如】【汹】【涌】【的】【波】【涛】【一】【般】。 【精】【神】【上】【的】【放】【松】【确】【实】【令】【他】【干】【了】【件】【本】【能】【使】【然】【的】【事】【情】——【他】【突】【然】【地】【将】【她】【的】【小】【拇】【指】【咬】【了】【一】【口】。 【单】【就】“【咬】【小】【拇】【指】”【这】【事】【儿】【本】【身】【来】【讲】，【确】【实】【没】【什】【么】【值】【得】【吃】【惊】【的】。【但】【巧】【就】【巧】【在】“【咬】【手】【指】”【这】【件】【事】【儿】【却】【是】**【南】【和】【雷】【慎】【晚】【之】【间】【相】【处】【的】【小】【秘】【密】、【小】【癖】【好】。