Friday, 22 August 2014

Where the Air is Sweet by Tasneem Jamal

Apollo Hotel, Kampala
August 1974

The swimming pool is circular, with a platform on one side that juts into the water.

Hooked yet? Didn't think so. With a title like Where the Air is Sweet we know that this is artsy-fartsy. The Artsy-Fartsy connoisseur will adore this opening. Circular swimming pool, you say? Could this be a metaphor for life, an expression of the futile yet malignant obsession of the human spirit to overthrow the cancerous mediocrity that threatens growth and happiness, despite there always being a way...out: A platform. It juts. ...into the water...

I apologize, I'm being facetious. I blame the artsy-fartsy title. My brain reacts violently to them; you know, ones that begin with an ellipsis..., or begin with a preposition or has a pronoun like: A River Runs through IT or a title that begins with 'And'. Then there are the ones that begin with where, when or how. Not that I have anything against artsy-fartsy - I have the prerequisite brain capacity and/or human compassion to appreciate them - it's just that these books tend to be didactic and long-winded with vocabulary that's been excavated from the depths of the armpits of some dictionary, bursting with imagery that tries to reprogram (or scramble) my brain, by making something as simple as the sun look like the last vestibule of hope in the eye of a dying impediment. Moreover, the pacing is soooooooo slowwwww.

The rest of the paragraph mentions a past event littered with sentence fragments, a feature of artsy fartsy.

A concrete peninsula.
In Swahili.
In English.
In Luganda.

If you like you're sentences thus...
This book.

Paragraph 2 begins with description, a  fashion report before describing a scene of people swimming in the pool. Hooked yet? Yes? No? Good for you.

Paragraph 3 is the artsy-fartsy weather report and I imagine a beatnik Stewie reading this:

A cloud obscures the sun and everything is grey. Dull. Diminished. As though, on a cruel whim, God lifted his hand and smeared the earth with ash.

Snap fingers. Snap fingers.

The fact that it's in present tense doesn't help.

First thing said:


Verdict: Fail

In general, artsy-fartsy books aren't written with hooking in mind, so it isn't fair to review them on this blog. I do it though because it's fun. I sometimes wonder if someone's playing a joke on the publishing industry and that Monty Python fanatics are secretly writing these books while spanking each other with fish.

Rudy Globird

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