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To lose oneself… One day I will write about this place

August 17, 2012

I laughed.  I postponed and postponed lunch and then wondered how 60 minutes could fly so quickly.  I engaged in deviousness, but we are in a recession and I need my job so I shan’t divulge those acts of deviousness.

I wished it wouldn’t end but it did and a tiny part of me was grateful it did because while my sustenance was being assured by this laugh-out loud, humorous, satirical, sad, thought-provoking memoir by Binyavanga Wainaina, my friends and family and cats! were being terribly neglected.

But nothing beats a good book, right?  And if you can’t lose yourself in a book, then why read?  But let’s be honest, memoirs are not usually interesting reads; there are pages one just has to skip.  Who was it that said “nobody’s life is that interesting”?  Well, banish that thought, because Mr Binyavanga Wainaina’s life is very interesting, but the wonderful thing is, he doesn’t try to shove it down our throats.

Does he even know how interesting he is?  Not judging by his writing style: unhurried; allowing us the readers to be taken by surprise at his humorous rendition of some scenes.

For instance, do you know what the dombolo is?  If you do, be prepared to see it through fresh eyes and laugh in recognition at Binyavanga’s description of it.  And if you don’t, I promise you will wonder if what you’d always called dancing could really be called that.

Hear Binyavanga’s own description of the dombolo:

Any dombolo song has this section where, having reached a small peak of hip-wiggling frenzy, the music stops, and one is supposed to pull one’s hips to the side and pause, in anticipation of an explosion of music faster and more frenzied than before.

When this happens, you are supposed to stretch out your arms and do some complicated kung-fu maneuvers.  Or keep the hips rolling and slowly make your way down to your haunches, then work yourself back up.

I wrote earlier on that Binyavanga seems to allow for the reader to be taken by surprise at his humorous rendition of some scenes.  Well, it isn’t just the humour; it is also the lack of self-consciousness in presenting those opinions that we’ve all heard but which we will be careful about acknowledging; not without going through some lengthy contextualizing in any case.  Not so with Mr Binyavanga Wainaina.  Here is how he ends the description of the dombolo:

If you watch a well-endowed woman doing this, you will understand why skinny women often are not popular in East Africa.


And the book goes on to tell us about his writing, and the state of publishing in Africa, and the birth of Kwani?, the literary magazine he is the founding editor of.

To conclude, because this post must come to an end, just read the book, for there’s so much in that book I’ve not even touched upon: the difference between East and West Africa?  One word: lingerie – the title of the memoir itself – Kenya’s elections in 2008 – sex….  If you are wondering whether you want to read this memoir or jump on the bandwagon of that erotica “novel” making the rounds at the moment, check out this essay by the author, and rush out to buy the memoir.  Just warn your family and friends and other acquaintances that you might be unavailable for a little while.


From → Memoirs

One Comment
  1. I love this book already, although I habe not read it. Anything that makes me laugh out loud, like this has got to be good…. Off I go reading a book then x

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