Operation Oysterhood: 27 December

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Sunday. Most of it spent reading. I finished another Bosch novel and started a book I have been meaning to read for ages: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Most writers know its famous quote about people who want you to write nice things about them having to behave better, and most writers I know have read the book at some stage. Now, finally, I am there. And enjoying it very much. I was thinking that it might inspire me to take up my dormant writing project(s) and then I came across this quote:

‘I would simply recommend to people in my workshops that they never start a large writing project on any Monday in December. Why set yourself up for failure?’

Okay, so maybe on Tuesday.

I did not hesitate when a while ago I was asked to write a few words for the Sunday Times about my ‘best book’ of 2020. I immediately thought of the short story collections I have read this year – all brilliant in different ways: If You Keep Digging by Keletso Mopai, Searching for Simphiwe by Sifiso Mzobe, Lester Walbrugh’s Let It Fall Where It Will (but for obvious reasons could not pick a book I’d published, no matter how much I love it), and Elleke Boehmer’s To the Volcano and Other Stories. I have reviewed all (even the one I published – that’s probably the greatest review one can offer a book), and in the end picked To the Volcano because when I saw it on the list of all the books I’d read this year, I immediately remembered its light and insights and gentleness and these qualities at the end of this horrendous year jumped out in my memory. The stories also speak directly to my own personal experiences with the South, my love and longing for it – now, my home.

What else? I spent most of the day in my human love’s company even though he was watching cricket and I was reading. Sometimes that is totally enough, just sharing a space and knowing that one can lean over and get a kiss but can indulge in whatever one wants to separately. I cooked dinner for us and we did watch some TV together.

We found out that another person we know is in hospital with serious Covid-19 symptoms. It is terrifying. And today, we have passed the mark of one million officially identified infections in the country since the first known case.

We all need light, insights and gentleness right now (and always) – and books offer solace. But, my soul is sore in ways that might only get better through writing. Tuesday, even in December, might be a great day to reach out for some literary healing. But tomorrow, some editing awaits and I look forward to it very much.

And this is the unofficial prognosis for next year:

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


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