Tag Archives: book mark

Book mark: Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex and Other Legal Advice for the Age of Social Media by by Emma Sadleir and Tamsyn de Beer

Dont Film YourselfFor many of us the internet is an integral part of our everyday reality. Accessible and highly entertaining, Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex is a must-read in the digital age, especially if you have children or are planning to marry Kate Winslet. Without excessive legalese, the authors give an overview of our on- and offline rights and responsibilities, and what consequences ignoring either might have for us as digital citizens. They offer practical advice on how to profit from the amazing medium and to have all the fun online without ruining your reputation, losing your job, having your identity stolen, being sued for damages, or becoming the laughing stock of social media. They also tell you what to do when something does go horribly wrong. ‘I had no clue’ won’t work as an excuse.

Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex and Other Legal Advice for the Age of Social Media
by Emma Sadleir and Tamsyn de Beer
Penguin, 2014

First published in the Cape Times on 10 October 2014.

Book mark: The Snowden Files – The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding

The Snowden FilesThe Edward Snowden saga is one of the most important stories of our times and Snowden himself a modern hero, despite his adversaries’ claims to the contrary. Luke Harding’s rendering of Snowden’s ordeal since his decision to become a whistleblower reads like a dystopian thriller. It’s George Orwell’s 1984 delayed by three decades, bigger in scope and horror.

Snowden risked his life to bring the worldwide mass surveillance authorised and conducted by so-called national security agencies in the US and the UK to the world’s attention. We live, he says, “under a sort of eye that sees everything, even when it’s not needed.” It is an assault on our most precious human rights. Harding’s book chronicles the timeline of Snowden’s revelations, their background, their consequences for all involved, and the global debate they sparked.

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man
by Luke Harding
Guardian Books/Faber and Faber, 2014

First published in the Cape Times on 10 October 2014.

Book marks: White Wahala and Dying in New York by Ekow Duker

White WahalaA finalist in the 2011/12 European Literary Awards, White Wahala is a modern tall tale with a dark South Africa twist. When Alasdair Nicholson, a spoilt young banker from a wealthy family, heads towards Soweto with his little sister to buy drugs, he sets in motion a chain of disastrous events which will put his entire family in grave danger, expose a long-buried secret, and end up in the headlines amidst an intrigue of national proportions.

White Wahala is populated by exaggerated characters whose outrageous actions and the dubious reasoning behind them take us to the heart of the misunderstandings and fears we encounter in everyday life as South Africans of all backgrounds. Ekow Duker’s take on the present state of the country has the potential to generate a lot of debate. It is impossible to remain neutral towards the story. My own personal response was a mix of incredulity and anger.

White Wahala
by Ekow Duker
Picador Africa, 2014

First published in the Cape Times on 26 September 2014.

Dying in NYIt is difficult to write about Ekow Duker’s second novel, Dying in New York, without giving away the ending, an unexpected twist on which the entire narrative hinges. The book’s pre-teenage protagonist, Lerato Malema, suffers horrendous abuse at the hands of her father. Her mother, also a victim, unable to protect her daughter, stands by hopelessly. One day, the dynamics of the setup change with fatal consequences.

The only thing that keeps Lerato going is a vague fantasy about the city of New York which she shares with her mother. Propelled by her vivid imagination, she embarks on a roller-coaster ride through contemporary South Africa where she encounters the worst of what the country has to offer, with very little to relieve the alienation, horror and pain of her dark adventures. Reality and fantasy blur uncomfortably, revealing a highly unsettling picture of violence and insanity.

Dying in New York
by Ekow Duker
Picador Africa, 2014

First published in the Cape Times on 3 October 2014.

Book mark: Love Tastes Like Strawberries by Rosamund Haden

Book mark_Loves Tastes Like StrawberriesLove Tastes Like Strawberries opens with an obituary of the painter Ivor Woodall. After his death, his partner Tony organises an exhibition of Ivor’s most recent portraits. All members of Ivor’s Friday life drawing classes receive special invitations to the opening. In all the addressees the invitations trigger uncomfortable memories of events from a distant and more recent past. Haden reveals their stories through the perspectives of several of the class participants. The web of intrigue tightens, forcing the characters to confront what haunts them. Alternating between present-day Cape Town, Rwanda of the time of the genocide, and timeless Greece, the novel portrays the precarious ties which bind people to one another across decades. Haden’s prose is smooth and lyrical, carrying the reader along. She explores seemingly insignificant incidents and gestures that can have far-reaching consequences for those involved, and conveys startling insights about loss, grief, and longing.

Love Tastes Like Strawberries
by Rosamund Haden
Kwela, 2014

An edited version of this book mark appeared in the Cape Times on 22 August 2014, p. 10.

Review
After her highly acclaimed debut The Tin Church a decade ago, Rosamund Haden returns with her second novel for adult audiences, Love Tastes Like Strawberries, which opens with an obituary. When the painter Ivor Woodall dies, his partner Tony Fox organises an exhibition of Woodall’s most recent portraits and extends a special invitation to the opening to all members of Woodall’s Friday life drawing classes.

As the invitations reach the individual artists whom Woodall had taught, each triggers uncomfortable memories of events from the distant or more recent past. The sisters Françoise and Dudu, Rwandan refugees, return to Cape Town to find their feet again after Dudu’s reckless act of stealing a car. It is Françoise’s portrait that features on the exhibition invites. Françoise is hoping to reunite with Timothy, a book seller and writer of obituaries. But Timothy seems to be missing. His friend Stella is also searching for him. She needs to reconcile with the events of a Greek summer holiday long past and the tragic death of her mother. When her mother drives over the edge of an abyss, Stella inherits her house and with it many haunting reminders of the holiday when they both fell under the spell of a promising young artist. Now in her early thirties Stella falls again, for Luke: “there’s something about him that’s so magnetic, so addictive. He should have a warning attached to him,” Jude, one of Luke’s many lovers, warns Stella. But Stella’s reasons for wanting to seduce Luke are complicated: she desires not only him, but also revenge. And Jude, perhaps the most talented of them all, has her own plan how to steal everyone’s show.

All of them have different reasons for attending Ivor Woodall’s classes. The meetings and ensuing parties gradually reveal the undercurrents of all the relationships Ivor’s students spin around their small circle until the web of intrigue and hidden agendas becomes too suffocating for some to bear and comes to a startling conclusion.

Alternating between present-day Cape Town, Rwanda of the time of the genocide, and timeless beaches of Greece, Love Tastes Like Strawberries explores the ties which bind people to one another across decades.

Haden’s prose is smooth and lyrical, it carries you along. Her characters are believable, even if theirs are very different to one’s own experiences. She explores the small, seemingly insignificant, incidents and gestures in life that can have far-reaching consequences for those implicated. There were times where I felt the narrative did not explore those moments deeply enough, and yet Haden manages to convey many unsettling insights about the way we deal with loss, grief, longing, and “foolishness that is painful”.

Book mark: Divided Lives – Dreams of a Mother and Daughter by Lyndall Gordon

Divided Lives_book markDivided LivesWith their profound insight and stylistic elegance Lyndall Gordon’s biographies of such renowned authors as Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, or Emily Dickinson have been enriching the biographical genre for decades. She is also the author of one previous memoir, Shared Lives (1992), chronicling the fates of three women she grew up with. In Divided Lives, Gordon shines a light on another unique woman in her life, her mother, and their remarkable bond which shaped both their lives. From early on, Gordon was invited to be her mother’s confidant, to take part in her inner world of literary pursuits and hidden passions. More of a sister or a close friend than a daughter, Gordon witnessed her mother’s struggles with illness, lack of opportunities and recognition. All the while she continued the search for her own voice, trying to navigate the path through the wonders and challenges of childhood and womanhood.

Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter
by Lyndall Gordon
Virago, 2014

An edited version of this book mark was published in the Cape Times on 15 August 2014. My full-length review of this title is to follow soon.

Book mark: The People’s Platform – Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age

Book mark_The Peoples PlatformEvery time I think co-operative thinking cannot surprise me any longer in this world, somebody proves me wrong. Astra Taylor is a writer, activist, and documentary filmmaker. In her thoroughly researched and comprehendingly presented The People’s Platform, she debunks some of the myths surrounding the advantages of the internet, which in just 20 years has changed everything about the way we live. Taylor warns against users becoming oblivious consumers exploited by power and greed which often hide behind seemingly benign services. She champions an “open, egalitarian, participatory, and sustainable culture” where people are “put before profit”, and gives practical advice about how such goals can still be attained.

The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
by Astra Taylor
Fourth Estate, 2014

First published in the Cape Times, 1 August 2014, p. 32.

Book mark: Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices by Sandra Saayman

BB_coverThe poet and painter Breyten Breytenbach was imprisoned in the 70s for high treason. In this exquisitely produced book, Saayman explores a new approach to this multifaceted artist’s work which was defined by his prison experience. Illustrated by quotes as well as the disquieting drawings and paintings from this period, Saayman’s analysis focuses on the key iconographic signs of Breytenbach’s oeuvre: bird, angel, strings and ropes. She remedies its fragmented reception by attempting to “find a way to look and read at the same time”, and invites us to study the web of meanings the visual and the textual mediations on execution, captivity, and fear of death create in context. They take the “reader and spectator beyond the threshold of easy contemplation” as they confront the horrors of imprisonment and the survival strategies of the artist.

"Steve Biko" and "Autoportrait devant le miroir" (both 1990) in Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices (Fourthwall Books)

“Steve Biko” and “Autoportrait devant le miroir” (both 1990) in Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices (Fourthwall Books)


An edited version of this book mark was published in the Cape Times on 4 July 2014, p. 12.

Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices
by Sandra Saayman
Fourthwall Books, 2014

Interested in acquiring a copy of this book? Please take part in my BOOK GIVEAWAY this month and stand a chance of having a copy of Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices (among others) sent to you. Good luck!

Book mark: DF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism by Lindie Koorts

MalanFor somebody acquainted with only a broad outline of South Africa’s turbulent past, this blow by blow account of DF Malan’s life, told against the background of the crystallisation of Afrikaner nationalism and its most lethal exponent apartheid, was a real eye-opener. Deeply religious and driven by a strong sense of duty towards his people, Malan was prepared to make great sacrifices to achieve what he believed in: a South African republic where the Afrikaans-speaking community leads economically and culturally viable lives. He navigated the minefields of the country’s volatile political landscape in the first half of the twentieth century with determination that nearly obscures the warped racial ideology which drove him. Although this is Koorts’ first biography, she weaves the individual life story into the larger socio-political context with meticulous skill. At times her narrative reads like a political thriller where the villain is indistinguishable from a hero.

An edited version of this book mark was first published in the Cape Times today, 13 May 2014, p. 32.

DF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism
by Lindie Koorts
Tafelberg, 2014

Book mark: The Last Man in Russia and the Struggle to Save a Dying Nation by Oliver Bullough

Book mark_Last Man in RussiaIn this enthralling but heart-breaking book the historian and journalist Oliver Bullough tries to find answers to a fundamental question about Russia: Why does a people turn to vodka for solace and what consequences does mass alcoholism have for a country? Bullough travels through Russia in the footsteps of Father Dmitry Dudko to trace how a fearless priest, who had brought hope and unity to his people, succumbed to the KGB. He exposes the ruthless finesse of the KGB’s enterprise in the former Soviet Union, the greed which has replaced ideology after the transition, and the continuing drinking problem of an entire nation. Despite inklings of optimism, it’s difficult to take heart for the future of Russia from his insightful report.

Book mark first published in the Cape Times, 25 April 2014, p. 12.

The Last Man in Russia and the Struggle to Save a Dying Nation
by Oliver Bullough
Allen Lane, 2013
Penguin, 2014

Book mark: Crossing Borders, Dissolving Boundaries edited by Hein Viljoen

Book mark_Crossing Borders_small copyThresholds, frontiers, or bridges can function as barriers or points of access, and they can represent opportunities or risks. They are indispensable in our way of perceiving and categorising the world, and make for a fascinating topic of creative endeavours as well as their interpretations. Focusing on diverse genres from different places and time periods, the twelve essays collected in this volume offer insightful glimpse into this area of research. The topics range from a reading of borders and abjection in the film version of Marlene van Niekerk’s novel Triomf (1994) to ideas of insanity and transgression in Thomas Harris’s thriller The Silence of the Lamb (1988). Read as a whole, the collection calls out for a bridging concept of borders, their crossing and dissolving in such farflug places as Lappland, the Karoo, or the human mind.

Book mark first published in the Cape Times, 21 March 2014, p. 10.

Crossing Borders, Dissolving Boundaries
Ed. Hein Viljoen
Rodopi, 2013