There is nothing quite as satisfying as an excellent personal essay, and William Dicey’s Mongrel contains six gems of the genre. Dicey has been on my literary radar for a while now. In the past decade, whenever I found myself admiring a beautifully designed local book, Dicey’s name would often feature on the copyright page. His first book, Borderline (2004), a travel memoir about canoeing on the Orange River, is one of those titles readers remember fondly whenever mentioned, but apparently, it is out of print. Fortunately, I found a copy in our library. I have been meaning to read it for years, and Mongrel has finally made me realise that I need to succumb to the longing.
The essay collection opens with four epigraphs which already warn us that what lies ahead will not be as clear-cut as one might assume.
Allow me to quote a few snippets:
– “Fiction, nonfiction – the two are bleeding into each other all the time …” (Geoff Dyer).
– “The writer getting in the way of the story is the story, is the best story, is the only story” (David Shields).
And my favourite:
– “[T]he strays of literature have tended towards the ill-defined plot of the essay” (Hugh Walker).
The tone of the essays ranges from intimate through personal, playful, or analytical, to simply bizarre. The latter becomes immediately obvious when you consider the title of the first piece in the collection, “Miss Meat Festival”, and its first sentence: “Hannes Rheeder, I love you like a fish parcel.”
Dicey and his friend Justin are travelling north to the Hantam Meat Festival in Calvinia, an “annual celebration of mutton and lamb”…
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