So think you can write? Because you believe you can write, you think you have imaginative skills? But now you written, and no one have read your work, you blame the Nigerian society for its bad reading habit, you say you have to make a name before you are known. Dear unskilled writer, I am also unskilled, so hold on a second, and read my conversation with Osas concerning everything you need to know about writing a book especially for the Nigerian audience.
For a very long time, I asked myself why people underappreciated Art; why amidst music, painting, photography, film and literature, it seemed as if we paid less attention to literature. I grew up reading a lot of African novels, most especially Nigerian ones; I remember reading many lantern books like Born to Lead, who else also read it? And then gradually I began reading other books that got me acquitted with the works of Achebe, Efuru, and many others till I started picking out the set of books I wanted to read until one day I read Purple Hibiscus, and for the first time, I fell in love with a writer, wanted to be a writer, and wanted to be an image of Chimamanda, so I screamed Chimamanda’s name every day until 2013 when we went to the University of Ibadan and my dad stepped out of the car and came back with Americanah, Chimamanda’s latest novel, and that was how he later got me all of her books at different times. The first time I heard Mariama Ba’s name was from my mother, I was around 8 years old, and I vividly remember this quote she always said aloud- “Never marry the man you love, but the man that loves you” then she would stand up and add “Yesterday you were divorced, today I am a widow” my mum was a drama queen, she would dramatise everything for us, chip them in the stories she told us at night, and then lament on how my uncle borrowed her books and never returned them. Nevertheless, that didn’t mean I didn’t read foreign books, I just grew up reading more of African books.
I was reading Native Son by Richard Wright all over again, and Osas suggested I read a particular foreign novel, one thing lead to another and I asked Osas, Why don’t you want to patronize Nigerian books? In plain words he simply said- Nigerian writers simply don’t think. “I grew up reading books from different part of the world from Gulliver travels, Animal farmand many others. I think Nigerian writers especially of the older generation wrote good stories. They wrote according to their time, and I consider Soyinka’s “The interpreters” as one of the good books”.
Osas suggested some foreign books to me which I would read and post their review. While he also suggested American gods, Game of thrones etc, I told him that I would just stick to watching the series, and then he said, that’s the problem. “When you watch the movie, you think you have watched a blockbuster, but then you read the book and discover that it is much better than the movie. I love writers that write good books, good books that makes you think, imagine and then question yourself on how the hell a mad writer wrote such mad book that’s really amazing. When a Nigerian writes a book, he doesn’t give his audience the opportunity to imagine, he simply pets them like a baby and spells it all out, and most times you can foretell the end of the book and even when there’s a twist, it’s a stupid one. A person writes a book in his room about bad conversations in his head and he thinks he has written a good book, but all we do here is play on words and write the same thing in different ways just to make a voluminous book”. I told Osas that Nigerians write what is peculiar to them, their stories, history and heritage, but then he said, they know how to follow all these historical series that are in print forms and don’t know better ways to tell their stories. Especially in this age of WhatsApp and Instagram, we need to learn to bring writing closer to the people, and this I agreed with him.
Lately, I have been reading some romance novels, and yesterday I read one, and I was like this is better than the rest. Unlike some of the novels that described love and sexual relationship, this particular book made me happy. The writer didn’t give one the pleasure of allowing us to read about this favourite characters making love, yet I wondered what kept one reading and then I concluded that what made her book special was her ability to sustain the readers and make them hope that she would vividly spell it all out at the end of the book. She was able to describe foreplay with different words at different times with different meaning to describe actual romance. After reading the novel, I borrowed another one from my neighbor, and so I decided to glace through the pages and behold I started seeing “And they kissed and made love”. I said to myself, these are the kind of books Osas have been condemning. The books peculiar to Nigerian writers’ style, the books that helps the readers conclude and offer nothing. I had read other romance novels, both good and bad, but this particular one was just out of it, I didn’t need to the writer to tell me that they kissed and made love, I just needed her to explore her vocabulary and think out of the box, and then I asked myself all the questions Osas asked me-Nifemi, when would Nigerian writers learn to write brilliant spy, sci-fi, and other intelligent novels? I am adding to those questions, when will Nigerians learn to write captivating romance novels? But then one of my friends replied- It would take a lot of time because Nigerian writers are scared of criticism and its readers are pretenders.
PS: What makes a book intriguing to you?