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Perfect Launch for Steven Boykey Sidley’s Imperfect Solo

Launch of Imperfect SoloImperfect SoloStarting with a rousing and witty speech that had the audience in fits of laughter, Steven Boykey Sidley had Exclusive Books Hyde Park in the palm of his hand at the launch of his new book, Imperfect Solo.

With a wife and daughter who are “huge arachnophobes”, Sidley said as the man of the house he is the one tasked with getting rid of spiders whenever they appear in the house – this despite the fact that he is much more terrified of them than anyone else. The resulting imagined conversation between himself and the spider, in which he is criticised for allowing himself to be bullied into a false macho persona, is according to Sidley a metaphor for the problems of men everywhere, in particular Imperfect Solo‘s protagonist, Joshua Meyer.

As Sunday Times books editor Ben Williams pointed out, Meyer has been compared with Job, as he has his possessions taken away from him and generally comes in for a difficult time. However, Williams says a comparison with Candide – who in the face of great adversity finds refuge in tending a garden – would be more appropriate.

Sidley agrees: “[Meyer] tries to cultivate a garden to carry around with him, but circumstances and ill-fortune mean he can’t. Instead he carries a small dream with him, which is fundamental to the story so I won’t give it away; it’s revealed on the last page of the book.”

Williams said he sees echoes of Philip Roth, John Updike, Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer in Sidley’s work: “They say ‘good writers borrow, great writers steal,’ but I think there’s a third type of writer, I think some writers ‘cover’ other writers; covering the territory in a new way.”

And Sidley, who said he grew up under the influence of his American mother’s literary taste, which included just those writers, quipped: “I am unembarrassed to plagiarise from those books!”

Philographers would have had their hands full on the night, with Johnny Clegg, Denis Beckett, Moeletsi Mbeki, Jenny Crwys-Williams and Rian Malan among the local celebrities who turned out in support.

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