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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

What is your greatest regret? “Not taking better care of myself as a younger person” – Craig Higginson answers the Proust Questionnaire

By Mila de Villiers

A sepia snapshot of the scribe, provided by the author himself.

 
The sound of the ringing doorbell of acclaimed novelist and playwright Craig Higginson’s home in Johannesburg’s leafy suburb of Parkview is met with enthusiastic barks.

Dressed in bootleg jeans, his casual shirt rolled up at the arms, and a pair of brown Chelsea-esque boots (“I think I got them in somewhere like Woolworths”), the tall, blonde author opens his blue front door, revealing a garden and a modern Dutch Colonial house.

The canine welcoming committee – two Cocker Spaniels introduced as Rosie and Chuckles – follow the writer into his open-plan kitchen, where a kettle is whistling on the stove.

“I always make too much,” he apologises with a smile as he passes a near-overflowing mug of tea across the kitchen counter, of which a few droplets land on the wooden corridor leading to his study cum writing room.

The room (“which I’m very happy to have”) is brightly-lit with natural light pouring in through a window displaying a driveway and colourful flowers; a computer, stacks of books and a lamp to write by atop his desk.

Considering that this bibliophile has read “thousands and thousands” of books and declares re-reading as “the greatest”, it comes as no surprise that a large bookshelf – featuring titles as diverse as Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and Nathan Hill’s The Nix – occupies the space behind his writing desk.

A vintage couch with a floral print and two matching armchairs surround a coffee table in the middle of the room. Higginson seats himself in one of the armchairs, draping his left leg over his right and placing his fingertips against one another, drawing attention to the array of colourful – yet unobtrusive – beaded bracelets adorning his left wrist; his right wrist sporting a digital watch.

And thus the questionnaire call time commences…

Apologies to Charles M. Schulz, but happiness isn’t always a warm puppy

 
Higginson runs his hand through his mop of hair, a pensive look on his face as he considers his response to the first of several questions featured on the Proust Questionnaire: ‘What is your idea of perfect happiness?’

“I suppose being able to do what you were … made to do,” the native Jo’burger eventually replies in his cultured voice, his tone relaxed.

“I think I’m pretty happy,” he continues. “I’m able to do what I want to do and I’ve got quite a rich life. I mean it’s a suburban life and the drudgery of having the pay the bills squashes you,” he says, his head resting on his left hand.

“I think everyone’s life – whoever you are, whatever your job is – there’s an element of drudgery and there’s an element of magic and you’ve got to make sure that the drudgery doesn’t snuff out the magic,” the author muses.

“For me, it’s being able to do what I was kind of brought into this world to do.” This being none other than “writing”, he confirms without hesitation. (Naturellement!)

Higginson received little encouragement from his family to pursue his writing, but maintains he preferred it that way.

“It was quite nice to develop a secret thing,” he explains. “If I had told everyone or shared my poems with my mom, the subversive nature of writing would be lost.”

Higginson’s sister was an avid horse rider and the tedious days spent at the stables with her and their mother propelled him to storytelling; he’d while his boredom away by “going internal; I developed my own internal imaginative landscape.” This included making up words, games and cartoon strips.

He wrote his first story at age 10 – seven exercise books in total, he recalls – about a boy who ran away from school and forms a bond with an owl. These seven exercise books would ultimately materialise as The Hill, published in 2005.

“When I was at school [Higginson attended Michaelhouse], I just wrote stuff without anyone telling me to,” proclaiming that a teacher of his encouraged him to pursue art. This didn’t stick well with Higginson…

“And I was, like, ‘why do I want do art?’” he incredulously asks. “‘I want to be a vet’.”

His teacher’s counter-argument was that Higginson received the highest mark in his year for art which Higginson found odd, as he laughingly admits that “I just drew the same kingfisher over and over again!”

Yet he did decide on taking art as a matric subject, which, he says, introduced him to the “arty kids, alternative music, and an interest in books. It was a whole different way of being in the world.”

There’s more to fear than arachnids, death and failure

 
‘What is your greatest fear?’ is received with a heavy sigh, followed by a pause; a frown etched across his forehead.

“I’m afraid of wasting my life, I suppose,” he responds in a considered tone. “I would hate to look back and think that I didn’t use it properly. We probably all feel that a bit…

“I’m scared of…,” he starts, pausing once more, studying his hands, “…of … not being alive when I’m alive.”

He can’t overtly state whether he’s alive at the moment, reasoning that “it’s layered.”

“Like, yesterday we [Higginson, his wife and young daughter] went to the zoo and looked at animals and the spring blossoms were out. It was lovely to be there but I felt…” He interrupts himself, a meditative look on his face. “One has anxieties and preoccupations and those things often come between you and the present,” he reflects.

Trying to be nice proves to be a trying task

 
Not even one’s inner demons, insecurities or irksome habits are immune to this 19th century questionnaire popularised by Proust and Higginson’s response to ‘what is the trait you most deplore in yourself?’ is met with a very human and relatable counter-question: “What do I hate the most about myself? I think lots of things…”

Shifting in his armchair, Higginson confides that he has spent most of his life fitting in with other people, “trying to be nice. Not trying to be liked,” he says, placing an emphasis on ‘liked’, his brow furrowed, “but making other people feel better about themselves.

“I think it takes great courage to just be yourself,” he continues.

Higginson’s ‘true self’ comes through in his writing: “I’m much more alive, much more clever when I’m writing as a person in the world…

“I’m quite self-effacing. Well, that’s what my perception of myself is,” he laughs.

“Other people probably see me completely differently. They probably think I’m this arrogant, loudmouthed, pushy person,” Higginson says with a playful grin on his bakkies.

He reiterates that he dislikes “trying to be nice to everybody” but struggles to adhere to this social norm since it’s “also important to be nice to people, and to make people feel comfortable, to be respectful of people.”

After a lengthy pause, Higginson smiles wryly. “Sorry, these are big questions.”

Consider your criticism


 ”Criticism without self-awareness” is the deliberated, yet determined answer in question to the trait he most deplores in others.

The origin of this pique results from a conflict of interest with a PhD supervisor of Higginson’s whilst he was completing a doctorate in creative writing at Wits University.

Two of his three supervisors “loved what I did, but one said she suspected I was re-inscribing white male centrality through my writing.”

The criticism of The Dream House (which was the PhD novel) was very superficial, the author says, elaborating that The Dream House is “all about issues of representation and the end of white centrality. And how nice that is; how healthy.”

Higginson is conscious that he, as a white male writer, does re-inscribe white centrality “because I am the narrator of my own narrative and I am a white male and I am central to my own narratives.

“All forms of criticism is a form of autobiography as Oscar Wilde said,” he continues, expounding on this statement by reasoning that people who don’t question their own centrality do so owing to a woundedness.

“There’s a wound and they react out of that wound; they criticise out of that wound without that kind of level of self-awareness.”

The ability to criticise, dismiss and categorise a middle-aged, middle-class white male is “very easy” he says with distaste.

“I deplore laziness in others – and myself,” he quickly adds, “but in other people as well,” harshly criticising “knee-jerk defensive reactions that are about promoting one’s ego.”

Visibly exasperated, Higginson condemns the perpetuation of one’s own ego and self-importance, bluntly stating “I hate it.”

Higginson’s loathing of egomania is “probably” the reason why he thinks of himself as self-effacing.

“I hate the pomposity of these people who think they’re so important. None of us are important,” the author reminds us.

“We’ll all be dead soon, we’re all passing through, we’re all going to be forgotten,” he says, with a slight shake of his head. “We’re not special and that’s good.

“All those things make me panic,” he nervously laughs.

The anxiety caused by the insignificance of our lives incites Higginson to write books and “to make it matter. I want to make meaning and create something.”

He imparts that it’s a “great honour” when his books are read reasoning that you (as an author) are able to connect to someone you’ve never met and shift something in them. “You get them to feel something. You’ve touched each other,” he explains in a slight reverie.

“Anything is better than lies and deceit” – Hear, hear, Tolstoy

 
Higginson deplores falsehood of the self, but this does not dismiss the fact that humans. do. lie.

In question to when he lies most often, the writer acknowledges that he lies “to protect people from truths that are hurtful” but without intentionally hurting someone.

“The problem with – or maybe it’s a good thing,” he starts, grimacing slightly, hands clasped together. “The problem is I hate feeling that I’m lying.”

Unclasping his hands, he professes that he would never be able to have an extramarital affair as he’d hate living with a dishonest version of himself.

He adds that if he were to attend the premiere of a friend’s play which he didn’t particularly take to, he’d withhold his commentary (you’re under enough duress as it is – nerves, media, cameras), and critiquing it on the night would be unnecessarily pernicious.

The present is pleasant

 
‘When and where were you happiest?’ is followed by a pause from Higginson which, if likened to sheet music, would have been indicated as a fermata…

“I spend most of my life not really worrying about whether or not I’m happy,” he eventually answers.

“I know that sounds terrible,” he says with a slight smile.

He was aware that, as a writer, he wasn’t going to live to accumulate money, security and a decent pension, furthering that he “lived to be a creative person, to make works of art.”

Higginson describes his pursuit of a creative life as relentless and quite uncompromising, admitting that on the rare occasions that he allowed himself a holiday it was purely for research purposes.

“I think now that I should have thought more about happiness,” comes the contemplative, fairly concerned response. Throughout the years he’s often sacrificed having fun, owing to his busy schedule and having to fit “so much” in a day.

“Another thing I don’t like is how I sometimes lose the roots to just having fun, just being light. I can get too serious, you know?” he says, with a piercing gaze of his deep-set blue eyes.

“I’m happiest now,” he decides. “I’m doing what I want to do. Each day is a good day.”

(Craig’s day, by the way)


 
- he wakes up
- takes his daughter to school
- sits down, writes
- does his day job from home (“I love being able to work from home”)
- walks the Westcliff steps (all 10 000 of them!)
- listens to “really lovely” music whilst walking
- checks out the spring blossoms
- thinks his thoughts
- chats to his family

“It’s a lovely day but kind of the same day,” he ruminates, before stressing the importance of travelling; to go to different places; try things that are scary; get outside of your comfort zone.

“Happiness isn’t the be all and end all,” he straightforwardly states. To stay alive; to grow; to be excited and adventurous; “to try and find the magic” – that’s what’s of great importance to the author.

After a contemplative pause, he mentions that he’s uncertain as to whether that’s the same as happiness, and that we often tend to mistake comfort for happiness.

He explains: “You think if you have security and a house and a dog and everything, ‘I’m really happy’. That’s not true.”

Higginson draws on South Africans’ propensity to emigrate to Australia as an example of mistaking comfort for happiness.

With undisguised contempt for those who decide to leave the country for the Land Down Under, he reasons that they expect to be happy in this “promised land” but “they take all their kak with them … It’s just an alien land.”

“Oh, the places you’ll go!”

 
Speaking of countries…

“Either a flat in South Africa and a little house in Europe or, like, a flat in Europe and a little house in England,” Higginson responds in question to where he would most like to live.

He likes being in Johannesburg as a working person but wouldn’t want to grow old there, clarifying that he’s “always lived in Jo’burg”, save for his years at boarding school and the 10 years he spent abroad.

As he is equally attached to the city and the countryside, the imaginative author has plenty of options to play with.

“I’d like to be by the sea … Or have flat in Paris or London and a beach cottage on the coast of Natal, the Eastern Cape, or the Transkei.

“How about that?” he beams.

A portrait of the author as a young man posing with his daughter, Phoebe, during a seaside holiday. (Pic supplied)

 
He adds that that will only be possible if he were “a whole lot richer.” (The house belongs to his wife, actress Leila Henriques.)

At the mention of his house, his eyes drift around the room, settling on a section of the ceiling which had recently undergone repairs.

“We had a hole in the ceiling – in the roof – when it rained,” he explains as he gestures towards the slight blight.

“Parkview is nice,” he says after a while, although it can sometimes get “too much. I know everyone…”

When your vocation happens to be your favourite occupation

 
A resolute “writing fiction” is Higginson’s response to what his favourite occupation is, describing his day job as a script writer for the immensely popular TV series, Rhythm City, as “not really writing.

“I’m not being horrible or snobby about it,” he goes on, specifying that the impersonal and collaborative nature thereof makes it hard to feel as if it “feeds you in a nutritious sense.”

He returns to the question, stating if he was to do “all this over again, I’d probably be a psychologist. Or an architect.

“Not that I dislike what I’m doing. I’m just quite insecure…. I’m an aging, white male in an increasingly transformed space where the stories are kind of black reality stories,” he conveys in a subdued tone.

“There’s a whole generation of amazingly talented black TV people and writers. It’s quite a young industry, why do they need someone me? They actually don’t and increasingly they won’t,” he answers matter-of-factly.

From McEwan to St. Aubyn – here’s who Higginson reads

 
‘Who are your favourite writers?’ is a question Higginson has most likely been asked ad nauseam but he seems happy to comply with this famed questionnaire’s personality catechism.

“I’ll always read the new Ian McEwan, the new Tim Winton,” the author begins before leaving his armchair, walking towards his desk, and picking up his copy of Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am. (“I recently discovered Maggie O’Farrell – this was great.”)

Although a fan of both Jonathan Franzen and Michael Ondaatje, Higginson admits that he was disappointed by Purity and gave up halfway through Warlight before losing interest. He sheepishly confesses that he doesn’t read many local writers.

He turns to his book case and hands me Edward St. Aubyn’s volume of The Patrick Melrose Novels, pronouncing St. Aubyn’s monographs as “brilliant.”

Be mindful of your mental health

 
Higginson returns to his armchair and, once seated, earnestly and introspectively discloses that his greatest regret is giving up on himself after university; not taking better care of himself as a younger person and neglecting his mental health in the process.

His involvement with the Market Theatre, working in a bookshop in London and “my nebulous theatre career” was met with years which “I wasted by losing that momentum I got.

“I regret not just taking better care of myself as a younger person. I should have gone to therapy,” Higginson says in a heavy voice.

“I think I was quite depressed for a couple of years, without naming it or even being aware of it,” he continues.

“It’s very hard to take control of your life when you don’t have parents who are present or someone in your life who is saying ‘what are you doing next?’”

The author hesitates before revealing that he was always left to his own devices, with neither family nor friends enquiring about his mental well-being.

He’s of opinion that youth is definitely wasted on the young, as you’re “so depressed and riddled with fear and anxiety and self-fear.

“They don’t actually know what they’ve got … The gift of freedom to go and live anywhere in the world … To do anything…”

He chuckles slightly as he realises that that was exactly what he was doing twenty-odd years ago and now regrets doing that.

“You have your one life and you don’t have a second draft and then you die and that’s that,” he says solemnly, his eyes focused on his clasped hands.

“You’re going to get things wrong and the most important thing is that when you do fuck up and when you do make a mistake, is to turn that into something positive,” he furthers with an intense look in his eyes.

“Which I think I have done, you know. Ja…” Craig Higginson trails off, a small half-smile on his face, picks up his cellphone, and announces that it – unfortunately – is time to get back to the drudgery…

Three concluding questions

1. What is your motto?

I try not to come at anything with a motto. I try to make sense out of what stands in front of me – and then move on from it, as if it’s a stepping stone to somewhere more present, more accurate.

2. Who is your hero of fiction?

I don’t have one and I have learned from a wide range of writers. Graham Greene, for instance, taught me that you can write into places that are dark and into the lives of people who are despairing but still come away with a novel that is affirming and uplifting. He was also able to write books that dug deep but were always story-driven and entertaining. His writing style is clean and supple and I like the way he proceeds with so little fuss.

3. Who are your heroes in real life?

I most admire people who don’t whine and complain about things that impinge on their own self-interest. There’s that term ‘grit’ – which to me means perseverance, humour, perspective, courage – what used to be called ‘character’. There are so many reasons to be bitter and twisted – but what contribution are we making and how immediately boring we are if we submit to that?

What contribution indeed.

***


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Listen: Nthikeng Mohlele discusses Michael K on SAfm Literature

‘Those in the know claim Michael K disembarked from a diesel-smoke-spewing truck one overcast morning, looked around, and without missing a beat, chose a spot where he set down a small bucket (red, burnt and disfigured) that contained an assortment of seedlings, some fisherman’s twine and a rudimentary gardening tool – probably self-made.’

How is it that a character from literary fiction can so alter the landscapes he touches, even as he – in his self-imposed isolation – seeks to avoid them? How is it that Michael K, bewildered and bewildering, can remain so fragile yet so present, so imposing without attempting to be so?

In this response to JM Coetzee’s classic masterpiece, Life & Times of Michael K, Nthikeng Mohlele dabbles in the artistic and speculative in a unique attempt to unpack the dazed and disconnected world of the title character, his solitary ways, his inventiveness, but also to show how astutely Michael K holds up a mirror to those whose paths he inadvertently crosses. Michael K explores the weight of history and of conscience, thus wrestling the character from the confines of literary creation to the frontiers of artistic timelessness.

Mohlele was a recent guest on Nancy Richards’s SAfm Literature Show. Listen to their conversation here:


 

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Listen: Angela Mahkolwa discusses The Blessed Girl with Sara-Jayne King

The Blessed GirlWhen you are accustomed to the finer things in life – designer shoes, champagne, VIP lounges, exotic holidays abroad, a luxury penthouse, expensive wheels – what independent young woman in her right mind would want to let them go? Certainly not the beautiful, ambitious and super-streetsmart Bontle Tau, the girl who has used her good looks and winning charm all her life to get exactly what she wants. The lifestyle doesn’t come cheap, though, nor does maintaining the body that allows it (just ask Dr Heinz at the beauty clinic).

Luckily, Bontle has a degree in MENcology, and there is no shortage of blessers at her penthouse door, eager to give her all the love and (financial) support she needs.

Papa Jeff might be overweight and getting on a bit, and receiving some unwanted attention from the Hawks; and Teddy might not have fully come through for her on that messed-up tender business; but Mr Emmanuel, the Nigerian businessman with deep pockets and the possibility of conferring second wife status … could that be love? Keeping all her boyfriends happy and living a fabulous life is not without its challenges.

With so many people clamouring for Bontle’s attention – from her shebeen queen mother Gladys in Mamelodi, who is taking strain bringing up her teenaged brother, Golokile, on her own; to her girlfriends, Iris and Tsholo; not to mention her soon-to-be ex-husband, the ever-patient, ever-loving Ntokozo, Bontle barely has time to post on Instagram these days.

Sooner or later something’s got to give …

Angela recently discussed The Blessed Girl, her fourth (!) novel, with fellow author and radio presenter Sara-Jayne King. Listen to their conversation here:

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Listen: Karabo Kgoleng discusses NR Brodie’s debut novel, Knucklebone

Just because you can see it, doesn’t mean it’s true.

 
Sangomas and cops don’t mix. Usually. But this is Joburg, a metropolis that is equal parts flash and shadow, and where not everything can be easily explained.

Ian Jack, a disillusioned former police officer, teams up with Reshma Patel, a colleague from his old life, to investigate a routine housebreaking gone bad. But when they uncover links to a possible animal poaching and trafficking syndicate, things go from complicated to dangerous to downright evil.

Set against the richly textured backdrop of a livewire African city, this fast-paced thriller offers a disturbing contemporary take on justice and morality. To be read with the lights on.

‘A cracking novel. Brilliant original writing, free of clichés. The pace is insane – in a good way.’ – Sarah Lotz, author of The White Road, Day Four and The Three .

NR BRODIE is a veteran journalist and best-selling author of five books.

Listen to 702′s book critic Karabo Kgoleng discuss Brodie’s novel with Phemelo Motene:

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“Why Life and Times of Michael K?” A Q&A with Nthikeng Mohlele

 

‘Those in the know claim Michael K disembarked from a diesel-smoke-spewing truck one overcast morning, looked around, and without missing a beat, chose a spot where he set down a small bucket (red, burnt and disfigured) that contained an assortment of seedlings, some fisherman’s twine and a rudimentary gardening tool – probably self-made.’

How is it that a character from literary fiction can so alter the landscapes he touches, even as he – in his self-imposed isolation – seeks to avoid them? How is it that Michael K, bewildered and bewildering, can remain so fragile yet so present, so imposing without attempting to be so?

In this response to JM Coetzee’s classic masterpiece, Life & Times of Michael K, Nthikeng Mohlele dabbles in the artistic and speculative in a unique attempt to unpack the dazed and disconnected world of the title character, his solitary ways, his inventiveness, but also to show how astutely Michael K holds up a mirror to those whose paths he inadvertently crosses. Michael K explores the weight of history and of conscience, thus wrestling the character from the confines of literary creation to the frontiers of artistic timelessness.

Nthikeng was recently asked a few thought-provoking questions about his anticipated book; take a visual tour of the insightful interview on Pan Macmillan’s Facebook page.

Here’s a sneak peek…

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Peter Harris’s first novel rings as true as any history, writes Ray Hartley

Published in the Sunday Times

Peter Harris, more used to chronicling the facts, gives us new insights into what’s going on behind the scenes with a novel about a mining magnate, writes Ray Hartley

Bare Ground
****
Peter Harris, Picador Africa, R260

I arranged to meet Peter Harris at the restaurant 10 Bompas in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. I chose the restaurant because it was where I had met Harris before to interview him about his previous work, Birth. Like his first book In a Different Time, Birth was nonfiction, telling the story of the 1994 election. Harris had been head of the Independent Electoral Commission’s monitoring directorate and his insider’s account read like a thriller.

The book I wanted to discuss with him over lunch, Bare Ground, is a work of fiction. But so intertwined are its characters, locations and plot with contemporary South African life that it rings as true as any history. As if to confirm this, I discover while finishing the book that 10 Bompas is one of its locations, a place where dealmakers and power brokers lunch.

After we have sat down, I point out this coincidence and Harris laughs, uncertainly, as if laughing and then deciding to withdraw the laugh until he has thought it through more carefully.

“At the next table,” he says motioning with his head. I turn and, as if on cue, one of Joburg’s rougher businessmen can be seen at a table where deals are made.

I opened Bare Ground with trepidation. How would a chronicler of the transition manage the infinitely more complex task of writing fiction, which requires pace, character development and plot?

A few pages in, however, I was lost in the world Harris has conjured up. It is a world both familiar and revealing, where the powerful, greased by whisky, fuelled by steaks, embalmed in wood panelling, and blissfully ignorant of the consequences of their deeds, decide the fates of their corporations and, sometimes by accident, sometimes deliberately, that of the nation.

Harris has brought this world out of the shadows where it has lurked, largely unobserved, for the last 23 years and beyond. The set is the mining town of Johannesburg, now evolved into a place of commerce, but still carrying the rude DNA of its origins.

“Johannesburg is a central character, a living, breathing, passionate character. It’s an organism with all its contradictions,” says Harris. “You pitch up at the robots and you’ve got economic refugees from Africa. A blind guy being led by a lead. There’s a part of Johannesburg that keeps its mining town mentality. People are bribing, stealing, grabbing, pushing – 1994 did not change any of that.”

I tell him that it reads like a thriller.

“It’s the pace of Joburg and its politics. The moment that they hear there’s a deal in the offing, they come sniffing.”

The novel tells the story of one such deal in which the head of a mining house, which has come late to the empowerment party, seeks to bring aboard partners who will not threaten control, but will keep the doors to political power open.

The head of this business is Max Sinclair, a complex man with a troubled history. By the time the deal is done, lives will have been upended; some will be rich, others poor, as Sinclair orchestrates the details with a sociopathic detachment from the consequences of his actions.

“Max is cold, ruthless. Betrayal is in his blood,” says Harris.

What makes Bare Ground compelling is that Sinclair’s motivations extend beyond greed and the desire for power. There are events in his personal history that explain his choices and his emotional isolation.

I ask Harris if his is a bleak world. He is anxious to dispel the notion. There are characters, he points out, who are not prepared to sell their souls. One such character will find himself tested to the limit as the deal unfolds. He is a human rights lawyer, and an adviser to the rich and powerful.

It is possible to see real people in these characters – or bits of real people cut apart and reassembled so that they are not immediately recognisable. Harris’s own background as a human rights lawyer and one who has witnessed the churning wheels of post-apartheid power first-hand shows in the authenticity of these characters. In a Different Time and Birth documented the recent past. He has managed the transition from nonfiction to fiction so seamlessly that Bare Ground seems the logical third book on the state of contemporary South Africa.

Harris has avoided proselytising and has maintained the pace and complex development required of a thriller.

“You can’t give a state of the nation by banging on a drum,” he says. @hartleyr

Bare Ground

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“It’s a sexy, sexy book!” – Eusebius McKaiser and Angela Makholwa discuss The Blessed Girl

When you are accustomed to the finer things in life – designer shoes, champagne, VIP lounges, exotic holidays abroad, a luxury penthouse, expensive wheels – what independent young woman in her right mind would want to let them go? Certainly not the beautiful, ambitious and super-streetsmart Bontle Tau, the girl who has used her good looks and winning charm all her life to get exactly what she wants. The lifestyle doesn’t come cheap, though, nor does maintaining the body that allows it (just ask Dr Heinz at the beauty clinic).

Luckily, Bontle has a degree in MENcology, and there is no shortage of blessers at her penthouse door, eager to give her all the love and (financial) support she needs.

Papa Jeff might be overweight and getting on a bit, and receiving some unwanted attention from the Hawks; and Teddy might not have fully come through for her on that messed-up tender business; but Mr Emmanuel, the Nigerian businessman with deep pockets and the possibility of conferring second wife status … could that be love? Keeping all her boyfriends happy and living a fabulous life is not without its challenges.

With so many people clamouring for Bontle’s attention – from her shebeen queen mother Gladys in Mamelodi, who is taking strain bringing up her teenaged brother, Golokile, on her own; to her girlfriends, Iris and Tsholo; not to mention her soon-to-be ex-husband, the ever-patient, ever-loving Ntokozo, Bontle barely has time to post on Instagram these days.

Sooner or later something’s got to give …

Angela recently was a guest on Eusebius McKaiser’s 702 Literature Corner show. Listen to the juicy conversation:

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Listen: Marcus Low discusses Asylum on AmaBookaBooka

AsylumBarry James is detained in a quarantine facility in the blistering heat of the Great Karoo.

Here he exists in two worlds: the discordant and unforgiving reality of his incarceration and the lyrical, snowy landscapes of his dreams. He has cut all ties with his previous life, his health is failing, and he has given up all hope. All he has to cling to are the meanderings of his restless mind, the daily round of pills and the journals he reluctantly keeps as testimony to a life once lived.

And then there’s an opportunity to escape. But to escape what? And where to? Can there be a life to go back to? Is there still a world out there in the barren wasteland beyond the fence?

I was sitting in the train looking out at the falling snow. I knew then that I was not going home … I was going to an unknown place on a train full of unknown people. And even though I knew I would not be coming back, that the factories that whooshed by were instantly hundreds of kilometres behind us, that the train would not deliver us anywhere where we’d want to be, I still felt grateful for the snow, the impossible snow. For it seems to me that even in the most bleak of worlds we’ll find something to hold on to … even if that is something as impossible as snow in this god-forsaken wasteland.

Low recently was a guest on Jonathan Ancer’s podcast, AmaBookaBooka. Listen to their conversation here:

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Listen: Sara-Jayne King and Sibusiso Mjikeliso discuss Being a Black Springbok

Thando Manana was the third black African player to don a Springbok jersey after unification in 1992, when he made his debut in 2000 in a tour game against Argentina A.

His route to the top of the game was unpredictable and unusual. From his humble beginnings in the township of New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, Thando grew to become one of the grittiest loose-forwards of South African rugby, despite only starting the game at the age of 16. His rise through rugby ranks, while earning a reputation as a tough-tackling lock and later open side flanker, was astonishingly rapid, especially for a player of colour at the time. Within two years of picking up a rugby ball, he represented Eastern Province at Craven Week, and by 2000 he was a Springbok.

But it isn’t solely Thando’s rugby journey that makes Being a Black Springbok a remarkable sports biography. It’s learning how he has negotiated life’s perils and pitfalls, which threatened to derail both his sporting ambitions and the course of his life.

He had to negotiate an unlikely, but fateful, kinship with a known Port Elizabeth drug-lord, who took Thando under his wing when he was a young, gullible up-and-comer at Spring Rose. Rejected by his father early in his life, Thando had to deal with a sense of abandonment and a missing protective figure and find, along the way, people to lean on.

Thando tells his story with the refreshing candour he has become synonymous with as a rugby commentator, pundit and member of the infamous Room Dividers team on Metro FM. He has arguably become rugby’s strongest advocate for the advancement of black people’s interests in the sport, and his personal journey reveals why.

As the editor of Kick Off magazine, Sibusiso Mjikeliso is one of the youngest editors of a national, monthly publication in South Africa. He has written on rugby, cricket, football and tennis for the Sunday Times, The Times, Daily Dispatch and Sowetan. He has also worked as the senior sports writer for Business Day. Mjikeliso spent time as an exchange reporter at the Sunday Mirror in London, where he wrote on Wimbledon tennis, English Premiership rugby as well as English Premier League football. His versatility as a writer and knowledge of different sporting codes has made him one of the most influential sports writers in South Africa. This is his first book.

Sibusiso recently discussed his book with Sarah-Jayne King on Cape Talk. Listen to their conversation here:


 

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Watch: Tony Park discusses The Cull on Morning Live

In The Cull, former mercenary Sonja Kurtz is hired by business tycoon Julianne Clyde-Smith to head an elite squad. Their aim: to take down Africa’s top poaching kingpins and stop at nothing to save its endangered wildlife.

But as the body count rises, it becomes harder for Sonja to stay under the radar as she is targeted by an underworld syndicate known as The Scorpions.

When her love interest, safari guide and private investigator Hudson Brand, is employed to look into the death of an alleged poacher at the hands of Sonja’s team, she is forced to ask herself if Julianne’s crusade has gone too far.

From South Africa’s Kruger National Park to the Serengeti of Tanzania, Sonja realises she is fighting a war on numerous fronts, against enemies known and unknown.

So who can Sonja really trust?

Tony recently discussed his fourteenth novel on Morning Live; watch the discussion here:

The Cull

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