Yes, I found some good stories, and I am sharing them. Two from Jalada’s most recent issue, the Afterlife issue, and one from Agbowó, I hope you enjoy them.
“I had lost my mother ten years to the date. Ten years since a vital part of me left, effectively upending my life and what I came to know of it.” – from “The Replica”.
This story begins with a very fine idea—when the narrator writes: “I am going to resurrect the dead!”
The resurrection of the dead is not the lazarus kind of resurrection and it is not the calling of the dead’s spirit, but it is the creation of a digital replica of the dead. The dead is the narrator’s mother. But to make that—the replica—happen, the narrator, who is also the main character, Jide, has to come to Nigeria from the United States, to gather information on his late mother.
Brilliant storyline, but the delivery is not what I expected. The story is told and not shown in anyway (except in a few places: “I still recall his sigh, caressing his eye-brow as he thought up the right words to say”; “I can still hear the generator humming outside, the whirling of the fan as it dispersed humid air around the room and the silence that followed after I outlined my plan of bringing my mother to life.”).
I really felt cheated while reading this story, because there were places (too many places) where I wanted to see what had happened happen, not the other way round. There was the visit to Jide’s mother’s sisters for example. As if we, the readers, don’t deserve to be witnesses to whatever happened, in five paragraphs that include no dialogue from any of the sisters, we are told about the visits.
Then there is the resort to cliché. In this story, there is a whole lot of not just clichéd sayings, but even of tired scenes. Like when the narrator writes: “Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. I was hit with a bout of malaria that sidelined me for a good week.” Or when he describes a guy named Mojeed as “a recent graduate from the University of Lagos, who was having difficulties finding work post-graduation and resorted to using his car for taxi or rental services.” All those scenes are tired scenes that you’ll find in stories about Nigerians in America coming to Nigeria. There is also the “ajo o dabi ile” that his maternal grandfather says when they visit. The truth is: a very old Yoruba man won’t say “ajo o dabi ile” to his late daughter’s son, he would use a proverb taken from top of the shelf.
What kept me in this story was what I wanted to find out about the replica, you should read it for that reason, too.
“They make love violently—like an invasion. They both climax, clutching each other as if scared they would transcend their bodies and dissolve. And like everything that climaxes, their romance races to a denouement.”—from “Vertigo”.
The architect weaves a story about architecture and painting and loves. In this story, a lady finds what appears to be love, but it isn’t and it breaks her. Then she finds another, and “the president, on a cable TV, garbed in black like an executioner, outlaw(s) queer love.”
Adams’ magic lies in the way he weaves through different lives—in a space of not more than a few thousand words—swiftly and neatly, without making us feel like we’ve been cheated.
But it seems the most fascinating thing about Adams’ work is not just the story, which is in itself beautiful, but much more beautiful is his descriptive power. There is a part of the story where he writes that a landing looks like the transcription of a Beethoven classic—! Later in the story, he writes that two buildings, a bank and a shopping plaza, make a character think of marriage; he adds that a neon sign glows “where a vagina should be”.
However, his descriptive power pales compared to his ability to show how things happen in our lives in the moment when we do not even expect them; how there might really be something called fate after all. There’s the scene where a lady leaves a conference room to escape the stupid action of a man who was running his hand under her skirt. While walking she finds out there are portraits on every landing. She then follows the portrait to the top floor where she finds Alheri, where she finds love.
“Vertigo” is as beautiful as it is interesting and painful; it is the gentle hand of a motherless child on yours, it will stay with you no matter how small the space it takes in your heart.
“You find yourself alone at the doorsteps of a church but cannot say how you moved past the church’s elaborate gate and up its short steps.”—from “The Spider Queen”.
When do we really know we are gone after we are gone? When the spirit leaves the body, is the spirit always conscious of its leaving?
You have to read this story to find out.
A lady—the Spider Queen—was killed, but not until she had scheduled her story for the world to hear. It’s a story about how we do not take note of the assaults against women, even when they are our daughters, until what we ask them to bear—because of the notion that we have that it is always a woman’s responsibility to bear, even if what she is bearing will end her—ruins them. The irony is, the same people who say “Bear it” are the ones who will ask what’s wrong, and when you tell them what it is that’s wrong, they give you the same advice they’ve been carrying for years—Endure.
The writer makes this very clear. There was a scene in the story where Rita—the Spider Queen—’s mother called and realized she was crying. The woman asked her daughter what was wrong and her daughter told her, and her reply was: “Rita, a wife does not do what her husband does not want. Whatever he says you should do, biko, my dear, just do. A good wife submits to her husband.” In an earlier scene we now meet the same mother who was preaching submission crying, when the knife had done its deed.
What I find interesting in this story is how the writer weaves different scenes together in a way that nothing is left off and it is not confusing, especially with the use of the numbering—I guess the way the story is done is a kind of representation of the web of a spider. There is also real suspense in this story, something that keeps you in it. And the twist at the end was nice.
“The Spider Queen” also has a Nollywood feel to it, a cinematic narrative style—I was almost seeing every movement and hearing every sound—and it is one of the story’s major strengths.
Read this story, it will thrust a dart in your heart, but it will make you see women differently; it will help you understand that women have a reason to be angry, to be whatever they choose to be that you are uncomfortable with—because they mostly pay dearly for offenses they never committed.
Drop your comment on the stories.