I have a confession to make. When I was a kid in junior secondary school I was a closet poet, getting high on Lord Tennyson; thumbing my nose and writing sonnets to the impending downfall of the established educational system and its superficial strictures. Indeed I ventured to write my first full length novel when I was thirteen. This was a period which also fed my brain with stuff from James Hadley Chase, Nick Carter, Harold Robbins as well as an unhealthy diet of Denise Robbins, Barbara Cartland and Mills & Boons novelettes, Therefore I guess the story would have been a romance thriller if such a genre ever existed though I can’t for my life remember what the storyline was. Suffice to say though that I think it involved a pregnant woman who was being unfaithful to her husband; so yes it must have been a romance thriller. Unfortunately, having no idea at that age what a publisher was or how to get a book published the book suffered a violent interment; its demise as well as the lack of will to write another one greatly assisted by a boarding school housemaster who just didn’t dig my style but would in the end have been surprised, nay embarrassed, to see me graduate best in my class from his house.
Nevertheless the will to write persistently remained submerged under more urgent academic pursuits. It returned shortly after I left university and somehow found myself living alone in suburban boredom. I employed that opportunity to read up for and to obtain a distance learning diploma in writing and journalism. “Bring your writing under control”, my course tutor would persistently chide. But I also do remember that he did say something like “you do know how to deliver a good anti-climax though”, which I imagined a praise. Nevertheless I tossed the diploma in the fire thereafter - strictures. Thus encouraged did I set off in earnest on another writing binge , moonlighting as a newspaper and magazine columnist while pursing a parallel career as an engineer by day. I also thereby managed to produce five huge novels, a slew of short stories and at least two plays – all of which were tragically lost in mysterious circumstances. Furiously fuelled by guys like Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Patrick Susskind, Bertholt Brecht, straight classics and a library full of subversive and radical literature, these were the best writings that I had ever done in my life – bold, adventurous, reckless and persistently sticking up a FU finger in the face of established dogmas. They were irreplaceable books and I never even bothered to recreate them. You see, writing a good book is not anywhere like submitting a term essay. Even though the prose almost always comes wrought from common shards, it is cemented together by heaven-sent temporal instructions into moulded vessel which cannot be replaced once lost. You can gather the words, the plot, the acts, the props together once again but alas they just will never fit in together like before anymore.
Those were the "years of discovery". What followed thereafter though were a resolve as well as necessity to spend more time on raising a family. The writing bug crept in again along the tail end of this beautiful task of parenting, this time more surreptitiously; this time producing more mature literature enriched by the privilege of richer life experience and wider travels; mellowed by a deeper understanding of life, love, pain and karmic mechanics. It also saw me selling a set of professional books to publishers and literary agents far away across the world. But except for a couple of non-fiction books also sold, the literary books market still remained elusive and seemed only available for African authors who had careers in academics. Thus again I found myself writing books faster than I could find publishers for them. I found myself again creating books which seemed destined to suffer the same fate as those previously written – either to be buried without a whimper of protest or spirited away into some gruesome oblivion.
Why did I decide to do a book launch? Now I am not an exhibitionist. Okay I seem to make a bit of noise on Facebook but I am really far from being the gregarious type. Indeed I do belong to that dreadful class of persons known as the reclusive writer – the existential writer. For the existential writer as you probably already do know, life is never about whether to write but whether he can survive without writing. As a matter of fact not being able to do any writing at all would be such a painful life. He must write or simply perish. Considering the nature of this strange calling, why then do I decide to do something as mundane as a book launch? There are two important reasons for this, perhaps three: the first being to publicly announce and preserve my work in a public repository. Those who feel this sort of calling must of necessity consider themselves as engaged in the unenviable task of recording history for the sake of posterity. They are the amanuenses for the crumbling past and the unfolding future. They have a duty not only to write the scrolls of life but also to keep them safe from destruction. The second reason is perhaps to me more important: by this event I aim to close the curtain on a set of books which I have written in the last ten years, which I have called my “years of recovery”. This event also aims to announce the beginning of another level of literary pursuits, another phase which should reinforce the style which I have since carefully built up over those years – an amalgamation of the surreal, the farcical, the satirical, the philosophical and the utterly poetical.
Gleanings from along the Highway of Time is a celebration event. It is a celebration to mark the end of a gruelling gestation period. It is a celebration to mark the beginning of a new literary flight. Join me in a day of readings, drama and a glass of fine wine.