Monday, June 30, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

In Madrid I wandered into a little used book store and bought Alexandra Fuller's "Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight" for three euros. Just what I needed. It chronicles Fuller's family during the last days of Rhodesia and onto Zambia and farms in other African spots. They were tobacco farmers during the dying days of the empire. Fuller pulls no punches - she says she wrote at least eight or nine novel manuscripts trying to justify and expunge the guilt and deal with the truth about her mother's racism, and the hard truths of family life. She states: "The novels felt like lies, because in them I tried to soften the voices of the whites and write into full life the voices of the black men silenced by years of oppression. These works of fiction I realized were the writings of a woman who was csared to look the world in the face - so I made the decision to write my life exactly as it had been...passionate, wonderful, troubled, oppressive, chaotic, beautiful. It is not a political story or the story of the empire...it is the story of how one African came to terms with her family's troubled history. It is a love song for the continent.
Here's the last sentence of the book: "This is not a full circle. It's life carrying on. It's the next breath we take. It's the choice we make to get on with it."
It seems to me Fuller struck at the heart of what most writers cannot penetrate...because we've been crippled by political correctness in the way we talk about race, sex, politics, animals, food, family and all of human experience. She hits the note. It takes me back to my year in Nigeria but also deepens my undertsanding of the odd shaped nature of families and family hardships...Fuller does not put soft words in anyone's mouth. Her mother is a "hard living, glamorous, intemperate, intelligent, rascist who introduced us all to the works of Shaekspeare before we could walk."
"Don't let's go to the dogs tonight,
for mother will be there........"
TR Switzerland

12 comments:

Tom Russell said...

ps...excuse the miss-spellings. This book led me to "Out of Africa" by Isak Dinesan. Reading that now.

dynawebb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dynawebb said...

I was just speaking to a lady from Zambia today, telling me what a beautiful country it is and how much it's moved on since the days of Kenneth Kaunda. She says the current Pres is doing his best to attract former farmers from Zimbabwe to help build the country...

Tom said...

Deborah Pardes has a wonderful song, inspired by this book, it appears on "Sings Inspired by Literature - Chapter 2".

editor said...

Read her second book, "Scribbling the Cat." Fuller deals with a white veteran of the Rhodesian bush war. Strange, intense story and leaves you wondering about her ethics a bit.

Tom Russell said...

I'll order it. Frankly, the African experience creates confused "ethics" when you are down the to the nitty gritty...look at this Mugabwe deal...tribalism is a deep deep thing. Very dark. Very strong. But Africa leaves a mark on anyone who's lived there. TR

editor said...

I'll be interested to see what you think of her relationship with the ex-soldier. As you know, the territory of the heart is as savage as the terrain of Africa or anywhere else.

Tom Russell said...

Well put. Savage territory of the heart. I did glance at her third book on cowboys in an airport, but it seemed sort of weak....not her terrain...I look forward to the second book. TR

dynawebb said...

Cowboys in an Airport" - sounds like an excellent read...

Saddle Tramp said...

Conrad set the table of hearts with darkness. You would have to travel some distance for that caliber. Dostoevsky comes to mind. Heaven or Hell. They reside in the heart.
TR . . . sorry to see the absence of commentary on your gigs. However, your insights on writing and writers is always welcome, along with the back and forth comments.

-ST Winnemucca, NV where even the whore houses
in Nevada are feeling the pinch from fuel prices.

Saddle Tramp said...

TR . . . I hope that your misspelling of misspelling was a misspelling, but if if it was not it's still okay with me. Perhaps your wry sense of humor at play.

-ST From exit 333 IH-80 Nevada
Deeth
Starr Valley
( not a misspelling by me )

Tom Russell said...

Italian Gigs and Spanish Gig - all great. Angel of Lyon #1 song in Italian.....ready for the BIG ROAD tour coming soon to a drive in movie near you....tr