Teju Cole: Open City

Teju Cole: Open City. Faber & Faber, 2011 (259 pages).

This novel is like a snapshot into the walking life of a man in New York – and briefly Brussels too – and as such falls in a genre that I tend to like: encounters with other city dwellers, observations of this and that neighborhood, moments of introspection, flashbacks from your childhood… All very familiar elements that at times were enjoyable to read and at times I wanted to speed up my reading, especially toward the end by which time there was a slight sense of stagnation in the story. I am not a particular fan of parallels with classical music (perhaps I should listen to it more?) and references to symphonies felt almost clichés, yet there were some very enjoyable, sudden drifting moments that almost left the reader in a delicious suspense.

Reading about someone who is walking in a city has always been very inspiring to me because I am such a walker myself, always curious about people around me, imagining who they are and what their stories might be, and not just imagining but often engaging with them in conversations. When I started this book I felt that if I ever write a novel myself, it might turn out something like this in genre, perhaps with a longer time span in the story though… My last thought just now when I’m finishing this entry: what is stopping me from writing that book? So, I give applause to Mr. Cole because his debut novel is pushing me to such thoughts!

Bryan Washington: Lot

Get ready for a harsh world of drug dealers, broken families, one night stands, male prostitution, unemployment and everyday monotony in which everyone would do whatever it takes to get the hell out of their working class neighborhood in Houston. Opportunities for work are scarce and gentrification is not making it any easier. Codified conversations leave you in a void and people are saying a lot by saying very little. This is a story in which everything seems to be running in circles.

Bryan Washington: Lot. Atlantic Books, 2019, 223 pages.

I expected a lot of this book – I always do – but must confess that in the beginning of my reading I was slightly disappointed. Not for the fact that the novel introduces you to a fairly large gallery of people, but because I had the feeling that I was only going to get to know very little about each of them. In the end I realized that this was perhaps the point after all, in a world that unfolds in fragments and painfully stagnating lives in which the balance between love and hope and disappointment is most fragile. Perhaps the charm of Bryan Washington’s debut novel is exactly there! His pen did leave a mark on me and now I’m looking forward to more stories by him.

Summer reading

These are my latest new entries in my home library. Once again I have come to realize how beneficial it is to read books and keep a relative distance to the online world. I have selected these titles for reasons that I hope to illuminate in separate posts after having finished each book. Those reasons mirror almost subconsciously – or should I say naturally – these times of global awakenings and protests against systemic racism and also the fact that borders, margins, in-betweens, no-man’s-lands and urban space are something I have grown very accustomed to since very long.

Streets of Saint-Louis

Reblogged from Afropolis

AFROPOLIS

What makes you remember a street? Is there an area in town to which you return often? Why? We all know how specific areas within any given city have their own feel and pace, depending on the time of the day. I was always a walker and in whatever town I lived, I always developed a fast understanding of my own favorite neighborhoods. In the case of Saint-Louis, it’s the northern part of the island, or the sandy stretch of land further north by the Mauritanian border in Goxum Bacc and Sal Sal.

Pikine CEM, Saint-Louis

Now during the Covid-19 pandemic I start my days by walking around the island very early in the morning, and I check the surface of the river first thing as some sort of a fortune teller or weather forecast. I would also choose my first walk or bicycle route of the day always by…

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Rue Blaise Diagne

For a couple of weeks my home street has been going through some serious sewage works that started from the main mosque in the north and has been approaching our house ever since. For a few days they have now rumbled the earth right in front of the house and left a terribly noisy water pump to run through the night. Goodbye quiet nights of curfew!

I felt extra confined today for a short moment when I could not walk out of the house because of mountains of sand that had been piled up along the front of the house. But that was only a good sign. It meant that the loose earth was soon going to cover everything that had been opened up earlier, and then the works would move on in the street towards south, away from the house! When that work was done, the guys had a lunch typically in the Senegalese way on the spot. No fuzz!