Monday, November 14, 2011

Crime Fiction and the 'Metaphysics of Disorder' by Jonathan Amid

A review and analysis of Counting the Coffins by Diale Tlholwe and The Lazarus Effect by H.J. Glakai. If you have an eReader that can handle Adobe DRM protected books then Counting the Coffins and The Lazarus Effect are available and affordable from where I purchased them.

Jonathan Amid review is in this post on The Stellenbosch Literary Project web site. As you might imagine from the title, Amid's review is academic in its approach, complete with Works Cited at the end. Since I wander around academic circles myself, I found Amid's analysis quite interesting. I've read Tlholwe's first book, Ancient Rites, and Glakai's The Lazarus Effect, and have Counting the Coffins queued up on my ereader. Amid has given me much to think about and I'll probably re-read these books with his review in mind.

An unexpected consequence came out of my reading this review. Amid includes Sifiso Mzobe among a list of "English authors." Since Mzobe is a Black South African author this confused me and I asked about it in a comment. This is an excellent example how a simple word can have a vastly different connotation based on the culture of the readers. One person responded
In my personal experience as an Afrikaans South African who grew up being educated in the English language, I’ve found that English-speaking South Africans, or South Africans of English descent, tend to correct one when one calls them “English”, since they are actually “English-speaking South Africans”. 
So, when a South African talks of “English” writing, they are very often referring to writing by an author who writes in English, even if English is not their first language, and even though they are not natives or descendants of the country known as England.
 Amazing, isn't it, how easily misunderstanding can arise.

I did take exception when Amid disparaged the thrillers of Roger Smith and Mike Nicol, two authors I admire. He wrote

Tlhowle's writing is refreshing, unlike the predictably hard-boiled approach in Nicol's Revenge trilogy or the works of roger Smith. Rather than adopt the ultra-violent, no-holds-barred thriller character of these texts, Tlhowle chooses to write a limited yet memorable number of high impact set pieces in which the skill of the writing, instead of violent content grabs the reader.
 My feeling is that the style has to fit the content. Given the aspect of South African culture that these authors focus on, the violent thriller is the necessary framework. Tlhowle writes an entirely different book.

Read the article and my comment and let me know if you agree or disagree. I admin to a bias in this matter and might have had an overly sensitive reaction.

In any case, I commend Jonathan Amid for such a detailed analysis of these books and home his review generates interest. If Counting the Coffins is as good as Ancient Rites I know I will enjoy it and Golakai has give us a great new figure in South African Crime fiction in the female protagonist, Voinjama Johnson.