Africa Bookshelf: Little Bee

Creating an “Africa bookshelf” was one of the first things I did when starting my blog back in 2010. Leading up to and throughout our expat assignment in Johannesburg, I took great joy in learning more about this continent I knew so little about, by way of the works of some great storytellers. ...  Continue Reading

The Right Papers

Apartheid is a word you will have heard almost immediately upon moving to South Africa, or perhaps even earlier. It is of Afrikaans origin and means, roughly, the separation and classification of people according to race. It’s a term inextricably linked with ...  Continue Reading

The Covenant

Recently, I told you to watch White Wedding if you’d like to get a feel for South Africa and its culture.

But perhaps you’d like to dig a bit deeper and learn something about its history as well?

Many many years ago, when I still had the stamina to read books of a thousand and more pages, ...  Continue Reading

Fifty Shades of Crap?

This truly has no particular connection to my expat theme, whichever way you look at it. At least I hope not.

It does, however, have everything to do with writing. And writer’s envy, I admit it. How can you not pay attention when the whole world is talking about this book, or trilogy rather, that women all over the planet – and more than a few men, I would hazard a guess – are devouring, quite literally? Safely ensconced behind her Kindle or other e-reader, where no one can see the dirty little secret hiding behind the nondescript cover? So I’ll come right out and admit that I recently downloaded my very own copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Out of a pure literary interest, of course. I had resisted for the longest time. I wasn’t going to pay money for such crap, and crap I was very sure it must be, judging from some of the comments I had seen online and from thousands of Amazon reviews (though there are also thousands more that nothing but rave). “Badly written” and “terrible language” and “flat characters” were some of the words floating around in the blogosphere. Just another example of bad writing going viral because, let’s face it, many readers don’t have terribly high standards. I was fully prepared to blast this book to smithereens in my review. I must say I’m willing to stand corrected, at least partially. I just finished the first book – okay, so I might have devoured it just a teensy little bit – and there is nothing wrong with the language. Unless you of course object to frequent sprinklings of holy cow and holy shit and, the crowning iteration, holy fuck. A lot of shades of holy somethings. Probably fifty of them, if one were to count. And a lot of terribly repetitive phrases describing such things as degrees of blushing and tingling skin. And pages upon pages of very teenage conversations the heroine, Ana, conducts with both her subconscious and her “inner goddess.” Yes, the plot isn’t all that complex. Yes, the characters are awfully shallow. Yes, most everything in the story is totally unrealistic, starting with the main character, the enigmatic Mr. Grey and his billion-dollar corporation which he, in his twenties, somehow successfully runs God knows when, because he is actually having sex around the clock. Or shopping for sex toys. Or writing suggestive emails. But I was expecting the typos, missed commas, or any number of grammatical errors that were so readily attributed to it in some comments I’d seen, and none of them were in this book. The editor, if nothing else, was very thorough. I’m a stickler for good English grammar, and if I can read this, anybody can. As, in fact, they all do.

The plot of the book is basically an excuse to string one erotic – one might call it kinky porn – scene after the other, each one more captivating (and, frankly, strange) than the ...  Continue Reading