Posted in Reading

Things Fall Apart… Again

Today I finished Things Fall Apart for the second time. I first studied Chinua Achebe’s book my sophomore year in high school, and while I liked it then, I did not fully appreciate it until now. In this powerful African novel, the author perfectly balances the complexity of his tale with the simplicity of his storytelling, and the result is a chilling tragedy in which nothing is black and white, and no man can be clearly hailed as hero or villain. The end of the book, which disappointed me when I was a teenager, both satisfied and haunted me my second time through.

Literally. (Halfway through the book, my old paperback copy required a little mending.)
Literally. (Halfway through the book, my old paperback copy required a little mending.)

In lieu of a longer analysis from me, I instead would like to share with you Skylar Hamilton Burris’s thoughts on Things Fall Apart from Goodreads. Her review is insightful well-written, and I agree with it.

From Skylar B:

I read this many years ago as a teenager, before it was as well known as it is today, and then I read it again in college. Readers often expect imperialism to be dealt with in black and white. Either the author desires to see native ways preserved and consequently views any imperial attempts as immoral and threatening, or he’s a Kipling-style “white man’s burden” devotee who believes non-European cultures ought to be improved by supervision from their European “superiors.” Yet Things Fall Apart is a novel that complicates both of those simplistic views. In it, a desire to preserve the native way of life coexists with an urge to admit improvements to it. A tension inevitably arises from the juxtaposition of these two goals. In Things Fall Apart, this tension courses through every page, and it is part of what makes the book so fascinating. 

Achebe seems to despise the tendency to simplify complex human life. The events that occur in Things Fall Apart signify the destruction of an entire way of life, an obliteration of the ties that bind a people together. Yet it is not that Achebe unconditionally embraces the culture of the Ibo people. He makes the reader feel for Okonkwo’s father, whose failure by Ibo standards is the source of Okonkwo’s severity, and for his son, Nwoye, who does not fit into the strictly ordered masculine warrior society.

I appreciated, especially, Achebe’s nuanced portrayl of both the positive and negative aspects of missionary activity. When the missionaries come to Nigeria, the church provides a haven for the discontent: for the woman who can not bear to leave her twins to die, for the outcasts who are shunned by the community, and for Nwoye, who can only fit into Ibo society by denying himself. I was moved by Achebe’s depiction of how Christianity provides a place for the outcast: the hymn they sing about brothers “who sat in darkness and in fear seemed to answer a vague and persistent question that haunted [Nwoye’s] young soul–the question of the twins crying in the bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed. He felt a relief within as the hymn poured into his parched soul.”

Yet by providing an outlet for the discontent, the church begins to unravel the ties that bind the Ibo people together. Although the church gives dignity to the outcast and the misunderstood, the second missionary who comes fails to restrain his converts from injuring the dignity of other Ibos. Achebe makes us sympathize with Nwoye’s dissatisfaction and acknowledges that Ibo culture was imperfect, but through Okonkwo he also shows us what was lost when the Ibos failed to preserve their culture from the onslaught of the Europeans. What was lost, Achebe has said elsewhere, was DIGNITY, “and it is this that they must now regain. The worst thing that can happen to any people is the loss of their dignity and self-respect. The writer’s duty is to help them regain it by showing in human terms what happened to them.” Achebe succeeds brilliantly. He painfully and tragically depicts the tragedy that can result when the only way of life a man has ever known begins to crumble.

To see Skylar’s review on Goodreads, click here.

Posted in Life, Reading, Writing

The All-Night-Work-A-Thon: A Photo Documentary

7:00 P.M. – It begins.

7:00 P.M.
7:00 P.M.

Tonight my husband has to work (at home) from 7 P.M. to 3 A.M. I’ve decided to stay up too, both for moral support and to (hopefully) accomplish some of my own tasks. My goals for the All-Night-Work-A-Thon are:

  • Finish reading Extra Lives by Tom Bissell.
  • Finish reading (and taking notes on) the 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
  • Revise my short story “No Guarantees.”
  • Write 750 words of something. (Ideally, the words would fit somewhere in my novel, but since I might be writing them at two o’clock in the morning, I am going to allow them to venture wherever they want to go.)

I’ve got my coffee. Let’s do this!

8:15 P.M. – Slow and steady.

8:15 P.M.
8:15 P.M.

I’ve completed two run-throughs of my short story, first my own edit and one then using the comments a writing buddy made on the manuscript. I still have one more set of comments from a second writing friend, but I need to take a break from the story for awhile. Time to open up the old Writer’s Market.

9:45 P.M. – Things fall apart.

9:30 P.M.
9:45 P.M.

First, the hubby asked me to stop singing so loudly and to turn down my music. (But it was the Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored,” and I do, I really do.) Then Toby, sensing that I was taking an unscheduled Twitter break, jumped onto my lap and started knocking pens off my desk. I evicted him from my office and took a restroom break. On the way back to my room, I shut my long flowy skirt in the bathroom door and made an animal-like yelp when I was unexpectedly wrenched backwards. The hubby had to ask me to keep it down again.

Taking a break from the Writer’s Market (and from Twitter and from Toby) to get back to my story revisions. Hoping things get better.

Midnight – Dealing with transitions.

It is midnight. I’ve fed the cats, put the dog to bed, and washed my face. I’ve switched from coffee to orange juice and traded my dangerous flowy skirt for sweats and a Superman t-shirt. I’ve worked hard on my short story. I am happy with the first fifteen pages (yes, it’s a long short story), but I’m still struggling with the ending. I’m having trouble making the transition to the final scene a seamless one. I want the final scene to seem seamless. I seem to seek seamless scenes. I am also getting sleepy.

I will take another break from my short story to read Extra Lives. Maybe something in the chapter about BioWare’s RPG Mass Effect will help me conclude my story about a little girl and her great-grandmother. Probably not, but maybe.

2:40 A.M. – The end is near.

[Sadly, my midnight and 2:40 A.M. photos were accidentally deleted from my blog and my computer. 😦 Big oops.]

I read all but one chapter of Extra Lives. I started reading this book to better understand the main character of my YA novel, but instead it’s helped me better understand my husband (who shouts/screams/grunts at his computer screen on a nightly basis) and also myself. I have played all of maybe two of the games mentioned in this book, but reading about these games has made me remember (and miss) the ones I grew up with, like Bubble Bobble and Jump Man and Lode Runner. (Expect a blog post about my gaming days on a night when I’m not so zombie-like.) I’ll save the last chapter for tomorrow.

I didn’t finish the Writer’s Market either. I went through all the book publishers and agents, but there are a few more articles I want to read.

And I never got back to my short story. The last five pages are still aglow with highlighted areas of mediocrity.

Oh yeah, and this blog post is the only other thing I wrote tonight, and it’s just shy of 750 words.

In summation, I completed none of my goals.

But that’s ok.

In real life, things always take longer to finish than you think they will when you see them on a to-do list. I worked hard tonight. I worked a long time, and I accomplished a lot, although I didn’t fully accomplish anything. And now I am very tired. I think, in some ways, there is joy in having pages left for tomorrow. There is purpose in pages. Then again, I might just take tomorrow off.

Goodnight/morning.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, my husband’s work went well too.)