First off, let me say I consider that the reader section on the Amazon book product pages are, for the most part, best termed as “comments” rather than “reviews”—which usually would be rather over-stating the case.
Secondly, I am frequently appalled by the casual way in which readers in these comment sections reveal their ignorance, not even knowing they are doing so.
If you want to sample the state of literacy and literateness in America today, just turn to the Amazon Jungle of Democratic commentary, complete with voting buttons.
Obviously, I am in a Cultural Curmudgeon mood. What has so twerked me off? I’ve just come from looking at the Amazon book product page for Wole Soyinka’s newest memoir, “You Must Set Forth At Dawn.”
Here is one of the clunkers pucking my last nerve, which can be summarily dismissed as completely missing the point:
1) Craig Kenworthy asks, “Ever have a friend who tells great stories but takes too long to get to the point?” and states: “This is a good book that could have been..a little less self centered, if self-centered can be a fair criticism of a memoir.”
2) Jimi Oke responds, “I completely disagree with those who complain that Soyinka is too wordy and dawdles over many unnecessary details before getting to the real thing. What real thing are they searching for, anyway? This, after all, is a memoir. Moreover, every page, every word was an absolute treat. Solidly written, with a plethora of hilarious, as well as sobering anecdotes, and a masterful deployment of literary devices, this, surely is a chef-d’oeuvre. However, this book is not only an autobiography but an excellent historical account of Nigeria’s political history since independence in 1960.
“Catapulted right into the middle of the action and intrigue that took hold of the nation, I learned new things and gained a lot of useful insight into how the nation became to be what it is today and the various roles of those involved in shaping its destiny.
“I grabbed this book because I wanted to learn more about the history of my country from the mouth of a seasoned literary figure. I was astounded to discover that he was completely involved in the struggle right from the beginning. What is more, I was rewarded with a distinctive literary style and all the rewards it brings—new vocabulary, new expressions, and more knowledge.”
3) Michael Crown, in an otherwise positive review, says, “Mr. Soyinka’s style tends to be a little heavy on grammar…” Hello? What could this possibly mean? Heavy on grammar?
4) Maxine Lederman complains that it took her almost 250 pages before she “could really get into the book. It was very wordy and nothing said really kept you wanting to go forward. Our reading group decided to read this and none of us could finish the book and many never started. Our discussion leader was very determined and forced herself to read until the end. She was kind enough to point out some good parts. On pages 436-440, his thoughts were timely as to the world situation today. This is a read for someone who really likes a challenge!”
Maxine…let me just say, Soyinka has my complete and heartfelt attention from the first sentence onward! “Outside myself at moments like this, heading home, I hesitate a moment to check if it is truly a living me.” (chapter one :For Those Who Went Before, p. 5) Maxine, honey, I’m in love from the get-go, and his words of wisdom continue with constancy throughout.
5) Hedzoleh is another reader, like Jimi Oke above, who is able to meet Soyinka with informed intelligence:
“Soyinka skilfully offers refreshing glimpses into his life as a humble, honest and courageous individual. He is deeply spiritual but definitely not a holier-than-thou prude. Soyinka’s infectious enjoyment of life comes across in his passion for hunting, wine, music, art and, of course, women. It seems that it is this enduring appreciation of the immense possibilities of life that drives his resistance to dictatorship and systems that seek to rob the individual of the opportunity to partake in the sacrament of life. The man, his art and his politics are inseparable.”
There, now I feel better. Back to my reading. The next chaper beckons: “The Conquest of Civilian Pride.”