“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”
The next time you pass by the University of Nairobi, Main Campus do me a favor and stop by the bookshop.
[You see, i’m hoping they’ll put the little penguins back on the shelf at the same incredible student price I enjoyed a couple of years ago. And as long as we’re there, we might as well re-arrange the place and do a little bit of re-decorating.]
Ask where the English Literature section is. Go have a look and if you’re unable to find it go back to the man who assisted you and clarify that no, it’s not African Oral Literature that you were looking for but rather Classic English Literature. When he shakes his head in apology and tells you that they no longer stock them, that’s your cue to look plaintively into his eyes and with a disappointed tone remark how much you enjoyed the books and although you haven’t been there in a while, were looking forward to buying one or two today. Complete this lament with a sigh.
[Gentlemen, you will of course need an alternative course of action – earnest instead of plaintive and assertive rather than disappointed, I believe?]
This next step is going to need a bit of expert maneuvering and one level up in acting skills. You’ll need to be at the center of the bookshop floor to pull it off, or at the very least at the point at which the ceiling opens up again beyond the lower level of the ground floor.
Look up and act surprised. [This shouldn’t be hard to do, after-all, other than in a cathedral, where do you get such magnificent floor to ceiling windows?] Turn your attention to opposite side.
“Are there are more books up there?” you’ll ask wonderingly, pointing to the 2nd floor.
Answer notwithstanding, promptly jump in and give your thoughts on what a great space that would make for a reading lounge – in addition to the bookshop. And what a luxury it would be to buy a book and have the option to sit upstairs quietly sipping coffee after class or in-between lectures. Then look at him and firmly state “You should think about it!” Affirm these words with action and so continue by adding, “Does the bookshop take feedback?” write this suggestion down (don’t forget the request for a return of the Penguin Popular Classics collection) and drop it in their customer feedback box. And then walk out. Past that bronze life-sized statue of Mohandas Ghandi, and back out into a bustling world, knowing that you have made a difference. A seed has been sown and a foundation is being laid.
The best (and ultimately the quaintest) reading spot in all of Kenya is yet to be. It lies covered in layers of dust, doors shut and it’s rooms forgotten save for the suns rays that filter in through pairs of phenomenal window panes. And it’s as though – as long as it is day – they point to a hidden treasure. A secret haven for readers and book lovers of all ages patiently awaits. It now remains for the ‘crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the square pegs in the round holes’ to take their stand.
And so we make this silent petition.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.”
– Friends In San Rosario by O.Henry. That ending, no matter what line of thought I took as I read, i’d came up empty. I didn’t see it coming. There was no way to predict this, Henry O. gives the reader no room for error. A tale well told.
Lying atop a pile of old newspapers carelessly strewn on the floor, then again watermarked and stained at the bottom of a drawer; I continually passed over this book for reading with a foolish disdain for biographies. Until one day, with nothing else to read I was finally forced to pick it up.
I remember very little about this book. And i’m quite sure that anything I could tell you would be found in a synopsis on the back cover. However, what I carry with me long afterwards is this… “That wasn’t so bad.” And I found that I didn’t hate biographies anymore.