What I Have Been Reading


The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone.

—           Donna Tartt

I open my latest post with this quote from the author of that wonderful book, The Secret History. I really love this quote, particularly this bit: books are written by the alone for the alone. Now most people would view the use of the word alone in a negative context, lonely, isolated, insular (suggestive of an island and separated from others). Not me, I discovered the relationship between loneliness and creative vitality a long time ago. Like that most gifted writer, Virginia Woolf, I have found that lonely silence is inseparable from creative impulse. Adrienne Rich agrees, claiming that “the impulse to create begins — often terribly and fearfully — in a tunnel of silence,”

the secret history



















But I digress because my actual point was to wax lyrical about the joys of reading, not of being alone…although I kind of love both.

I believe that one of the most amazing gifts you can give anyone is to pass on the joy of reading, to teach them how to read purely for pleasure. I myself am a voracious reader and a huge bibliophile. Yes! I consume books, I luxuriate in them! And I am unashamedly old school about it. I want the physical, the tactile, the actual book, not some glowing kindle screen!


In my apartment I have a library that I am really proud of. It contains mostly academic books now, focusing on art and art theory. This is due to the demands of my studies and lecturing duties.  But you can also find Tom Robbins Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas or Alice Sebold and her Lovely Bones amongst them. Carlos Ruiz Zafón and his Cemetery of Forgotten Books share shelves with Francesca Woodman’s ghostly portraits while Ana Mendieta and her Blood Works are pressed up against Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the DayI even still have my old copies of Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye and Goodbye Columbus from way back when I was a teenager. I love my books.  One of my greatest pleasures is to hang out in second bookstores on a rainy day. To be surrounded by shelves of old (and new) books is something I will never tire of. For me it is an almost-embryonic sensation, as if being embraced and enveloped by dear friends. I am at peace and yet simultaneously filled with anticipation and excitement at the thought of all the wonders that await to be discovered within the covers and on the pages.

the rites

So what have I read recently and what am I reading now?

I generally have 3 or 4 books that I am reading at one time. As I am doing my Master’s at the moment and this requires a massive amount of research reading, so there will always be at least one book related to my research next to my bed. I have just completed The Rites of Men: Manhood, Politics, and the Culture of Sport by Varda Burstyn. In this fascinating book Burstyn analyzes how sport socializes boys into manhood by providing rituals of conquest and aggression. I played rugby from the age of 13 up until I was 36 so I really found it amazing to be able to relate my actual experiences to the theoretical thinking behind sports like rugby football. Kind of like how I felt when I began my journey as academic within the art world. Relating the thinking to the making is glorious.




At the moment I am reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I highly recommend reading this author’s work, especially The Remains of the Day. I have to sheepishly admit something though. I actually watched the movie based on the book first. To be honest the title left me cold and still does. It is a really lame title for such a beautiful piece of writing. Anyway, so I never read the book. But once I had watched the film-adaption I really just had to read it. It is a quite stunning movie and a very British . Ironically it is directed by an American though.

the beach

Alex Garland, who wrote another one of my favourite books, The Beach, is friends with Ishiguro and wrote the screenplay for the movie. It stars Carey Mulligan (love her), Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley as friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth who grow up together in a seemingly idyllic boarding school situated in the English countryside. The story, however, is set in an alternate history where cloning has become every day and is socially and morally accepted. I do not want to spoil the movie or the book for you so I will not reveal any more of the plot suffice to say that both are totally engrossing, thought-provoking and just beautiful. Both have a place on swany’s list of awesomeness!












To end off I am going to reference my 2 previous posts which dealt with rape. A book that deals with the subject very honestly is Alice Sebold’s Lucky. It is an autobiographical account of her rape at the age of eighteen while at university. She describes what she was like before the rape and the aftermath of this harrowing, life-changing event. Her description of the actual rape is heartrending. It is a must-read.









Swansong – (noun) the last act or manifestation of someone or something.

Death seems to be about quite a bit at the moment: my mom passed on at the end of last year and 2016 had hardly begun when the great David Bowie,

David Bowie RIP


Alan Rickman (he of Slytherin House and Nakatomi Plaza fame)



as well as The Eagles’ founding member, Glenn Frey, popped off. The loss of a beloved celebrity is always unsettling as, much like losing a parent, one is suddenly starkly reminded of our past and how quickly time whizzes by. This very frightening speeding by of our lives was highlighted for me when a friend (what do you call someone who you are in the early stages of sort-of dating with? Crush?) recently took me to see Roxette’s 30th anniversary tour concert at the International Convention Centre here in Durban.

roxette tour


I was honestly astonished when I saw the tour poster outside. Good Lord! Thirty years! They have been around for 30 years! I have bopped to them in clubs and pubs, and even perved over the lead singer in their videos shown on large screens in sports bars over the years. Hell, when that “Pretty Woman” movie came out (you know the one, Cinderella re-imagined as a prostitute, don’t get me started!) with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, their soundtrack song dominated the airwaves. Since 1986…wtf!! Where the hell did those 30 years go? I often want to grab my little foster daughter, Kayleigh, and look into her eyes and say “savour every moment, slow down and savour every moment. Trust me. Before you know it, it will be gone”!  She turns 21 next month! Man, it was just the other day that she was dressed like a princess fairy, sitting on my shoulders and holding onto my hair with her sticky little fingers. It passes in the blink of an eye!



That night at the concert was a vivid reminder of that fact. And this was not just because of the memories Roxette’s upbeat, often sentimental, bright, vibey pop tunes brought back… and there were a surprisingly large number of them which I had totally forgotten about but brought memories rushing back as I recognized them. It was also starkly evident on stage, those ravages of time. The most notably ravaged was Marie Fredriksson.

A fan site had this to say:

“Don’t wonder about Marie not walking, dancing and jumping around the stage – she simply can’t. She suffers from long term effects which include problems with her right leg (yes, it might be that she struggles with it and touches it all the time), she can’t see properly on her right eye and has problems hearing with her right ear. She has problems walking due to the effects the tumour had on her body.”

Yes, the ravages of time. As an Australian newspaper noted in a concert review:

“OK, let’s address the elephant in the room first thing. Roxette lead singer Marie Fredriksson is not well.”

In 2002, Marie Fredriksson, the voice and face of Roxette was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. After surgery and intensive treatment she had to relearn reading and writing. She remains blind in one eye.

I only found this out after the concert because the audience and I were acutely aware that she sat through the entire show, barely moving. Whilst singing she would sometimes falter and even fade away completely to be carried vocally by a support singer. There were, of course, also no close ups of her on the big screens. At the end of the concert she was helped off stage by the other part of the pop duo, Per .

Although not a huge fan of the band I really enjoyed the concert. It is phenomenal how these Nordic countries continue to produce bands that create such perfect pop music: Abba, Aha, Ace of Base and of course, Roxette. They amass huge fortunes writing and performing English pop music and are often the leading export product in their countries. Per is Picasso-wealthy and by that I mean he invests in art and OWNS A PICASSO! That is serious wealth. That is why (being a quite naturally inquisitive person) when I went online to find out the reasons for Marie’s uncharacteristic performance, I was seriously touched by the fact that they chose to see out what are in all likelihood her last years doing what they have always done: performing together. Good for them! If you are going to die do it doing what you love, and fighting until the very end. No feeling sorry for yourself!



There is a lesson in that for all of us.



What I Did (part 2)

Last Thursday (10/12/2015) I had to do the singularly most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I had to bear witness to my Mother’s passing…her death. Tomorrow I face the next toughest thing…attending her funeral. These are the words I hope to say about her there.


Johnny Clegg wrote a song that I think best encapsulates, in a few words, my mother: it is called: 

 The Great Heart


The world is full of strange behaviour

Every man has to be his own saviour

I know I can make it on my own if I try

But I’m searching for a great heart to stand me by

Underneath the African sky, a great heart to stand me by


I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart to hold and keep me by

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart under African skies

Sometimes I feel that you really know me

Sometimes there’s so much you can show me


There’s a highway of stars across the heavens

There’s a whispering song of the wind in the grass

There’s the rolling thunder across the Savanna

A hope and a dream at the edge of the sky


And your life is a story like the wind

Your life is a story like the wind


My mother was a person who loved and cared too much if that is possible. I believe this is because she had the greatest of hearts. My mother cared and loved more than anybody I know. She had the greatest of hearts, and she had to. Life was rarely kind to her. She had terrible things happen to her but she always kept going and she was always hopeful. She was immensely strong like that. She was a fighter. Testament to that is her 15 year battle with a chronic disease. 15 years!

She was also the most spiritual person I know. She rarely went to church. She believed that you did not need some building or set time to worship because God was always with you. God and my mother had a very personal and special relationship and I believe He is getting a real earful from her now that she is with Him.

I will always remember the times when she was at her happiest though:

At 21 Dawson Road with her boys; Dave and I, and a house full of people; family, children and animals

And then later in her life when she was with her girls on the Bluff, with Kelly and Kiara.

My mother raised three families, and at Dawson Road, virtually an entire neighbourhood. Despite the tragedy of the early death of the love of her life, my father, that house was always full of joy. So those are the memories I will keep in my heart.

I would like to share just one of many with you. When we were children, on Fridays, after a long week of work she would still rush home, cook up a batch of burgers and popcorn and load her car (generally a Volksie Beatle) with us and the neighbourhood children, and off we would go to the local drive-in. On the Fridays that the weather was bad or nothing exciting was showing we would turn our lounge and dining-room into a movie theatre, projecting the movie onto a sheet stretched across one wall. The children would be on pillows and blankets in the front with the adults on chairs at the back with my mother the projector-operator. The house was always packed with children. They all adored her.

I am sure that you all have some special memory of my Mom too. Those are mine.

In conclusion, I want you to know that I think my mom, despite all her suffering, left this world happy. In the end she died surrounded by her 3 children knowing she was loved. She drifted off to sleep with tears in her eyes and did not awake again.

Go and get some well-deserved rest, mom, and I will see you again when it’s my time.

Thank you for everything and say “hi” to Dad..

I love you.

And thank you all for being here to mourn the passing of this great heart, my Mom.