Ran into the African Book Centre online today. Apparently a real place in London’s Covent Garden, but closed just now for a “planned three-year redvelopment plan.” Mail order service continues.

The scary thing about it is that the site has a list of Africa’s 100 best books (actually closer to 80 if you count them, but still).  I was appalled at how few of these authors I had even heard of (we won’t even discuss how many I’ve actually read). I counted 13 – Chinua Achebe, Mariama Ba, Nadine Gordimer, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Camara Laye, Naghib Mahfouz, Okot p’Bitek, Alan Paton, Nawal Al Saadawi, Tayeb Salih, Leopold Senghor, Aminata Sow Fall & Wole Soyinka. (Note: I feel one shouldn't really get credit for Mahfouz, Al Saadawi and Salih, as they are also part of the Arab canon and so are twice as exposed.) 

Don’t know who compiled this list, but, hey, this is a book-selling site, and a fairly niche one, too, so one is surely safe in assuming that a hefty degree of consensus/mainstreamness  went into the compilation.

Note: I typed “African canon” into Google and got not much, apart from this Google query: “Did you mean to search for: American canon?”

That would be no, Google. (At least it didn’t say: “Did you mean: Western canon?”) 

Other note:  I searched Asian canon, and only found this entry, entitled Re-writing the Asian canon.  At least there’s one to re-write. Go, Asia. Come on, Africa. 

Jack Prelutsky – children’s Poet Laureate

We now have a children’s Poet LaureateJack Prelutsky. Woohoo! Look forward to seeing what he makes of the position. A sample online workshop with Jack Prelutsky for your young ones at home.  


Super Samson Simpson  

by Jack Prelutsky 

I am Super Samson Simpson,

I'm superlatively strong,

I like to carry elephants,

I do it all day long,

I pick up half a dozen

and hoist them in the air,

it's really somewhat simple,

for I have strength to spare.

My muscles are enormous,

they bulge from top to toe,

and when I carry elephants,

they ripple to and fro,

but I am not the strongest

in the Simpson family,

for when I carry elephants,

my grandma carries me.I saw at least one carping article on the web that said, What about Maurice Sendak? Well, it could be what about a whole bunch of other people, couldn't it. Go, Jack, I say.

My heart is like a singing bird

A Birthday

by Christina Georgina Rossetti


MY heart is like a singing bird  

 Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;  

My heart is like an apple-tree  

 Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;  

My heart is like a rainbow shell           

 That paddles in a halcyon sea;   

My heart is gladder than all these,  

 Because my love is come to me.  

Raise me a daïs of silk and down;  

 Hang it with vair and purple dyes;    

Carve it in doves and pomegranates,  

 And peacocks with a hundred eyes;  

Work it in gold and silver grapes,  

 In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;  

Because the birthday of my life    

 Is come, my love is come to me.    


What email is to paper-and-pen is what Bloglines is to keeping track of other blogs by clicking through your blogroll. What took me so long?! Click on the button below to get Very Like A Whale in the comfort of your own, er, one-stop-blog-checking shop. No more frustrating clicking forays into the swamp of your list of favorites; no more forgetting whose blog you have or haven’t checked tonight; no more checking un-updated blogs. The system rather brutally sacrifices the look of one’s blog to the look of the feed, but hey — who’s blogging for the look of things?
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More on Mazisi Kunene

Hm. I have no idea how the world of obituaries works, but I raised my eyebrows at this Sept 19 LA Times obituary of Mazisi Kunene, poet laureate of South Africa, who died August 11 – more than a month before the date of the obituary! (Thanks to Silliman’s blog  for heads-up on the obituary). Did it take the news five weeks to get the LA Times, or were they just waiting for a slow news day? Readers of this blog will recall reading about Mazisi Kunene here on August 25 as part of our ongoing national poet project. UCLA plans a memorial service for him October 12. 

xkcd & iambic pentameter

What else is out there that everyone knows about except me? Have you heard of xkcd? I hadn’t, until this minute. Some days I feel hunted. I thought ignorance was, if not bliss, at least a passive non-happening state of being. Now I’m not so sure. Sometimes it feels like ignorance is something mean and ugly coming your way brandishing a club.  I got a chuckle out of this one, though:

No comment

I’ve been asked (nicely, and not so nicely) why I have disabled comments on this blog and stuck up a boring old email address instead. This interesting but soooo long and involved post  (once you count all the comments) from Simply Wait goes a long way to explaining why. I found that comments (receiving them, that is) complicated blogging life beyond acceptable complexity.  On the other hand, comments (giving them) can be fun when you do it because you want to. Just call me Annoying Person.