Home Away

 

18 May 2010

Home Away, the collection of twenty-four short stories by twenty-four writers (including myself) has made the Exclusive Books’ Homebrew selection. The announcement came after three very favourable reviews.

Home Away is my first contribution to a short story anthology and the experience couldn’t have been more fulfilling. It’s a book with a lot of love behind it, and wherever it goes, goodwill follows. The South African literary community is a small group, compared to the uncountable number of scribblers throughout the world, and since I first ventured into the writing shallows I’ve made some good friends. To me, Home Away exemplifies my experience in the writing world; it’s a collection by friends that I can open up at any time, and feel proud, inspired, privileged.

I didn’t even wait for my contributor’s copy to arrive, but rushed to the Book Lounge as soon as Mervyn announced their arrival and I wasn’t the first to purchase a copy, as Johan at the counter pointed out. I’ve been impatient since the beginning, goading Louis Greenberg to tell me who the other contributors were, letting me see the cover. Thankfully he was excited as I was, and happy to share.

I read the book in one greedy gulp, occasionally shouting titbits across the room to my partner, who kept telling me he wanted to read it himself. Case in point was Fiona Snyckers’ hilarious The Tea Break, which if I had to choose, would be my favourite from the collection. I couldn’t keep any of it to myself. It’s a story to laugh over with someone else.

I had a tight chest throughout Ivan Vladislavic’s Hair shirt which contained some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read. I attended the launch of his Flashback Hotel and shyly asked him to sign his story in the anthology. His doctor’s scrawl reads, “Dear Sally, with all my best wishes, Ivan.” I walked out of the Book Lounge clutching it tightly.

I had heard all about Helen Moffet’s adventures in Alaska over tea but was thrilled to read about it on the printed page. Anxious in Alaska is lovely, as is anything that springs from Helen’s pen.

Another favourite was Moky Makura’s The Generator Man set in Nigeria which was a pleasure to read, but how can I highlight one when each story had its own merits? I loved them all.

I remember the launch, listening to Liesl Jobson read from her story, The exact location of the exit, and feeling truly inspired. Lauren Beukes and Sarah Lotz are always entertaining, and their stories made me glad I could go home and disappear into their lengthier novels.

Spending time with Louis, who is based in Joburg, was a clear highlight from the whole experience. He is such a genuine person. Genuinely nice, genuinely generous and genuinely humble. I loved our choice of location for dinner – an alcove inside the Kimberley Hotel, where the food is certainly something to talk about, but only if you have a dry sense of humour.

I am missing a few signatures, mostly from the Joburg-based contributors, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means I will be making a point of seeing you all, meeting some of you for the first time, and hopefully, making some new friends.

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