01 November 2013

The New Girl (SL Grey)

- Local fiction, supplied by Penguin Books

I seldom slate a book.

(I'd love to do a lot more slating of crappy books but a. I seldom finish them, b. the publishers don't love that sort of thing and c. I feel bitchy when I do...) Having said that, I don't know what to say about SL Grey's The New Girl.

Other than: 'It's pretty f***ing weird.'

The back cover blurb intrigued me:

"Ryan Devlin, a predator with a past, has been forced to take a job as a handyman at an exclusive private school, Crossley College. He's losing his battle to suppress his growing fascination with a new girl, who seems to have a strange effect on the children around her. Tara Marais fills her empty days by volunteering at Crossley's library. Tara is desperate but unable to have a baby of her own, so she makes Reborns - eerily lifelike newborn dolls. She's delighted when she receives a commission from the mysterious 'Vader Batiss', but horrified when she sees the photograph of the baby she's been asked to create. Still, she agrees to Batiss's strange contract, unaware of the consequences if she fails to deliver the doll on time. Both Tara and Ryan are being drawn into a terrifying scheme - one that will have an impact on every pupil at Crossley College..."

That sounds pretty cool, right? It has a freaky deviant, a bored creator of those scary 'human-ish' dolls you see on Pinterest (and she has an evil step-son), and promises of a 'terrifying scheme'. It also has a weird 'new girl'. And it's set at a posh South African private school. Cool!

But things start to go wrong quite early on, and that's when a book that held the initial promise of The Slap meets My Step-Mother's an Alien becomes clunky, confusing and filled with people you can't like. Some because they're child molesters, others because they're soggy spineless blankets and still others because... well... they're not actually human.

There's also not much to justify the why behind "upside citizens living in blissful ignorance of the deeply weird world beneath their feet... in a subterranean pseudo-civilisation".

I finished it, but barely. It's too weird to enjoy. Not weird in a good way. But loads of people are loving it, and many are people whose literary opinions I respect. It's also been described by SFX, the global sci-fi bookclub, as "A surprisingly funny, deeply weird horror novel”. Funny? What? 

Maybe I didn't get it?

Note: 'SL Grey' is an open literary collaboration between two South African writers - Sarah Lotz from Cape Town and Louis Greenberg from Johannesburg. Their two previous books, The Mall and The Ward, are apparently brilliant. And I honestly don't know what to do with that information.


This is Jerm Warfare! (Jeremy Nell)

- A collection of cartoons by Jeremy Nell; supplied by Penguin Books

Visit www.jerm.co.za
I loved this book so much I read it twice. 

And it now lives on my coffee table.

It’s not a coffee table book. Not even close. But I like paging through it. I like watching my toddler engage with it. And I like the kudos it gives me. 

Bottom line? It’s just clever, clever, clever. Jerm, its author, is clever, clever, clever.

Okay, so what’s This is Jerm Warfare?

It’s a collection of (largely political and mostly satirical) cartoons by the award-winning Jerm – described by Rico of Madam & Eve fame as “A refugee from a punk boy band who’s taken up cartooning instead.” (I was surprised to read that because this guy’s so talented it's like he was born to be a cartoonist.)

I even love Jerm’s hand-writing, which is big, loopy weirdly flowery and totally unlike the very uniform block letters that are usually used in cartoon speech bubbles.

He puns. He rhymes. He makes clever connections between topical events and iconic imagery. He includes revealing notes on the history of some of the cartoons. He’s funny – very funny. And he knows his shit politically

He has also created some of the most memorable representations of Mandela, Zuma, Mugabe, Zille, Obama and Malema I have ever seen in print or online.

I’ve followed Jeremy Nell (@mynameisjerm) on Twitter for ages, so I was delighted when this book was launched and proud to be asked to review it. In case you haven’t worked it out from my fulsome praise, I’m a fan. Buy this book for someone smart, and look out for these highlights:

  1. Africa 2.0
  2. Steve Jobs and iQuit
  3. 10 Years of Reflection
  4. Saudi Women
  5. Pre-Tolls; Post-Tolls
  6. Anene Booysen
  7. The State of the Nation
  8. Mandela and the Super-Moon (my favourite; I blogged about it)
  9. Satire for Dummies
  10. Tweet & Re-Tweet (and oldie, but what a goodie!)