Prissy book lovers and their frivolous publishers got the shock of their lives when news emerged that this year’s entries for the K. Sello Duiker Memorial Award were not up to standard.
“Is some bullshit man,” protested a highly regarded podcast host during a mini-protest in front of the South African Literary Awards’ headquarters in Joziburg.
“Have you seen the volume of books these hard-working men and women in the industry produce yearly? It’s astonishing that the adjudicators couldn’t find at least one. I mean, I can drop five solid gems from the dome top,” continued the host, who then turned around, forcefully grabbed the mic from a television reporter’s hand, and dispensed of these ‘gems’ in front of the live camera feed.
Further reports that the late author’s father was involved in the decision-making drove an acclaimed publisher, renowned for their focus on literary works by black writers, to question the elder’s credentials. “Does he know anything about literature,” snapped the distressed publisher when called to comment.
That there is a lack of winners is concerning, but the book publishers’ apparent disavowal of their role in the turnout of events is where the the real sauce is.
As a pundit of the arts typed on a 200-comment-deep Facebook thread: “Yougize are just kak incompetent. Jus’ cav’ the amount of work writers are doing, not only in this country, but throughout the continent. Why in fuck’s name are you overlooking that? Why are y’all so happy ass-kissing, being basic beeyachez?!”
Another book publisher’s left ventricle nearly popped upon being shown a screenshot of the comment.
“Hd;aoifjhasdhjf;kjaehkfgaff;osiduyhg;reahfih;sdofhljhjLl,” she typed in an e-mail response.
The publisher deciphered this response over the phone.
“I mean…the gall! We literally spend our days — and sometimes nights, if my interns are willing to champion through while I take the evening off to enjoy a bottle of Merlot with Cindy, my kitten — going through reels of submissions. E-mail, fax…just the other day, my intern Lebo had to take a taxi on a rainy day, walk 20 minutes from the stop to my office, just to help out with an incoming telex from a remote North-West village. It’s bloody reprehensible!” reeled the publisher.
Elsewhere, the flimsy upper caste of literary twitter went through the most due to a book festival organizer’s tweet.
“While we respect bra’Wally [sic] we won’t lie it is not who we hoped and believed it should be. Lebo Mashile deserved that,” tweeted the account’s rep.
The festival, which has declared itself ‘a platform for black writers and readers’, went on to assert that the people who were commenting had no clue what a poet laureate’s duties were.
The following tweets, stitched together from a firestorm of one-liners, and abridged for readability, read: “It seems to us that all ya need’s a coupla decades on deck, a few noteworthy poems, and a gahdamn beard to qualify for this man-circus. We call the bullshit when we see it, and vele ke manyala daai ding.”
Amidst the hoopla-rah and ragga-dagga-doo of these two sagas, the crucial questions are: Why is the literary world so scared to take an honest look at itself? And what business does an entire festival have acting in such a condescending manner to its supporters?
We’ll keep you updated with developments on this and other stories.
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