06 Oct Faultlessly Unconventional: Review of T. J. Benson’s ‘We Won’t Fade Into Darkness’
Caveat: I feel this review won’t do adequate justice to this book. It’s herculean to describe such art.
Favourite Quote: ‘When he tumbled down past tree branches to them, he was already dead. They wondered why a man falling to his death would smile and close his eyes. But he need not open them for he knew the jaguar would win’.
When I read the first page, it wasn’t close to anything I was expecting so I put the book down and went to gather the artistic and cerebral part of my mind. ‘This isn’t your regular read’, I told myself.
The book, a collection of short stories is strangely beautiful and weird, unlike anything I’ve ever read. You have to be a very patient reader to grasp the beauty of each story. I had gone five stories into the book at my usual reading pace before I realized my err. I had to go back and start all over again. Here was a mastery of creative imaginations I hadn’t witnessed before.
There are thirteen stories in total, some much shorter than others and some were intertwined but you had to be deep into the stories to make the connection. I loved the Killing Mountain and Alarinka stories the most.
The major themes are environmental pollution, technology, futurism and extinction. Set in a dystopian Nigerian/African age, each story depicts what our nation will likely become.
The Jidenna story would resonate with radical feminists and might make them happy even; as it depicts a world that is ruled authoritatively by women, with every action geared towards the reproduction of a male child. Men were hiding underground so as not to be able to be captured by the government for purely reproduction purposes and the men who impregnated women who gave birth to girls often were killed. Yes, the men were killed.
In I Can’t Breathe, one cannot ignore the ‘prophetic’ undertones of acute environmental pollution due to crude oil hunting. My mind drifted to the Port Harcourt soot while reading and I realized the soot was only the minutest reward of our carelessness and greediness in managing this natural resource. The presence of Nigerium, (a poisonous element that exists in gaseous form) in most of the stories bringing about the death of people just by exposure to air re-iterates the danger we already have in our hands.
Technology! This book is so infused with tech that I had to make an alibi out of Google to understand some concepts.
When I read the last story; An Abundance of Yellow Paper and turned to the next page hoping for another story only to see ‘Acknowledgements’, I was devastated.
How do you criticize a work that smashes all boundaries and creates new levels on which to soar, for through which confines would you pass judgement?
T J Benson, I fear would find no competition in the literary world if he glides on this tempo. As with the Yoruba proverb that translates into: ‘When a man proves himself worthy of praise, praise him’, this book is art, in its purest form.