The book MY OPINION, penned by O Bolaji was rather panned this week by well known Free State book reviewer and critic, Rebaone Motsalane who took exception to the work being put together in book form. Your blogger, Jerry, an enthusiastic lover of books was rather taken aback with the attack and spoke to Bolaji about the criticism
JERRY: You have read Rebaone’s views on your book, My Opinion. I was quite shocked, to be honest, when I read the piece (in Mangaung Issue). My first thought was that it was so unfair and a-times ridiculous. The reviewer said that you should write new books, not put your column in book form - since the book was published many years ago and you have published many new books since then, how do you feel?
BOLAJI: That’s not the only absurdity in the review. Rebaone has this crazy idea that there is something wrong with compiling a book consisting of one’s short pieces, columns etc – she is very myopic in her view. Books like this are written around the world every time and valued greatly. I see why Pule Lechesa was so upset with what she had written earlier about one of his books too; Rebaone is displaying great ignorance and short-sightedness in this respect. She thinks the whole world is Bloemfontein, and a few areas of the Free State; whereas the literary world comprises thousands of other towns and cities in South Africa, in Africa, and the world at large. The column I wrote came out in a local paper read by relatively almost nobody by world standards…do we invite the teeming countless outer world to Free State to come to read scattered, disparate columns published years ago? Will people in America or Canada ever read the columns if not for the published book?
JERRY: I thought so too, but there were other problems with her review…
BOLAJI: (Cuts in) Sorry…I was also thinking about some young readers who met me at the library in Bloemfontein city a few months ago and told me how much they enjoyed reading the book, My Opinion. They said: “Oh Mr Bolaji, we were rather too young when you were writing the Column so we are very happy we can still read them in book form now. Which brings in the fact of new generations of readers. Such readers, as the years go on, will never even know I ever wrote a Column - if not for the published form of the book. Just because Rebaone belonged to the generation that could read the Columns as soon as they were initially published, she can not envisage that EVEN LOCALLY countless other readers, new readers will not have had the same opportunity and as time goes on further only the Book will be on record
JERRY: A real problem is that Columns are generally local initially; whilst potential readers are all over the world…
BOLAJI: Lovers of fine writing world-wide enjoy reading the thoughts of others and the only real way they can do so (apart from internet, partially) is through books. Look at the great English female columnist, Julie Burchill for example. We can not fly to England weekly to read her Columns but thank goodness many of her Columns are in book form which are distributed internationally, sent to sundry libraries etc; hence we can read her Columns in the end! The same applies to other wonderful columnists like Brian Glanville, Keir Radnedge etc who have published books. The trick is to try to avoid being narrow-minded and tragically looking at important issues only locally.
JERRY: Additionally, what puzzles me most is that Rebaone suggests that you should write new books, not My Opinion, whereas the latter was published years ago.
BOLAJI: Thank you. My opinion was published in 2005. Early 2005. Since then despite bad health, I have published at least 6, 7 new books, most of them creative! So really I am afraid I’d have to agree with the likes of Lechesa that our beloved Rebaone can be a clown sometimes!
JERRY: I also know that quite a number of local writers are unhappy with Rebaone’s reviews
BOLAJI: Rebaone is doing a very good job, despite the bloomers, the clangers she makes every now and then. An important writer like Flaxman always tells me how much he appreciates her reviews; it’s better than nothing. On my own part I always personally urge her to make a book from her Column – she would be very foolish if she does not do so. At least 99 percent of her potential readers world-wide will not come to Free State to read her column weekly – but in book form, around the world lovers of books, literature, will appreciate her input. Rebaone deserves a world platform too. Reviewers, critics often make mistakes too, and one must always read, examine things carefully. As regards Rebaone she must sometimes remove the blinkers and realize the literary world out there, is gargantuan, not local! But I have no problem with Rebaone, we are good friends!
JERRY: Yes I always thought too that it would be a tragedy if the world out there is denied reading her literary views; after all Free State is a very very small place in African, never mind world terms. Thank you Mr Bolaji