[Opinion] Why I am Reading the Bible Cover to Cover

About two weeks ago I turned 25 and on top of my birthday wishlist was, of all things, owning a Bible. As it turns out, a Bible is exactly the kind of thing the male of the species is too happy to present to a woman on their 25th; my birthday strung along with it 3 Bibles from three vastly different Kenyan men. I brought the first one home yesterday [the Bible, not the man]; a brown, incredibly well bound Good News Bible.The second, a Gideon’s version, was to be presented to me on Friday, but due to unavoidable circumstances couldn’t, and we await its arrival next week.The third is what I have been informed to be an “African” Bible, which apparently presents the good word in both historical and cultural context, separating real events from metaphorical ones. This promises to be nothing but illuminating and is also to be gifted to me in the coming week. Muchas Gracias, gentlemen.

As I have noted on various platforms, I am not a believer but neither do I have the energy nor mental capacity for [antagonistic] atheism. So why read the Bible at all?

For the last year or so, I have done quite some reading on how religion has evolved for more than two thousand years to what it is today, and its contribution to the formation of the [largely] cohesive society we now experience.It is not in contention that The Bible is one of the main tools through which religion self perpetuates, and therefore I feel that as long as I have not read a religious text in full and in context, I shall not completely understand it for myself regardless of how many second hand sources I interact with. From an intellectual perspective therefore, I will be seeking to understand for myself how the Bible has contributed to the evolution of religion, and how religious text transforms into religious practises.

Secondly, I am interested in how reliable the Bible is as a muse for today’s christian beliefs and how accurately it captures the historical events it purports to relay. This is why I am so excited about a Bible that presents the historical events in context. Religion is problematic in its intolerance to questions, and I feel that context bridges the gap between what is being availed by religion and what is still unanswered. I am the first to admit that my lack of belief is informed by very limited and selected reading of the Bible, and while it’s near impossible that reading the Bible in full will transform me into a staunch believer, I would like to be better informed about my own stance.

Thirdly and finally, I am reading the Bible for mere enjoyment just like I do most books. Due to its cultural significance, I would read it anyway even if it were boring, but it’s a plus that it is arguably one of the most interesting texts in the history of books. The diversity, the stories, the poetry, the conflicts. It is truly a novel worth its name.

PS: I could easily have read the Quran for the same reasons above, but access and relatability is more challenging, so I begun with the Bible. Also, this exercise will quite likely take the rest of the year to complete, but I will provide updates on my progress from time to time .

[Book Review] Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I get a lot of my reading done on my morning commutes, and it has been a while since I have read a book that makes me want to defenestrate myself from a moving vehicle. This book was one of those.

But firstly, let’s get the plot out of the way.

Never Let Me Go is a book narrated by one Kathy H., a 31 year old woman who has been a “carer” for “donors” for almost 11 years. This introduction of Kathy is graciously done in the first two pages of the book, and so one has a fairly good idea what the book is about from the get go.

We are introduced to Kathy’s back story and her two close friends ,Tommy and Ruth, growing up in a special school known as Hailsham and later transiting to fulfil their life’s purpose. As it turns out, Hailsham is one of the centres for cloned children in the country, who are brought up for the sole purpose of making organ donations upon the completion of their training. Before the donations, however, the clones become carers for other donors, which I suppose is meant to create a self-sustenance for the system.

Cool story, right?

Wrong.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

The writing: At first I found Kathy’s narration to be too fragile, like you would speak to a friend to whom you’re about to break terrible news. Except the foreplay doesn’t materialise into the grand becoming. For a premise that is so dark, I expected the narration to be utterly brutal, gory and pained. Instead, I found it shy and sentimental. A bit later into the book, there arose acute elements of circuitousness, where Kathy would magnify insignificant and inconsequential details of her experiences, moving back and forth back and forth ad nauseum. To me, a majority of the chapter conclusions sounded something like this;

That moment wasn’t significant because of what I just told you for the last few pages, it was because of what happened a few minutes before and a few days after

Rinse, Repeat.

The Story: Perhaps because I haven’t read much dystopian fiction,  I naturally found the story to be highly original. However, and this is important, the book feels like it doesn’t care about its own premise. It skirts around it all through, pages crawling with anecdotes about Kathy, Tom and Ruth’s friendships. Which is alright if well augmented with everything else, but even then Kazuo struggled to make Ruth likeable. She was antagonistic and sour and I just didn’t buy it that her friendship with Kathy and Tommy was founded on care for each other. In my opinion, the book’s misguided focus came in the way of its answering basic questions about the story and the characters, not to mention that the lingering on the characters’ love triangle for pages and pages was unnecessary.

Overall, I struggle to point out anything I particularly liked about the book. Not the tone, not the writing, not the execution of the story. Merely thoroughly underwhelming blurbs.

Rating: 2/5

[Book Review] Disgrace by J.M Coetzee

I finished Disgrace over a week ago, and has since been at pains to write how I feel about it. For one, reading this book felt like self-flagellation.

Twice-divorced, David Lurie is a Professor of Communications and Poetry at the University of Capetown in South Africa during apartheid. While he does not particularly have any respect for his job, he goes through the obligatory motions, don’t we all sometimes? His personal life does not ooze or inspire much excitement either; he has paid sex once a week and spends his free time struggling to interrogate the works of famous poets. Until he has a chance meeting with a girl who is also a student of his, and his life noticeably changes. For a while, everything revolves around this girl, and they have a whirlwind sexual relationship [that I found to be deeply disturbing]. But in the hastiness in which this book unravels, this relationship quickly comes to an anticlimactic end, with the girl filing sexual harassment charges against David. And as is often the nature of these things, his misfortune quickly unfolds into a public spectacle, which forces David to resign from his position at the university, in lieu of a public admission of guilt.

Following this ignominious end to his career,David heads to his daughter’s farm in Grahamstown. It’s a good hideout, no one knows him here, or even remotely appreciates his intellectual capacity. His relationship with his daughter, Lucy, is dry but functional. Life is boring, but he gets by. Until one day he and his daughter are victims of a gory attack, and things quickly come to a head. His relationship with Lucy strains, then bitterly sours, and towards the end [of the book], there is a series of bizarre events and decisions-better experienced inside the pages-which are hard to move on from.

This book is brilliantly written. The poetic references especially make even the errant sentences sound important, well thought out,consequential. And at the same time, I felt like some of the pages had that coarse first-draft feeling about them. Raw.I found this nothing if not refreshing.

But I did say it felt like self-flagellation, especially in the days after I finished it. For instance, why did J.M Coetzee write Lucy to be such a complex character, with a decision system that is so hard to understand? Why did he arbitrarily bring up the prospect of a same-sex relationship, and then promptly abandon its pursuit? A relationship, by the way, that I so desperately wanted to see developed. More importantly, why did he, a white man as far as I can tell, decide to write his black characters as he did? Was it in a mere pursuit of a story, or was he deliberately provoking some thought?

Overall, this is a book I am keen to recommend. It is the first of 2017 that made me curse out, shed tears and want to rip it apart. Only in a span of a few pages.Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5