Moss by Mary Watson. Attempted book review



First off Mary I want to thank you sincerely for wasting hours of my life.  Actually, its not your fault.  Everything in life is a choice.  And I chose to read your first book.  Why would I do such a thing?  Because, close to ten years ago, I attended the book launch for Moss, and I thought since it won the 2006 Caine Prize for African literature, there was a chance I might enjoy it.  I sincerely hope you do not google yourself, or else you might come across this rant of mine claiming to be a book review.

Its been on my mind, in fleeting moments from time to time since I attended your book launch all those years ago.  From time to time I remembered being impressed by this young woman, all prim and proper, one of the few polished young ladies, from the Grassy Park, Retreat area, from which come many a rough Jack and Jill.  Your book, I remember was a Masters or PhD project that was good enough to get published.  You seemed to be one of those well raised girls.  Protected from the harsh society around you by parents who wanted more for their pretty daughter.  No doubt you got a good education.  And somewhere inbetween, were home schooled on how to be a pretty prim and proper lady.

A month or so ago, as I browsed a bargain book store at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, I came across your book again and decided I would buy it.  Ten Rand (about US$1) was very little to ask for a book that won a Caine prize.  Not that I really know what the Cain prize is or how prestigious or credible it is in identifying works of literary art, but nonetheless, a prize is a prize.

The work of (F)art that is your imagery is just way too much.  Its like a person deciding to wear all their expensive perfumes all at once.  Like a rock song where the whole song is that punch line that every rock fan is waiting for with baited breath to scream along to.  Its like a snake that slithers around getting tangled up with itself and choking to death.  Yes, thats what if felt like.

The first couple of chapters, I almost could follow, and tolerate, but then it seems you had little more to create and you just started twisting your words, saying the same thing in a million different ways.  So why did I not stop reading?  Because I don’t like to give up.  I’m not a quitter.  Also I was hoping I was wrong about this book.  Up until very recently, I didn’t used to believe my experience of things mattered much.  I always put my opinion secondary to almost everyone else’s.  But I’m sorry, I’m not going to agree with Andre’ Brink on this one.  I don’t what unethical favours went around between the powers that be to get your book such acclaim.  I just don’t understand it, unless it was like one of the millions of theses that get churned out year in year out, that barely get read.  Like the millions of other theses, that get glossed over as something that looks half decent, which looks like it was, at a sequence of interconnected glances, gramatically correct, standard formatting, and glossing over random sentences, showed signs of creative imagery.  Perhaps it was so.  If someone had sat down and perhaps tried to read it sentence for sentence, word for word, they might have scratched their own eyes out before they had gotten halfway.

The characters, all so deep in their thoughts, wallowing in their poetic unquiet minds.   The ego is not a very eloquent being, it can never be so overly poetic.  It is the way it presents itself that might attempt eloquence and poetry.  But when it is wondering about itself, with nobody’s observation, it is as rough a jack as any.  Por Favor!  Come on! Get real!  This image of moss for sex, of daddy molesting daughter, of this Kirk business.  I just don’t get it.  You have attempted to weave these stories together in a way that is supposed to be deep and abstract, but it has only succeeded in confusing me and causing me to curse with great irritation and impatience, mostly at myself for being so determined to continue on to the end instead of sending the book to the municipal dump alongside the cat droppings I fished out of my cats’ litter box.

I finished reading Moss tonight while soaking in the bath.  The book was half soaked as I got in and splashed the bubble bath suds bathwater all over it.  I was a little upset about that for an instant because I treasure my books, but once I started reading it again, after I’d settled into my bathwater, all sadness about ruining the book faded to darkness.  It was not possible to ruin this book any further.  It was ruined since creation.

Anyway, as Julius Malema says, let me not be ‘judgerag’, it was only your first book.  Perhaps you have improved.  I’m not really inquisitive about what new stuff you’d written.  Last I googled you, it appeared you still worked for University of Cape Town where you’d studied, which is kind of not a good thing… just saying.   I’m done with you by the way.

Anyway, don’t feel bad Mary, I’m more of an Ernest Hemingway kind of girl.