Charming account of schoolgirl's 'Madonna moment'
School girl Sweetness Moloi has a vision of Ma-Jesu, the Madonna, in a godforsaken, economically depressed township.
IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK
- 'The Miracle of Crocodile Flats', by Jenny Hobbs (Umuzi), R180
When she breaks the news, religious nuts, pilgrims, journalists, busybodies and ne'-er-do-wells descend on the dorp. The predictable chaos ensues - or does it? Wry and charming - with a dash of the miraculous.
DAVID Maraniss's acclaimed Barack Obama: The Story (Simon & Schuster) could well be subtitled The Portrait of the Future President as a Young Man. Critics have pointed out that this biography has much to offer in terms of previously unexplored detail. The accounts of the dope-smoking as a teenager in Hawaii are a revelation. As the London Sunday Times put it: "Unlike Bill Clinton, who claimed that at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled, Barry was known for 'TA' or 'total absorption'."
Maraniss also interviewed two of Obama's pre-Michelle lovers. Both claim he was torn by his mixed race. One said the future president confessed to her he felt "like an imposter. Because he was so white. There was hardly a black bone in his body". Bizarrely, Maraniss breaks down Obama's make-up thus: 50% Luo or Kenyan, 37.4% English, 4.4% German, 3.125% Irish, 3.125% Scottish, 1.56% Welsh, 0.195% Swiss and 0.097% French.
ADVICE for aspirant crime writers from Norway's Jo Nesbo: read, by all means, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson - but don't ignore the playwright Henrik Ibsen.
"The way his stories are constructed, he's a crime writer," Nesbo told The New York Times.
"On the facade everything looks normal, but then something happens, not necessarily a murder, and the truth is revealed bit by bit. It's all dark secrets, which have to do with relationships, the same as in crime stories."
Nesbo - whose first name is pronounced Yoo - is topping best-seller lists with The Phantom, his latest Harry Hole adventure. That's pronounced Hool-eh, by the way, a common Norwegian surname. But given the emptiness of his gumshoe's life - alcoholic, problems with authority, unable to sustain any relationships - the English mispronunciation is appropriate.
Martin Scorsese is to film Nesbo's 2007 Hole novel, The Snowman - news which, annoyingly, has resulted in renewed chatter of the new Stieg Larsson.
Nesbo was a household name in Scandinavia long before the Swede's overblown Millennium trilogy appeared, so much so that Larsson, The Times has suggested, was really the next Jo Nesbo.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"PITY the Syrians. They had been raised on the legend that their country was the 'beating heart of Arabism.' They woke up amidst the debris, and this squalid kleptocracy was what they had gotten in the bargain." - The Syrian Rebellion, by Fouad Ajami (Hoover Institution Press)