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Book review: The medium is the mess

04 October 2016 - 09:51 By Lin Sampson

"The first time I get drunk I am about five years old." Dissolve to an intensive care unit where Msizi E Nkosi, now 29, is circling the drain."Where the hell am I? I try to talk; no words come out. There's a tangle of pipes inserted into my mouth and nostrils. I try to touch them, but my hands won't move. I look down and I am wearing a nappy."I'm paralysed."I wanted to be a TV producer who was going to change the world. I wanted to be a good father but now I'm dead, half dead anyway."I'm a Different Mess Than I was Yesterday is a knockout, a riot of passage, an anthology of modern South African mythology. In it a young man emerges from a rural village and the shadow of apartheid into the slapstick of Joburg's TV world.Nkosi's family does not have money but live above the poverty line with ''the only door bell in the village". His mother is a teacher and his father a pastor; they also run a shebeen, which is not considered odd."I wish my parents hadn't chosen this backward, rural place," he writes. But it is this place that adds a vital screed that makes this book much more than just an addiction-memoir.Although the political struggles of 1994 had not percolated through to his village, his family support Inkatha. When his uncle, an ANC stalwart, comes to visit, Nkosi sneakily removes the Inkatha flag from the lounge. His parents are furious: "I committed a cardinal sin."The person you really fall in love with in the book is his mother - selfless, determined, hard-working, unsleeping in her attentiveness to her only son. She died at 41. His sister hangs herself in the toilet. This is rural noir."When I am 7 Mom takes me to the Port Shepstone High School, I'm a little bit nervous at sharing space with white people. A friend tells him that white people smell really bad. I have never seen so many beautiful black girls in my life; the white girls can kiss my ass, I think." It is the beginning of a long career in womanising.He's a dandy and keeps a rolled up pair of pantyhose in his pocket to polish his shoes.Joburg undoes him, ushered there by the fateful thought: "I want to be free. I want to be creative. I want to write and direct movies." He gets a job in the industry but is mined by ruthless producers and editors for his talent.For Msizi it is the start of a bonfire of borderline behaviour and devastating self-destruction. He lies, he steals, and he cheats on women. Fearful of failing, he falls into mutilating alcoholism.Whatever the opposite of monogamy is, Msizi is a master of it. By the time he is 30 he has three children by three different women.His bad behaviour is legendary; he gets drunk when he is with his children; at work. He doesn't have an identity document but tells prospective employers that he's been mugged. He employs to his benefit a belief ''that white people identify with the victims of crime".He has unprotected sex because he can't be bothered or is too drunk to take the condom out of his pocket, and even misses his own big bash birthday party.He is a terrible mess. Too scared to have the HIV test, he sweats years of fear. He loses good gigs because of bad behaviour and ends up as a cable basher."I am called at 5 am and get R100 a day and have to take two taxis."He is passed over for jobs by whites. "I find out that the Take5's production assistant is earning R700 while I, a researcher scriptwriter, earn R600."He wakes up in a different place every morning. "I am lying on the side of the road. My favourite Jonathan D jeans have been cut and my money is gone."But hubris finds its home in his soul after he has recovered from a catastrophic illness (pancreatitis) and can only type with one finger."You thought you were going to be someone awesome, well you are a damn nobody." He discovers there is nothing as dead as an editor/producer who has lost interest in your work. He lives through horrible rejections by the media world.But he has learnt the only thing that matters in writing: truth. This book will set you on fire.'I'm a Different Mess Than I was Yesterday' by Msizi E Nkosi is available at selected retailers across the country. For details visit the Facebook page. BOOK BITESEL James, Paula Hawkins and Patrick Ness - who join regulars such as JK Rowling, George RR Martin and Stephen King in this year's list of The Hollywood Reporter's 25 most powerful writers in Hollywood.Game of Thrones - George RR Martin's fantasy series gets the enhanced treatment when Apple releases new interactive editions of the books starting this week. The enhanced edition of the first book in the series promises a "wealth of additional content", including family trees and glossaries. The editions have been hailed by their author as "an amazing next step in the world of books".The Book Lounge - where Richard Calland is in conversation with Marianne Thamm at the Cape Town launch of Calland's new book Make or Break tomorrow at 6.30pm.- Tymon Smith..

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