The Bookaholics sought out this fine Nigerian writer who has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize. Trust us, we asked him some questions.
Three adjectives that best describe you
This is little hard for me. The question, I mean, puts you in a hard place. I have a tendency to ramble but I also adore precision I don’t know if that makes me quirky. I like contrariness, sometimes for the sheer heck of it.
Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to play a musical instrument. I have this fantasy in which I walk up to the stage and casually take the saxophone from say Fela or Miles, cut to this reaction shot of the audience sneeringly wondering what this upstart could possibly be up to and then I begin to play and they start to applaud.
Why did you write ‘Jimmy Carter’s Eyes?’
The story was written in response to the phrase-The road to hell is paved with good intentions, good intentions here referring to the sometimes misguided dogoodism– for lack of a better phrase- of Western charities and of course the universality of such human impulses as greed and selfishness.
What is the last thing you read that made you laugh?
A couple of aphorisms make me chuckle each time they come to mind:
- A man shouldn’t be angry with the sun because it failed to light his cigar
- Anyone who insists on calling a spade, a spade should be made to use one.
- There is only good writing and bad writing, there is no such thing as Christian writing, after all, there is no Christian way to boil an egg.
Who is your perfect audience?
A well read audience.
What is the worth of a book?
I am sure you mean a good book-priceless of course.
When is the best time for you to write ?
Any time is a good time. I e-mail my work in progress to myself so I can access it at any time and everywhere.
Name your five favourite books and why?
This is like asking me to step into the same river twice-impossible. I fall in and out of love with books all the time. There are a few writers that I return to often and again:
- James Baldwin’s collected essays for their candence, humor and Old testament- like rhythm
- Ben Okri’s short stories for their magic, musicality and almost perfect exquisite charm
- Jose Saramago’s Blindness for its parabolic and fabular wisdom
- Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for its pessimistic optimism and its cautionary tale quality
- And of course VS Naipaul’s essays for his unflinching and unafraid gaze.
What is your most treasured possession?
Ah I’m not gonna reveal that one o, make dem no thief am
What is your advice to young writers?
Keep reading and keep writing. Easy, right?
Best decision in writing career
Going to Syracuse University for graduate studies in creative writing.
Leaving meaningful marks on the blank page.
Your first words when you made the Caine shortlist…
Actually, a friend heard the news first and congratulated me on my wall on Facebook, so I was like O’l boy you sure abi is this a hoax? I was excited of course .
What would a story about your life be called?
Look and laff to paraphrase Fela that inimitable wit and chronicler of the Blackman’s condition.
What is your greatest fear?
I wake up one day and discover inspiration has fled never to return
If you could make a wish right now, what would it be?
To close my eyes and by the time I open them I’m in Nigeria. To suddenly have the ability to speak the foreign language of any person I meet, now that’ll be so cool.
Education or experience: which is more important to a writer?
Get some educative experience but also experience some education.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I wish I knew how. I think the same way you overcome a hangover-biting the hair of the dog that bit you. Simply attack the page even if you end up writing crap it makes way for all that good stuff to come later.
How do you relax?
This question presupposes that I work a lot and that I need to create a special time to relax which is not the case. I relax so much that I think the question should be when do you find time from your life of relaxation to do some work?
What is your philosophy of life?
To be a good man, and a good writer. By the way I borrowed that from Hemingway.
EC Osondu has made the shortlist for the Caine Prize twice (2007&2009). As we await the announcement of the winner on Sunday, July 6, 2009, we pray he hits the bull’s eye this time around. We wish him all the best!