Hi folks thanks for your reading and all your comments on the first part of this piece. Here is the concluding part of my thoughts on artistic merits I hope you enjoy it.
I don’t know why we are in a hurry to put labels on literature, I suspect that it is because we live in a society where the writer is supposed to be the voice of justice, where the writer is supposed to be the wise old sage well versed in the way of the world and show the light unto the uninitiated. Writers both old and new are particular about passing across a message, rather than artistic merit. If you are so particular about showing your activism then fiction is not for you, you should probably write an essay instead, and authors like Wole Soyinka, the late Chinua Achebe and others of their ilk have managed to do this effectively. Because writers know that they are writing for an audience that likes to label things, every writer wants to look and sound “deep” so that no one will think they are just pulling things out of their ass like those Harlequin Romance novels. I am not saying that we should all start to write stories like those Mills and Boon novels, as someone who studied literature as an academic course, I also appreciate deep novels, which teach people how to live, stories which talk about how people learn to survive in a harsh reality, stories with powerful gripping messages stories that scream out in the face of injustice like Soyinka’s plays but the primary worth of a work of fiction is its artistic merit. The fiction writer like the movie actor or the musician is primarily an entertainer (it explains why the majority of Christians who read Harry Potter or watched the Game of Thrones still enjoyed them) his role as an educator should be secondary. So why some people sit on their high horse and pontificate about “deep” novels, Harlequin and Mills and Boon are attracting millions of readers and Marvel’s comic movies are still going to rake in millions at the box office, because those people who watch them just want to enjoy literature to be vicariously carried away, they don’t want to moan about how Biyi Bandele has truncated Chimamanda’s hustle to make HOAYS say that Yakubu Gowon is the stepbrother of the uncle of the Antichrist. This piece is not arguing that reviewers should down tools, it is just saying there is a lot more to a work of fiction than what message its author trying to pass across.
Ask me who Chimamanda is based on her books I would say she is a good author who writes wonderful books, why she writes those wonderful books is not something I am concerned with (I’d read her essays to find that out). Maybe I sound shallow, but at least it means I can watch Lord of the Rings without wondering just how much racist Tolkien was (why is it that all the good races are the deepest shade of white, while the Orcs, those creepy horsemen who follows Frodo when he puts the ring on, and Sauron himself are all black). This is but one example of when overanalyzing things can ruin your perception of otherwise great works. The good thing about fiction unlike non fiction is that it transcends borders easily (I don’t have to know Colombian history before I can enjoy Garcia Marquez A Hundred Years in Solitude for example)
I was gisting with a friend the other day, when the spirits gave me this bright idea for our book writers and screenwriters. Instead of scraping the bottom of the barrel to serve us the recycled, message laden dross on a daily basis, why don’t they use their imaginations a bit more? We have interesting artifacts and interesting heroes whom can rival the like of Hercules and Dracula in our culture. Alternative genres like Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy are not being explored in African writing. Maybe those genres don’t quite “tell the African reality as it should be told” (whatever that means) it least it should provide some reprieve from the angry writers and poverty porn books we have to cope with all the time
Well here is some advice before I quit rambling today
To the writer: is it a story? Is it coherent? Does it have entertainment value? Then go on and write that shit down
To the reader or wannabe reviewer: this is not a news report or an essay or a documentary, the fact that the writer is an homosexual,chauvinist, fundamentalist, racist toe rag is not a reason to judge the book without considering its artistic merit. So enjoy the work or just give it to someone who will. Shikena