How to write about Africa.
January 6, 2006 8:49 AM   Subscribe

How to write about Africa. Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title. Most travel books about Africa open with the author alone, carried along by some vehicle, looking down over some landscape and feeling anxious. Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.
posted by gottabefunky (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Africa, hell, he just described the NYTimes.
posted by HTuttle at 8:56 AM on January 6, 2006

Hmmm. Well, the books I've read about Africa weren't like that. Seems more like, "How to make a National Geographic half-hour documentary about Africa". I wonder what book in particular set this off. She should read better authors.
posted by billysumday at 9:07 AM on January 6, 2006

Hell, Abish and Roussel probably presented more authentic Africas than the crap described in this article.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:12 AM on January 6, 2006

Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title.

So DEATH CONTINENT wouldn't be any good?
posted by Artw at 9:13 AM on January 6, 2006

So DEATH CONTINENT wouldn't be any good?

I'd read it. But only because I would be mistaking it for a George Romero project.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:17 AM on January 6, 2006

I can't think of a single non-neocolonial reason why you would use the word Africa in a title of such a work.

All joking aside, there's something deeper here. Isn't the problem with the attempt by these writers to treat such a large part of humanity as a) homogenous enough to be subsumed under a single work and b) comprehensible in a simplistic way to be treated in a book-length study? It seems like there's a whole cottage industry created around finding out what's wrong with Africa, Islam, or women.

So my next book will be: The Crecent Queen in the Jungle.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:29 AM on January 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

er, crescent
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2006

Given that this was an article about fallacies in writing, it's interesting that it committed one of the big ones: equating "Africa" with "sub-Saharan Africa". What happened to the 160 million people living in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco?

That said, I thought it was excellent.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:55 AM on January 6, 2006

Describe, in detail, naked breasts (young, old, conservative, recently raped, big, small) or mutilated genitals, or enhanced genitals. Or any kind of genitals. And dead bodies. Or, better, naked dead bodies. And especially rotting naked dead bodies.

Actually, this is good advice for all literature.
posted by blue mustard at 10:01 AM on January 6, 2006

I blame Isak Dinesen. She mastered it and the rest of the goombas are just poor, cliched attempts at copying.

It's a shame we can't just read Dinesen, and what came before her, and outlaw any further efforts in the genre.
posted by dios at 10:01 AM on January 6, 2006

What are conservative breasts?
posted by biffa at 10:02 AM on January 6, 2006

Although, genre isn't the right word since this is referring to travel books... I wouldn't include Ms. Dinesen in that category. But if we could call a genre an attempt to show the mystical beauty of Africa and its people and how it calls to the soul of all sorts of interlopers, then Isak did it best.
posted by dios at 10:06 AM on January 6, 2006

I'm with billysumday. I admit I haven't read much about Africa, but the opinion seems off-base with what I have read.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2006

I've read a bunch of crappy books or articles about africa wherein these cliches are all true. See Dark Star Safari, as exhibit 'A'.
posted by Kololo at 11:56 AM on January 6, 2006

Niel Peart's "The Masked Rider" was pretty good. I don't think it starts on the plane, but my copy is still packed away.
posted by Eideteker at 8:04 PM on January 6, 2006

Hey dios, that is a cover (male) name you know? Her true name was Karen Blixen (Maybe you knew?).
posted by Catfry at 7:45 AM on January 7, 2006

This is really good. You could put together similar articles about other stereotyped groups and regions, ie, "How to Write About American Indians."
posted by LarryC at 6:04 PM on January 10, 2006

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