Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Urban Zoning" by Billy Kahora-Second of Five 2012 Short Listed Caine Prize Stories

"Urban Zoning" by Billy Kahora (2011, 13 pages)

Blogging the Caine Year Three

My Ranking of the 2012 Stories So Far

1.  "Bombay's Republic" by Rotimi Babatunde-worthy to be a winner
2.  "Urban Zoning" by Billy Kahora

The Caine Prize is considered Africa's leading literary award.    Entry is open to anyone from an African country and the form of work is the short short.   The patrons of the prize include three African winners of the Nobel Prize for literature, Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee and Wole Soyinka.    Chinua Achebe, winner of the International Man Booker prize,  is also a patron.    The award comes with 10,000 British Pounds  and is given out annually at a celebratory event in Oxford.     The short story is seen as a continuation of the tradition of African story telling which is one of the reasons the award focuses on that genre.    The award began in 2000.   

I began blogging on the Caine Prize short listed stories in 2010.   As far as I know I was the only person to do this.  In 2011 six bloggers posted on the stories which resulted in some very good posts and conversations.   In 2011 much of the comments were about whether or not the stories were a form of what was called "African Poverty Porn".   In 2010 there were several good stories and the winner, "Stick Fighting Days" by Olufemi Terry was just wonderful.  The 2011 stories were of lower quality.   There are now 19 bloggers posting on the stories this year so far.  

I will be posting, as will a number of others, on a story a week for the next five weeks.   "Urban Zoning" by Billy Kahora is a better story than any of the 2011 stories.

Some short stories should be read in silence with no food or drink to interfere with your experience.   I think "Urban Zoning" should be read only after you have consumed several large Tusker Lagers, Kenya's number one brand of beer.  Thanks to a brilliant Ipad program, Tunein Radio, I can listen to 1000s of radio stations from anywhere in the world.   I think it is best to read this story while listening to Ghetto Radio 88.5 from Nairobi, with external speakers so as to achieve maximum sound.  

I have said before I do not really like stories that centering on heavy drinking and the live experiences binge drinkers.   This even kept me from really appreciating a lot of the stories of Raymond  Carver even though I see his technical brilliance.     "Urban Zoning" is about a young man who has given up the pleasures of casual sex for 72 hour drinking sessions.   I realize this is a way of coping with the despair of his environment, in part.  The story starts as Kandle is coming into what he calls "The Zone", a calm state of mind he says he comes into after a minimum of three days straight drinking. Kandle takes us on a sort of interesting night town tour of Nairobi.   We meet some lose women and some of his friends.  It is kind of an interesting tour.  Then we find out Kandle works in a bank.   Before you say say oh how can he do this, just read the headlines about the banks of the world.   Once we are inside the bank and meet the employees there, Kendle has been called up before a committee to justify why he should not be fired for missing a huge amount of work.   I really didn't find myself caring.

This is an OK story, I am guess I am glad I read it but I will be shocked if it wins.  I did not find it real original or creative.    

Here is his official biography

Billy Kahora is the managing editor of the Kenyan literary journal Kwani? and the author of The True Story of David Munyakei (2009). His writing has appeared in Granta, Kwani?, Chimurenga and Vanity Fair. His short story, 'Treadmill Love', was highly commended by the 2007 Caine Prize judges. He is working on a novel titled, The Applications and is writing a book on Juba.

There is a link to the other posts on the Caine Prize here

Mel u


Moniquereads said...

I find it interesting that I stumbled across this post. I heard about The Caine Prize about a week ago. I plan to read the 2012 shortlist.

Suko said...

Very interesting post. Tunein Radio sounds fantastic! I would not enjoy stories focused on such heavy drinking, either.

Mel u said...

MoniqueReads-thanks for stopping by and I hope you will return

Suko-I am pretty sure Tunein Radio works on smart phones also-I think it is still free-it is great as if I want to listen to Irish music, I can pick from stations in Dublin and all over the world-if I want to here some music from Delhi, it is there-also lots of book related programs are among the preset-including many good ones I never heard off

Renee said...

I was really getting excited about reading this short story, until I read the paragraph at the end, about this being an OK story. Oh! I thought! You reviewed it so well, and because of that, I will look for it, and let you know :)

Mel u said...

Renee-it is worth reading-thanks for stopping by