Issue 156 | May/June 2015
“Let Harold and his purple crayon lead you on a fantastic journey of the imagination!” says the back of the current edition. “Whimsical, ingenious, unique!” says the rest of the series, in which Harold visits everywhere from the sky to the North Pole to a circus. And yet there is a subtle violence to these advertisements, because while Crockett Johnson certainly is unique and fantastic, Harold isn’t really leading anyone anywhere. It is a bad thing we adults sometimes do: talking baby talk to innocence and creative vision. Because Harold is actually kind of hungry and scared, and he makes dumb moves like drawing himself into lion cages. He wants an audience, and he wants a bed. The most beautiful thing about Harold, I think, is that he keeps moving until he falls asleep or takes a bow.
"In the middle of the last century there was perhaps too much hope placed on psychiatry and psychoanalysis. It was not as easy or as scientific as was hoped. And psychiatrists and analysts were over-valued as if they were the new priests of some True Religion -- that was ridiculous. Nevertheless, as the dust now is beginning to settle we can see that much of psychiatry, in tandem with pharmacology or by itself, can actually help many people. The doctors, medical or psychological, who practice in their solitary offices are working each day to add just this much understanding, this much more freedom from the inner tangle, just this small bit of self-knowledge that will be welcomed and used by a patient in need, and so many of us are in need and will be in need until the actual Messiah arrives, at which time the psychiatrists will lie down with the chemists and the chemists will lie down with the poets and the poets will live in penthouses on Fifth Avenue and the offices of the psychiatrists will be turned into aquariums for rare fish."
"In this age of algorithmic dating and mating, girl power, unprecedented female professional accomplishment, and lean-in feminism, it's really difficult to talk about the irrational, time and energy-sucking pull of unrequited romantic obsession -- women being mentally consumed, or worse, by someone who isn't reciprocating. I came to feel that if I came out as someone who'd been in that crazy unrequited love situation and then could act as an author/interpreter to what it was all about, I could make the mind state less taboo and better understood. When we can talk about something potentially shameful in terms of what it really is, as opposed to leaning on the dismissive stereotypes about it (the neurotic hung-up spinster and the bunny boiler stalker are the two big ones), hope, understanding, and even healing can enter the picture."
African literary writers are sort of squeezed on both ends of the transnational publishing spectrum: "world literature" is such a big tent that any venue geared toward it has to exclude as much promise as it includes, and then, within "local" scenes, poetry and short fiction have a very tiny share of the market. (I recently read an article in [Johannesburg newspaper] the Mail & Guardian on what people in sub-Saharan Africa are reading on their phones, for example, and not surprisingly, romance tops the list.) So there is a very important role to play for projects like Munyori in terms of offering a regional platform for ambitious young writers, especially.
"My grandmother's story has haunted me all my life. My father used to tell me tales about his childhood and our ancestors. There seemed to be quite a few about unfortunate women, but out of all of them, his memories of his mother haunted -- that word again -- me the most. It was so sad that she was educated just enough to understand what a career and independence could mean. She rebelled once, and was punished for it in a way that sealed her fate. It just seemed such a waste of intelligence."
"Anthropomorphism is, in a very deep sense, what the book is about. One of its major themes is how we unconsciously use nature as a mirror of ourselves and our own needs. My time with the goshawk was an example of this writ large, and throughout the book I show the confusion I felt that year between my own identity and that of the hawk. That moment when I "let slip havoc and murder" is the first time Mabel flies from my fist to hunt. I was in the throes of intense grief, having returned to my mother's house for the first time since my father's funeral. I fled from her house to the fields with the hawk. She wanted to hunt, hawkishly. But my motives were more problematic."