Just a Snippet

I have been working, or I have been trying to. However, in this mad frenzy of desperately trying to stick to my newfound motivation and progress, I’ve let blogging fall on the slush pile of things I really should also be trying. Now that my tutoring is done for the year, I only have one task left before I can really get stuck into my thesis (and hopefully at that point I will carve out an hour or so a week to spend on blogging. Numerous sites suggest that this is all you really need). In the mean time, here’s a tiny snippet of what happens while I’m working:

Recently, I have taken to sitting at my desk in our tiny flat. The desk is beside the sliding door, and when I push my chair back I have a view just skirting the rooftops of Grahamstown. I can see a sliver of the street, the grey slate of office rooftops and the distant cathedral bell tower. While working I listen to a range of classical and orchestral music, with some soundtracks from movies like Lord of the Rings and Donnie Darko thrown in. When my now-familiar favourites come up, I take a break and push my chair to the appropriate position, lean back and take a few sips of my coffee. For the duration of the song I stare out the open sliding door, at the sign of ‘The Mog Dog Pizza’ across the street, or the smoke billowing from the pizza oven’s tiny chimney. Now and then I’ll see someone daring the fine spray of what is called rain in Grahamstown, umbrella folded under an arm and bag swinging as they traverse the uneven and sometimes non-existent sidewalk. For most songs, though, the only movement is the gentle swaying of the trees, each a different shape and with varying amounts of leaves just sprouting from withered branches. It is a selfish moment of idle thought and quiet indulgence.

To give a taste, this is one of the culprit songs:

And then I get back to work.

At the moment I’m trying to convert an essay I wrote last year into a possible journal article. The difficulty is that I have to rewrite large tracts to focus on a character who only made up about a third of the paper before. This does, however, allow me to return briefly to the world of South African Crime Fiction and its stalwart, Deon Meyer. While not everyone’s cup of tea, the “undisputed king” of South African crime fiction provided some thrilling material to work with. I particularly looked at the hero-villain binary in two of his Benny Griessel novels, Devil’s Peak and 7 Days. Much fun was had dissecting the obnoxious, alcoholic hero and the two vigilante villains. If you ever want a taste of SA Crime Fic, Meyer is a good place to start. His novels also generally contain some literary tourism, so they make a great escape to the charms and, of course, the issues of South Africa.

In our reworking of the essay, my supervisor and I want to investigate how the hero-villain binary is represented in the character of Thobela Mpayipheli, the structural villain in Devil’s Peak. Thobela is an interesting character that features in a couple of Meyer’s novels. He goes from KGB hitman to a vigilante and avenger who kills child abusers with an assegai (you can’t get more localized than that). The point is, Thobela is constructed as both hero and villain, and in his character Meyer creates a discursive site in which the complex issues of crime and retribution in South Africa can be discussed.

As my supervisor has made very clear, there’s no guarantee that this article will be approved and eventually published, but I remain, as my blog title suggests, sceptically hopeful.

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