Great foreplay, but you may need protection

2012-10-06 10:52

In the spirit of disclosure, I confess that I think Eusebius McKaiser has a tendency to talk too much.

Like a true debating champ, he has an opinion about everything and the more contentious the issue, the bigger his opinion.

It makes sense that he’s a talk show host.

So what new take can his debut book, A Bantu in My Bathroom, with its essays on race, sexuality and culture, possibly offer South Africans?

His viewpoints on many of these topics are already out of the closet.

The title is provocative – very much like McKaiser – and that’s exactly what will make many pick up this book.

If you do, you’ll find that Bantu is difficult to put down again. McKaiser has an easy, conversational writing style (not easy to achieve with essays), which is playful and teasing.

He says, “I wouldn’t mind having Trevor Noah’s babies” and he has the ability to be self-deprecating too (declaring with pride that he is a coconut, for instance).

He also is open and honest, drawing on personal experience to explain political views – often exposing himself quite a bit, such as when he writes about his HIV-positive ex-lover and about having been raped at age seven.

His sincerity makes his arguments engaging, but many might be left uneasy after this read that pokes at our sore bits.

In the foreword, University of the Free State rector Jonathan Jansen warns the reader to have a “metaphorical condom” on hand for protection.

The book is a collection of 17 essays in which McKaiser expresses opinions that are likely to press many people’s buttons, such as black people can be racist and that it’s okay to discriminate in favour of black lovers but not against potential black housemates.

He also turns the topic of coconuts inside out (“we’d be better off as a country if there were more, not fewer, coconuts around”).

The pieces are not simply a re-hash of what he has written before – and he has already written prolifically in newspapers, blogs and on social media platforms.

He thinks it is “scandalous that someone can call themselves an author after googling their previously published columns, and sticking these in one book”. He’s kind of right.

He was prevented from doing this because he wanted to write essays, a form of writing local popular media doesn’t accommodate much (and something he says he wishes would change), so he had to write every essay from scratch.

The essay form works surprisingly well for him and he avoids the dry academic style usually associated with the word ‘essay’.

Also, it turns out that an essay is way more satisfying than, for instance, a quickie newspaper column or a tweet, but not so long and drawn out that you get bored.

As for the intellectual foreplay that entices the reader into each argument, McKaiser hits the spot by asking two or three questions at the start of each chapter.

These whet the curiosity and keep the pages turning.

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