The depth and breadth of contemporary South African writing in English makes it tough to contain – and makes creative approaches to local anthologies quite welcome. Indeed, quite necessary.
Glass Jars Among Trees is a collection of current South African writing – an alternative anthology of South African prose and poetry that is fresh, compelling and different.
The editors, Arja Salafranca and Alan Finlay, have selected works from published and unpublished writers that reflect a wide variety of writing styles and formats.
Stories in the form of mock movie reviews and film scripts, diary entries, song lyrics, poetry, short fiction, essays, comedy – even opera – make this a comprehensive showcase of South Africa’s new generation of writers.
Kay Benno’s highly inventive “Men with Dead Mothers” tells its rather unusual story through film reviews, while Finuala Dowling’s “Stand-Up Comic” delivers a wry, slightly sad story of a woman’s experiences through the speech of a comedian. “Lioness”, Alan Kolski Horwitz’s slowly unfolding story reveals the trials of a second marriage, and the convoluted triangles couples negotiate as families merge and stepfamilies are formed.
On the nonfiction front, Gary Cummiskey’s essay, “Who was Sinclair Beiles?” probes the life and art of Beiles, South Africa’s sole Beat poet.
The diary entries are numerous and engaging, proving quite concisely that diary writing isn’t a lost art that only the Victorians practised in their flourishing penmanship. Ursula Cox and Carol Leff explore what it means to be women at the close of the 20th century, while Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob lives through the war in Bosnia in 1993 in “Once a Thing is Known – War Diary of a South African Peacekeeper in Bosnia”, bringing to life just what it feels like to be caught up in a war.
Kobus Moolman, on the other hand, is writing in a time of peace, a time of artistic solitude in “Boom St Journal” and Karoo Notebook, bringing to his notebook a series of vignettes, snapshots and thoughts on writing.
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Glass Jars Among Trees by Alan Finlay and Arja Salafranca
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(Published on BookSA)