Easter Playlist

A boy’s ears should be busy during Easter.

Check out my previous lists—for 2017, for 2018, and a playlist & thoughts.

“Ratchet (Happy Birthday),” Drake

Friend played it at my birthday and it got me. First Drake solo song I love.

“Summertime Magic,” Donald Glover 

From the Guava Island film, which has Rihanna, which means this song is lovely—on its own merit too.

“Savage,” DJ Worldwide feat. Lil Kesh

Took me months to get this song, multiple Shazam failures. Makes me dance even if I don’t have moves for it yet.

“Nobody Knows 2moro,” Jeffiraino feat. Duncan Mighty

I just love the feel of it, as I do many songs with Duncan Mighty on them.

“Dawn, the Front,” Talos

Final song in that How to Get Away with Murder episode where agent Telesco kisses Tegan Price.

“Trobul,” Sarz & Wurld

Has a video in my head, full of men in suit.   

“Entertainer,” CDQ feat. Davido

Let’s just say I like Davido’s voice whenever he stretches it.

“Tipsy,” Odunsi the Engine feat. Raye

Sleek. First song of his that I liked.

“T-Shirt,” Migos (Y2K & AVIDD Remix)

Epically epic.

“Melanin,” Notrace

Like the beat.

“Awesome God,” Unknown Male Choir Acapella

Touching. After one tiring travel.

“I Got 5 on It,” Luniz

Knew it from childhood but Jordan Peele’s film Us, which has Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, refreshed it for me.

“Chlorine,” Twenty-One Pilots


“Spiritual Riddim,” Sarz

Nice groove to it.

“Nobody Fine Pass You,” T-Classic

“Piercing Light,” Warsongs (Mako Remix)

Epic. Found in a Messi highlights video.

“Doc Shebeleza,” Cassper Nyovest

Never related to it at first, now in love with it. Kind of empowering for me.

“4U,” Ejiz

For night walks.

“Dreams Pt. II,” Nightcore

Found in a football highlights YouTube video.

“Boss Whine,” Krizbeatz feat. Skales

That middle beat.   

“Blessings on Me,” Rekaado Banks

“America,” Neil Diamond

From The Big Bang Theory, Howard and Amy singing it in the car.

“Toast,” Koffee

“Sweet Dreams,” Eurythmics

“No New Friends,” LSD

“Old Town Road,” Lil Nas

Country or hip hop? So good you might just think: who cares?

“Dancin’ Around the Truth,” The Stunners

“Bloodline,” Ariana Grande

This line: But you gon’ have to let this shit go.

“Akwa Ibom Ayaya,” Mish

That feel of home.

“Only Want You,” Rita Ora feat. 6lack

Anything Ora is on point. And 6lack’s solo material is just beautiful.

“Sally Walker,” Iggy Azalea

Good to have Iggy back.

“Grip,” Tessa Thompson

I love it, from the Creed film.

“Confirm,” Patoranking feat. Davido

“Last Hurray,” Bebe Rexha

“Is This Freedom,” Lucky Dube 

Heard at a launch event and….

“New Day,” Kate Havenik

Heard on Grey’s Anatomy, touching episode 9 of season 3.

“Crazy Love,” Flavour feat. Yemi Alade

Grew on me. Big fan of it.

“Alone,” Marshmello

“Your Love,” Haerts

“Wobble Up,” Chris Brown feat. Nicki Minaj & G-Eazy

“Kriminalz,” Rolay Bondo

“Breaking Free,” Night Riots  

“Holy Water,” Temmie Ovwasa

I feel the anointing in this song. Pure talent.   


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The Feast of the Goat


I like the word “feast.” The sound of it, the upper teeth touching the lower lip. I like when it is used in titles of things. I want it when it comes like this.

Mario Vargas Llosa was one of the first writers I knew their names and work, back in 2011 when I was beginning to take interest in literature, Googling writers and books. Here’s a story about him that stuck with me: In 1976, five years after publishing his doctoral thesis titled Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Story of a Deicide, Llosa punched his friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Mexico City, and their friendship died. Another story: in 1990, he ran for president in Peru and lost. And the story most people know: he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010, “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” Still one of my favourite citations.

So Saturday night, while reading Junot Diaz’ novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I stumbled upon this accusing clause, in one of that book’s many in-text notes:

Appeared as a sympathetic character in Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat.

The person in question, Joaquin Balaguer, was racist to Black people, an apologist of the Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo’s genocide against Haitians, and ruled the Dominican Republic thrice, unleashing “a wave of violence…death-squading hundreds.”

I am fascinated by book titles, movie titles, song and album titles, find them inspirational, and back then in 2011, The Feast of the Goat, triumphantly titled, was the only one by Llosa that I liked. Back then when I had no access to books of that kind.

So Saturday night, I asked Google and received a copy of The Feast of the Goat. And with it a Book Excitement I don’t always feel these days. It is told from three perspectives: a woman’s, the Dominican Republic dictator’s, and the Dominican Republic dictator’s assassins. The sentences strike me, his articulation of things I want to write but presume might be uninteresting, his flourishing of things I want to write but haven’t found the vocabulary for. Or haven’t bothered to. In a way, I feel a kinship with his words here.

By the way, I really like, maybe even love, all the covers of the book that I’ve seen.



Image from joydelire.wordpress.com.

Between Short Stories and a Novel, My Creative Shutdown and Transitioning



This is only half of the story.


My third idea for a novel came in June 2013, one evening as I was starting a short story. At that time, the manuscript of my short story collection, You Sing of a Longing, was still in its earliest incarnation, on course to be a very different book from the one I eventually finished.

There I sat, facing a yellow wall, the sole window of the room above me, trying to find a shape for a short story but already thinking of a novel. Unlike my first two ideas, this one came in full—the plot, the characters, the setting—and I wrote down the full synopsis, believing I had something special. The collection would take years to be completed, I knew, years of focus that a 19-year-old would have to learn, and still I couldn’t stop thinking of the novel, couldn’t stop thinking of completing the collection so I could hop into it, and because I couldn’t stop thinking, I began writing it, the first chapter, the starts of a few more chapters, drawing an outline, titling the sections.


After completing what I decided was the collection’s final story in August 2016, I decided to take a few months off from writing, partly to celebrate and partly because I was emotionally worn out. But things happened that overhauled my life for worse, the first my own doing, the second the kind that people would call “God’s Will.” With the collection done, I was itching to move onto a novel, had programmed my mind that I wouldn’t write another short story if I didn’t finish the novel, that everything must be channeled into the novel. But there was one “problem”: the ideas didn’t stop coming. I had, I felt, reached a creative peak where every observation morphed into a story of its own. To continue indulging this, to continue collecting the ideas into more stories, would be to never start that novel.

Looking back now, at what I thought I knew, how much I thought I could control, it is easier to forgive myself for treating that continuum of short story ideas as a “problem,” something about which another drastic thing needed to be done.


It is artistic arrogance for a writer to believe in the infinity of their creative powers, to believe in their presumed power to negotiate with it, when it comes, how it comes. I had that belief, and due to it I did something stupid: I shut myself down. I suspended the very thing that made me a creative, the thing from which I’d drawn not just my ability to write but my other abilities to draw, carve, paint: I suspended my imagination, closed off all channels of observation and immediate analysis. For someone whose life is one of heightened sensory awareness, it was a creative coma that I put my mind in. If I hadn’t done it to myself I might have doubted that it was possible. But so was my arrogance that, within weeks, when it became clear that it worked, when the ideas disappeared, when I began to see a raindrop no longer as some metaphor but as a simple raindrop, I was happy. It was, for me, one more example that, at this point, I could do just about anything.

The shutdown was meant to be temporary, a sabbatical from the intensity that writing fiction was for me, because I wanted to breathe and let my breath be just air in my lungs rather than some avenue to start thinking of life in the human body. Without it, the ideas would have continued coming and I’d have remained in my fiction-writing mode, and worryingly—yes, worryingly, stupid of me—I’d have been writing more short stories and would never have started the novel. And so I thought that whenever I was ready, I would turn myself back on, slot back into that mode.

But the thought was as silly as the action that caused it.


If I knew what would happen the following month, I would not have done what I did.

Someone I love died.

It was an implosion I survived partly because of my friends and partly because I had been there before.

When it was over, and I tried to hurl myself back into writing fiction, I found that I couldn’t. I could write essays, write creative nonfiction, because those required only parts rather than the whole of me, and so in my mind, in the absence of that blooded link between my brain, heart and fingers, the new fiction I tried to write lacked that vivacity without which I refuse to write at all. Worse: the short story ideas were no longer solid and the novel refused to be written.

To pass time, I drowned myself in querying agents, convincing myself that it was not so much me as it was my situation, that once I got an agent, once they took the collection off my hands, I would be able to write new fiction again. It wasn’t true. I didn’t write new fiction for more than a year. I couldn’t.

I couldn’t turn myself back on, couldn’t turn off the Shutdown.

And I am yet to recover.


But between those two phases of my fiction, in that frustrating purgatory, was the start of the best phase of my adult life yet, and surrounded by friends, I spent it working and talking and laughing, having conversations I wouldn’t exchange for anything. It was during one of such conversations, with JK Anowe, that I realised the first step I needed to take to break free. An idea for another novel had come and I was split between the two, split, but more on the side of the latter. JK Anowe agreed that the second was more interesting.

Then a real factor I needed to look hard at: two of the inspirations for the lead characters of the novel had died in the space of four years, and while their deaths, the force with which they’d hit me, was enough to sustain writing them both, doing so would mean confronting their deaths once more.

I wasn’t going to. Not yet.


By the time I wrote the opening chapter of the newest novel idea in December 2017, I was still unsure if I was writing the right book, if like the three previous ideas I might desert it. But it flowed, the writing flowed gloriously. A few more chapters came, less easily but with promise.

It was at that point that I realised that something was missing, felt missing to me, something about the form being unwieldy, about the chapter transitions not being smooth. Perhaps nothing actually was missing and it was just my worries. Perhaps it was just my awareness that I was working in a different genre, a longer genre, one I’d always insisted was the less strenuous of the two and yet was struggling to transition into.


Much of the debt I owe in writing my collection came not from short story collections but from novels: that short story during which start my third idea for a novel came was itself, its language and mood, inspired by the first page, even the first paragraph, of Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things. However, that several of my stories are novelistic, spanning decades, entire existences rather than just moments in the characters’ lives, is because of my want to realize as much of the characters’ worlds as I could. While it was easy for me to hold their whole lives in a short story, in 10,000-20,000 words, doing the same in a novel, in around 100,000 words, would leave me exhausted, hence my determination to avoid writing a definably cerebral novel, anchored in the characters’ psyche, as I did with some of the short stories—not that the plot would allow me.


Writing a short story collection, having to enter and build several worlds and several sets of emotions one after the other, is more demanding than writing a novel, embarking on this one story with a more coherent emotional system, a river with tributaries. Reading her second novel The Lowland, I suspected that Jhumpa Lahiri, one of my favourite writers, one of the greatest short story writers of the past two decades, resorted to the familiar: crafting the novel as she would a short story,  keeping it contained. My novel came to me a sprawling thing, and in my battle to structure it desirably I was tempted to do what I felt Lahiri did with hers, to pretend that it was merely another, giant short story.

The temptation was not dissuaded by my finally finishing Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, my hope that studying its plotting, different as it is from mine, might provide the spark I needed. But my resolve strengthened when I opened Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, itself sprung from a short story, and after reading its prologue I became determined to do exactly what I wanted with the novel, to never think of an easy way out.


A different kind of writer like Roy just tells the story. It isn’t an easy thing, just telling a story, aware of the requirements of a genre and unbothered by it, just telling the story and knowing that, by its end, everything would have resolved themselves. Writing The God of Small Things, she has said, was like building a house, but writing her second, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, was like building a city. It would appear that those, building a house and building a city, were two of the strands that writing novels fell into. Mine feels like a city, and even when taking literal walks through streets that meander and meet, I am aware of this, am thinking of it, of main plots and subplots.


Which is why, a few days into the new year, when someone who was supposed to be a kind of tour guide on a travel suddenly opted out due to personal engagements, I felt stranded, like I was out on this ocean, standing on a patch of sand. Frantically, I called Arinze Ifeakandu. He called back, and after nearly two hours of me brooding and him saying don’t worry, the book’s path changed. By opting out, this guy made it far easier for me to write within what I knew, where I’ve been. But the change was temporary: Within weeks I flipped back to the earlier, tougher but better idea. Still, that panic I felt had been useful, that temporary change; it had done what it needed to do: recalibrated me.


In writing this novel, I have become aware of so much more, on a more detailed level. I have been thinking of suspense and subplots in a way I have never done before. I have considered doing away with chapters.


On a few blessed days, I think I am feeling my way back into that gunning version of myself. But on most days I know I haven’t fully recovered; I feel like a surgeon trying to regain full control of his hands. The story is moving gradually. The irony isn’t lost on me: that novel for which I almost wrecked myself will not be written anytime soon, not in the coming ten years.


Photo credit: Julio Garcia via Flickr.