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Life Turns Man Up and Down: High Life, Useful Advice, and Mad English [Hardcover]

Kurt Thometz
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sept. 4 2001


A unique anthology that brings together examples of once wildly popular but long out-of-print African market literature never intended as art: irresistibly charming, brief literary anomalies in all genres, written for entertainment, instruction, and moral guidance.

An indigenous Nigerian publishing phenomenon that was all the rage from World War II until the late 1960s, Onitsha Market literature consisted of pamphlets that contained stories, novels, plays,
discourses on the dangers of loose living, and advice on matters ranging from selecting a wife to managing your money. They carried titles such as Lack of Money Is Not Lack of Sense, Drunkards Believe Bar As Heaven, No Condition Is Permanent, and How to Write Love Letters, Toasts, and Business Letters.

Originally sold at Onitsha Market (the largest open-air market in Africa), the pamphlets have become priceless collectors’ items. This anthology—facsimile reproductions of the original texts, illustrations, and cover art—now makes them available to a wider audience.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Thometz's selection of popular pamphlets, originally sold in Nigeria's huge Onitsha Market from the 1940s through the 1960s, features stories, novels, plays, and advice on topics ranging from loose living to handling money. What makes this volume especially fascinating is its facsimiles of the originals, including "Drunkards Believe Bar As Heaven," "Lack of Money Is Not Lack of Sense," and "Beware of Harlots and Many Friends." Purchasers should be advised, however, that since these pamphlets are exact reproductions, the print quality is occasionally less than perfect (but still readable). The writings are both entertaining and culturally illuminating, along the lines of Western "white slave" adventures and photonovellas, and Thometz's introduction and "Reader's Guide" are fine means of acquainting oneself with this subgenre. Essential for all African and popular studies collections, to complement Emmanuel Obiechina's anthology An African Popular Literature (1973) and his Language and Theme (Howard Univ., 1990). Anthony J. Adam, Prairie View A&M Univ., TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Kurt Thometz is a private librarian. He has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, GQ, and
Avenue. For many years a bookseller in New York City, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Hardcover
Editor Thometz has identified a superb subject for a literary anthology: long out-of-print examples of "Onitsha Market Literature," named after the large city in Eastern Nigeria where many titles were produced and sold. Their grammar and syntax might not meet conventional American or British writing standards, but the diverse styles of the authors faithfully reflect Nigerian English. This book reprints several complete novellas, along with excerpts from a number of longer works. The content of these items varies quite a bit, and some works are primarily entertainment. But many also reflect one of their main sources of inspiration---Christian literature disseminated throughout Africa during the colonial era. For many African readers (and writers), this was their first exposure to published literature, and helps explain the heavily didactic, even moralizing tone found throughout many of these texts. Onitsha literature is rarely produced nowadays, but these otherwise hard-to-find examples give unparalleled insight into the interests and concerns of both authors and audiences in late colonial Nigeria. They are also just plain fun, though the idioms will be unfamiliar to American readers. An excellent resource for courses on African literature and popular culture, and African Studies generally, this work cries out for an affordable paperback edition. An added bonus is the direct reproduction of texts and illustrations as they originally appeared, flaws, smudges and all. This conveys the raw feel of the genre much more effectively than if they had been reset in bland, sanitized new type.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An authentic "multi-genre literary genre" from Nigeria Dec 22 2002
By Chimonsho - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Editor Thometz has identified a superb subject for a literary anthology: long out-of-print examples of "Onitsha Market Literature," named after the large city in Eastern Nigeria where many titles were produced and sold. Their grammar and syntax might not meet conventional American or British writing standards, but the diverse styles of the authors faithfully reflect Nigerian English. This book reprints several complete novellas, along with excerpts from a number of longer works. The content of these items varies quite a bit, and some works are primarily entertainment. But many also reflect one of their main sources of inspiration---Christian literature disseminated throughout Africa during the colonial era. For many African readers (and writers), this was their first exposure to published literature, and helps explain the heavily didactic, even moralizing tone found throughout many of these texts. Onitsha literature is rarely produced nowadays, but these otherwise hard-to-find examples give unparalleled insight into the interests and concerns of both authors and audiences in late colonial Nigeria. They are also just plain fun, though the idioms will be unfamiliar to American readers. An excellent resource for courses on African literature and popular culture, and African Studies generally, this work cries out for an affordable paperback edition. An added bonus is the direct reproduction of texts and illustrations as they originally appeared and circulated, flaws, smudges and all. This conveys the raw feel of the genre much more effectively than if they had been reset in bland, sanitized new type.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Cultural Read! March 7 2009
By Rachel V - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The historical importance of this book is rivaled only by the colorful stories written by those whose history it influences. While at times difficult to understand, that is the whole point behind this genre; the uneducated barely literate who share their stories from an age when the world was undergoing change. Recommend it to anyone wanting to expand their horizons.
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