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Kurt Thometz   Life Turns Man Up and Down  
Kurt Thometz    
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Excerpt from Life Turns Man Up and Down

  A collection of out-of-print "African Market Literature" from the 1940s to the 1960s may sound like the most obscure of publications. And maybe it is. But it turns out that this literature--pamphlets consisting of stories and plays and a sort of narrative advice---was Africa's first popular written literature, and is characterized by an infectious enthusiasm for manic storytelling and bold print design. Just one step removed from Nigeria's oral storytelling traditions, the language in Life Turns Man Up and Down is put together without much regard for the rules of Modern English Usage and the subjects chosen without any regard for the pleasures and ambitions of cutting irony, tricky postmodernism, or the Great Nigerian Novel. The result is what the editor of the book Kurt Thometz calls "demotic, uncooked, Mad English" that is refreshingly honest and energetic enough to speak directly across a cultural and temporal divide that can't be measured in miles or years. It may be tempting to use words like "naïve" and "primitive," but that's not right-this is simply its own separate, remarkable moment in the literary world, distinct from the traditions coursing around it. And it is captured perfectly in this book, sensitively, lovingly edited by Thometz, exquisitely designed by Archie Ferguson (on the outside) and M. Kristen Bearse (on the inside) and printed on the strangest sort of multi-colored high-quality newsprint-type paper, which hopefully the following photos of the book convey.

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