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Richard de Nooy Holds Audience Captive at the Launch of The Big Stick

Richard de Nooy

The launch of Richard de Nooy‘s second novel, The Big Stick, heralded the start of The Book Lounge‘s literary programme for 2012, and promised another year of vibrant and engaging literary discussion. Proprietor, Mervyn Sloman, wished the full house that had gathered a happy new year.

The Big StickDe Nooy, a South African author resident in Amsterdam, wrote this second novel in his loosely interwoven trilogy, about the challenges faced by a homosexual youth who – after his conservative family decide they cannot “bend him straight” – makes the transition from Zeerust to Amsterdam.

The author was joined at the podium by the award-winning writer, Lauren Beukes.

In her inimitable style, Beukes reflected on the standard assumptions a reader makes and quizzed him directly on his sexual orientation. De Nooy, comfortable with the line of enquiry, straightened things out for the audience, saying that, though he is not gay, he has gay friends who read and verified the authenticity of the text.

De Nooy then spoke about writing and humour, voicing his frustration with the difficulty of translating jokes that are difficult to express in another language. Beukes highlighted de Nooy’s walk tweets, which offer a dark combination of brilliant wit and exceptional poetry:

Dutch cyclists have children so that they can strap them to the handlebars, providing shelter from the rain. #walkThu Jan 19 07:58:23 via web

Night owls chase the garbage truck, eyes wide, their hooting calls to “halt” unheard. #walkThu Jan 19 07:55:23 via web

Let me tell you about the rain: seeping bastard, bark blacker, head wetter, puddle filler, street shiner, cloud shaper, life giver. #walkThu Jan 19 07:49:08 via web

De Nooy said he would suffer from sensory overload if he lived and walked in Cape Town. “Holland is so grey. Here, the colours, the beauty…I’d use too many adjectives!”

During the question and answer session with the audience, de Nooy reflected on the in-your-face sexuality of the narrative, and the ways in which this explicitness has been received. “In Amsterdam, sexuality is much more out there. You can’t pass a shop window without seeing a dildo for sale. Not one of the Dutch reviewers remarked on the sexuality in The Big Stick I guess you could say, the Dutch really get the cock out there. Maybe I’ve been tainted?”

He closed the evening by paying tribute to his editor, Helen Moffett, and award-winning book designer, Joey Hi-Fi.

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Liesl Jobson tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:

@RicharddeNooy is at the Book Lounge for launch of his 2nd novel, The Big Stick, part of a loose trilogy. #livebooks Jan 24 15:54:46 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks De Nooy’s debut novel, Six Fang Marks and a Tetanus Shot won UJ First Novel Award.Tue Jan 24 16:10:39 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Beukes says novel about decadence in Amsterdam. De Nooy says not considered decadent in Amsterdam gay scene.Tue Jan 24 16:14:59 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks RDN: Initial response to book implied I was gay but wrote as straight man, checking facts with gay friends. An assumption made!Tue Jan 24 16:16:20 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Autobiographical elements from my youth explore possible life I could have inhabited but didn’t. Diff voices have own memories.Tue Jan 24 16:18:38 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks RDN: Young gay man grows up in Zeerust. Family tries to bend him straight. At 17 they send him to Dutch oupa to avoid military.Tue Jan 24 16:19:50 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Conservative woman goes into Amsterdam gay scene to unpack her son’s death. She encounters their animosity for her part in death.Tue Jan 24 16:21:36 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Rastafarian coke dealer is employed as her guide. He is brash in his opinion of gay folk, and of her, yet trust emerges.Tue Jan 24 16:22:59 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Responsibility is not to write a freak show, to add depth to the topic. Writer learns new things, add details, new dimensions.Tue Jan 24 16:31:08 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Whether book goes into African fiction ghetto, gay fic ghetto at Exclusive Books out of my hands, but the more labels the better.Tue Jan 24 16:33:03 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Humour helps make the content more palatable. Also coping mechanism & group mode of communication. If we didn’t laugh we’d weep.Tue Jan 24 16:34:55 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks To people outside SA the post-robbery, post-beating “thank God we weren’t raped” comment is incomprehensible, but is how we cope.Tue Jan 24 16:36:50 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Walk tweets now come to 5000 words. These could form part of story of man who lives life on Internet, who walks to dissociate.Tue Jan 24 16:46:36 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks I used my mother’s matter of fact pragmatism, her waltzing in and asking questions she isnt ready for as the prototype for Alma.Tue Jan 24 16:52:50 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks @RicharddeNooy: in novel you give someone a past, give them their humanity. Can’t write someone off as psychopath. Difficult!Tue Jan 24 16:54:09 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Q&A wrapping up. RDN reads own work aloud for rhythm & slang. Have to avoid quagmire. Michiel Heyns helped, as did Helen Moffett.Tue Jan 24 16:56:32 via Twitter for iPad

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Maya</a>
    January 25th, 2012 @15:17 #

    I particularly enjoyed hearing about Richard's writing process, and the way he imbues characters with life.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    January 26th, 2012 @13:47 #

    It was such a lovely way to start the book-launch year. Everything about working on this book was a pleasure.


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