Thursday, April 4, 2013
"Writers are sorcerers," said Wole Soyinka when I saw him give a speech at the UNLV student union in February and I had not realised until that night that the 'e' at the end of his name needs be respected with a diacritical mark the way it is when you say café. His friend Carol Harter introduced him as the word "wol-ay" and I saw the sloping fleck rose illuminously on precious cushions erupting out its beams.
(Soyinka was once a lecturer at this university, he is one of the reasons why Las Vegas was the first City of Asylum in the United States, in other words it offers residencies to persecuted writers, one from Sierra Leone, one from China, currently an Iranian woman, and a man named Glenn Schaeffer was one of the other reasons for the City of Asylum being established, he was a bigwig with Mandalay Bay when it began, that gilt curtain dropped by architects at the south end of the Strip beyond the pyramids, bigwig and literary enthusiast, casino managers not apparently born in their moneyed chairs but must go through other stages first; the Iowa Writer's Workshop in his case.)
If Carol Harter had been able to read my mind and see that I did not know how to pronounce Wole Soyinka then she might have intuited also that her casual method was one of the correct ways to make me know, saying, "wol-ay" by that podium in her particular voice (herself not possessing another, and no one else possessing hers, every person chained to a voice, a voice chained to every person), and the pressure of the audience came around me and I took in the pronunciation, I had not been embarrassed by being corrected, I had received it privately; it had been whispered to me in a room filled with people, all buttocks flat on padded chairs, their number determinable by this method: count the buttocks and halve the amount.
And some books too go blindly out like her voice and reach you as if they had read your mind, always to my surprise when it happens.