Checked out the launch of Richard Poplak's excellent memoir, (see my review), Ja, No, Man at the Cadillac Lounge last night (Tuesday) and a couple of things stood out.
Let's start with Poplak himself, an intense and engaging guy, who didn't look a little bit Jewish, by the way, and who, it would seem, hasn't got a clear idea of exactly what he's written. He stepped to the microphone to give us a small primer on South African street slang, which was amusing enough but really didn't represent the depth of the book he's written.
In a short conversation with him later, he admitted that he considers himself a humourist and started writing the book as a comedy. Fair enough, but underneath Ja, No, Man's slick comic veneer is a lot of outrage and insight. It's not uncommon for a writer to begin a book having no idea what's going to come out. I'm guessing that in just a few months, Poplak's going to read parts of the books and think, "Whoa, I can't believe I wrote that."
Well, he did and I made a point of telling him to write more - there's actually precious little, for example, in the book about growing up Jewish in South Africa. Fortunately, he's given up his day job as a video producer to concentrate on his writing.
The venue is cool but awfully narrow, which meant I received quite the bruising from the hordes trying to elbow their way to the bar. Eighty books sold out in less than an hour - a testimony to the strength of the basic buzz and Poplak's support. Speaking of which, who were all those people? The usual literary suspects were definitely not there so the guy has quite a posse.
Hats off to Penguin publicist Steve Myers for jamming the joint and for thinking up new ways to get books into the spotlight.