Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things Fall Apart: Achebe and Tibensky

When I read Things Fall Apart as a sophomore in college, little did I know that the first African novel I ever read would share most of a title with a book of my own. A book about a white American suburban teenager obsessed with Sylvia Plath, another white suburban teenager.

I mean really.

The title of my book was not my idea. I had the lamest title ever, which means to say nothing useable. When my editor suggested And Then Things Fall Apart (STRONGLY suggested with much excitement and little room for me to say, er no) I brought up Achebe. And that I loved Things Fall Apart, that it is basically African Shakespeare, that it is not a book to toy with or allude to lightly. They smiled (over the phone) and nodded and said brightly "Isn't it just a great title!!!!"

All I could think of was my African Lit professor. He, like Achebe, was Nigerian. He had long fingers with unusually large nails. He brought cola nuts for us to try and took African literature very seriously. He would not be amused.

I also took a Russian Lit class (earth shattering) French Women Writers of Today (badass Irish professor who made use this new thing called "email" to turn in papers) and a whole semester of James Joyce. What if my book were titled The Mister and Margarita? Portrait of the Artist as a Young Teenager? The Giggle of the Medusa?

I read my ass off in college. Any and everything and my brain, when not grunge-rock obsessed and/or caffeinated within an inch of its life, was always ruminating on capital L literature. And loving it.

I just want everyone to know how much I love Achebe's book and how I know that Things Fall Apart, and And Things Fall Apart are only an "and" apart.

AND I ALSO want to say that I love the title and everyone I tell the title to says in a low knowing tone, "ooh, grrreat title!" So there's that. And I'm figuring that most of my book's target audience won't get to Achebe till college so they won't make the connection in the first place. If anything, they will get to MY Things Fall Apart and will think- wait- didn't I already read this? In high school? Keek was Nigerian?

1 comment:

Kristen said...

I was assigned things fall apart as summer reading before my freshman year of high school. I didn't enjoy it because that is not a book for 14 year olds and the fact that I was also convinced that the entire book was solely about yams. (which reiterates my point about it not being meant for 14 year olds). I will probably read it again at some point, now that I'm twenty and can appreciate great literature. But before I do that, I'm excited to read And Then Things Fall Apart!