Book of the Day — What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
“When I write stories, specifically with this story, I wanted it to be complicated. And so the story started off with this image of man falling from the sky, and then built off a series of what ifs… so what does it mean that this man fell from the sky, … I always want the story to have many layers…” Lesley Nneka Arimah
David Evans book recommendations have become a favorite for us . His latest ones include What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah, amongst other excellent books.
— A breathtaking collection of stories. The prose is beautiful; it made other books I read or listened to at the same time seem pedestrian. Some of the stories are realistic, others incorporate magical realism. Some take place in Nigeria, others in the U.S., other in both. I’d read a novel by Arimah on any of these stories. One woman observes about her boyfriend: “He didn’t seem to mind how joy had become a finite meal she begrudged seeing anyone but herself consume.” Or a father comments on his daughter: “He should chastise the girl, he knows that, but she is his brightest ember and he would not have her dimmed.” As Marina Warner wrote in the New York Times, “It would be wrong not to hail Arimah’s exhilarating originality: She is conducting adventures in narrative on her own terms, keeping her streak of light, that bright ember, burning fiercely, undimmed.”
Couldn’t agree more about the book. We do highly recommend the book.
Some collection of quotes from interviews of Lesley Nneka Arimah.
Stories Of Parents And Children In ‘What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky’, NPR
SIMON: I wonder if that experience sort of encouraged you to create these other worlds you write about?
ARIMAH: Well, you know, I have always sought comfort in books. And so, you know, in the confusion of being a teenager, you know, thrust into this unfamiliar world, you know, books became my refuge. And so I didn’t think so at the time, but it was inevitable that I would end up seeking to become a writer.
SIMON: Why do you think so many people are interested in post-apocalyptic worlds at this point?
ARIMAH: The idea of the sort of dystopias has been gaining interest for the last couple of years, and I think that at some point we all know deep down that we’re doomed. And so I think we’re just sort of imagining the futures that are coming.
SIMON: Oh, my, do you really think we’re all doomed?
ARIMAH: I do. I’m a bit of a pessimist. I do think that human nature has sort of proven time and time again that we will indulge our baser impulses. I feel like we are on a cycle. So we do well for a while and then things go downhill. We just sort of keep, you know, riding this merry go round, and so we’re doomed.
As Long as What Is Said Is Understood: Talking with Lesley Nneka Arimah
Rumpus: You mentioned on the Loft Literary podcast recently that before you began taking creative writing classes, you actually planned to attend law school — and although obviously I am thrilled that you decided not to go in that direction, I sense in your stories a very real interest in justice and injustice. The final story in the collection, “Redemption,” is a great example of that in the way that it presents the collision of righteousness with a decidedly unrighteous structure of power and authority. How do you think about justice in your writing? (And of course, there’s also the fact that so many lawyers have been prolific writers — I’m constantly thinking of Hamilton, the musical, which gives us a great example of that!)
Arimah: A moment of reverence for the glory that is Hamilton. As for addressing justice/injustice in my writing, while it’s not something I consciously set out to do, I do have ideas about what is right and wrong and so it’s bound to seep into my work. Those ideas can be divided into institutional and interpersonal, and I find that they often diverge. For example, my ideas regarding interpersonal rightness vs. wrongness are less about cosmetics or calls to “be nice,” as I think niceness can mask injustice and make it easier to swallow. In that sense interpersonal righteousness can be flexible (most people wouldn’t think it wrong to call someone kicking a dog an asshole, for example). Whereas institutions must always aim towards justice, rightness, if they are to be useful to all members of society.
An Interview with Lesley Nneka Arimah — Caine Prize Shortlist
Where do you write?
Mostly at home, but anywhere will do. I’m not too precious about needing the same location or a special pen or a particular time of day.
What was the first book you read that made a difference?
This is a hard question for me. I read a lot as a kid, many books whose titles and authors escape me now, and I think of all those books as making a difference in that they built the foundation for my story-telling. I do remember picking up Mutiny on the Bounty when I was 11 or so and reading it specifically because I found it a little difficult and I still think it’s important to read work one finds challenging. Books that made an impact more recently are Purple Hibiscus and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The first I encountered early in my writing journey and it was a breath of fresh air to see a work of familiar, contemporary Nigerian life. The latter changed the way I thought about structure and story-telling; it is a truly wondrous book.