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Text Bites: South African Poems, Plays, Stories and Non-fiction

| November 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Compiled by Chris Thurman
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-598583-2
Reviewed by Fiona de Villiers

The old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ often proves all too true. The cover of Text Bites: South African poems, plays, stories and non-fiction put me off from the get go. “Not another boring English text book,” I thought, gazing at the image of a young man jumping for joy and holding his iPod. Next to him appeared a clapperboard.

Why, I wondered, the Americanised approach? Resolutely, I ploughed through the introduction, thematic table, and learning and teaching points guide. “At least Oxford University Press is consistent about providing teachers and students with relevant, accurate pre-reading assistance,” was my mental note.

That’s when the game plan changed. Having planned to dip in and out of this text aimed at senior school pupils for a first reading, I found I was simply unable to put it down. The poems were fresh and beguiling, moving from classic Oswald Mtshali to Johnny Clegg. The short story section re-affirmed for me that there are fantastically talented writers and orators out there busy creating texts for young South Africans.

The drama section reflected the diversity that marks current theatrically based explorations in our country, and the extracts from novels authored by Sello Duiker, Karen Hurt and Kagiso Lesego Molope moved me out of my comfort zone. Were I still a school-based Drama teacher, this anthology would have provided me with an instant, magnificently rich resource to help my students dramatise different literature genres. English teachers will delight in the accompanying notes to stimulate class discussion.

Although this is not one of Oxford University Press’s newest offerings, it’s still as relevant and current as it was in 2009 when it was first published, and I’ve been recommending it left, right and centre to all – teachers and those who love reading South African literature. My only complaint now is that no information was provided about compiler Chris Thurman, obviously the creative genius behind Text Bites.

Category: Book Reviews, Spring 2011

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