Like so many young men, my relationship with my father is an interesting one. I’m often of the opinion that my father is a little disappointed that I wasn’t the sport playing, rock-climbing type. I’m pretty sure that spending time reading history novels and blogging doesn’t compare with the veld-exploring lifestyle of my father and his 4 brothers in Phalaborwa of all places. So it was that he returned from the Monday Library Trip with the first two books in the Spud Series and the declaration that “Here are some real books.”
For those of not living in South Africa, or for those South Africans who have been living under a literary rock for the past 4 years, Spud is the story of 13 year old John Milton and his first year at an unnamed boy’s boarding school in Natal (Which is probably Michaelhouse since that’s where the author went) in 1991. It’s a first person diary entry style of writing, which serves to grounds the reader solely in the mind of protagonist.
I can see how Spud would fall into my father’s conception of a real book it’s South African. It’s to do with boys being boys. I think my dad thought there would be a little more swearing than there was. None of these serious, epic novels riddled with metaphors and allegories and long poetic passages about destiny. This is a book about boys doing boy things like shooting pigeons, farting, talking about girls and disobeying teachers. I moderately enjoyed the book. The problem was I kept thinking about Iron Love by Marguerite Poland which is also a book about a boy’s school, but one which is definitely riddled with metaphors, allegories and long poetic passages about destiny. It seems I will never escape my intellectual elitism. Nevertheless. The book wasn’t terrible. I did enjoy the little meta-jab at The Diary of Adrian Mole Series. The characters were enjoyable and the book is good for more than a few laughs. There are a couple of passages of a sexual nature, but these are teenagers we’re dealing with here, so there kind of had to be.
While its position on the list is probably more indicative of the massive hype that existed at the time the list was being compiled than its innate literary quality, but the fact that hype existed at all gives some weight to the notion that the book is at least competent. And it is that. As I put the novel down, I was happy that I’d read, happy that a little piece of youthful excitement had been rekindled in my heart, happy that the South African phenomena wasn’t merely unfounded hype.
But not so happy that I’ll start reading the next one.
There’s talk of a movie being mad which might even star Monty Python alum, John Cleese as the Guv. I would watch that.