The Economy of Spoons and Other Short Stories
Lemmi say straight off the bat, this is not going to be a regular review. I will not analyze the stories in a formal way, I’m just gonna write about what I thought of the stories, what I liked about them and what if anything I felt should have been added. But mostly what they made me feel. Because I think it’s more important what a story makes you feel than how the sentences are arranged. Also, I’m gonna try to explain as much as possible without giving out spoilers.
I like short stories because when they’re well written they’re quite a treat. Also because I haven’t been able to write a novel yet, just short stories, so solidarity. But seriously, short stories fit in well with the stories we were told as kids. And I think being able to start and finish a story in just 3000 words, making it interesting and giving everything you’d expect to find in a novel takes real talent.
So, of course the first story you read in an anthology is the title story, right? Because by choosing that story as the title, they’ve made you curious. What’s the science of choosing a title story anyways? Why this story? Is it gonna set the tone of the whole anthology? Is there a secret message in it that will be unlocked in the other stories? Or was it just the first story submitted?
The Economy of Spoons is a story written by Kevin Rigathi. It is set in a high school, that place where all the important life battles are fought. After that we’re just dealing with the aftermath. Main character in this story is Sky, the kinda kid in high school that we all pretend we weren’t. In the periphery, barely standing out and majority of people will later ask “Who?” when asked if they remember us. I didn’t know what to expect with this story, so it was interesting to see where the author was taking us. The story started from the first sentence, building up to the end. The writing was light and fun throughout, sort of like running at a comfortable jog. And the twist at the end was very well done, not at all where I expected the story to go. Kevin is funny without taking himself too seriously, so it appears effortless. This was a fun read. Oh, also there’s an electronic toothbrush that’s used as a sex toy in the story. Yes. Someone needs to have words with Kevin.
With that story setting the tone, I was sufficiently intrigued about the rest of the anthology so I now started from the beginning and the next thing I knew I had read ¾ of the anthology in one sitting. It was so good. There is no specific theme to the stories, just a couple of good stories put together. I loved this, because the diversity of the writers made the anthology an interesting experience. One minute I was reading about the anguish of making bad choices in Jemmi by Judyannette Muchiri and the next I was reading a very intriguing afro-futuristic take on the old Pinocchio stoty, Pinocchia by Kena Muigai. This eclectic mix keeps the anthology fast paced without getting too much. It was soon obvious that I couldn’t know what to expect next.
I can’t say that there was any bad story in this collection, just some stories I liked more than others. What was exciting for me though, was discovering all these writers that I’d never heard of. Nadya Ngumi’s story A Fresh Start was interesting and different. Ms Takes by Nanania (please, someone tell me who this writer is because I must find her and read more of her stuff) had my mouth open because of how much it pushed the envelope. The Doctor’s Trick, collaboration between Kevin Rigathi and Sally Ireri had me in stitches; it is hilarious and bold and spunky.
Another thing that I really liked is how they punctuated the stories with poetry and abstract short proses. The break allows you to absorb the story you’ve just read before moving on to the next. Not that these poems and proses aren’t engrossing on their own. I’m still thinking about what Mbithe Mosa was saying in Limbic Resonance, still wondering if Sabrina Najib was talking about me or just colours in Orange Needs More Than Blue and I think Melchizedek Muya’s poem Rhyme and Reason at the end is the sweetest thing (insert heart emojis)
But one story that took me completely by surprise was I Shot The Cheating Bastard by Peter Nena. I was not ready. This story about heartbreak and pain punched me straight in my chest and I held my breath the whole time I was reading it. It’s the last story in the anthology and longer than the rest, but after reading it, you understand why they ended the anthology with this story. It sticks in your mind and lingers for a long time after, possibly while you are curled in a fetal position. It is a beautifully written story and the writer forces you to feel everything his main character is feeling while at the same time making a dark story humorous. I honestly don’t understand how Peter Nena had the audacity to unleash this on my unsuspecting heart. I need reparations or something.
A lot has been said about how Kenyan writing is not good enough and as much as I don’t want to take part of that, this anthology shows that people are just not reading Kenyan writers who are writing right now about the things that THEY want to write about. I had a conversation recently with a poet from the UK and they asked about what the writing space in Kenya was like. And I told them that we’re tired of being tied to our past and we’re now trying to build our own spaces and define Kenyan writing by what it means to US. This anthology is proof of that. Whether you think this matches up to your expectations of what you consider Kenyan writing or not, it’s really not it’s problem. It is here, and Kenyans have written it. It does not seek to be anything other than good writing and good stories. Take it, or leave it.
You can read and download the anthology here