I wrote a book about a man called Larry who suffers from alcoholism. Then with very little irony (and even less originality) I called the book Drunk.
People who are not my friends or family have told me it’s a decent book, so there is a good chance it’s a decent book if we are to take their word for it. You might enjoy it if you get your hands on it.
It turns out that to write a book, you have to meet people and sign their copies and speak to them and laugh with them and tell them that you are grateful that they bought your book.
It’s very humbling and fun for the most part, but only if you don’t do it daily and not for many hours and not hug too many people with foundation on their faces because that stuff remains all over your shirt. Like everything else, it can be exhausting and I get easily exhausted by things and people and I want to run away and hide in a hill to recover, eating wild fruits, roasting fowls over open fires and listening to the natural symphony of the wild.
So it wasn’t surprising that I would find myself selling and autographing my book at a small reading club for women… only they were posh women so they don’t call it a writing club, because that sounds very mainstream and unimaginative, and they are furthest from that. So they called it a Reading Cycle.
“We no longer do chamas,” one of them told me, “it has evolved into something erudite and fun. We now do books because books are not just about books but about life and we are about life.”
There were 10 of them, dressed to come out in the evening to discuss a book they had been reading last month. They were in their 40s, professional women; confident, outspoken, bold and self-assured and they said things with their hairstyles and their looks and their skin and their mouths and when they stood, they stood erect and firm like lighthouses.
The kind of women who are not afraid of eye contact. They don’t blink. And they never look away. The held court at a long table in the garden of a bar in Westlands.
As they evening light faded, they gathered to discuss Gabrielle Union’s We’re Going to Need More Wine of which they all had the hardcover. There were several bottles of red wine opened and breathing on the table. A few of them sipped hot toddies.
They laughed with confidence, like they had lived and they had learnt and they had little to prove even to themselves. Illustratively, one of them had carried a book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F**k by Mark Manson, a code that, I’m sure, most of them lived by. They were mothers and wives and single parents and spinsters.
Some ran marathons. Some were only settling on their true north. They smelled of evening perfumes. Their skins glowed, skins that were well acquainted with spas.
I was a little unmoored by the sheer concentration of female energy in that space. And of their collective pot of cognition. It felt like sitting inside a heavy cloud of unadulterated progesterone. Thank God I had a glass of whisky at hand.
One of them was saying how Union’s book “felt like fresh air.” Another re-joined, “Because Gabrielle felt like us even though her circumstances were of a black woman in America with its different culture.”
I was sipping my whisky silently, trying not to draw attention to myself.
One said the book made her go see her gynaecologist, something she had kept postponing for a while because her gyno, a doctor called Kagemi, has long queues and she didn’t have the time or patience to wait.
The one who invited me, Nyambura, said she liked how Gabrielle mentioned how she was nasty to other women, because she knows how they (women) in leadership can be “bitchy” (her words) to other women.
"Yes, because we almost feel like we worked too hard to get there they should also do their time,” one with natural hair said.
“There is enough space for women on top, we can’t fight each other, I don’t think men manage in that style.”
Someone said, “They do get nasty, but their language of nastiness is different from ours.”
Then the discussion drifted to workplace and their participation as female leaders and challenges therein. Then someone introduced a different theme and the conversation drifted in a different direction.
More erudite analysis came, often broken by an off-handed remark and a witty riposte. Laughter often shimmered through the table, getting louder as more bottles of wine came. Glasses got topped up.
The book got unpacked and peeled like layers of an onion. Every theme of the book was redirected to a place where it echoed with the familiarity of their own lives. They laughed and joked and when they spoke about the book they spoke concisely and with great thought and it was nice to see their dialogue unfold. It was like watching and listening to a modern intelligentsia.
I left early, before it got boisterous. Before it started looking like they might need more wine. I left impressed at how put together they all seemed and wondered what building blocks brought them to that point.