When I opened my mailbox the other day, I had a nice surprise: A copy of a Japanese textbook for learning English that included my story, Test Day, a piece which has enjoyed an odd, ongoing popularity in that country. The letter from the publisher said the book was titled “Trainning for Reading English” [sic], but Google translates it variously as “Training of the Long” or “Chapter compulsory training in the long: Increase combat power and force…” or more aptly, “Chapter of the long training required.” Long or short, I’m happy to help out.
On the Utne Reader’s website is an interview I did with Hermas Zopoula, a fine musician and songwriter from Burkina Faso, as well as a very friendly and funny guy. We had a great conversation via Skype that ranged over many things: modern-day griots, his new album, and his 36 brother and sisters. But in a bit of (probably sensible) editing, the last part of our conversation was cut. It’s not essential to the review, or the music, or to understanding the essence fo Hermas Zopoula. But we both got a chuckle out of it. For better or worse, here it is:
FB: ….Well, I think that all my questions for now. Was there anything else you wanted to say?
HZ: Yes. I had another thing to let you know: Out of 36 brothers and sisters I am the last born. My father was married to six wives. I’m the last one of the family. I was born when my father was nearly 80 years. Some people say he was 90 years.
FB: So you still have time to have children.
HZ: Yes, I have to live more than my father! He lived more than 120 years before he passed away. I have a lot to do, because we have a saying here in Burkina Faso: Every child is supposed to do better than his father. So maybe I’ll be looking to make 40 children. (laughs.) I’m joking. And maybe 10 wives, or 20. I don’t know. (laughs)
FB: You need to get started.
HZ: No, I will look for only one wife. But you know I asked my father one day, “How did you manage to become married to six wives?” And he said “No, I did nothing. They were all gifts.” (laughs). He says when he was about 40 or 50 years, when you do good to somebody, to pay you back, the person said, take my daughter and let my friendship stay for a long time. So that was how he married up to six wives.
FB: That’s a lot of wives.
HZ: Yes, (laughs) Not easy.
FB: No, no, not easy at all.
Continue reading “Six Wives and One Night Off”
A while back, I mentioned David Farley’s book, An Irreverent Curiosity, about his search for the “holy foreskin” in the Italian hill town of Calcata, which just came out. It’s a great story, and I take heart that offbeat, thoughtful, funny stories can get real traction if done well. So far, Farley’s book has been recommended by New York, Outside, Kirkus, and he’s had interviews on MediaBistro, World Hum, Gadling and other places. More information here.
In the new issue of the Utne Reader are a few reviews I did. One is of Rory MacLean’s great new book, Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India. The other is of the album Espoir, by Burkinabe musician Hermas Zopoula. Both are worth a look, if you get a chance.