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Colleen Higgs

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

10 things I loved about “The Beggars’ Signwriter” – not a review

1. That there actually was a beggars’ signwriter.

2. The tenderness with which Louis Greenberg writes about adolescents, their inner life and hesitant yet overwhelming sexuality (Lyon and Tania). (See no 9).

3. The exploration of what it means to be an artist and how you get to be one and then what happens (Renee, Shane & Aden).

4. Joburg – Cresta, Melville Koppies, Melville, the Emmarentia Rose Garden, “JCE” sportsfields, the Mormon temple, the Sunnyside, Senate House at Wits, the Gertrude Posel gallery. I love Joburg and Louis’s Joburg in this book vibrates with carefully noticed details.

5. Addiction to playing Solitaire on a computer and where that can lead

The days just seem to blur one into another. He’s run out of words. He used to be a student, a writer, a love. He used to engage with life, belong to it. they took the only cords he had when they left, everything that connected him to the world. Now the virtual cards, red on black on red on black, spilling across his brain, red on black spilling over the virtual baize on the screen, the cards are his only interface with the world. …And his whole world is red and black, and smirking, aloof royalty.

6. How all the characters are linked – creates a pattern of relationship, like knitting or something

7. The book also has witchcraft in it (sort of), concerns about Satan and good and evil

8. Nieu Bethesda

9. Lyon is my favourite character. He is loyal and sweet and well meaning and kind and inept and becoming less so. He worries a lot and thinks too much. He loves wholeheartedly and worries about that too. He is a teenage boy.

Lyon thought about hugging Tania after Othern’s party so often in the following days, it became debilitating. He couldn’t concentrate, he could barely eat. He’d stare out of the window of his room, or watch lines of text pass soundlessly, while all he held in his mind was her scent and her breath and the feel of her body pressed against his. …
So he decided to wean himself off the memory. He’d start by thinking about the hug for half of every hour, and think of something else for the other half.

10. The old Greek lady. Forgiveness. How hard it is to get over some things.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    August 19th, 2009 @10:33 #

    Wow, Colleen - what a lovely meditation. I'm flattered that you spent the time to read it (it always amazes me when people do this) and then to write about it.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    August 19th, 2009 @11:47 #

    This is an excellent way of commenting on books, and may attract some "homage" shortly. I can't wait to read the book now.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Jassy</a>
    August 19th, 2009 @12:23 #

    Colleen, I'll second that review (not-review?). I thoroughly enjoyed The Beggars' Signwriters, which I have just finished reading. It is finely observed, touching, funny, and so beautifully written. I usually read crime novels, so this was a departure from the bloodstained halls of my preferred genre, but I'm surprised what a pleasant departure it was, and how involved I became in the lives of the characters.

    You describe Jo'burg, and Melville in particular, so well. I agree with Colleen - it's wonderful to see these familiar suburbs through your eyes. And I loved the ending. A surprising and rather disturbing twist.

    Louis, please finish your thesis so that you can start your next novel. Next time I'm not going to swop, I'm going to buy!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    August 19th, 2009 @19:20 #

    Such a great perspective on the book. And I'm with the others, Louis, write another one already.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    December 15th, 2009 @14:00 #

    The Beggars' Signwriters has a fascinating architecture. Louis uncovers people's foibles and failings with great tenderness and insight. His portrayal of the muse, fickle, withholding and erratically munificent, is particularly apt.

    I have to confess that the great unloveliness that is the Senate House Concourse was beautified, momentarily, in Louis' kindly rendering of it. Bravo on that score alone.

    Write another one soon, Louis.


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