Whether it’s a motley crew of wannabe writers gathered for a workshop in an African town; a story of how a baboon takes over a suburban house; or describing how a hike near the Augrabies Falls goes terribly wrong,
This is writing where words are carefully and cleverly put together: some stories are whimsical; some disturbing; some verge on the sublime, others the ridiculous.
In Barris’s hands a domestic argument over a hot tray becomes a desperate and somewhat cynical scenario of almost monumental pro- portions. A man and his dog are not just a man and his dog – as the dark finale unsettlingly reveals in the titular story, The Life of Worm.
One of the stories I liked the most was To See the Mountain, in which Barris describes a writer’s workshop in a village. One can almost feel the dust, smell the meat cooking on the coals, almost sense the slightly damp, musty odour of an old hotel room; just about envision the wares piled up on street hawkers’ stands on those red-earth roads... Barris melds fact and fiction in Poor William, set in 2010 when a scourge of baboons invaded homes in parts of Cape Town.
There is humour and pathos in every story and each one stands on its own as a wonderful tale. As a collection it’s a volume to be treasured and dipped into again and again.