Rachel Zadok http://rachelzadok.com Author Tue, 29 Nov 2016 13:05:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 Angels http://rachelzadok.com/2016/03/11/angels/ http://rachelzadok.com/2016/03/11/angels/#respond Fri, 11 Mar 2016 14:51:14 +0000 http://rachelzadok.com/2016/03/11/angels/ Two years ago, my cousin shot her son and then herself and I stopped writing. Not at the exact moment the…

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Two years ago, my cousin shot her son and then herself and I stopped writing. Not at the exact moment the bullet entered her brain. The process was more gradual. My output slowed to a trickle, and one day, about four months after it happened, I wrote a blog post saying I need to deal and I stepped away from the keyboard and I didn’t write again.

I tried to. Write about it. Write a novel. Write a short story. The short story I managed. It took six months. There was no joy in it. And there has been no joy in writing since she died, though I don’t blame her for that. I blame myself. Like all of us left behind, we allocate the blame to our failures. What complicated my grief is that I was not close to her and felt I had no right to feel her death so acutely. So much so that I did not speak to my aunt, who I love dearly, for months. Every time I thought of calling her, to express how deeply sorry I was, my palms began to sweat and my heart beat increased until I could hardly breathe. I realize, in retrospect, that the combination of cowardice and sorrow was causing panic attacks. Excuses, excuses. Some things broken cannot be fixed and my relationship with my aunt is probably one of those.

I’ve spent many hours talking to someone about it. The reason for her suicide and my inability to deal with it, or to write. About her or anything else. We weren’t close as adults, my cousin and I. As children, she was the nearest person in my family to my age and we were as close as cousins could be. She was my favourite cousin. My first sleepover was at her house, on a mattress on the floor of her bedroom. We lay watching the dimmed bulb inside her paper lamp shade grow brighter and brighter as she chanted, in Afrikaans, for the fairies to turn the lights back on. With every whispered chant, the light brightened until my aunt, her mother, came in and turned it down again. She  eventually fell asleep but I lay in the darkened room, terrified of whatever unseen entity had the power to turn the lights up if you asked. In Afrikaans.

She had a trampoline and a swimming pool, a swing chair and two sisters. I had none of those things. My mother was a divorcee. Her parents had, and still have, a happy marriage. We lived in an old rented house with an overgrown orchard and concrete yard. I had a brother and two dogs. I envied her life, her happy family. Her mom was always in the kitchen, and the kitchen was stocked with sweets and cool drinks, the proper kind that came already mixed in cartons – boxes for FruitTree or Raspberry Sparletta. We had orange squash at the beginning of the month and I&J Boil in a Bag for dinner and my mom was always working. She had curly blonde hair and she looked like an angel. I had thick black eyebrows crawling across my forehead like two stinging caterpillars mating and my mother thought Twiggy and Liza Minnelli were cool so she kept my dark hair cropped short. That crew cut combined with hand-me-downs from my brother had me being constantly mistaken for a boy. No one ever mistook my cousin for a boy.

As teenagers we drifted apart. I dressed in black and wore Doc Martens and had skinny boyfriends with long dirty hair who played guitar badly. She was still blonde and went to church on Sunday with her parents and wore high heel pumps and dated the same boy all through high school. We both smoked cigarettes behind our parent’s backs. We had that in common.

She married that high school sweetheart. He proposed on a plane when they were both too young to know he’d turn into a bastard and she into a depressive who drank too much and drove her car into a wall. She was sweet and funny and had her dreams thwarted by the same black dogs I have constantly on my tail. Last time I saw her we made scrambled eggs for our kids in her mother’s kitchen, and we joked about motherhood and how hard it was to love someone as much as you do your kid. She had tears and a fierce protectiveness in her eyes when she told me that.  She was divorced by then, and was being dragged through the courts by her ex who saw the legal system as a way to continue abusing her long after he’d married someone else. Some people get their kicks through non-consensual sadism, I guess. Her son was struggling. He was like her. The sweetest boy imaginable. She was desperate to limit his dad’s visitation but though supervision was advised by psychological reports, the judge ruled always in his favour. Judges can be bought and he had money. She did not. Fighting him bankrupted her.

We made plans for them to come to Cape Town on holiday, but I never called her and she never called me and those plans were never realised. I blame myself. I should have called her. Maybe, if I had kept in touch, told her I understood the depression thing because I have it too, maybe maybe maybe.

You always think you have time.

For a long time after I felt like I was standing too close to the edge. I felt that if I looked to closely at her death, or examined the way it made me feel, I might follow her.

I have not written because I needed to write about her.  I felt, however, that I had no right to express anything about her death or her life. She was not my sister. Not my daughter. Not my mother. The grief of her death could not belong to me. And yet I carry it because I loved her. We were not in contact, not close, but people remain the people they have always been, and that is the person I loved. Her loss means we can never have that holiday, never reestablish the connection we had in her mother’s kitchen the last time I saw her. My daughter and her son will never ride around the garden on his mini-quad bike again. They’ll never play hide-and-go-seek. They’ll never call on the fairies to turn up the lights. She’ll never defeat her demons or her abusive ex-husband.

Life, it turns out, is a series of letting go. I know now that some of my childhood dreams will never be fulfilled. I’ll never play Tatiana in New York Central Park in summer. I wanted to be an actress and won awards in school for my performances, but I’ll probably never tread the boards professionally now. I probably won’t have an apartment in New York, or London, or Barcelona. Letting go of those dreams, it turns out, is easier than letting go of the simple idea that one day, my cousin would come on holiday to my home in Cape Town, and we’d make our kids scrambled eggs and joke about how hard motherhood is.

You always think you have time.

You don’t.

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Writing as Therapy http://rachelzadok.com/2014/08/11/writing-as-a-form-of-therapy-ugh/ http://rachelzadok.com/2014/08/11/writing-as-a-form-of-therapy-ugh/#respond Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:29:00 +0000 I don’t believe writing is a form of therapy. I’m a little obsessive about protecting my privacy: my innermost emotions…

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I don’t believe writing is a form of therapy.

I’m a little obsessive about protecting my privacy: my innermost emotions and thoughts and the events that trigger them.  Feelings about work do not fall into this category because writing for publication is already a public act.  I write alone, yes, but I write for a reader. Pulic-ation: get it? I write for an ideal reader in the hope that I’ll pen a bestseller and earn a million bucks, so there is little point in being overly protective of the array of emotions that follow the successes or failures of my work –  in fact this blog is pretty much dedicated to detailing the ups and downs of my career path, with interludes into amusing anecdotes about motherhood (they amuse me). But when it comes to letting anyone, including my nearest and dearest, into the heartaches that shape life beyond work – the very thought makes my toes curl.

If I were a nut, I’d be a brazil nut, tightly coiled to protect my vital organs inside a thick calloused shell. To get into a brazil nut, you need to smash it with a hammer. Rarely does the nut come away unscathed. There are injuries, some slight, some devastating. Sometimes you may even whack your thumb trying to get in.

All people face adversity, I know that, and perhaps writers more successful than I are able to turn their personal tragedies into bestselling memoirs, or memoirs parading as novels (that’s a thing). Some people blog as a form of therapy. Some, in the face of personal adversity, want to share the trials of their lives in the hope of reaching out and alleviating yours. I am not that person (I’ve tried that, and the result was some blog posts I’m ashamed of).  I usually just keep swimming, and glue a toothpaste smile to my face when I need to go out.  Mostly, I stay on the couch with a good novel.  I’m the world’s greatest escape artist, next to Houdini and that other British guy. Because while my writing does reflect my life in some obscure-impossible-to-trace-back-to-me way, I struggle to pen my personal tragedies.

And there have been a few losses in recent years. Losses I’ve buried. Losses I’ve hidden from friends and family. However, in March, something news headline-worthy happened, and not in a good “she won the Booker” way. That thing, and I’m not about to share, has really messed me up mentally and, for the first time ever, I cannot write.  Maybe the March thing split me open and the accumulation of bad things spilled out and knocked the ink out of my pen, because shortly after the well ran dry. The muse ran off with the window cleaner and now the view is obscured and there’s no water for the garden. (See? How dire are these mixed metaphors? First the nut analogy, now this).

I’ve tried to write. I’ve started and abandoned so many blog posts there are more in the drafts folder than the published folder. I’ve hammered away at a novel and not made it past chapter three. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of short stories. Everything I write lacks heart or heft or forward motion. Writing feels like a pointless act, one which has little (if any) reward and zero purpose.

So, for the very first time I am embarking on writing as a form of therapy. For the first time, something I write will not be for public consumption. I will not be looking for an audience and millions. The ideal reader of this work is dead. I shall probably break out in hives: I’m itching already and I haven’t even written the first sentence. But maybe, just maybe, unblocking that will unblock my writing. I hope so. Otherwise, I’m unleashing demons and sending my mind into anaphylactic shock for nothing.

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Why write? http://rachelzadok.com/2014/03/31/why-write/ http://rachelzadok.com/2014/03/31/why-write/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 17:50:00 +0000 From one of those websites dedicated to curating disparate bits of information, the question: why write? So instead of writing,…

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From one of those websites dedicated to curating disparate bits of information, the question: why write?

So instead of writing, I spent the day in moody contemplation.

More truthfully, the muse was elusive.

I began the day discussing failure and followed that with the why write article (because self-mutilation).

Bad idea.

It led to me being unable to pin down why I write or why I even want to anymore. And it made me uneasy that I did not have a solid reason. A sunny Monday that looked like it might be productive at seven am became edgy in a Fear-and-Loathing kind of way by ten.

Restlessness settled in like an uninvited cousin who’d pitched up on my doorstep with a rucksack and no money. I found myself sucking at my fingernails until they felt too long and too thin. All the things I wanted to put on the page elongated away from me. Words became bubbles of chewed gum floating pinkly in front of my eyes until I tried to grab them. Then they slipped from my grasp.  Bouncy things slimy with saliva.

I got to thinking about the quotes of the famous that are meant to inspire us.  What are these things if not ideas encased in other people’s spit?

Which makes the written word what, exactly? Or more specifically, what are my written words? Why do they exist?

I set off on my writing journey more than a decade ago and when I look behind me I see a pavement littered with flattened bits of gum gone grey. Maybe they stick to my shoe, or to yours when you read them, old words I chewed and spat out some time ago. My decade of writing has produced one relatively successful debut and one difficult book (difficult to write ). An amount that doesn’t count for much unless you’re Donna Tartt or Harper Lee and your book brought in a decade’s worth of rent in royalties.

My decade brought a series of disappointments, major shifts and drastic changes. My life has been completely reset to factory default twice. I’m that sucker in Monopoly that keeps getting the jail card (do not pass go, do not collect R200).

I am not surprised that Sister-sister took five years to write. If nothing else, it remains as testimony to my resilience. To the fact that I still write.

I do not feel resilient enough of late to stand in the rain and let the hail stones brain me, but I don’t seem to have much choice. What else can a writer do, but write?

Berlin Wall graffiti October 2015 | Image at top of page: Roman Theatre Mask, Roman-Germanic Museum Museum, Cologne, Germany 2015

I suppose I could return to writing in my head, but then I may end up on the train.

Perhaps I write because I am siderodromophobic.

More likely, it’s because writing leads me to unexpected places. To words like siderodromophobic. Or to petrol stations at a crossroads between this world and the next.

Writing is a process of discovery.  In the end, all it offers me is a ticket to ride. Some days, that’s enough.


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The Yacht http://rachelzadok.com/2014/03/26/the-yacht/ http://rachelzadok.com/2014/03/26/the-yacht/#respond Wed, 26 Mar 2014 14:14:00 +0000 A decade ago I embarked on a career in writing with high hopes. I imagined myself the next big thing…

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A decade ago I embarked on a career in writing with high hopes. I imagined myself the next big thing (who doesn’t?) penning novels from the deck of my yacht in Reunion, a sea breeze cooling the sweat in my navel. In my fantasy I’m wearing a bikini top and shorts (the short short kind) and I even have the body for it – my fantasy, if I want to airbrush myself into it, that’s my business.

The reality is a little different. I’ve never had the kind of body fashion magazines place in the vicinity of a bikini, the garment or the adjective.  I bulge in places that beauty editors think should be flat, and in those meant to be round, I’m at the undesirable roundest end of the round scale. My finances aren’t quite Ahoy There! either. Put another way, if I didn’t buy wine for a month (as if) I could probably stretch my grocery budget to a ticket to Seal Island on a catamaran with fifty tourists. But tenacity is an absolute necessity if you’re a writer so, in spite of a decade of fiscal instability, I am still not quite ready to let go of that yacht in Renunion.

Distant yachts, Sylt, Northern Germany 2015


Which is why I thought what the heck when Dr Kim Prescott, owner of Anuyu Body and Skin, offered to use me as a spa treatment guinea pig in exchange for me blogging my experiences. I write and they preserve the last islands of wrinkle free skin on this landmass I call home. Perhaps even long enough to realise my yacht fantasy. What’s not to like?

Still, the word experimental makes me think of Dr Frankenstein and I arrived at Anuyu for my first treatment, Hyalual’s WOW Mask, a little nervous. I love Anuyu Body and Skin. It’s the antithesis of that dungeon of distress I blogged about in 2012 when I took my mother for a birthday treatment no amount of Jik will ever scrub from our memories.  Anuyu is clean, the towels are fluffy, the therapists are friendly, smiling and gorgeous – as people who dedicate their working hours to the beauty industry should be. They serve tea in porcelain cups, and everything, from the space-age fat-melting machines to the vials of dermal filler lined up in the fridge sparkle with glossy promise.

My anxiety rose a notch when I saw that treatment beds had been set up in the reception area. Being a guinea pig is a public affair, it would seem. I joined the four other guinea pigs on the sofa, and was offered champagne. We clutched the stems of our flutes, our trepidation hidden behind inscrutable expressions. Soon though, the combination of bubbles and Dr Kim’s easy manner made us feel relaxed. After a short presentation, masks were applied.

Hyalual’s WOW Mask is a strange and slippery creature. It’s slides from it’s foil wrapping, dripping with sci-fi gloop, to wrap your face in a cool second skin. Alien and high-tech, the outside of the mask feels like paper when first applied but, as your skin absorbs the ingredients, it becomes gauzy. Put another way, you start out looking slick and plasticky like Data from Star Trek and end up looking like an egyptian mummy.  Until you peel the gauze off.

Drum roll please.

After 45 minutes, where the most uncomfortable sensation is a little itch around the edges as the mask dries, your skin is left plump and glowing. My skin is sensitive and tends towards redness, but the ingredients in WOW  triggered none of the usual reactions in my allergy prone cells. My skin was Pharrell Williams Happy.

So what’s the catch? There’s always a catch. The WOW wears off after four or five days. Which means the WOW won’t preserve my youth until I can afford the yacht, but it will amp up the fabulous for special occasions. The WOW effect peaks ten hours after the mask comes off: think weddings, book launches and, at the very reasonable price tag, even date nights.

For more about Hyalual’s WOW Mask email Anuyu Body and Skin.

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On Writers and Trains http://rachelzadok.com/2014/03/17/on-writers-and-trains/ http://rachelzadok.com/2014/03/17/on-writers-and-trains/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 10:27:00 +0000 There is no such thing as silence. The quiet buzzes with electrical pulses and insect wings and the inhalations and exhalations…

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There is no such thing as silence. The quiet buzzes with electrical pulses and insect wings and the inhalations and exhalations of breath and distant conversations and car engines and tyres against tar and the rustle of mice in the skirting boards and birds in the trees and the neighbour’s vacuum cleaner. Sounds, too small for your eardrum to separate, mesh together to create white noise. Silence is white noise with the volume turned down.

Most people don’t notice the noise. Writers do, along with spiderwebs suspended in the diamond-shaped holes of chain link fences, dead flies on window sills and the hairline creases in the dust covers of that favourite book you borrowed. Writers are unable to filter the insignificant details from life. We upload them and use them as character signifiers for fictional people. We have a voice in our heads that turns these details into prose. A voice that constantly streams plot lines, characters and bits of dialogue into our waking minds. The heads of writers are filled with imagined people and places and perfect sentences that become skittish when we try to pin them down.  There is no space for shopping lists or school timetables or time.

Writers are the sane(r), cleaner, less smelly cousins of the twitching nut jobs who spend their days riding the train from one end of the line to the other. Nut jobs whose muttering rises to a shout every so often – Why did you kill her, Steven? Why? –  causing you to spill your latte all over your lap. All that separates us from Steven’s stinky vessel is the physical manifestation of those thoughts: the act of putting pen to paper or keystrokes to Word Docx.

Writers who don’t write are fucked. We descend slowly into a pit of despair from which the only escape is another novel or short story or even a blog post. But the longer you leave it, the further you sink. The further you sink, the harder it becomes to sort through the mess in your head and pair character with plot, fill their mouths with dialogue and scatter dead flies on their windowsills. At some point the voice becomes two, then three, then four. All that stuff you’re constantly uploading swirls around like a tornado, battering against the inside of your skull until the noise becomes silence. And the silence is deafening.

So if you love a writer, be they your child, your lover, your mother or your client, love their writing in spite of the burnt dinners and forgotten dry cleaning and missed car services. Remind them to write. Give them time and space and encouragement. Or one of these days, you might find them riding the train.

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queen of a magical kingdom http://rachelzadok.com/2013/09/13/queen-of-a-magical-kingdom/ http://rachelzadok.com/2013/09/13/queen-of-a-magical-kingdom/#respond Fri, 13 Sep 2013 08:27:00 +0000 Moms are required to take on all sorts of roles for their children. We are protectors, feeders, dressers, washers, kisser-betterers,…

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Graffiti Berlin
Graffiti Berlin 2015

Moms are required to take on all sorts of roles for their children. We are protectors, feeders, dressers, washers, kisser-betterers, nurses, lift-clubbers, life-lesson dispensers and handmaidens to their fairy princesses or horses to their knights, not necessarily gender dependent.

Lately, motherhood has required me to be the Fairy Queen and the Princess of Extreme Patience simultaneously. The steps taken to morph from your average human being into queen of a magical kingdom with the patience of a nun go something like this:

Day One 

  • Rush to 4-year old’s bedroom, heart pounding, in answer to anguished cries.
  • Check 4-year old for obvious injuries and bleeding. Find nothing.
  • Ask 4-year old what is causing severe distress.
  • Glean, through snot and sobs, that 4-year old has ripped the wings off the music box ballerina fairy you spent days searching for and two-hundred bucks on because she really, really wanted one for her birthday. Because Zinzi has one.
  • When four-year-old has calmed down, ask why four-year-old felt it necessary to dismember music box ballerina fairy.
  • Nod sympathetically while grinding teeth when four-year-old tells you wings were not purple.  Try not to roll eyes.
  • Think of a way to use wing dismemberment to teach life lesson.
  • Help four-year old write a letter to the Fairy Queen apologising for ripping wings off said ballerina fairy. Request Fairy Queen’s forgiveness and new wings.
  • Place letter in music box and place music box on mantelpiece to await reply from the Fairy Queen.
  • Congratulate yourself on great parenting.

Day Two

  • Scour art shop for purple acetate. Find none. Settle for pink acetate and purple glitter.
  • Cut out new fairy wings from pink acetate while holding ballerina fairy still so Swan Lake does not alert four-year-old to operation replace ballerina fairy wings.
  • Smear new wings with glue and sprinkle with glitter.
  • While glue dries, use needle nose pliers to twist plastic wing-holding-screw off back of music box ballerina fairy.
  • Mutter words unbefitting of Fairy Queen when head of plastic screw breaks off.
  • Glue new wings directly onto fairy. Apply pressure for several minutes.
  • Place music box on top of cupboard (out of reach of four-year-old) so glue can dry. Pray glue is strong enough to withstand four-year-old.
  • Congratulate yourself on great parenting.
  • Post great parenting status update on Facebook.
  • Sit in self-congratulatory afterglow of good parenting until unnatural silence permeating house sets off alarm bells.
  • Find four-year-old sitting under rocking chair in bedroom, using foot to operate touchscreen on your cellular phone.
  • Delete great parenting status update and replace with update requesting information on how to remove precious baby photos of four-year-old from inoperable phone.

Day Three

  • Call cellular repair shop because Facebook friends have no idea.
  • Sigh in relief when repair man says new digitizer only costs R140.
  • Try not to calculate how much ballerina fairy music box has ultimately cost in petrol from driving all over Cape Town searching for her, retail price and repairs.  Because you can’t put a price on four-year-old’s happiness.
  • Congratulate yourself on great parenting.

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slippery slope http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/30/slippery-slope/ http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/30/slippery-slope/#respond Tue, 30 Jul 2013 12:42:00 +0000 Yesterday, I posted two articles on Facebook. The first, entitled: Can You Tell the Difference Between A Men’s Magazine and…

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Yesterday, I posted two articles on Facebook. The first, entitled: Can You Tell the Difference Between A Men’s Magazine and a Rapist? reported on a study conducted jointly by researchers from the University of Surrey and the University of Middlesex, found that:

people can’t tell the difference between quotes from British “lad mags” and interviews with convicted rapists. And given the choice, men are actually more likely to agree with the rapists.

The second was a blog post entitled Cover Up by the author, Alison McQueen. She wrote it in response to the “brouhaha” that has arisen since a British supermarket gave Lad Mags like Loaded and Nuts six weeks seal their magazines in modesty bags or risk being taken off the shelves. Then she went on to recount how as an eleven year old girl, she was confronted with the explicit images that objectified women along every step of her way to school.

It made me feel frightened, and vulnerable, and worried about my future. It made me feel like a potential victim without knowing why. It made me look at the ground and walk past quickly when I was barely 11 years old.

Responses on my Facebook page to the first post ranged from “Scary” and “Frightening” to this one:

John One significant trouble with these mags, I think, is the disconnect between appearance and reality. They feed us with fantastic appearances such that we forget what’s real. I fancy that probably many more women than we know just can’t stomach dirty talk, for instance, and upon hearing it, desire shrivels up within them.

Responses to the second post agreeing with the supermarket were not so positive:

  • Lisa I don’t know – I don’t think that offence is a sufficient reason for censorship, otherwise so many things would end up being censored. Freedom of speech is more important than preventing offense. Obviously one has to make sure that kids are not exposed to things that they should be, but adults are different.
  • 16 hours ago · Like
  • Jason Do you really think that nudity, or semi naked women on the cover of a magazine in a shops shelf will corrupt a young mind! I don’t! If children are brought up with a healthy open and educated mind then its no real biggy for them.
    16 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Lisa  Also – why just cover up naked women? What about the women on Cosmopolitan and other women’s mags? They presumably offend a number of devout religious people, who would also, presumably, consider them poor role models for their children. And what about leaders in commerce on the covers of business magazines – their valorisation, presumably, would offend some socialists / communists – and would corrupt their children (on their opinion).
    16 hours ago · Edited · Like

    I have no short answers to these comments, hence this blog.

    Freedom of Expression/Speech is a fundamental ideal and one of the cornerstones of democracy. So it should be.  But it’s an ideal too often trotted out as the be all and end all of what makes us as a society. Restraints on Freedom of Expression operate in every democracy around the world. We censor the things we deem too damaging to our society be allowed into the public sphere. We have rules. We have laws. We decide what we value and we design our democracy accordingly. We set up the ideal, in this case, Freedom of Expression, and then we make exceptions. 

    Child pornography is an exception to freedom of expression. Woah, you cry, the child isn’t of the age of consent. True, but we censor even fake images of child pornography, images where the “child” is an actor over the age of eighteen. Why do that? Why censor the pretense of children having sex? Why ban an animated film depicting sex with children? What’s wrong with pretending to have sex with a child? Or a cartoon child? What’s wrong with getting off on sexual media involving a child if it isn’t real?  In South Africa, the UK and many other countries, owning an image that depicts sex with a child is considered a crime. We allow citizens to engage in sexual fantasies of everything from barnyard porn to rape fantasies, but you just need to look at a picture of child pornography, even a fake one, and we’ll slap the cuffs on you. It’s a thought crime. The most extreme curtailment of freedom of expression. Why? Because we want to protect children from abuse. We worry that if our citizens are allowed to get off on images of children, on thing will lead to another and…

    Hate speech is another curtailment of the Freedom of Expression ideal. We don’t allow expressions of hatred toward someone on account of that person’s colour, race, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. We do that because there’s a higher value here than Freedom of Expression. We want to create a tolerant society, where people are not free to breed the kinds of hatred that lead to horrible things like apartheid and genocide.

    So am I a prude that thinks images of nudity or semi-naked women will corrupt young minds? That depends. What is the purpose of the image? Does the image objectify women? What does that image say to my daughter/your son about being a woman? Does the image contribute in any way to a culture where young men don’t know that non-conseual sex is rape? 

    I don’t hide my body from daughter. Nudity in our house isn’t taboo. We bath together. She bathes with her dad. She sees us naked and  gets to run around in our back yard sans clothes all summer long. Do I think this corrupts her? Nope. I think this is healthy nudity. It’s a natural kind of nakedness and I think it shows her that there is no shame in her body.  I’m happy for her to see images of naked people that make her feel unashamed. But I’ve got to ask, does an image of a woman peeling off her sexy underwear while sticking her breasts or backside out, licking her lips and lowering her eyelids imprint a healthy attitude onto my daughter’s mind about her body and sexuality? What does it tell my daughter or your son about the role of women in society?  It’s an image that’s pretty much de rigueur for the cover of Loaded, FHM, Nuts, Playboy, Hustler and every other Lad Mag out there. And kids are getting bombarded with those images every time you take them shopping.
    What about the slippery slope eroding civil rights? If we say this kind of content shouldn’t be on display for our kids, what about other kinds of content that offend other groups? No one is asking adults to stop looking at images that turn them on. Go ahead, masturbate away. Download pornography to your hearts content if that’s what floats your boat. But let’s stop exposing young children to the wholesale objectification of women as sex meat. We’re sexualising our children too young, and in all the wrong ways. 
    Early imprinting creates a neurological blueprint that impacts on behaviour for life. Your young child’s brain is a sponge, sucking in data from every direction. That row of Lad Mags in the supermarket contributes to the gender perceptions of our sons and daughters. You’re deluded if you believe that your influence as a parent negates the bombardment of material objectifying women. The Strubenville foot ball players that raped a sixteen year old girl, urinated on her and then circulated the video of the crime, weren’t taught to behave that way by their parents. Allegedly, they were good kids, normal kids, not much different from their peers. They didn’t even think that what they were doing was very wrong. It’s considered normal for teenage girls to circulate selfies in which they try to look like the sex meat on the cover of Lad Mags. Did their mother’s teach them to stick out their butt while peeling down the straps of their lacy bra, or did they get it from someplace else? 
    I want to be able to choose to look at sexual images or pornography. I want you to be able to choose. But I don’t want those images forced upon my four year old daughter because she isn’t yet able to contextualise them. These images are damaging. I’m tired of it being considered normal to objectify women and treat them like pieces of meat to be flipped over for a good rogering. I’m tired of rape jokes. I’m tired of the rhetoric that degrades women. We live in a world where we think this is normal and we’re imprinting these perceptions of “normal” on our kids by over exposure to media that objectifies women and contributes to a culture of sexual violence. Slippery slope? Rape culture has become the norm. We’ve been sliding down that particular slippery slope for decades. These magazines contribute to that. 

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for the brave, young woman who offered me her chair http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/18/for-the-brave-young-woman-who-offered-me-her-chair/ http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/18/for-the-brave-young-woman-who-offered-me-her-chair/#comments Thu, 18 Jul 2013 15:01:00 +0000 http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/18/for-the-brave-young-woman-who-offered-me-her-chair/ Social media has created a weird, multidimensional world for nerds like me. Where once, you ended up kicking yourself upon…

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Social media has created a weird, multidimensional world for nerds like me. Where once, you ended up kicking yourself upon returning home from every social occasion because the retort to something Clever Clogs said over dinner only popped into your head while brushing your teeth, now even the socially inept have opportunities to make witty quips. Without the handicap of a tied-tongue, and the breathing space of being able to compose (and edit) status updates and tweets, even the shyest of the shy can come across as gregarious, funny and sharp. This is why writers love social media. It’s allowed us to connect with other human beings, to actually ‘socialise’ instead of finding a wall to lean against at at parties and hope everyone thinks you’re just cool and aloof and not a pathetic wallflower with no mates.

You! Pathetic wallflower? 
Having seen me at my book launch, you might think I’m being disingenuous. Not so. This confession will haunt me forever, but here goes. I was on drugs at my book launch. Not drug drugs, like Bret Eason Ellis, but a little purple pill that makes me brave enough to stop shaking, think (which is important when you’re being interviewed about what you, well er, think) and speak. In essence, I have a way I imagine myself to be before stepping into the limelight, and a way I actually am when confronted by a bunch of strangers staring expectantly at me. The two live on opposite sides of the planet. Until I swallow a beta blocker.  An hour later, the funny, smart woman that my friends know kicks the shy butt of the kid who couldn’t ask for ham at the deli counter off the stage. Don’t judge me. I’m not the only writer out there with this prop. When I confessed this to a fabulous famous author friend, she dittoed. And no, I will not out her, so don’t bother asking.
What has this to do with being offered a chair?
Everything. Little purple pills are not a staple in my diet. Like a bottle of Moét, they’re only brought out on very special occasions.  Literary festivals. Book launches. Of my own books, obviously. On Tuesday night, at the launch of Charlie Human’s debut novel, Apocalypse Now Now, a young woman crossed the crowded floor of The Book Lounge to tell me how much she loved Sister-Sister. And then, she offered me her chair. I was flabbergasted. Nothing like that has ever happened to me. 
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Yes, okay. People have come up to me a literary events and complimented me on my work, but I was being spotlighted at those times so primed to respond graciously. On Tuesday, the kid who couldn’t ask for ham responded. I didn’t engage with her as I would have liked to. What I did was turn into a beetroot and I may have even thrown my shawl over my head.
Later, when I’d had time to think about all the things I should have said, I looked around and she was gone. I didn’t get to tell her how incredibly touched I am that she read my book and that she told me she loved it. At the very least, I would have liked to ask her name so that I didn’t have to call her a young woman in this post, which makes me sound like a granny and is really disrespectful, considering that she crossed a crowded room to offer a stranger a chair. That’s brave.
Which is the thing I want to tell her, most of all. That I think she’s brave. Braver than I’ve ever been. 

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#bestSAbooks? Explain yourself Zadok! http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/17/bestsabooks-explain-yourself-zadok/ http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/17/bestsabooks-explain-yourself-zadok/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 09:10:00 +0000 http://rachelzadok.com/2013/07/17/bestsabooks-explain-yourself-zadok/ Before I get into big trouble, thought I best explain myself. A few days ago, a fan of Gem Squash…

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Before I get into big trouble, thought I best explain myself. A few days ago, a fan of Gem Squash Tokoloshe and Sister-Sister asked me to recommend a list of South African titles because, despite being an avid reader, she hadn’t read much local fiction.

In the interest of transparency, I must confess that the connection between said fan and me isn’t actually through my books. We have a history that goes way back. Bronwyn and I met in college; I was an art student, she a hairdressing student – which is ironic because Bronwyn is now a freaking talented photographer who runs her own studio, Heart & Soul Photography. Now that I think about it though, she bloody hated hairdressing. After college, we went our separate ways into the wide world and lost contact. Decades later she saw some hoo-hah in a newspaper about Gem Squash Tokoloshe and, because we were once buds, bought it.

We reconnected through Facebook (as one does) and she told me was how much she loved my book.  This immediately put her on my A-list – as you know we authors are insecure and like to surround ourselves with sycophants. Kidding. Bronwyn is one talented tattooed cat with a wicked sense of humour and a passion for recreating vintage pin up. Needless to say, when I went up to Joburg, we made a date. There, we drank whisky into the wee hours and cemented our friendship. And that, as they say in the classics, is history. Our history, at least.

Back to books. Through Short Story Day Africa, of which she is an official sponsor,  Bronwyn became a passionate supporter of local literature. But, having come late to the party, she missed out on some great titles – it’s not like we writers are front page news around here (except on BooksLive and Aerodrome etc, obviously). So, last night when I got home from a book launch, I started tweeting all the books I loved and thought she might too, adding the hashtag  #bestSAbooks.

The two reasons I did this are: the hashtag #booksyoumightlikeBronwyn is far too long, and after chatting to Bronwyn, we decided that a tag other people could use to recommend their best South African books would be a good promotional tool for local literature.

My list is by no means definitive. I’m tweeting the books I liked and think Brownyn will too. I haven’t read everything out there -who has? A little help from my friends would be greatly appreciated. Please, join in. Tweet your recommendations of #bestSAbooks.

And readers, know these recommendations come with the proviso that you look ’em up and decide for yourself whether you want that title on your bookshelf. Just because we all have a thirteen digit barcode attached to our name, doesn’t mean we all have the same taste.

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Short Story Day Africa 2013 – The Interview! http://rachelzadok.com/2013/06/13/short-story-day-africa-2013-the-interview/ http://rachelzadok.com/2013/06/13/short-story-day-africa-2013-the-interview/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 15:59:00 +0000 http://rachelzadok.com/2013/06/13/short-story-day-africa-2013-the-interview/ As part of the Short Story Day Africa 2013 celebrations, we’ve compiled twenty-one interview questions our followers want to know about…

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As part of the Short Story Day Africa 2013 celebrations, we’ve compiled twenty-one interview questions our followers want to know about writers in Africa.
Global support for the project is growing. Participate! Post your answers on your blog before 21 June 2013, then forward the questions to another writer.
But, if any question makes you blush, just write blush and skip it. We’re not going to force you to disclose.
In the spirit of participation, I’ll go first.

The Interview

  1. Do you actually enjoy writing, or do you write because you like the finished product?
Sometimes I hate writing and it feels like every word I pull from my taxed brain leaves a headache in its wake. Othertimes it flows and I’m living in a different world. I write for Othertimes.
  1. What are you reading right now? And are you enjoying it? (No cheating and saying something that makes you sound like the intelligensia).
The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst. I know I’ve been saying that since the beginning of June, but that’s how long I’ve been reading it. Short Story Day Africa keeps me busy, what’s your excuse?
  1. Have you ever killed off a character and regretted it?
  1. If you could have any of your characters over for dinner, which would it be and why?
Joe Saviour and Next-Door-Auntie from Sister-Sister. I’d love to see them get drunk and argue about religion. It would be a hoot.
  1. Which one of your characters would you never invite into your home and why?
Oom Piet from Gem Squash Tokoloshe. I can’t watch people with bad table manners eat, and imagine he’d slurp the soup and suck the bones of the lamb chops.
  1. Ernest Hemingway said: write drunk, edit sober. For or against?
Definitely for.
  1. If against, are you for any other mind altering drug?
Does the American government monitor blog posts as well as emails? I’m still hoping for a big US deal and don’t want to ruin my book tour by not being let in to the country.
  1. Our adult competition theme if Feast, Famine and Potluck. Have you ever put food in your fiction? If so, what part did it play in the story?
The only food I can remember writing into a book was the one egg and mouldy potato in Sister-Sister. It was a plot device to show the characters couldn’t stay where they were.
  1. What’s the most annoying question anyone’s ever asked you in an interview?
What have you written?
  1. If you could be any author other than yourself, who would you be?
Neil Gaiman. He’s like the rock star of writers.
  1. If you could go back in time and erase one thing you had written from your writing history, what would it be and why?
I’m a slow writer. If I erased one thing, it would make me a debut novelist. Ask me again in twenty years.
  1. What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?
I once told someone at a party that I was a writer, even though I had just left my job in advertising with the idea that I might pursue a life as a writer. I hadn’t actually written anything yet.
  1. If someone reviews you badly, do you write them into your next book/story and kill them?
With hot skewers.
  1. What’s your favourite bad reviewer revenge fantasy?
Making them eat every copy of the bad review.
  1. What’s the most frustrating thing about being a writer in Africa?
Being told your work is not relevant to a global audience.
  1. Have you ever written naked?
  1. Does writing sex scenes make you blush?
  1. Who would play you in the film of your life?
In a perfect world, that French actress that played Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. In an imperfect world, I don’t mind anyone other thanScarlett Johansson and Keira Knightly.
  1. If you won the Caine Prize for African Fiction, what would you do with the money?
I’d go somewhere I’d never been before.
  1. What do you consider your best piece of work to date?
  1. What are you doing on 21 June 2013, to celebrate Short Story Day Africa?
Working my butt off  uploading stories, giveaways and other Short Story Day Africa things while drinking champaign. Then I’ll probably crawl into bed with all the stories writers shared for SSDA and just enjoy reading them.

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