Ndumiso Ngcobo
Ndumiso Ngcobo

Auctioning Kgomotso to the highest bidder

I believe that there is a dearth of insightful, incisive yet irreverent and witty social commentary on these shores. Look, our publishing houses churn out enough political commentary and biographies. And of course there is a market for that type of work. But if I see yet another 1 100-page book on the arms deal, I might lose my mind and go postal on the attendants at my local Exclusive Books.

I’m in the middle of a book tour of sorts promoting my latest work, Is It Coz I’m Black? Well, “book tour” is a bit of a stretch. Long story involving the cheapskates masquerading as my publishers. We writers are generally treated as a necessary evil in this industry; just marginally less important than printing ink. In any case, a recurring theme has been emerging on my travels. From journalists interviewing me, callers to radio stations to attendees of book signings I’ve been on, everyone is saying the same thing: “Why is there not more irreverent, politically incorrect commentary? We can’t get enough of it.”

This brings me to why I’m writing this. I know where the impious social commentary is. It’s inside people’s brains. What people, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see, I believe that at the core of why readers want to read unfiltered, uncensored commentary is because it makes them feel normal. And people like the reassurance that they belong within the confines of the “normal curve”. They like knowing that they aren’t the only ones who have wondered whether people with passion gaps are scared into believing in God by that whole “wailing and gnashing of teeth” threat in Revelations.

It is the same reason people are drawn to talk shows. I was recently having a conversation with Kgomotso Matsunyane, host of Late Night With Kgomotso, the late night talk show that airs on SABC 2 Saturday evenings. Well, before the first season ended recently in any case. I was the head writer for the first season of LNK, which pretty much makes Kgomotso my boss. She is also a founding partner at T.O.M. Pictures, the production house that has spawned the Emmy Award-nominated series Sorted, SABC 1’s A place called home, the motion picture and the latest season of Soul City among other projects. Bear with me; I’m going somewhere with this resume.

Now, here’s my problem. I’m going around the country and readers are moaning about starvation of smart, sharp social commentary. And I’m sitting across from a smart, witty, brash, totally politically incorrect, highly opinionated woman — who can write. Did I mention that she’s also a former editor of O Magazine? What am I missing here? So I ask Kgomotso whether she’s thought of having a book published or at least have her column published. First off, she says, having those columns published would be “a cheat”. Secondly, yes she’s willing to write a book, “… if somebody asks”. And therein lies the rub, methinks.

You see, if this opinionated, quote-per-second, midget-sized late night TV talk show host, television and movie producer, former presenter of a show titled Pillow Talk and former editor of Oprah’s mag were living in New York, she’d be on the New York Times bestseller list already. But our publishers are too busy publishing books about how we’re all victims of crime. Coincidentally, Kgomotso tells me that her first foray into the literary world is a chapter she contributed in a book titled At Risk, the second instalment of the series edited by Liz McGregor and Sarah Nuttall. Yes, it’s a collection of stories about the contributors’ first-hand experiences with crime. And I’m confident that it’s a good book; an important book.

I don’t know about you but I’d personally be much more interested in what Kgomotso thinks about matters of life, not of death. Is Oprah a nice person? Which guest on her talk show almost made her discharge her dinner on the spot? Which guest made her instantaneously broody? What does she think about our celebrity culture? Why are my Sunday mornings ruined by Mandla Mthembu’s mugshot and how he can’t pay his Lamborghinis week in, week out? When we pay our TV licence fees (or not as the case may be) what on earth are we paying for? What does she think about the Helen Zille harem (not my words) down in the Cape Colony?

The more I kept talking about this, the more her eyes started lighting up. As a matter of fact, she says to me, the commencement of the second season of LNK has recently been pushed back by a couple of weeks. She could very easily find the time to write this book, ” … if only somebody asked. Appropriately”. I get this line of thinking. Kgomotso studied in the US, you see. Her frame of reference for being “asked” to write a book “appropriately” is, no doubt, influenced by that experience.

In New York, the publisher would give you a generous advance, agree time frames and let you do your thing. That’s how it works pretty much everywhere else. That’s because, as my author friends Niq Mhlongo (After Tears) and Fred Khumalo (Bitches’ Brew, Touch My Blood) have pointed out to me after their respective ventures to the Americas and Europe respectively, other nations take the art of writing seriously. They understand a simple concept such as the fact that physical discomforts and creativity have never been comfortable bedfellows. Abram Maslow wrote at length about this phenomenon way back in 1943. If you want a writer to produce high-quality work, she must have the option to drive to the Berg and quarantine herself for three weeks, away from her daily distractions. Meanwhile, back at the Mzansi ranch, writers have been known to interrupt never-to-be-recaptured creative thoughts to fetch their 4-year-old terrorists from crèche.

I want to read this book by Kgomotso. It will be a guaranteed bestseller, I am certain of that. So I have asked her if I could start an auction for her signature among our publishing houses. I will use a two-pronged approach.

1. Directly putting it out there that she is willing to take some time out to write this book.
2. Using this space to invite the highest bidder.

The results should be fascinating. I may even manage to twist her arm and give a progress report on these pages. For the record, all powers of attorney rest with me on this project. My boss is a busy woman.

Bidding starts now.

[email protected]

  • http://www.obama.com Phillipa Lipinsky

    My, oh, my Ndumi, methinks you have a thing for Kgomotso. Why go through all this trouble for her?

    Anyways, I do love her show (even though I wish she would laugh a little less and talk a little more). I also got the sense she didn’t read Mark Gevisser’s book when she invited him. The self-styled “sympathetic biographer” kept explaining the book and referring to Mbeki as “strange”- as if we didn’t know that.

    Kgomotso is very bold and not afraid to make fun of prominent politicians (such as Zuma and Mr I-won’t-sue-that-woman-who-falsely-claimed-to-have-slept-with-me-because-I’m-so-generous-Mothlante).

    But really, it’s very snobby to say she’s waiting to be asked to write a book. She needs to write it and send it to publishers THEN SHE WILL GET PAID.

    Also, I think Oprah should do more to promote South African authors. She really loves SA and claims to be Zulu (even though, admittedly, there were no Zulus when slaves were taken to America) As we know, ethnicity is as much a colonial construct as nationality. Anyways, let’s say she’s Zulu, then she must promote her brothers and sisters,no?

  • Lebohang Thaisi

    Phillipa you are right, Kgomotso is not as good as Ndumiso makes her to be. It’s indeed snobbish of her to expect publishing companies to ask her to write a book. I doubt she knows what’s it like to get a rejection slip from these prominent book houses. Let her try her luck.

  • http://pitsotsibs.blogspot.com Pitso Tsibolane

    I love Kgomotso too, she is as witty and clever as they come, and she has a huge fan base i can guarantee you that! I am definitely waiting to see the book…and here is my invitation : Ausi Kgomotso please write a book :-) then i will pay you by reading it…after you write it off course.

    Now Ndumiso, if she is your boss of sorts, can we then call this article very serious “brown-nosing”? Nice read dude.

  • http://hardtalk Siphiwo Siphiwo

    Will it have cartoons?

    😉

  • http://Yahoo Benjamin Oshry

    Ndumiso, upon your recommendation I am certain someone will snap her up.

    @Phillipa: Are you making a complement or being sarcastic? One can never tell with you. But it’s nice to see you calm and not hurling insults at someone.

  • http://kwerekwere.blogspot.com mundundu

    lebo:

    in the “real world” [which is, oh, anywhere that you can’t get the sabc on free-to-air television or — and i swear i’ve done this in benin — via plugging in your hair dryer, toaster, and television in the same outlet as the aerial], if you’re even moderately famous, *someone* will approach you with a book. they may even ask you to sing a song or two on a track as well. seriaas.

    people keep telling me i should write a book. maybe i will. if i do, i’ll see you and dumi get autographed copies.

  • Sipho Lukhele

    I personally think that publishing companies don’t have the time to sit and speculate about people desires to write books. I think you forget to mention Niq Mhlogo’s dog eat dog and Fred Khumalo’s after tears.

  • http://www.spoken.co.za/blog/6 Lehlohonolo Phadima

    Ndum…Ndum, i like you and all – and on your “if I see yet another 1 100-page book on the arms deal, I might lose my mind and go postal on the attendants at my local Exclusive Books” I feel you, 100%. i think we’ve had enough of the arms-deal already, or that sort of authoring.

    But, i’d like to agree with Phillipa that Kgomotso needs to laugh less, and talk more. In fact i suspect i was put off by the laughter…kinda gives off a desperate whiff, even when she could really be funny – gets in the way of a joke, like Debra Patta gets in the way of an interview… or even better, the Judge from the Cape…who has a talk show on eNews channel – that sort of thing drives me to the wall!

    But maybe i may just like the book…

  • Steven Kuo

    I don’t think South African’s read enough. You only find exclusive books in the fanciest malls like Cavendish and Waterfront and when was the last time you gushed and handed over 150 rand for a flimsy book? And besides long street where else are there decent bookshops?

    I am living in the UK now and I’ve spent plenty of time in Asia. At both these places, everybody is reading all the time. On trains, on buses, garbage man, mail man everybody. South Africans simply do not read for leisure and that’s why there is such a dismal publishing market.

    You can’t expect publishers not to try and balance their books… this is unfortunately how life is.

  • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com/ Lyndall Beddy

    Phillipa

    You are watching TV? I thought you did nt own a TV set?

  • Sipho Lukhele

    Steven, I beg to differ. The question here is not about reading, because South Africans do read. How do you explain the huge sales of daily sun newspaper if that is the case? The question is supposed to be about South Africans buying books. I would agree with you that they don’t buy books and would rather buy a cd. To prove what I am saying, try to borrow them a book and see if they won’t come back to borrow more.

    I had the same notion as your self a few months back and that has since changed. The other question of them not reading so much is the language issue. Why are we not getting books in our own African languages? I am for one love reading Zulu books but you just can’t seem to get them any where.

  • Sandile

    Mapholoba! You see there are many books that reside in our minds, yet they become worth our while once they have been written.

    Just reassure Kgomotso not to think too hard about writing but to simply get down and dirty the page. Reassure her: if she’s has got the It that itches, writing is after all not a tall order.

  • Sandile

    And before I forget, bidders come in all shapes and sizes!

  • Zama

    Steve, no one reads in CT, its either the beach or the tick. The idea of a mail man reading isn’t comforting. That could be my business that has him so amused. South Africans don’t read? Tell that to Exclusive books, they keep opening up shop at every mall, and not just the fancy Cape Town ones Steve mentioned. Unless my mother’s not telling me something, I’m pretty sure I’m a reading South African, but I read for leasure and reserve that for the comfort of my own home, not my place of work like these UK garbage men and mail men you speak of.

  • http://kwerekwere.blogspot.com mundundu

    zama —

    relative to other countries, and not just first world ones either, south africans don’t really read.

    honestly, i have seen better book selection on the streets of harare and dakar than in exclusive books, which is a pretty kak bookstore, if you’ve had the experience of serious chain bookstores.

    i’ve had to *import* adequate reading material for my son; these saffa bookstores don’t cut the mustard. thank goodness for having friends who work for fedex; otherwise i would be dealing with ghastly shipping fees.

  • http://www.obama.com Phillipa Lipinsky

    @Lyndall: The show I’m talking about was broadcast last year. Yes I do watch TV. We have TV in our home, just not in the house in which my husband and I live.

  • mpho

    Some of my best friends are white was a bomb, so why did you bring it a notch or two down on it is ‘cos I’m black.

  • Cavan

    @ Phillipa Lipinsky

    It is evident from your first comment (May 27th) that you comprehensively missed the point of Ndumiso’s post. That whole saying about ‘a miss is as good as a mile”… a mile, relative to your comment, isn’t a miss.

  • Zizou

    What exactly did Kgomotso study in the US? I’m asking because her shallowness makes her a typical product of the US education system which only scratches the surface. Listening to her I cant put a finger on anything and figure out what she might have studied. If Kgomotso is as good as Ndumiso Ngcobo is making her out to be, she would write a book, pure and simple, she wouldnt try to impose a US system of advances on SA.

    Anyway if she were to write a book, what exactly would she write about? IF she is good, what is she good at? This article is nothing but Kgomotso’s cheap marketing ploy, she is behind it.

    Theres a misconception that speaking good English means you are smart or that you are what other ignoramuses think you are. The tragedy is that this misconception is growing among black South Africans and is one of the reasons some people are mediocres, they’ve got and know nothing except making noise in English.

    I cant believe the rubbish that black radio and tv presenters (dont care about others) spew on air which is only picked up by those who listen carefully, and they think they speak good English (with fake confidence). And their shallow fans go along with that.

    The future belongs to those who can use their brains, and not to those who put everything into speaking ‘good’ English (thats Kgomotso’s league), English that is not good in some instances.

  • Zizou

    People are getting used to EASY MONEY. Ive never written a book but am not going to be led to believe that thats the most difficult exercise. Kgomotso must work hard(er) if she wants more money.

  • Zizou

    What exactly did Kgomotso study in the US? I’m asking because her shallowness makes her a typical product of the US education system which only scratches the surface. Listening to her I cant put a finger on anything and figure out what she might have studied. If Kgomotso is as good as Ndumiso Ngcobo is making her out to be, she would write a book, pure and simple, she wouldnt try to impose a US system of advances on SA.

    Anyway if she were to write a book, what exactly would she write about? IF she is good, what is she good at? This article is nothing but Kgomotso’s cheap marketing ploy, she is behind it.

    Theres a misconception that speaking good English means you are smart or that you are what other ignoramuses think you are.The tragedy is that this misconception is growing among black South Africans and is one of the reasons some people are mediocres, they’ve got and know nothing except making noise in English.

    I cant believe the rubbish that black radio and tv presenters (dont care about others) spew on air which is only picked up by those who listen carefully, and they think they speak good English (with fake confidence).And their shallow fans go along with that.

    The future belongs to those who can use their brains, and not to those who put everything into speaking ‘good’ English (thats Kgomotso’s league), English that is not good in some instances.