Tuesday, June 8, 2010

6ix Fang Marks and a Tetanus Shot by Richard de Nooy

It is not often that one finds a book that you read with a strange mixture of awe, delight, slight confusion, and sheer horror. 6ix fang marks and a Tetanus shot is one of those books.
It is mankind’s gain that Richard de Nooy finally decided to come out of the closet as a novelist. He has a wit as sharp as a mother-in-law’s tongue and is very talented scribe and artist. I say artist because it takes immense skill and talent to enthrall adults with a story like one would a pre-school group with a fairytale. While reading this book I, a bloody cynic, found myself in the same state of enchantment that I can recall whilst listening to my first grade teacher telling us a story.
In the foreword Richard warns the reader that you will be lied to. However, I caught myself on a few occasions actually believing every word of it. Descriptions of people and places are so authentic that one can easily believe it to be reality. Parts of the story are told by Ysbrand de Heer, presumably de Nooy’s alter ego. Is this one of the many twists in the cat’s tail? I still do not know what is fact and what is fiction and that makes it a remarkable and extremely well written story.
It is a tale of an extraordinary relationship between two brothers growing up in South Africa during the 70’s and 80’s in a somewhat dysfunctional family in a totally dysfunctional society. This tender and remarkable bond grows stronger as the brothers mature, primarily due to one’s proneness to accidents which leaves the other to pick up the pieces over and over again until one fatal day when the roles gets reversed. The bond gets cemented with a dark secret that the two brothers share and explains why Ace has the patience of a Saint with Rem’s frequent mishaps.
The reader gets transported back and forth in time and space; Johannesburg, Amsterdam and Namibia. The ingenuity with which the two brothers solve the problem of Rem getting hit by a tram in Amsterdam can only be described as brilliant and totally hilarious in its tragedy.
Rem takes on the role as a war correspondent who returns to South Africa. In doing so he manages to pull together bits and pieces that, at first might seem unconnected. But in the end each and every little snippet of information connects the events together, leading the reader deeper and deeper into the two brothers’ private hell.
Frequent quotes from e.g. Joseph & Schwarts regarding accident proneness are some of those snippets that serve to underline the absurdity of being a shit magnet as Ace puts it.
“Frankl (1963) studied a number of children intensively, reaching the conclusion that accident proneness is related both to the function of self-preservation and to the existence of certain age-specific conflicts in infancy, childhood and adolescence.”
Whilst following the brothers all the way from childhood to maturity ample examples are given of how the quote relate to the two boys.
Quite a few quotes will stay with me for a long time but to mention one:
“You are quite fokken stupid to be a student you know.”
What led up to that comment from a police officer involved a hand brake and an impressive intake of booze. Want to know what that was all about? Read the book! It is a superb story.
Initially a few things plagued me at the end of the book: I felt that void that comes with the conclusion of a ‘feel good book.’ I wanted to read more! And what the heck happened to one of the key characters when he disappeared like a bat out of hell, but true to form, in a much sneakier way? Is the darkest of secrets the brothers shared fact or fiction?
But then I learnt with pleasure that de Nooy have already completed a new book called Zacht als Staal (Soft as Steel) again narrated by JR Deo. Rem gets involved in the story about halfway through. He befriends the main character (a gay Afrikaans lad called Staal) and the readers of 6 Fang Marks and a Tetanus Shot will then learn what happened to Rem after he left Ace’s attic and how he became JR Deo.
I can’t wait to get my hands on the new book. I have already started going to gym to prepare for the bloody combat, with my wife, that is sure to erupt if I dare to try and read it first.
6ix Fang Marks and a Tetanus Shot is a brilliant story told by a man who possesses an intense understanding of human nature.
The book is published by Jacana and also available at Amazon and kalahari.net


mairefisher said...

I really want 6F to become a cult novel, discussed late into the night by those who know how it all began, unravelled and what everything means. Only to be countered hotly by those who know, have watched it all unravel and understand fully what everything means. And then, it must become a movie, with great voice overs!

Paul Mayne said...

This is a provocative story - just as you have described. But even more thought provoking that much of it is how I remember South Africa and the people. People who know South Africa from that era will be left with a nagging prayer and hope that it is mostly fiction. Unfortunately it could easily all be true. I loved it and have recommended to all my friends.

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