Shelf Life

Celebrating African fiction

The fall issue of Agni will feature African fiction, as well as the “Muse of the Gecko’’ and other works by Nigerian artist Victor Ekpuk. The fall issue of Agni will feature African fiction, as well as the “Muse of the Gecko’’ and other works by Nigerian artist Victor Ekpuk.
By Jan Gardner
Globe Correspondent / November 7, 2010

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African drumming and dance will herald a new collection of contemporary African fiction on Wednesday. Agni literary magazine, based at Boston University, is publishing half of the 21 short stories in the print edition of its fall issue and half at Agni Online.

Gathering the stories was a joint undertaking by Nigerian writer E.C. Osondu, a winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, often called the “African Booker,’’ and Agni senior editor William Pierce. Osondu, who teaches at Providence College in Rhode Island, is on a roll. His debut story collection, “Voice of America’’ (HarperCollins), has just been published.

In the introduction to the collection, Osondu and Pierce write, “No matter their style or approach, these stories take on the religious, financial, militaristic, bureaucratic, and domestic arrangements of their several African societies (whether nation, city, or village) with a directness — that to a reader of recent American fiction feels courageous and often breathtaking.’’ The stories encompass the everyday and the extraordinary: A woman devises a unique revenge for her rapist. A colonel investigating a coup plot seeks information from a parrot. A retired couple comes to terms with the luxury hotel that casts a shadow over their home.

The celebration begins at 4 p.m. at Boston University with a discussion, moderated by Osondu, about the ferment in African fiction. Four writers — from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria — with stories in the collection will participate. At 7 p.m., these writers will read from their fiction and answer questions. Senegalese percussionist Lamine Touré will open and close the evening, which will include a performance by the BU Kenti Wala Dance Ensemble. Details at

In the name of sport
Eddie Shore was a man of extremes. Born in Saskatchewan, he went from beginner to professional hockey player in five years. During his 14 seasons in the National Hockey League, the combative Shore spent the equivalent of more than 20 hockey games in the penalty box and propelled the Boston Bruins to Stanley Cup victories in 1929 and 1939. Newton author C. Michael Hiam’s “Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey’’ (McClelland & Stewart) captures the excitement and the violence of a hockey legend from a different time, a time when thousands of adoring fans cheered as Shore made a grand entrance to the soaring notes of “Hail to the Chief.’’

Comings and goings
In a twist on business as usual, a couple of online booksellers have opened a brick-and-mortar store. Tom and Martha Veitch’s Old Bennington Books sells used, out-of-print, and rare books. The new shop in Bennington, Vt., specializes in nonfiction though it carries mysteries, children’s books, and classic novels as well. . . . Cornerstone Books in Salem closed its doors last week after almost five years in business. Owner Gilbert Pili decided he didn’t have the time to devote to the shop and had hoped to find a buyer.

Coming out
“Full Dark, No Stars’’ by Stephen King (Scribner)

■ “Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane’’ by Franya Berkman (Wesleyan University)

■ “The Killing of Crazy Horse’’ by Thomas Powers (Knopf)

Pick of the week
Kenny Brechner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Bookseller in Farmington, Maine, recommends “Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit’’ by Catherine Rayner (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): “This is a charming picture book about shape, scale, friendship, and moose. Ernest is too large to fit on a page of his own book. Kids will love the fold-out problem-solving surprise.’’

Jan Gardner can be reached at