Sunday, December 6, 2009



This is the cover of the Dutch edition of Chanda’s Wars, out this January from Van Goor. I’ve included it here because I’m currently in the Amsterdam airport. I left home June 4 at 2:00 p.m., arrived here at 7:00 a.m. December 5, and am waiting for a fourteen-hour flight at 10:30 that’ll get me into my hotel in Jo’burg by the wee hours of December 6. (I love the cover it mixes cultures of dream and reality; how the landscape suggests the bush and danger, and the red, blood; and how the face of Chanda, while afraid, is full of courage and resolve: in short, it captures Chanda's Wars and the whole child soldier theme perfectly. After I’m back I want to blog about how different cultures reflect the same book differently in their covers. But in the meantime --

Whoever said, “Getting there is half the fun,” never traveled economy.

Honestly, what’s the best part of the experience for you? The man with the prostate problem wedged into the window seat who wakes you up every five minutes to go to the bathroom? The woman with the cold who sneezes her brains out all over your dinner tray? The drunks in the row ahead who recline their chairs into your lap and snore beer breath in your face? Or maybe the baby who keeps shrieking till you want to scream, “WHERE’S THE PILLOW?”

For me, it’s the two-year-old who thinks it’s majorly funny to kick the crap out of my chair back -- and even funnier when its mother says over and over “Please stop that, honey,” without doing anything. Far be it from me to knock modern parenting: I mean, I’m sure “dialogue” is very useful with children whose brains are less developed than the family pet’s. I’m just saying...

That’s why I always make sure to travel with ear plugs, eye shades, a blowup pillow and a bottle of Pams. I swear by Lorazepam. Daniel says it’s addictive; I say, “So is ice cream.”

Take it from me: if you’re diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder -- and these days who isn’t? -- scoring a good night’s sleep is a snap: “Hey Doc, I’m having a panic attack,” scribble, scribble, and you’re away. Let's face it, Pam is Ritalin for the middle-aged. Or, more precisely, it’s Valium with a makeover. And thank God for that is all I can say. Whenever I think Valium, I see June Cleaver vacuuming the stairs with a pitcher of martinis: Well, I don’t drink, I hate housework, and I can’t imagine myself in pearls.)


Fourteen hours later -- and a beautiful clear flight over the Alps and the continent of Africa, I have arrived in Jo’burg. I was met by the production driver, Sam Radebe, a very nice guy who walked me by the hand to the car. I’d forgotten men in subSahara do that. Have been put in a very nice cottage for the night in a complex behind barbed wire. The area isn’t so much about gated communities as gated blocks -- each street around here is a fortress wall with barbed wire and spikes on top, divided into lots, with a buzzer system at each locked gate -- many with private security posts.

Tomorrow the production assistant, Daniela Ramin flies in from Germany, and the three of us we drive to Mpumalanga province where the shoot is taking place. A very topographically varied province, but more on that later. All is well and I’m very excited!

See you on set!

UPDATE: The film adaptation of CHANDA'S SECRETS is called LIFE, ABOVE ALL and will premiere as an Official Selection at the 2010 Cannes International Film Festival.

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