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Leon de Kock Entertains the Audience with Bad Sex at Kalk Bay Books

Leon de Kock and Jane Taylor

The launch of Leon de Kock‘s latest novel, the transgressive and funny Bad Sex, took place at Kalk Bay Books last week. The author was joined by Jane Taylor in a discussion that prompted a vibrant, edgy reaction from his female readers, in particular.

Leon de KockBad SexDe Kock, a prize-winning poet, writer, translator and an academic with a nose for stirring contentious debate, put himself on the line on at least two points: expressing his sense that English academics do not properly support South African writers, and airing some of the issues around masculinity in the South African context.

On this latter topic, and the way it finds expression in the narrative of Bad Sex, fellow academics Sarah Nuttall and Lucy Graham in the audience were forthright in their criticism. Nuttall said that, as a woman reader, she had been able to follow the main character until the scene with the prostitute, the point at which the narrative lost credibility for her. Lucy Graham questioned whether the author wasn’t being disingenuous in his handling of the “meidenaaiery”. Afrikaans novelist, Karin Cronje, said she viewed the scene as relevant. “It is particularly hard for South Africans because of our political history. The whole thing backfires badly and he becomes his own victim,” she said.

De Kock said the narrative was not a redemptive one and it wasn’t his job as an author to save the white South African male. He went further, saying, “Some of Sammy’s story is my own. Some of it isn’t. I’m not saying which is which.”

Also in the audience was fellow poet and novelist, Finuala Dowling, who expressed her delight at the sheer wit and comedy of the way de Kock portrayed his tragicomic hero. She said she knew firsthand the treacherous path that one travels when attempting to write humour. She reflected on how naturally and effortlessly he appeared to have done this.

De Kock also spoke about the relentless challenge of being a writer and how he deals with the tormenting voices that undermine his confidence at the blank page. The art of translating – he is currently working on a novel by Ingrid Winterbach – is one way he primes the pump for his own creative endeavour. Settling himself in the landscape of translation conditions his faculties and facilitates the transition to engage with his own writing. “By the time I’ve been translating for a couple of hours, I’m hot for my own narrative,” he said.

After the launch, a queue of readers could be seen eagerly waiting for a chance to greet the author and have their copies of Bad Sex signed.

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Liesl Jobson tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:

#livebooks Conversation begins wi Leon de Kock & Jane Taylor. She says can’t read the book at the gym because of title! Sep 09 16:32:16 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks LDK: I didn’t choose this topic. It chose me. I’d write before work in the small hours in bid to defy institutional proscription.Fri Sep 09 16:40:11 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks LDK: There is erotica, porn, theory on gender, sexuality, women writing on women’s sexuality. Very little about men’s sexuality.Fri Sep 09 16:41:19 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks LDK rerences Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. His determinedly unapologetic point of view lends academic salvation to my book.Fri Sep 09 16:42:18 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Sammy grows up in virulently homophobic environment. When he’s seduced by a man it undermines his entire position, his security.Fri Sep 09 16:50:17 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks In production of South African masculinity, racist homophobia speaks of symbolic violence of White SA and its complicity.Fri Sep 09 16:51:53 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Writing is a form of revenge upon everything in the world that renders one obscure & renders one misunderstood by others.Fri Sep 09 17:01:15 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Sheer presumption that you can be a writer has always spooked me. Who gives you the right to write, little asshole?Fri Sep 09 17:04:32 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Nadine Gordimer said never show your work to anyone. Be your own guide only. This takes special kind of masochism. Like gambling.Fri Sep 09 17:06:57 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks Finuala Dowling says book is deeply funny. Very hard to write comedy, combines bathos, hilarity & tragedy. Last line brilliant!Fri Sep 09 17:33:56 via Twitter for iPad

#livebooks LDK says now writing a novel from women’s perspective. It’s called A Piece of Work! Not sure if he’s joking.Fri Sep 09 17:29:12 via Twitter for iPad

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