22nd Sep 2015 1:52pm | By James Clark
I talked to author Gari M Joubert, about his book Uptown Saturday Night Downtown Sunday Morning. Described as Gonzo journalistic, reminiscent of beat-era writing and with a very unique story, the book has been making ripples on social media since its release in May this year. Joubert’s unorthodox philosophy and approach to writing places him in a rare position to account his unflinchingly honest story of a young man and his companion’s attempts to navigate a society from which they are totally disenfranchised. Painting a hard scene of lives both lived and halted he describes what life was like for those who were part of this particular sub-culture; the alternative Durban in South Africa, which lay underneath the veneer of white privilege and economic success.
Why should we read the book?
The book is a white knuckle ride in a hot-wired car with the door handles ground off, which drives deep into your own personal psyche. It also gives the reader a unique insight into a near secret history of a facet of South African sub-culture that flourished during the apartheid era.
It’s an interesting title, how did you come up with it?
The title was born of the stories taking place predominantly in the heart of the city on a Saturday night and culminating in the protagonist’s apartment (downtown) on a Sunday morning.
The book has many different layers and levels to it, can you give some insight into them?
Uptown Saturday Night Downtown Sunday Morning is written in such a way that as each layer is peeled back it exposes the rawness of the human experience and the lengths that the protagonist and some of the other characters will go to, to escape this.
What are some of the main themes of the book?
The main theme looks at the protagonist’s rejection of the prescribed path and the ensuing unconscious and conscious struggle to materialise from this with innocence and love intact. Others themes such as the scrutinisation of the metaphysical dynamics of our relationships with each other and our environment, are examined through the lenses of absurdism and existentialism amongst others.
What are the underlying themes of the book?
The underlying themes of the book are concerned with relationships, most notably the one we have with ourselves and the ensuing conflict that arises from this. It’s also very much about our relationships with others, the despairs and dynamics of these, which both affect our struggle to create authenticity in our lives.
What influences shaped your literary interests?
Writing influences for me are multiple and mostly uncontemporary: ranging from classical, specific Victorian and earlier 20th century literature, Nineteenth Century Russian, depression and post-depression era, Apocalyptic, to pre-beat… and so much more.
What are you planning to write next?
I am currently working on a book of poetry due out next year, as well as a follow up to Uptown… set in London in the mid 1990’s, which also follows the unhinged psyche of Du Pont as he meanders through Europe and Asia over a ten year timeline.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
The artwork isn’t reminiscent of any particular era, lending it a timeless quality, which is what I like about it. I wanted a design that was singular and deliberately enigmatic as covers go, so that it wouldn’t create any preconceptions in the mind of the potential reader.
I notice you have published an Uptown soundtrack on Facebook and YouTube– how did you compile this soundtrack?
The “soundtrack” was lifted from the pages of the book… it plays in the background, and sometimes in the readers face, as events unfold through the story. As people on social media kept enthusing about this aspect of the work, the editorial team went through the book and compiled this music onto a soundtrack on YouTube not long after it was published.
What was the timeline process for the writing of book?
From 1985 through to 1988, I wrote a series of short stories.
From 1996 I worked intermittently on several versions of the book, completing a new version of Uptown in 2002.
In 2010 I re-edited and rewrote this version and submitted it the following year to publishing houses who expressed an interest and through 2012 I edited and rewrote aspects of it.
In December 2014 I revisited this version and spent the next four months doing another edit. All culminating in April of 2015 when I began the process of publishing through Amazon.
Finally can you leave us with a snippet from the book to entice new readers?
“The tape deck spits into Alice by The Sisters of Mercy and Vic drums out its rhythm on the dashboard. Cats-eyes on both sides of our middle lane cruise jump out at me from ─ seemingly beyond the range of the headlights! I start losing them up ahead as we prepare for take-off. Pushing my head deep into the porthole window as we pick up speed I watch the strips of landing lights running into the distance where they join. I make out the lights of Windhoek, a soft glow-worm on the horizon. I think of Satara: her thick golden brown hair spiralling down onto my chest and cough up a lump of congealed blood, swallow a surge of bile as the dark ground below disappears. I push the muzzle of my nine millimetre into my mouth, tonguing the barrel opening. If only I was a man... The night sky is night, and we climb up into it. Now I see Windhoek glittering below us ─ and I can see Satara waving goodbye, God it looks like Satara, must be the stars in my eyes... Everywhere else is night desert-grey and as we climb higher, gradually turning north, I look back and watch the lights of Windhoek fade until swallowed by night. I taste the nausea of fear in the tail-end of my saliva and give up my search for the trigger”
And another snippet.....
“The sun cracks a cerise crease on the horizon, trees cling to shadows. Then, orange-red rays catch the top of the hills above us inflaming the grass copper-green, creeping down the slope, consuming everything in explosive orange implosions.
We sit mesmerised, our hitch forgotten in day’s birth.
Slowly the sun slips down, burning new areas into copper, orange and yellow. Within half an hour we’re soaking in all its glory, fanned out like black swans on an island of vegetation... Perhaps I romanticise ─ I’m sure to others we look like a couple of worse-for-wear Gutter-Goths passed-out in the BP station gardens. Saturday comes to life and the road to Johannesburg picks up; we’ve the day to get there... and you never know how your luck will run on the return journey ─ maybe one lift, all the way home! We deserve that much.
The after-burn of the acid sparks on the horizon.
The sun’s warm.
This is a non-returnable affair, when was it ever anything else? ─ And today’s