What do you like about books?
In the modern world, books are the easiest way to pass stories around, and I have been in love with stories since I was a little child. My earliest memories are those of my grandmother telling us folk stories as she cooked supper. I would have loved to continue hearing stories orally, but unfortunately that is a dead tradition. The only option I have now are books, and each time I read a book, it seems like my grandmother is reading to me a story.
As an artist, what have you benefited from reading books?
I read books so that I can be able to tell stories well. The problem with many contemporary writers in Uganda is that they do not read a lot, and so they write stale and cliché stories. They believe that if you read too much, you copy what you read. Yet I believe that the more you read, the better you tell stories.
What kind of stories appeal to you?
I read everything and anything, as long as it is well written and is about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations. In my teenage years, I used to prefer thrillers. In my early twenties, I loved horrors. But now, I just read anything that I come across, though I tend to favour stories with a light topic, for example The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, which a fantasy adventure about a boy stranded in a canoe with a tiger. I would think twice before reading a book with a dark topic, like House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III, where everyone dies in the end.
Which character do you admire?
I admire Garp the most. He is the hero in John Irving’s The World According to Garp. I love the way his mother, a radical feminist, decided to conceive him, and I admire the way he ended up winning the love of his girlfriend, by writing her a story, which is very much the same way I won my girlfriend.
Which Ugandan books have you read?
I have read very few Ugandan books, not because I do not want to, but because Ugandan publishers do not like publishing our writers, and the bookshops do not have our books in stock.
I liked Fate of the Banished by Julius Ocwinyo, though the poor typesetting put me off. And it ended up not being a memorable story because the plot was not exceptional; the characters seemed to have been pirated from other works. It’s for the same reason that I failed to read past chapter four of Mary Karoro Okurut’s The Invisible Weevil, because she wrote about things that I had already heard of before.
Which are the most memorable books have you read?
There are many memorable books that I have read. What makes them memorable are ordinary characters caught up in extra-ordinary situations. The best of all is The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. It is a book I would love to read over and over again.
Which books are you reading?
Currently, I’m reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I bought it two years ago and tried to read it, but got distracted and shelved it as a chick-lit book. However, recently I was bored and picked it up again, and it turns out to be an incredible story about a daughter and her imprisoned mother.
It’s the kind of story that grips you, though it doesn’t fall into the thriller genre, because it’s about ordinary people struggling to deal with their lives.