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John van de Ruit

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Frankenstein’s Back!

Man those luscious days in Cambodia and Thailand feel like some time ago now. In fact even the Cape Town Book Fair has receded into the throbbing haze of talks, interviews and book signings. But let me resume from the very beginning and stagger forward in an orderly fashion.


Armed with a decent suntan, three signing pens, and a bubbly SE Asian inspired mojo, I set off for Johannesburg unsure of what to expect.

Sure I knew there was some anticipation about the new book, and yes I was warned that the launch may be a sizeable affair, but nobody gave me the category 12 hurricane warning! My first interview was meant to be a fifteen minute spot on the Rude Awakening on 94.7. It turned into a two and a half hour radio jamboree with Jozi’s craziest people. In fact I think Vern wouldn’t be out of place reading the weather. Anyway after our looney diatribe and being bogwashed by Whack-head Simpson I returned to my hotel in a twitchy mood and set about preparing my speeches for the launch and pacing around the hotel room in a nervous fashion. The weather was bitterly cold – even more so when you’ve just been through an 8 month summer and forgot to pack your jersey. Expecting the worst, I stepped out onto the Melrose Arch Piazza at 18:35 and my jaw fell open as I saw the queue which began at the signing table and stretched down the road and around the block. According to my publishers (who know these sorts of things) there were over 2000 freezing people waiting for me. Four hours later I was still signing away and grinning like an ape at the unfolding mass of humanity before me. What a night! What a feeling! So thank you to those who braved the cold and waited in line – your love and excitement was shattering. It’s official JOZI ROCKS!!!


After 5 days in freezing Jozi I flew South to beautiful Cape Town with British author Adele Parks. We didn’t stop talking (although she spoke far more than me) from the moment we were picked up from the hotel until we had been deposited in our hotel at the Cape Town convention centre. We covered all areas of life from the publishing industry in Serbia to the sex of Ricky Gervais’s cat. Marvellous stuff.

So everybody asks me how the book fair was this year and unfortunately I don’t have a clue. At my first signing the queue double backed on itself like a deadly snake with each fan armed with a sack full of Spuds. I did two signings a day and every single one was identical and just as crazy as the last. My third and final signing pen ran out on the second day and that was followed by several more. At least the flamboyance of my signature has greatly increased and for the first time I have been complimented on my scrawl. This was partly counteracted by the lady who informed me that I held my pen like a deformed baboon, which was a setback as far as signing confidence goes. It began to dawn on me that Spud is the Frankenstein monster let loose on the country and eventually the brute will destroy me too. I decided I couldn’t carry on and ran away. Unfortunately 4 Penguins jumped out of a nearby car with Madagascan registration plates and wrestled me back to my signing desk where a queue of hundreds waited patiently for their Frankensteins to be scribbled on.

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One Week to Launch

Spud – Learning to Fly will be launched next Tuesday, 9 June, in Johannesburg, and a whole slew of other places following that.

This may surprise you, but the over riding feeling i have after returning home to Durban after two months in Asia, is one of order. Now order isn’t a word one usually associates with South Africa – but there you have it. I am once again struck by the degree to which afro-pessimism frames so many people’s views when compartmentalizing our country. The other thing I have noticed since returning home, is the level of hype and anticipation about Learning To Fly. I expected a storm but this is looking more and more like a category 5 hurricane with a chip on its shoulder. This is the part of the job that always sounds the most glamorous to people, but can in some ways be more daunting than writing the book in the first place. The pre-publication launch, exactly a week from now shapes up to be a monumental event with my publishers determined to set a new record for a book launch in South Africa. I have warned them about the possibility of me developing an arthritic writing paw due to excessive book signing and hand shaking but it seems they thought i was joking. Now you may think this is a laughing matter (and it probably is) but Marian Keyes scared the death out of me at the Cape Town book fair in 2007 when she said that her arm had become mangled and deformed due to signing a million or so books too many. She was using a personalised stamp which made her seem like a fiery Irish librarian checking out books. I’ll do my best to avoid the stamp on the Learning To Fly book tour except of course for those of you who have an unnatural fetish for stationery.

And now for some apologies:

I apologise to the good people of Gauteng for the unseemly Spud, Learning to fly billboard that has been erected on the Ben Schoeman Highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. This is just the sort of grandiose prank that the Penguins are famous for – particularly when I’m away. A traffic jam is bad enough without having local literature rammed down your throat as you sit trapped and gridlocked between a minibus, another minibus, and certain death. An apology too for those readers who have to squeeze past grotesque columns of Spud books in bookstores on their way to more edifying literature. I say blame Harry Potter, he started all this boarding school craziness in the first place.

So the first copies of Learning to Fly were waiting for me upon arrival. Unfortunately my father was overcome with curiosity over what he might or might not have done in his recent past, tore open the envelope, and became the first citizen to read the new book. The good news is that his review was favourable, the bad news is that my father couldn’t exactly say it was a pile of brown- – at least without breaking my heart. It was a surreal experience to open the book and feel its pages between my fingers. So many words, and so much time spent on those exact words. It was the moment when Spud – Learning To Fly no longer was the subject of my life, but the object of my labours. That switch from subject to object is enough to short circuit a brain as small as my own.

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Cape Town Book Fair & Stuff

Cape Town Book Fair LogoSo this week it’s the second Cape Town Book Fair and I can’t wait. Judging by the response to last year’s event I would guess this is going to be even bigger and more intense. Unfortunately the Penguins have seen fit to schedule me for about 32 signings, talks and appearances in five days so I probably won’t get to experience as much as I would have liked. I’ll write back when I return and tell you all about it. Meanwhile, see below for an enumeration of the aforementioned 32 appearances.


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Spud Spread the Love Tour – May Dates

The “spread the love tour” for Spud – The Madness Continues, continues. We’re in KZN next week – here are the dates, places and RSVP info, hope to see you there!

THURSDAY 17 MAY – Pietermaritzburg

17h30 for 18h00
Exclusive Books Midlands (Homebru Launch)

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