My college girlfriend was a tiny, big-eyed girl who rode the Santa Monica bus passing for ten years younger than she actually was. Add to this a cute, a coquettish demeanor and some well-practiced babydoll expressions and she paid half-fare. One day at lunch she told a joke she had heard about the Pepsi salesman who was boiled and eaten by natives in the heart of darkness. She then smiled, poked her dimples, and added that the cannibals ate the poor salesman, all but his Thing.
Of course the punch line is the explanation that Things go better with Coke.
Reading Alain Mabanckou’s novel African Psycho, I could only smile every time the author referenced the main character’s Thing. But much like the American novel with a similar title, the narration is often involved with a gruesome and deadly sexual attack, or projected attack.
Grégoire (Greg) Nakobomayo grew up on the streets of He-Who-Drinks-Water-Is-An-Idiot with the somewhat mythical bandit Angoualima as his hero. It is interesting to note that Angoualima had a Thing that brought fear and envy to all of the city (size XXXL according to the narrative, not to mention his having twelve fingers), whereas Greg’s Thing was known to let him down (as soft as a Bateke palm tree caterpillar). This is embarrassing, especially when Greg has dedicated his life of crime to raping and killing all the whores in town.
In the end all of Greg’s violent plans go for naught. Even his signature first murder is usurped by a pot-bellied railroad worker. His glorious life of crime and violence was nothing but self-delusion and, like the Son of Sam, Grégoire is finally confronted by his imaginary Master Angoualima and in a final delusion realizes the truth and presumably will go back to pounding out dents in damaged automobiles.
The parallel with American Psycho is, of course, that neither Grégoire Nakobomayo nor Patrick Bateman actually commit the violent crimes they imagine. The difference is that in African Psycho it is obvious whereas in American Psycho it is more subtle. Bret Easton Ellis also writes a much more stylish and quite a bit more gory novel.
Add African Psycho to your reading list.