Power, surfing, snacks and pleasure


Power, surfing, snacks and pleasure

KERNEELS BREYTENBACH surfs the bookshelves and decides to be more woke and tolerant.


THERE is one swear word everyone in South Africa knows. Eskom. You won't find that word in Robert Bryce's A Question of Power. Yet it is the one publication you have to read in conjunction with André de Ruyter's Truth to Power. This will make you realise exactly what a miserable mess South Africans find ourselves in — and what variations of this mess we have, thank heavens, escaped.

A Question of Power was published in 2020 and is being distributed anew in South Africa because its time has come.

Our country does get a mention in the book, thanks to Taryn Dinkelman who published research at Princeton University in 2010 on the way in which post-1994 electrification led to a huge reduction in unemployment, especially among women. Bryce quotes Dinkelman approvingly, but a lot has happened since 2010.

When one considers the way in which sabotage and corruption at Eskom have brought the economy to its knees, so much of Bryce's material is either disturbingly familiar or the shining light that illuminates the fog surrounding us.

Among other things, he tells of credit card company Visa admitting in its 2015 annual report that its biggest asset is not credit cards. They are only the mechanism by which people enter the electronic network of money trading. Electricity keeps computer systems running. Virtually every part of the economy is tied to those networks.

Also, we see how electricity has become one of the most important elements in modern warfare. That's why the Americans made sure that during their war in Iraq they strategically spared the power supply in some places but not others,  and why the Russians bombed key power plants in Ukraine.

Electricity is also used by crime syndicates in Lebanon to milk the population for extra income. They cut off the supply then charge people to restore it. There are many countries, most of them unstable due to organised crime, where power has become a critical commodity. That sounds all too familiar. Before long, we'll be keeping our computers and  communication systems running with power from ships. Are we going to pay more for it? Why even ask?

This book caused my distress levels to rise, but ultimately I'm glad I read it. Quite unexpectedly, I gained an understanding of Gwede Mantashe as a strategic thinker.

A Question of Power by Robert Bryce was published by PublicAffairs and costs R379 at Exclusive Books.

Two years ago, I saw the TV documentary series 100 Foot Wave. It shows surfer Garrett McNamara trying to tame the incredibly high waves at Nazaré in Portugal. Since then, Nazaré has become the nirvana of the surfing cult. Matt Majendie's book should be considered a supplement to the TV series, because since it aired a group of people has emerged whose sole focus is riding the highest waves at Nazaré. You could regard them as possessed, but one cannot help admiring them. After all, Nazaré is called the Everest of the ocean. The cover photo gives an indication of the superhuman claims analysed in the book. These days, there are also windsurfers who brave those waves, but my imagination struggles with that concept.

Nazaré by Matt Majendie was published by Wellbeck Publishing House and costs R480 at Exclusive Books.

Be honest. No one has the time and patience to bake a special kind of sweet treat on a weekday or prepare a snack to maximise the kick of those first two cups of coffee. Sarah Kieffer says most of her 100 recipes are actually best suited to be tackled on Saturdays and Sundays. This book isn't going to leave you out of pocket when you buy the ingredients, but if you're going to follow Kieffer's ideas — and they're charming, I admit —you're going to develop a weight problem. I took her advice on how make the best toast (you add oatmeal to your dough, among other things, and you use a bunch of unusual ingredients), even if it means baking your own bread to get it done. I tried her cinnamon and buttermilk rolls with slightly less success, but that's my own fault. You will read this, get hungry, and start cooking with Kieffer holding your hand. I'm having a hard time saying no.

100 Morning Treats by Sarah Kieffer was published by Chronicle Books and costs R615 at Exclusive Books.

I read this book with increasing discomfort. There is something pointless about a 70-year-old man reading about perfecting the art of masturbation. But if there's one thing I've learned in this age of wokeness and commissions of inquiry, it is to respect everything. Yes, I admit I've made mistakes along the way. Big mistakes. But I'm going to become a better person. I'm going to take seriously the normalisation that Florence Bark advocates here. The book contains, neatly in touch with our times, a reflection on marginalisation, but I'm not always entirely sure what it means. The rest seems like plain sailing to me, even though Bark's fantasies between her stocktaking are somewhat weak.

This Book Will Make You Feel Something by Florence Bark was published by Little, Brown Group and costs R379 at Exclusive Books.

♦ VWB ♦

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