Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Still Kak? By Tim Richman And Grant Schreiber
A brainwavez.org Literary Review

South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 8 June 2009

Just how kak is South Africa? Well, ask any citizen about his or her particular issues and you're likely to hear that it's all pretty kak. To combat the problem South African authors Tim Richman and Grant Schreiber keep publishing new books that tackle kakness. Why? Because South Africans don't know how to fix anything but at least they can buy a book, have a laugh, and keep a local publishing company afloat during the recession. Or something. It's all so kak, who can keep track?

Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Still Kak? by Tim Richman And Grant SchreiberTim Richman signs my bookBefore I jump into this review, I need to add a little disclaimer. I have been immortalised (well, politely thanked) in the acknowledgments section of Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Still Kak? as one of the people who contributed ideas and feedback to it (due, primarily, to topics - including non-voters, Tom Cruise, and The Coconuts - that came out of the conversation I had with co-author Tim Richman last year when I interviewed him for brainwavez.org regarding the first book in the series). I had no idea that any of the ideas had been used or that I had been officially thanked until the book had already gone to print. While I am most appreciative (and, yes, I think it's pretty cool!), it has not influenced my opinion in this review.

Additionally, if you are not that familiar with South Africa and don't know what "kak" means I suggest you read the interview first, as Tim Richman defines it quite eloquently. Well, as eloquently as one can, really.

After the success of the first book, Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak? The Whinger's Guide To South Africa From AA To JZ, which is a bit of a mouthful to say, the authors quickly set about working on a sequel, with a slightly shorter title (Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Still Kak? 2Kak 2Furious) and more irreverent humour that slaughters the occasional sacred cow as it taps into the contemporary South African Zeitgeist.

It's a worthy successor to the first volume - in fact, dare I say that it's better in many respects, most notably the topics that are covered. The first volume was weighed down a little by some of the subject matter it had to cover - all the topics you would expect to find in a book such as this, many of which are quite taxing subjects to read about, even in a humourous publication (yet you would be irritated if they weren't included). This book is lighter, and funnier for it. With most of the heavy topics out of the way some of the less soul destroying, yet equally frustrating, irritations in life have been given their moment in the spotlight. The result is a fun sequel with humour that has more punch and, in some ways, is more in tune with South Africans' daily experiences and irritations, rather than being a focus on the overbearing political nightmares and scandals to which we are subjected every day in the newspapers and on TV.

The first book also has a bit of a "we must pack everything we can think of into this" feel to it, whereas the second is more relaxed (and while the page count is the same as the first the font size is actually bigger, so that's awesome for you if you have bad eyes but kak if you're into value-for-money equations having to do with word density and retail cost-per-letter calculations).

One thing I didn't like so much about the sequel is that there is a lot of cross referencing both within its own entries and to entries in the previous book, as well as the occasional footnote appended to some of the entries... in a tiny, tiny font. While interesting (in terms of the content of the footnotes) and a great reminder of how - frustratingly - everything kak is interconnected, the cross references do get a little tedious at times as it's distracting, both to the topic being covered and the rhythm that's critical to the humour*.

Thankfully this is my only gripe. The subjects that are covered are diverse and appealing and it's definitely not a rehashing of the first book. In some ways this is an unfortunate indictment of the level of kak we experience in South Africa but at least we can laugh about it.

I hope there will be a third book (in fact, my hope is actually that the series will continue indefinitely as it is a wonderful way to document, chronologically, some of the bizarre things that happen in this country). South Africa is a magical place filled with the weirdest drama, insanity, and the kind of kak that one can only laugh off and then write a book about.

The two volumes both make excellent gifts and the content is also accessible for foreigners who want to understand South African culture better - even if they do not specifically understand all the references - but, of course, the books are especially suitable for any mildly irritable South African (over the age of 18, due to some of the content) and - let's face it - that's all of us.

*And I say this as one who frequently does exactly the same thing on my blog.

Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Still Kak?, by Tim Richman and Grant Schreiber, is available locally in South Africa in good bookstores nationwide, or you can order it online through Kalahari.net, which ships internationally.


brainwavez.org Opinion
Rating: 8/10
Entertainment Value: 7/10


Key Facts (Review Copy)
Title: Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Still Kak?
Authors: Tim Richman, Grant Schreiber
ISBN: 9781920137267
Publisher: Two Dogs
Edition: First
Year: 2008 (December 2008)
Format: Softcover/Paperback
Pages: 141
Dimensions: 128x198x13mm (WxHxD)
Genre/Keywords: contemporary, humour, non fiction, politics, South Africa


On The Internet


Elsewhere On brainwavez.org
Feature: An Interview With Tim Richman, South African Co-Author Of Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak?
Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak? The Whinger's Guide To South Africa From AA To JZ
Now that we're over this year's Valentine's euphoria (you know, the five of you that were actually experiencing it) and sugar highs from Easter chocolate, it's back to the business of cynicism. Although most of us at brainwavez.org are skilled practitioners of the art, we're not the only masters. Recently Two Dogs published Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Kak? The Whinger's Guide To South Africa From AA To JZ. We spoke to co-author Tim Richman about aspects of the South African experience that unite us all in a way that even Nelson Mandela couldn't.
By: Mandy J Watson  |  Posted: 11 April 2008  |  Add Or Read   | Category: Books > Features


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