foreign gods, incorporated(an excerpt)
Okey Ndibe’s just finished manuscript, foreign gods, incorporated, is set partly in New York City, where a gallery caters to a new class of collectors with a taste for foreign gods and other sacred objects. The novel’s protagonist, a Nigerian-born cab driver in New York who is grappling with post-divorce financial woes and emotional hardship, decides to take a chance at stealing and selling his village’s god of war. With the quarry tucked away in his luggage, he must navigate sharp-eyed, grasping customs officers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport as well as other tests to his nerves.
Ike Uzondu swept his hand under the bed until his fingers felt the bottle of whisky. Using his shirt to wipe off its film of dust, he twisted off its cap. The rich scent of it assailed his nostrils, and his stomach heaved slightly. He never liked the smell of whisky. If he could help it, he never drank whisky. When he did, he first killed the smell with a liberal spray of coca cola. Nor did he care for its taste, unless it was mottled in chunks of ice and lemon juice.
Tonight, he was prepared to drink the whisky straight, braving its reek and its strong, burning taste. He was a desperate man. Besides, after tippling five-sixth of a six-pack of Guinness Stout, his better judgment had become somewhat impaired.
Inebriation impinged faintly on his senses. He had entered that zone, much dreaded by light drinkers, when the mind begins to dull, when fixed things take on a fluxed look, every movement seems either too animated or too languid, never balanced, the air in the nostril seems to suffocate with its heat, memory begins to fall asleep, to forget things you just heard, said or thought, when you fear you are getting drunk, but your drinking pride steps in, denies it, rebukes you for thinking such wimpy thoughts, so you end up drinking more until everything is black and you cannot remember anything, not sadness or happiness.
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Okey Ndibe teaches fiction and African literature at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and teaches a seminar in Africana literature at Brown University, Providence, RI. He is the author of the novel, Arrows of Rain, which has drawn praise from numerous critics and authors, including Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, John Edgar Wideman, and Michael Thelwell. U.K-based New Internationalist magazine described Arrows of Rain as “a powerful and gritty debut.” Ndibe, who has just finished a forthcoming novel titled foreign gods, incorporated, also co-edited (with Chenjerai Hove) Writers, Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa.
Ndibe, who earned an MFA and PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has taught at Connecticut College in New London, CT, Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, MA, and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Lagos, Nigeria.He served as the founding editor of African Commentary, a now defunct magazine published in the U.S. by novelist Chinua Achebe. From 2000 to 2001, he served on the editorial board of Hartford Courant where his piece, “Eyes to the Ground: The Perils of the Black Student,” won the 2001 Association of Opinion Page Editors award for best opinion essay in an American newspaper. He contributes to several publications in the U.S., England, and elsewhere, including Financial Times, Hartford Courant, The Fabian Society Journal, BBC online, www.guernicamag.com and www.drunkenboat.com.
Ndibe is one of the writers featured at the 2010 Kwani? Litfest, and this excerpt is from Chapter 11 of his just-completed manuscript