What will make a woman want to cut off her husband’s penis?
The quest for the answer to this question is a trick Damilare Kuku deploys in forcing the reader to breeze through ‘Cuck-Up’, the first story in her debut collection of short stories, ‘Nearly All the Men in Lagos Are Mad’.
In this fitting opening story, a family meeting starts the drama. The meeting is to berate a wife for threatening to cut off her husband’s penis. The husband’s family members take turns to paint her black but they are shocked when the answer, tucked away towards the end of the story, is revealed. Before a reader realises it, he or she is far gone into this story of a woman forced by frustration to think of committing ‘abomination’ on one of the mad men who populate the ‘carnivorous city’ of Lagos.
This trick also finds full expression in ‘A Lover’s Vendetta’, a story which begins with this line: “If we ever meet again, only one of us will leave the encounter unharmed”. A reader is bound to wonder: Why? This story narrated by Orode is about how she meets and marries Dele. Their marriage is not blessed with children and they keep trying both orthodox and unorthodox methods. Unknown to Orode, there is a big secret the mad man called Dele is hiding. She is shattered when she finds out.
In ‘The Gigolo from Isale-Eko’, a friend narrates the story of Ignatius, a chronic womaniser who can go to any extent just to have a woman and never hesitates to jump off once he has achieved his aim. He marries and unmarries as the situation demands.
Another of the twelve stories in this collection, ‘The Anointed Wife’, is about a pastor and his wife. Narrated by the wife, it tells of her efforts to wriggle her husband out of a scandal. She issues press releases after press releases and doctors CCTV footages to support her position, but a statement her husband normally makes when in the heat of passion points her in the direction of the truth she is doing so much to run away from.
There is bound to be moments of laughing out loud while reading ‘International Relations’. In this story, Kuku regales us with the travails of a lady, whose frustration with the mad men in Lagos, leads on a wild goose chase for white men. From Ilupeju to GRA Ikeja and then the Island, she searches until finds one in her sokoto and ultimately takes a harsh decision.
Wait for this: ‘Ode-Pus Complex’ will make your day. It is about an Igbo guy, Uche, and Yoruba lady, Yejide. The title is a play on oedipus complex. Uche is a confirmed mummy’s boy and finds it difficult to break ties with his mother. Yejide likes him and the sex between them is otherworldly. Uche’s mother sets conditions she must meet to marry her prized son.
The jolly ride that is ‘First Times’ is an experience readers of this book will not forget in a hurry. In this story, Ivie lays bare her life. How she starts having anal sex at sixteen, how her mother constantly carries out virginity test on her and how Idris, her boyfriend, is a brute whose expertise includes knowing that the hotel owner changes the mattresses every six months. The story tells of her first love, first anal sex, first orgasm, first lost fight, and first time cheating on the madman she called husband. It is a tale of firsts.
The story titled ‘Catfish’ is narrated in first person by three characters: Don, a fast-rising musician, Dooshima, a girl just coming out of heartbreak, and Edikan, her friend who is schooling her in the art of keeping men with the right sexual skills. This tale with a sad twist highlights the perils of friendship and the pros and cons of virtual sex.
In ‘Side-Lined’, Odilii suddenly appears in Genevieve’s life and turns it around. They go from places to places, copulate like it is going out of fashion and spend money like it is easy to make. As cool as they appear, Odili never takes pictures with Genevieve and she knows next to nothing about his life when they are not together in the Lekki home he bought for her or on any of their trips together. Something is not right about him, her gut tells her but she ignores all and learns the hard lesson the hard way: Odili, the one she calls Oddy, is one of the many mad men in Damilare Kuku’s Lagos.
Odili’s madness pales when compared with Biodun, Otunba and Dipo in the story titled ‘Beard Gang’. The men in this story are rich but they are cowed by a society in which they cannot be their “authentic self “and forced to live a lie in Lagos high society. They have wives, have children but they also have secrets their wives stumble on and are forced to live with. The wives eventually form a support group for women like them. Through this group, they let out the heat of the ovens they call homes. These men are pastors, senators and businessmen and they buy their women’s silence with expensive gifts, properties and cash.
The last but one story, ‘I Knew You’, reads like the confessional of a man who loves a woman too much he can’t keep her. Sadiq, aka Sid, prefers co-habitation with the love of his life, Layo. Marriage scares him. He is a different kind of mad Lagos man messed up by his parents’ sad love life. He believes marriage destroys love.
The last story in the collection, ‘Independence Day’, is narrated by a woman raped on an October 1st and sixteen years later, on another October 1st, she runs into the mad man who raped her. Their kids attend the same school and they meet in the school premises and memories, sad memories, pour like a damaged tap.
The themes that leap out of the pages of this book set in Ilupeju, Ikorodu, Yaba, Alimoso, Banana Island and Victoria Island include infertility, spousal deceit, adultery, tribalism, sex in the house of God, closeted bi-sexual men of Lagos and so on.
The characters in this book are men and women we know, they are our friends, our neighbours, our course mates and at times us. We see and meet them every day. They are no strangers to us. We can relate with them. Easily.
For lovers of kinky stuff, Kuku’s sex scenes will make them offer a word or two of prayers for her. They are raw, gritty and unapologetic. With appropriate diction and syntax, she takes the reader into the bedrooms, the kitchens, the hotels and every other place imaginable where the mad men in this book display their sexual prowess and leave the ladies asking for more.
Told in vivid, easy-to-access language, this book parades stories in first person, second person and third person points of view. With its conversational to epistolary and more styles, this book will give a bear hug that lasts far beyond the embrace.
All in all, Kuku has gifted us a popular read, which has all the potential to sell and sell and continue to sell. All thanks to the wit, the juicy scandals and the mad men in the tales.
Lastly, if you are battling with a reading slump, try this book and chances that you will get your groove back are very high!
***Olukorede S. Yishau is the author of ‘In the Name of Our Father’ and ‘Vaults of Secrets’