And so begins a new year of New Yorker stories. Starting with:
This story by Uwem Akpan began well enough, steeped in conflict. The narrator, a Nigerian priest on his way to Lagos to beg aid for his parish from the wealthier charges, is stuck in a traffic jam that is no ordinary traffic jam. Given rampant crime and corruption, not to mention the unreliable Volkswagen Beetle he’s driving, getting stuck in traffic could mean death. When his car does break down, he is forced to take the help of a tall stranger who, he believes, is concealing a gun in his pocket. The narrator, despite being a man of God, is terrified—of his new passenger, of the militias, of the police, of everyone. His fear gets worse and worse and it becomes hard to believe that he’s ever been able to function as a priest at all in Nigeria. And the tension mounts until . . .
But it drags on and on, way too long, in my opinion. And the ending is neither believable nor satisfying. At least we learned that Nigeria is corrupt. Oh wait. We already knew that.
January 4, 2010: “Baptizing the Gun” by Uwem Akpan