TITLE: THE WIG AND THE STREETS AUTHOR: EMMANUEL AYOOLA GENRE: FICTION (SHORT STORIES) NO. OF PAGES: 96 YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2022 ISBN: 978-1-100-21549-5 PUBLISHER: - REVIEWER: ONIS SAMPSON
The feeling that your eyes are glued to a screen, the staccatos and legatos of laughter that holds you moment after moment while reading this collection and relieves you of weeks of stress, the angst and pain and indignation evoked from the experiences of characters, the relatability of the characters, amongst others, are some of the unique experiences you get from reading this beautiful work of literature. Brilliantly written with language rich in figurative expressions and devices and stories hard to forget, this collection is a testament to Ayoola’s mastery of good storytelling.
The collection revolves around the experiences of young Nigerian lawyers—how they get paid peanuts by senior lawyers, the antics of courtroom drama, the underhandedness of police officers in handling bail amongst other shoddy practices of theirs, the struggle to survive and the existential query to continue with legal practice or seek alternatives. These sorts of experiences are given lucid and lively treatment in this collection of unforgettable stories.
While the stories in this collection treat serious themes, the author does not fail to spice up the reading experience with well-timed doses of witticism and humour. One humorous passage to illustrate is the scene where the protagonist goes to a makeshift lavatory in the first story:
I was doing the buckle on my belt when I noticed the various adverts pasted on the lavatory wall. One read, “BUY STOCK FISH AT CHEAP PRICES, CALL 08657827412.” “What a place to advertise stockfish,” I mused.
With interesting titles like; ‘We do not have a closing time’, ‘The Police is your friend’, “The Jollof Errand’ and a host of others, many other humorous scenes would play out in the book.
“We will give you Experience” got me laughing for much of it. The character of Chinedu is very relatable—the typical young Nigerian youth fond of giving accolades and singing the praises of someone because of what he or she wants to get from them. And then the title of the story reflects the experience of the protagonist at the end of the day—this is a story of a young lawyer who goes to a law firm for an interview but is offered a paltry salary, as is common amongst law firms in Nigeria, and is told by the Principal of the firm that he shouldn’t be concerned about the salary and that he stands to gain more from the experience he would get working at the firm.
I love how the stories build up in the collection, taking the reader from one level to another— in terms of beauty and utility.
“Sit down! I am your Senior” is a story of seniority at the bar, of a senior lawyer’s insecurities about his professional status in the legal profession and how this influences his disposition—telling exaggerated stories of his heroic deeds in court, amongst many other acts. Barrister Chukwuemeka, the main character of this story, is a man full of intrigues.
“When were you called to Bar?” is a story of seniority at the Bar, of ego, and of things along that line. The main character’s neutral and detached response to Barrister Prosper’s demeaning question sets the scene aflame with rage. As ever, Ayoola’s descriptive prowess shines in this story too. I like how he describes the courtroom at the beginning of the story, creating a compelling visual experience for the reader.
Overall, I enjoyed reading “The Wig and the Streets.” Lovers of fiction, members of the Bar and the Bench, civil rights activists, and other spectrums of society would love reading this collection. I very much recommend the work.
The book is available at www.thewigandthestreets.com.
Onis Sampson is an award-winning Nigerian author, poet, short-story writer, playwright, and practising lawyer. His collection of poems, A City is talking inside my head was published recently by Proofnet Press. His poems and short fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry, Authorpedia, Tuck Magazine, Noise Medium, Praxis Mag, and African Eyeball anthology.