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Spud – Learning to Fly by John van der Ruit PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 January 2010 03:41

Following on from its best-selling predecessors, Spud and Spud – The Madness Continues, the third instalment of Spud Milton’s schoolboy diaries charts his diabolical stagger through adolescence and the mayhem that ensues during his year in boarding school as a senior. Spud, now 16 and in his own words “practically a man in most areas”, has to cope with a vindictive arch enemy, a garrulous Malawian, and the crazy antics of his friends – the group of misfits known to all as the Crazy Eight. Along the way he also has to deal with eccentric school masters, an unpleasant discovery concerning fried fish and Wombat (his grandmother), and the trials and tribulations of his semi-arid love-life. In coping with these and other challenges thrown up by boarding school, Spud leads the reader on a hilarious journey through teenagerdom, complete with his own candid observations of his physical, sexual and social development. Spud’s teenage angst is set against the background of 1992 South Africa, where, despite the unmistakable scent of radical change in the air, Spud fears the return of “a government of twelve seventy-five-year-olds in safari suits” and is determined to convince his conservative parents to Vote Yes for Change in the upcoming referendum. South Africa’s bumpy road to redemption mirrors Spud’s comic journey as he finds his way through another trying year and takes his first cautious steps towards manhood.


The penultimate book in a series which has raised the bar for South African comedic writing, Spud – Learning to Fly is a witty account of a year in Spud Milton’s life. Replete with achingly funny anecdotes, John van der Ruit’s treatment of the British boarding-school novel has caught the imagination of the South African reading-public, and has found audiences from all age groups. The Spud series has been credited as “getting kids to read again” – and the attention to detail that van der Ruit’s own experiences at Michaelhouse in Kwa-Zulu Natal lends to his writing has been appreciated by schoolboys from all over South Africa, and beyond. Indeed, the popularity of the Spud series has prompted the powers that be to translate the first novel into film, with an adaptation of Spud starring John Cleese as the headmaster on track for a 2010 shoot and cinema release.