The Oscar Pistorius publishing industry is already in gear. One of the first titles out of the blocks is ‘Oscar: An Accident Waiting To Happen’, an account of Pistorius’s relationship with ex-girlfriend Sam Taylor, from the perspective of Taylor’s mother Patricia, with journalist Melinda Ferguson. If you’re wondering how they managed to make an entire book out of a relatively short-lived relationship, the answer is: with surprising ease.
“I am still somewhat surprised by the fact that I have written this book,” Melinda Ferguson confesses with disarming candour in the book’s afterword. Her bemusement is understandable: Ferguson is a gifted writer, and while she does her best with the available subject matter, many will see her talents as unnecessarily deployed in this instance.
Patricia Taylor, too, feels the need to pre-empt the inevitable skepticism that will accompany this product. “Why on earth would I want to write this book?” she questions at the outset. It is a query that some may feel has not been answered satisfactorily over the course of Oscar: An Accident Waiting To Happen, or OAAWTH, as I will abbreviate it henceforth.
Can you imagine having your ex-girlfriend’s mother write a tell-all book about your relationship? Even for those of us with placid love lives, the thought is exceptionally cringeworthy. Taylor offers a number of different motivations as to why she’s done it: to set the family free; to protect them from lies and threats from Pistorius’s inner circle. They’re not totally convincing. There are other Pistorius ex-girlfriends who have maintained complete silence, with apparently no detrimental repercussions: his long-term girlfriend Vicky Miles, for instance, whom he describes in his autobiography as the “big love” of his life. Not a peep out of Vicky, or her mother.
Patricia Taylor has made a decision to insert herself prominently into the Pistorius narrative. The day of the shooting, she was already staking out her position: “I am so glad that Sammy is safe and sound and out of the clutches of that man,” she wrote on Facebook: words reproduced endlessly in early media accounts seeking to make sense of the shooting.
Now she has written a whole book about her daughter’s relationship with Pistorius. Inevitably and understandably, she will be accused of cashing in – though from the sounds of things, the Taylors don’t need the cash. (Trish waxes lyrical about their Somerset West home.) It’s hard to know what function she really expects the book to fulfill; her negative assessment of Pistorius’ character can have no bearing on the outcome of his murder trial. One gets the sense that her daughter’s bit-part in Oscar Pistorius’ life has come to occupy a central role in the Taylor family mythology, and that above all Trish Taylor needs to unburden herself of five words: I knew it all along.
There is always somebody who claims to have clearly seen disaster coming after the fact, and Taylor has bagged that position for herself in the Pistorius saga.
Trish Taylor seems like a nice, caring woman. (We are repeatedly reminded of the force and magnitude of her mothering instincts.) You can imagine settling in with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and having Trish confide the story of her beloved daughter Sam’s relationship with Oscar, and it would probably be a helluva diverting afternoon, especially as the wine hit. If this scenario strikes you as alluring, you are the ideal reader for OAAWTH. You will need to be armed with a pretty obsessive interest in Oscar Pistorius, however, because otherwise the minutiae of his relationship with Sam Taylor may begin to grate.
Sammy, as her mother calls her, also seems like a nice, caring young woman. At the risk of condescension, it was hard not to feel sorry for her on the witness stand during the Pistorius trial. She seemed painfully young and was clearly deeply wounded by her relationship with Pistorius. Young love is often wounding, but OAAWTH does present Pistorius as a pretty crap boyfriend: moody, volatile, self-involved, philandering. And he never even brought a slab of chocolate to the Taylor household, Trish records with some bitterness.
The overwhelming question I was left with, however, was how someone like Trish Taylor would be comfortable letting her 17-year-old daughter co-habit with a gun-toting professional athlete. We are told that Samantha Taylor spent virtually the entire November of her Matric year shacking up at Pistorius’ pad. Taylor is clearly an extremely involved parent – more of this anon – and her willingness to pack a daughter in high school off to a playboy celebrity strikes one as both strange and troubling.
Not that Trish didn’t have reservations from the start. She wasn’t mad about the idea of Oscar dating Sammy because he had no legs, she admits honestly. She was worried about that. She was particularly worried about what would happen when the family went to the beach. “Could he walk on sand with his legs?”
But the Taylor family was clearly seduced by Pistorius and his fame. “In his first-ever race at just 17, Oscar had become a world champion and broken the previous record by an incredible 48 seconds. My mind still boggles at the enormity of that!” Taylor records breathlessly. Err, yes, except he broke it by an incredible 0.48 seconds, not 48 seconds.
Hanging out with Ozzie, even when he was in one of his rare good moods, doesn’t exactly sound like a riot. “We spent time watching all his ads and clips on YouTube”, she recalls of one memorable evening. “He made us laugh so hard on Skype one day when he used a funny programme that put different masks and hats on him”.
There is, in truth, little in the book to illuminate Pistorius’ character beyond what was already exposed by the prosecution in his murder trial. The picture that emerges is of a deeply troubled young man, which isn’t exactly news to anyone who followed the trial closely. The extent of Pistorius’ insecurities is pretty eye-opening, though. The image of Pistorius weeping down the phone to the Taylors while he was expected on stage to receive his medal at the Olympics will put a further nail in the coffin of Brand Oscar: Invincible Olympian.
A six-page email sent by Oscar to Sam and Trish is reproduced in full. “This is my most personal shit,” Pistorius writes at one point: not any more! It makes for quite dreary reading, though those seeking evidence of darkness in his soul will find satisfying flashes. “Most of my adult life I have had moments that I sabotage the good that I have,” he writes. To say the least.
Pistorius’ self-pitying streak is on full display here. Referring to his Vaal River boating accident, he writes: “It breaks my heart when people joke about it.” But you’d have to be entirely devoid of compassion not to feel a bit sorry for him, too, particularly when he admits to feeling jealous of her close-knit family: “Sure [sister] Kerrie wears your clothes and your dad is away from you at times but the love and respect you all try and show each other is true love.”
But the book is also a reminder of just how cosseted and protected Pistorius was by the sporting establishment and the media up till the shooting. We are reminded, for instance, that Oscar Pistorius’ place at the London Olympics was won at the expense of athlete Simon Makgawe, who had faster qualifying times. Makgawe said afterwards that he was “sad and hurt”, because if he’d been included in the team, “I would have been able to prepare for any competition without worrying about what my family was going to eat”. It’s a different world.
One impression that is impossible to ignore is that Mrs Taylor is way too involved in her children’s relationships. At times there appears to be a conceptual slippage about who is actually dating Oscar: Sammy or Trish. “I couldn’t shake that anger inside,” Trish rants at one point. “After everything, after all the support and endless hours of listening…to be treated like this!” Then a light goes off in her head. “It was over. We just couldn’t go on like this.”
It appears that it was Trish Taylor, rather than Sam, who actually ended the relationship with Oscar. “I don’t want Sam near you…it’s over,” she tells him. “Over. We’re done.” Relationships, it seems, are a family business chez Taylor.
Though Taylor avoids spelling out her verdict of what she thinks happened on the morning of 14 February 2013, her feelings are clear. “Who knows what [Reeva] might have said to Oscar that night that could have hit a nerve?” she speculates. But of course, Taylor knows nothing more about the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp than the rest of us.
Breaking up with Oscar, Trish Taylor yelled at him over the phone: “I am over your fucking bullshit. I don’t care what happens to you any more.” Many of us feel the same way.
via Daily Maverick