Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Kill till the last breath": Mumbai terror strike

New terrorism stuff for real writers
Azmal Amir Kasab (not his real name, I suppose) is 21, handsome, educated, fluent in at least three languages, techno-savvy, and a master killer. He is the sole member of the Mumbai terror strike team, who remains alive as if as a historical necessity, as a clue to the ghastly plot, as a trail to whoever and which way the operation was masterminded.

Amir reminds me of Salman Rushdie's terrorist-protagonist in his brilliant novel Shalimar, the clown. But he was an illiterate Kashmiri guy, and the premise of his turning a terrorist was that her beautiful wife was eloped and subsequently abused by the American Ambassador whom he would blast to death in an operation.

We don't know anything about Amir's premise. But given his profile, it seems he took to terrorism by choice. Gone are the days when the terrorist outfit could employ only illiterate, poor and strong youths from the backyards of a country. Terrorism is a hot new industry now, and have many lures for the educated young folks. Remember Pheerboy who was arrested by intelligence agency sometime back? He was a top-notch executive of Yahoo.

During his training Amir must have fed on enough of radical Islam theology and rhetoric. ”Kill till the last breath!” is just one of those dictums. No wonder he killed at random as many people – innocents, police and army personnel, and foreigners – in as many ways as possible. He's a gigantic killing machine, and in his perception, men are just objects - no living things.

The intersting thing is, he did not even try to kill himself when he fell in the hands of Indian security personnel despite potassium cyanide with him. Which testifies that his survival instinct was intact in him and got the better of his master's tutorial.

Now, his interrogations have begun. Expectedly, after his intial reluctunace, he would reveal most important things though with a lot of cooked-up and fabricated details. His masters, successfully, turned him a crazy and hardened criminal, but he still values his life.

Like any other ideology, radical Islam is also a construct, and however powerful the ideologue’s rhetoric, most of its followers are wrong-headed and cowards. All it can foster is rabid fanaticism and senseless killings.

Terrorism has now come to such a state that it's no longer easy to tackle it. George W. Bush who is the most vocal champion of "war on terror" actually stoked terrorism by attacking Iraq on a false and motivated pretext, and ravaging the country physically and intellectually. Is it hard to imagine that this is one reason why the terrorists in Mumbai strike sought the Americans and British citzens first in Taj and other hotels?

Now, do you think our netas (politicians) will do anything to curb terrorism? Not really. While many of them are accomplices, complicits or benificaries of this terrorism thing, all of them love this crisis, and cash on it to get their political mileage. The latest example is that of Narendra Modi, the hated genocider, who rushed to Mumbai to announce his donation package to terror victims. He was brilliantly rebuffed though.

As of now, you're left with no clue whatsoever to face terrorism. But you can certainly hope that terrorism will one day get jaded and stop after running its course. Meanwhile, get ready to see more gore and bloodbath.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roberto Bolano makes it - posthumously!

How fascinating and sad that Roberto Bolano, a post-modern response to Gabriel Garcia Marquex, generates the buzz (and getting evaluated in the process) five years after his death! His recently released tome "2666", is flying off the bookshops at a time when book sales are flat and declining. It's the best book of 2008, according to some critics.

"It’s special. It’s weird. I don’t entirely understand the commercial side of it”, said Lorin Stein, editor of “2666” at FSG.“This is a difficult and very sad book, and adults rarely follow a literary author’s career the way they used to. It’s like an intellectual Harry Potter.”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

James Kelman interview

The crucial factor is the ability to earn a living, this is what is taken from writers who work on/from the margins. Your question suggests it is a fair go, an even fight, or some such nonsense. It isn’t. One side has power and authority and the other doesn’t. One has the power to stop the other from earning a living. It is better to be acknowledged as a writer than have to continue proving it all the time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award

Iain Hollingshead wins Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Awards this year for a passage in his first novel Twentysomething (Duckworth).

The awards were set up by Auberon Waugh with the aim of gently dissuading authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels. Previous winners include Tom Wolfe, AA Gill, Sebastian Faulks, and Melvyn Bragg.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Josef Winkler interview

In writing I discovered where I came from. Only in writing did I discover what had happened. Had I not started writing, my life would have remained a matter of three lines. Now it is thousands of pages.

Who's Josef Winkler?

Australian novelist Josef Winkler was born to a farming family on March, 3, 1953 in Kärnten and has worked as a novelist since 1982. He lives in Klagenfurt where he teaches at the university. He has been recently awarded the Georg Buchner prize - Germany's top literary award.

Winkler has already been honoured with the Berlin Literature Prize, the Alfred Döblin prize and the André-Gide prize.

He has written thirteen books about death.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Taslima shunted out, again!

Exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen has again been "forced" to leave India after her brief stay here, prompting the controversial writer to question the country's alleged secular credentials.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nadine Gordimer visits India

Who's a real writer?
Dr. Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Laureate from South Africa, is now visiting India. She read excerpts from her books in Mumbai (09 Nov 08), delivered the Second Nobel Laureate Lecture in Kolkata on 10 Nov 08. She would be attending a book reading session followed by Q&A session at 1700 hrs on 13 Nov 08 in New Delhi.

In Kolkata, she spoke for about thirty minutes. She said that the literature of the new age was to reveal the secrets of hearts, not sequence of events. A writer was a political being, he could not be insensitive to what went on in the world, she said.

She added that a real writer's job was not only that of witnessing, he must go deeper to understand the significance and meaning of what was happening around him.

She had this quote from Albert Camus: "The moment when I'm no more than a writer, I will cease to be a writer."

When asked about her views on globalization, she quipped, "It's nothing more than trade pacts."

Friday, November 7, 2008

25 Best Fiction Titles, 2008

A PW list
Don't get disappointed if you don't see your favourite title here. The list covers only the American publishing in 2008. Of course, these titles were reviewed by PW. For sure, there are still some titles outside of this list, probably from small or independent presses that can match or beat the selection. Do you know of any such title?

When Will There Be Good News?Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown)
Unrelated characters and plot lines collide with momentous results in Atkinson's third novel to feature ex-cop turned PI Jackson Brodie.
Roberto Bolaño, trans. from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Bolaño's sprawling masterpiece revolves around a passel of academics, a reclusive German writer and a fictionalized Juarez, Mexico. Pure brilliance.
Hold Tight
Harlan Coben (Dutton)
Edgar-winner Coben's unnerving thriller follows a sadistic suburban killer in a New Jersey community with his usual mastery.
The Brass Verdict
Michael Connelly
(Little, Brown)
This beautifully executed crime thriller brings together two popular Connelly characters, LAPD Det. Harry Bosch and L.A. lawyer Mickey Haller.
Master of the Delta
Thomas H. Cook (Harcourt)
Edgar-winner Cook examines the slow collapse of a prominent Southern family in this magnificent tale of suspense set in 1954.
The Konkans
Tony D'Souza (Harcourt)
This story of an Indian-American family's immigrant experience in Chicago is loaded with humor and pathos. Young in writer-years, D'Souza writes with a seasoned hand.
The Plague of Doves
Louise Erdrich (Harper)
Erdrich's 13th novel, a multigenerational tour de force of sin, redemption, murder and vengeance, finds its roots in the 1911 slaughter of a farming family near Pluto, N. Dak.
The Likeness
Tana French (Viking)
Fans of psychological suspense will embrace Irish author French, who blurs the boundaries between victim and cop, memory and fantasy, in this stunning sequel to her debut, In the Woods.
Sea of Poppies
Amitav Ghosh (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Diaspora, myth and a fascinating language mash-up propel the Rubik's cube of plots in Ghosh's picaresque epic. The cast is marvelous and the plot majestically serpentine, but the real hero is the English language, which has rarely felt so alive and vibrant.
Mo Hayder (Atlantic Monthly)
Readers looking for visceral thrills need look no further than this British crime novel involving African witchcraft.
The Lazarus Project
Aleksandar Hemon (Riverhead)
Dueling story lines about Central European immigrants dovetail into a masterful account of the immigrant experience and the quest for identity in MacArthur genius Hemon's second novel, an NBA finalist.
A.L. Kennedy (Knopf)
Kennedy's highly stylized and immeasurably sad sixth novel (after Paradise) follows former Royal Air Force tail gunner Alfred Day as he relives his experiences in a WWII German prison camp.
My Revolutions
Hari Kunzru (Dutton)
A reformed London radical's past returns to haunt him in Kunzru's divine novel.
Unaccustomed Earth
Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf)
The gulf that separates expatriate Bengali parents from their American-raised children—and that separates the children from India—remains Lahiri's subject for this faultless follow-up to The Namesake.
Zachary Lazar
(Little, Brown)
Lazar channels the Rolling Stones, Kenneth Anger and a Manson family associate in this piercing examination of the dread and exhilaration of the late 1960s.
The Boat
Nam Le (Knopf)
The stories in Le's stunning debut collection cover a vast geographic territory and are filled with exquisitely painful and raw moments of revelation, captured in an economical style as deft as it is sure.
The Given Day
Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
In a splendid flowering of the talent previously demonstrated in his crime fiction (Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River), Lehane combines 20th-century American history, a gripping story of a family torn by pride and the strictures of the Catholic Church, and the plot of a multifaceted thriller.
Flesh House
Stuart MacBride (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Scottish author MacBride's dry wit turns what could have been a gratuitously gory slasher story into a crackling thriller.
How the Dead Dream
Lydia Millet (Counterpoint)
Millet is as lyrical, haunting and deliciously absurd as ever in this Heart of Darkness–style journey into massive loss.
Joseph O'Neill (Pantheon)
A Dutch-born equities analyst gets swept up by a fast-talking, crooked-dealing Bangladeshi cricket enthusiast in post-9/11 New York City in O'Neill's beautifully written and intelligent novel.
Donald Ray Pollock (Doubleday)
They don't come much grittier than this debut collection set in Knockemstiff, Ohio, a grimy pocket of derelicts, perverts and criminals.
Lush Life
Richard Price (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Price trains his sharp eye and flawless ear on Manhattan's Lower East Side in this manic crescendo of a novel that explores the repercussions of a seemingly random shooting.
Ron Rash (Ecco)
This implacably grim tale of greed and corruption gone wild—and of eventual, well-deserved revenge—follows the dealings of a Depression-era lumber baron and his callous new wife.
Tim Winton (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Two daredevil Australian teens get involved with a dangerous surfer (and his more dangerous wife) in this taut story of death, life, pleasure and thrill-seeking.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
David Wroblewski (Ecco)
A Wisconsin mute hides out in the woods with hyperintelligent dogs in Wroblewski's contemporary riff on Macbeth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jurassic Park author dies

Michael Crichton, doctor-turned-writer, dies of cancer at 66

"He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth... Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."
Steven Spielberg

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If Kurt Vonnegut was alive today..

Welcome, Prez Obama!
If Kurt Vonnegut was alive, he would have been the happiest person today at this historic moment of the US. Vonnegut was extremely distressed and unhappy with George W Bush and his policies – to such an extent that he once called Bush as a twit.

In reality, Bush was worse than a twit: he was arrogant, aggressive, uncultured, semi-literate, malevolent, bully, liar, history-sheeter, psychopath, evil incarnate, war-monger, genocider, enemy of civilization…

Bush was perhaps the most despised figure after Hitler and Stalin in human history.

I can never figure out how the people of the US voted Bush to power twice. They had to pay a heavy price for their action. In his nincompoop way, Bush shoved the US (and a large swath of the world) to the brink. With McCaine and Palin, the world would have fallen to pieces, for sure.

I’m happy that the people of the US have at last had senses to boot away the Republican candidate in a spetacular fashion.

Of course, Barack Obama is a messiah who people look up to deliver the goodies, to save the country and the people from the raging apocalypse.

I have no idea of how Obama would pan out his strategy to deal with the deep financial crisis, and sort out the mess. It’s really a big challenge.

I'm not sure how he would tackle the big corporate houses who constitute a formidable power, and actually run the government.

I don’t know how he would take on the free market economy and other neo-liberal policies of the Bush regime.

Who would be his thinking tank? What reformist model would he follow?

Barack Obama emerges as a historical necessity, as an anti-thesis of all that went wrong with Bush. Hopefully, he will represent an US we want – a sanitized country with humane and cosmopolitan attitude and values.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election "short-story"

Barack Obama or John McCain? You'll know it soon. Meanwhile, may I ask you to read a short-story "Foes" by Lorrie Moore, one of America's best short-story writers, who had this election as her theme? As ever, she combines humour with pathos and insight.

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