Saturday, January 31, 2009

Short short-story

Lying down beside his 14-year old son, he dreamt he was being greeted, amid a houseful of curious men, women and children, by a young, nattily dressed lady, her face encased by shampooed wavy hair, with a twinkle in her eye.

Title: DREAM
Word count:40

What do you think of it?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Future of novels and novelists

Just read this Time article. It makes some cool observations, with which I agree in full. But it leaves me wondering how the future novelists will have any income from their books.

Literature interprets the world, but it's also shaped by that world, and we're living through one of the greatest economic and technological transformations since--well, since the early 18th century. The novel won't stay the same: it has always been exquisitely sensitive to newness, hence the name. It's about to renew itself again, into something cheaper, wilder, trashier, more democratic and more deliriously fertile than ever.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hasan Azizul Huq's debut novel review

Aagunpakhi invokes Partition trauma and memories

So I bought and read Aagunpakhi at last. It has been exactly three days since I finished it. I’m still under its spell, though in a much dimished form at this moment. It’s a great Bengali novel written by arguably the best living short-story writer of Bangladesh, Hasan Azizul Huq.

Aagunpakhi is about a woman’s lone struggle and determination to stick to her homeland in the wake of Indo-Pakistan partition even when other members of her family, her husband included, left for Pakistan for security and new home. She never could bring herself to believe that she was no more wanted in the land where she was born, raised up, married, gave birth to her sons and daughters and lived through her childhood, youth, prosperity of her groom, famine, world warII and Hindu-Muslim riots upto the partition of the big land that was India.

Her piognant query as to why this land - moral wasteland actually - was no longer hers simply because of her being a Muslim dumbed and overwhelmed me as a reader. I could not check back my tears at her predicament.

But while reading the novel, I was wondering – I like to deconstruct noves, especially the debut ones - why Hasan was writing about the partition after such a long time. Partition, as a theme, is no doubt a bit stale these days. The last chapter provided the clue to my question, and the protagonist suddenly seemed familiar to me.

As a Hasan aficianodo, I have been tracking him since I loved to admire his work. Hasan was born and raised in a Burdwan village in West Bengal. After his school, he went on to East Pakistan to live with his elder sister and her husband. I noticed such a character in this novel.

I presume Hasan draws heavily - as any real writer should and does – from his childhood experience to write this novel. And the protagonist is actually his mother. Hasan gives an intimate portrait of this lady – simple, naïve, humanitarian - against a Bengal countryside complete with social and demographic details in his original, realistic and pared-down prose. Her transformation in the end to a rebel of sort, though a bit abrupt, touches our chords.

P.S. Some translator should step in immediately to grab this novel for translation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Farewell to John Updike

John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors, died on Tuesday in Danvers, Mass. He was 76 and lived in Beverly Farms, Mass.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is Yu Hua a real writer?

Just finished Pankaj Mishra's The Bonfire of China's Vanities in the NewYork Times Magazine. A long sprawling piece, but readable, though you sometimes lose thread of the article. So, is Yu Hua, the writer of the largest-selling novel Brothers (due to be published in English soon)in China, a real writer? I've my doubts.

Monday, January 26, 2009

100 novels everyone should read

Of course, UK-centric. And far from being comprehensive. But most are real writing by real writers. I've read about 50 novels out of this list. But I miss some:
God of Small things by Arundhati Roy, and A fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry immediately come to mind. I'm glad Boris Pasternak's Dr.Zivago is there.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jaipur Literature Festival(21st to 25th January 2009)

Jaipur is a long way from where I live, and I'm no fan of such literary festivals. Honestly, I'm pissed off by William Dalrymple (Is he a real writer?) and his ilk. As I understand, it's a no-holds-barred jamboree with plenty of music, dance, dinner, drinks, you name anything, with a few literature-related events sloted in between. A perfect melting pot for our fake and fashionable writers!

In the list you find names like Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, Vikas Swarup, even Chetan Bhagat. Do you miss any real writer? Yes, Arundhati Roy being one of them. The list gives you an idea of what bullshit they are going to talk about or discuss in the name of literature and in what fashion.

Who's sponsoring this extravaganza in this time of global economic meltdown?

But the festival finds favour with India's English media.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lit News: The novel that landed its writer in a jail

Harry Nicolaides, an Australian writer, was sentenced to three years in prison for insulting Thailand's royal family in his novel, a rare conviction of a foreigner amid a crackdown on people and Web sites deemed critical of the monarchy

Mr. Nicolaides, a 41-year-old from Melbourne, was charged with insulting Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the crown prince in his 2005 book “Verisimilitude,” a piece of fiction that only sold seven copies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tejpal's second novel launch

Tarun J. Tejpal comes up with his second novel called The Story of My Assassins (HarperCollins). His first novel The Alchemy of Desire, published three years ago, also by the same publisher, was a big success, and sold more than 3 lakh copies woldwide so far. He is perhaps the most widely read modern Indian writer in English.

Tejpal is primarily a journalist and edits the famous weekly newsmagazine Tehelka. But he has a literary side, and though he devotes "almost 99 per cent" of his time to running Tehelka weekly, he managed to "put together this 500- page novel about the real India, real people and its million turmoils, by shutting his mind out in the few minutes he managed to steal from his hectic schedule."

more..

Current climate for new writers

Q:What do you make of the current climate for new writers?

A:I do not envy them. It's a hostile environment. The old way of just writing a book, signing an agent, finding a publisher to nurture you is long, long gone. But also, how exciting to be working right now, when things are changing. You have to be fluid and quick on your feet and inventive, but that stuff is all fun.

Jessa Crispin, hugely experienced and savvy blogger of Bookslut, is interviewed here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An exiled writer's last hopes

Taslima Nasreen on Bangladesh's new government

I am pinning my last hopes of a secular government on the Awami League. Will it act like the forces that banned my Amar Meyebela (My Childhood) and prevented me from returning home to meet my ailing mother and father? Will it all change? Will they allow me to return home? I doubt that.

Full article here..

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tao Lin: a real writer?

I've been reading Tao Lin for quite a while: his stories, his blog, poems, just anything by him that comes my way. Not that I like his writing. In fact, I doubt he's a real writer. But it's fun to watch out on all of his activities. May be he's a genius.

The name of his first novel was Eeeee Eee Eeee. I don't know how he got it published. He sells his own manuscripts, doodles, page proofs, notebooks—on eBay, and last summer he generated international attention by selling, six “shares” of an unfinished novel for $2,000 each. He recently launched a tiny press that publishes, among other things, Gmail chats. He is very good at gimmickry.

Tao Lin has some fans, Jessa Crispin, the well-known book blogger, being the most illustrious among them.

Read Tao Lin, Lit Boy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Six owls and a writing geek

Has an owl, or a bunch of owls, anything to do with a writing geek?

The thing is, they have recently landed my neighbourhood - a cluster of apartment buildings, without any trees or greenery in it. They're now staying in here, silent all day, but as the dark falls, they start hooting, and contnue it all through the night until the daybreak.

A few days ago, when I was leaving for my clinic in the evening, I saw some boys chasing a timid-looking ugly creature through entrance of my apartment. I didn't know it was an owl. It was cowering in a dark corner, and looked heplessly around as if it did not know how to fly. But it flied at last and sat itself on a cornice of our adjacent apartment building. It began to hoot soon after.

Its shrill voice is really disturbing particularly at bedime. Its hoot keeps piercing your eardrum on and on, and you hear it when you go to sleep, during your sleep, and even after sleep if it's not yet daybreak. Oh, what a nuisance! You can compare it only with a fake writer's work which you some times have to read in absence of a book by a real writer.

Then one of the owls died, probably from elctrocution from a near-by transformer. A crowd gathered around its body in front of my apartment building. There I heard some wag tell that as many as six owls were visiting the neighbourhood at the moment, and they were parched at different positions waiting to hoot as the night sets in.

The hooting however continued as ever, and there was no respite from it. My wife, a bit insomniac by disposition, cursed them regularly, but suggested at the same time that the people here contact the forest department so that these creatures could go back to where they belonged.

Another owl died yesterday.

My driver said that yet another owl had died one day back. So, with this death, only three owls remain.

Last night I heard the hoot, but it was a bit subdued as if someone was mourning. May be two owls - one male, another female - were hooting together so long, and one of them had died yesterday.

It seems like we would get rid of the owls soon(they are anyway doomed to die in this urban no-tree environs), but what bugs me is why and how they made their way down here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why you should listen to fiction writers

"However, writers such as Grossman in Israel or Arundhati Roy in India, who live amid some of the world's bloodiest conflicts, choose not to be somewhere else when triggers are being cocked and pulled. Their views demand respectful attention even when they provoke sharp disagreement. For they have consistently witnessed, and often spoken out, at considerable personal risk, against the ominous transformations within their countries: the emergence of powerful revanchist movements (Hindu nationalism, settler Zionism) the suppression of religious minorities and occupied territories with brute force (Gujarat, Kashmir, West Bank and Gaza); the diffusion of a shrill media culture on the American model, a contagion of ignorant TV anchors and "experts" who together with a reactionary political elite manufacture a consensus about how to deal with internal and external enemies (usually, with force and then much more force)."

Guess who's writing it? Pankaj Mishra, the brilliant literary critic and essayist, who's now writing, alas, for the international media only. Where does he live now?

Full article here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A writer as 'thinking men's sex symbol"!

News: Indian origin author Jhumpa Lahiri, with her "hypnotic eyes", has been named among the top 10 "sex symobls of the thinking man" for 2008, which put Serbian tennis player Ana Ivanovic in the number one slot.

Now, do such news bothers you? I know the media today thrives on such news - and some people think our world now needs this kind of news. But I wonder where it would all end up.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My New Year non-resolutions

You'll notice that I didn't do any list like "My best books in 2008". Not that I didn't think about it, but I found my memory blocked. Did not I read any important book last year? Yes, of course - Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown,and Donigan Merritt's
Possessed by Shadows, for example, but not many. I had read some stories by Clezio and Bolano desultorily, mainly from the web. In retrospect, I bought far fewer books last year.

Now I reckon that the web has changed my reading habits without my knowing it. In stead of lengthy works, I now find myself reading shorter pieces mostly on the web. There's little time for buying books from the bookstore. And library is something I've lost contact with since a long time ago. Another thing, I've read much more about writers than their works. This is bad enough.

As ever I'm obsessed with real writers. In my scheme of things, I have no space for fake or fashionable writers. So why did I post pieces on Chetan Bhagat or Sobhaa De? Actually, I had read them to see for myself what crap they are dishing out to capture the attention of today's readers. Admittedly, they have some popularity among a section of scatterbrains and shallow raders(One of Bhagat's fans recently sent me an e-mail querying about Bhagat's best 'nobel'). Don't get surprised if you see me posting occasional pieces on them. The fact is, I hate the fashionable writers, and always have an issue with them. Why? Because they are cornering the real writers, taking advantage of our shallow and superficial times. They are invading the space of what real writers should have.

One of my objectives, as a writing geek, is to introduce my readers to real writers and real writing so that they can have a taste of literature. Literature is not passe, as many people think, and needs to be cultivated more in these times for preserving our sanity. A piece of real writing says much more - in terms of substance and value -than any of your audio-visual work today. As Le Clezio said in his Nobel lecture,"Literature—and this is what I have been driving at—is not some archaic relic that ought, logically, to be replaced by the audiovisual arts, the cinema in particular. Literature is a complex, difficult path, but I hold it to be even more vital today than in the time of Byron or Victor Hugo.”

This year I want to do some serious reading. Roberto Balano tops my TBR list. Another writer I'm yearning for these days is Hassan Azizul Haque. Hassan is a real Bengali writer based in Bangladesh, and short stories are his main forte. He has a novel published recently, and it has created a buzz. Hassan took a decade's time to pen this novel. I'm going to buy and read this novel soon.

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