Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Puja Literature 2013: More genre and less literary fiction

Julekha, the princess, sees a young handsome guy in her dream. She is besotted. She sees him again in her dream a second time, and feels lusty. When she sees him in her third dream, she gets impatient of meeting and mating him.

Curiously, this is the premise of Debesh Roy’s novel this year. Way too disappointing for me. Is it a premise to build up a story on at this age? Love story, however brilliantly told, has something tedious about it. But I continued, looking for the leit motif of the novelist who I consider to be one of the great novelists of our time.

Debesh digs in history, mythology and religious scriptures to pad up his story. You find the old Arab world coming alive with his unique narrative, and get some fresh insights into how matrimony worked  around in the ancient times.  But in the end it does not resonate. I had to skip many passages for its loud sentimentality. There’s an ecstasy scene of mass sex incorporated in the novel – written with panache and style – but it felt crass and redundant.


Tried to read a novel by a new author. Just a few pages on, I found myself yawning.


But I read through KALJATRI by Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay (Desh). It was about four friends – alumni of an Engineering college – settled in different metros with different degrees of success -   who renew their contact based on a spam e-mail focusing the concept of time travel experiment undertaken by yet another friend now settled in US. They meet in a reunion in Kolkata, engage in a huge boozing session in an  under-construction highrise building  in Rajarhat and pour out their feelings and experiences. All very readable except that the whole thing sounds juvenile, contrived and banal. Of course, it's genre writing, not any literary novel. Bengali literature, it seems, is increasingly shifting to genre these days.


The best Puja fiction that I read this year is a long short story (Amazon would call it a novella) called KUSHILAB by Swapnamay Chakrabarty. It’s about a playwright who has has lived, experienced and suffered West Bengal through its different political, social and cultural phases uptill now.  Swapnamay weaves his story line in detaled and nuanced prose. It reverberated so much so that I sat stunned and brooding for a while afte I finished the story. The interesting thing about his writing is his masterly asides that expose our phony Bengali intellectuals and wags who you regularly see on the telly. My kudos.

P.S If you have read anything original, authentic or fascinating amongst the puja fare, please tell us in the comment section.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writing fiction for livelihood

"I've now tasted both extremes of the literary lifestyle: scrimping obscurity and your basic day in the sun. I’ve had novels sink like stones; I’ve had best-sellers. Yet with the exception of a few select luminaries whose reputations are assured, in this business you’re only as good as your last book. My livelihood started out shaky; it is still shaky."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Haruki Murakami has a new story in The New Yorker

Samsa in Love: this is the title of the story. 

Samsa?  Yes. the Gregory Samsa of Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" fame, who woke up to find himself transformed into a cockroach or some such thing. But here in Murakami's story, we find someone who "woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa." Read the story for free online and enjoy what Murakami did with this new Samsa to weave a world that has a semblance of Kafka's world - but in a Murakami way.

What I like about the story is how masterly Murakami exposes the terrifying repressive forces operating in Prague around the time by not writing about it directly. I also feel overwhelmed by the touch of humanity flowing through the entire text.

It's a wonderful story.

Don't miss it..

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's a serious novel?

Read the first five pages. Count clichés. If you find one, the buzzer goes off: it’s not a serious novel. A serious novelist notices clichés and eliminates them. The serious novelist doesn’t write “quiet as a mouse” or paint the world in clichéd moral terms. You could almost just substitute the adjective “cliché-free” for “serious.”
- Jonathan Franzen in the Scratch interview

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Writing for Amazon: Good News and a rumour

 Sub-categories in Literary/ Historical Fiction
 Amazon has done wonders for genre fiction. Many self-published authors of romance and thriller genre ( yes, erotica also, but it is in trouble now) have been making a decent living out of their published works. One reason behind this is Amazon's policy of dividing these genres in many sub-categories, and preparing Top 100 list, Hot New Releases list, Popularity list, Top Rated list.etc which help a lot of writers getting noticed and reaching out to their targeted readers.

Literary/ historical fiction titles were so long not treated this way. Now the Amazon has adopted  the same policy of dividing this group in different sub-categories. If you're an aficionado of , say, literary fiction, you can categorize your book under a more specific and narrowed-down list . Good news for writers of literary fiction/ historical fiction, who are not doing well in Indie publishing sales wise.

Amazon algorithm
 According to an article "The tech behemoth decides how many copies of a book it will purchase for its own warehouses based on presale orders. That in turn influences “discoverability,” i.e., how much the title is thrown in front of shoppers on the site."

Could it be true? 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Eleanor Catton Interview

There’s an advantage in being a country with a relatively short literary history. There’s a sense that there’s more change to come than there is change behind us, more revolutions to come than we have behind us – and that’s pretty exciting."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Yasmina Khadra interview

"I'm an uncomfortable writer, someone who disturbs people, who doesn't fit into the picture, but I can't help it. Some people have problems dealing with my atypical career path as a writer. Expectations? I don't have any. I do the things that are dear to my heart, and kindred spirits are welcome to join me. If my life in Paris has taught me one thing, then it's this: no crocodile has ever been tamed by someone drying its tears."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Read first forty five pages from The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton's Man-Booker winning novel

In which a stranger arrives in Hokitika; a secret council is disturbed; Walter Moody conceals his most recent memory; and Thomas Balfour begins to tell a story.
The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met. From the variety of their comportment and dress – frock coats, tailcoats, Norfolk jackets with buttons of horn, yellow moleskin, cambric, and twill – they might have been twelve strangers on a railway car, each bound for a separate quarter of a city that possessed fog and tides enough to divide them; indeed, the studied isolation of each man as he pored over his paper, or leaned forward to tap his ashes into the grate, or placed the splay of his hand upon the baize to take his shot at billiards, conspired to form the very type of bodily silence that occurs, late in the evening, on a public railway – deadened here not by the slur and clunk of the coaches, but by the fat clatter of the rain.

Read on...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alice Munro inteview

Q: And of course everybody is talking about the fact that you announced earlier this year that you were going to stop writing, and saying “Maybe this will encourage her to start again”.

A: [Laughs] Well you know I've been doing it for so many years. I've been writing and publishing, I think, since I was about twenty - just now and then I would get something published you know - but that's a long time to be working and I thought maybe it's time to take it easy. But this may change my mind. [Laughter]


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Read this Alice Munro story this weekend

When Grace goes looking for the Traverses’ summer house, in the Ottawa Valley, it has been many years since she was in that part of the country. And, of course, things have changed. Highway 7 now avoids towns that it used to go right through, and it goes straight in places where, as she remembers, there used to be curves. This part of the Canadian Shield has many small lakes, which most maps have no room to identify. Even when she locates Sabot Lake, or thinks she has, there seem to be too many roads leading into it from the county road, and then, when she chooses one, too many paved roads crossing it, all with names that she does not recall. In fact, there were no street names when she was here, more than forty years ago. There was no pavement, either—just one dirt road running toward the lake, then another running rather haphazardly along the lake’s edge.

via The New Yorker

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013 Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Alice Munro

"Master of contemporary short story', Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature this year.
Munro was the third on my shortlist.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2013 Nobel Prize for Literature : my shortlist

1. A dark horse
2. Svetlana Alexievich
3.Alice Munro
4.Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Friday, October 4, 2013

Reading: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao / Junot Diaz

I’ve never read about, known, experienced or imagined a nerd like Oscar Oao. I’m not bothered if Oscar is real or imagined. The thing is that he has overwhelmed me with his eccentricities or kinks or whatever. Towards the end of my reading, I was praying hard for him that at least for once he got the opportunity or occasion to screw a woman - any woman in fact. Thanks to Junot Diaz, he fulfilled my wish. But what about Oscar’s tons of writings, the only thing he was really good at, and which he pursued all through his brief life? 
Such is the flair of his writing that one tends to forget that this is fiction, and a novelist is not supposed to address all of his readers' concerns. May be he has used a live model for his protagonist, but who would argue about his wonderful characterization?

Junot Diaz is a brilliant writer. He’s no sentimentalist: he knows the Dominician history inside out, he knows its present and past, its strength and follies, its spirit and limitations, its happiness and pathos. He’s a great story-teller who captures you with spare but forceful prose. He is not much of an entertainer per se - he is actually a chronicler of dark things - but he’s compelling. Once you start reading him, you go on and on, despite his pitiless depiction of torture and injustice by the powers-that-be, until your consciousness is entirely clouded. The narrative is almost insufferable at times, I had creeps and shivers  from time to time, but I could not stop reading.

Another thing I loved about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is its footnotes. They are  great to read, and you would miss out a lot on Diaz’s strength if you avoid  reading it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jhumpa Lahiri interview

"It's difficult for me to be aware of the noise any book creates upon its publication. My writing comes from a very private place—I don't think I'm unique in that sense—and it is a strange contradiction to take something that is so inherently private, a sort of dialogue with oneself over a period of years and years in silence, and then to suddenly be...not silent about it. I mean, the amount of hours, the energy, dreaming, pondering, writing, editing, and rewriting that goes into a book—it feels like an ocean of time and effort. And the voyage is bad; it's long and arduous. So it's hard to be on the other shore and try to encapsulate what that voyage was like. I feel altered by it and shaped by it, but it's hard to explain in a nutshell what it was like to have done it."

Search This Blog

My Blog List