Author Archives: Admin

Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye, Things: all about extreme minimalism

By Charmaine Chan

thingsRetailers will quake at the appearance of yet another book lauding minimalist living. The latest to find bliss in owning little is Fumio Sasaki, a single, 30-something editor at a publishing company in Tokyo. Sasaki calls himself a “classic case” when explaining his move to empty his cupboards and clear his shelves: he just couldn’t stand living in an “overly cluttered pigpen” any longer. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post

 

Book review: The Dancing Girl & the Turtle makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like light bondage with its tale of Chinese prostitution

By Joyce Lau

dancing girlHookers with hearts of gold have undeniable appeal as characters. They are sensual and risqué, while also sympathetic and socially poignant. Unfortunately, they have also become as stereotypical as the girl bound to the railroad tracks in old Hollywood films. The challenge for any emerging author is to make something new of this old story.

Karen Kao does just that, with her debut novel The Dancing Girl & the Turtle an impressive entry in a long line of exotic, erotic novels starring Chinese prostitutes – from The World of Suzie Wong in 1957 to Lotus in 2017.

The book is set in 1930s Shanghai, an era of opium smoke, elaborate dance halls and glamorous women in cheongsam. Into this world steps Song Anyi, an innocent girl from the countryside who, rather predictably, is pale, slender and unusually beautiful. Her recently deceased parents were silk vendors who catered to the rich, leaving her as a lone orphan who (rather conveniently) also has fine fashion sense and ballroom dancing skills. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post

New Apps Provide a World of Literature, One Chapter at a Time

By 

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, Apple’s all-purpose gadget that kicked off the smartphone boom and forever changed the way we communicate, collect and consume information. With portability and a knack for relieving boredom, the iPhone and its ilk naturally became ad hoc e-book readers for busy people seeking brief escape to fictional places from nonfiction reality, like being trapped in transit or stuck in a Trader Joe’s line stretching to infinity and beyond.

Serious readers know squinting through a sprawling novel can take some effort on the small screen. But just as websites, videos and games soon adapted themselves for the smartphone experience, a new type of “mobile fiction” has emerged to fit the confines of the device — and today’s on-demand attitude.

Modern mobile fiction typically consists of sections of a novel or story that take just 15 to 20 minutes to absorb. The installments are cleanly formatted for easy reading on a four- or five-inch screen, and delivered at regular intervals by email or app (Android and iOS). Cliffhangers are popular. Read more

Source: The New York Times

The ‘middlemen’ who are changing India’s publishing scene

 

India’s publishing industry is as ruthless as it is dotted with glitz. With debutant authors often taking years to find a publisher, the journey of the manuscript to a full-fledged book is not a cakewalk. Changing this trend is the rise of literary agents in India.

Commonly known as “middlemen” in the publishing industry, the literary agents offer their expertise to authors to reduce their struggle in getting books published. Take 34-year-old Kanishka Gupta, one of the youngest literary agents in the South Asian belt whose big break came in 2013 with Anees Salim’s book “Vanity Bag”.

Gupta’s firm, Writer’s Side, was set up in 2010 and he claimed that his agency has sold more than 500 books to publishers in the last six years. Read more

Source: The Indian Express

The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Faiqa Mansab

By Aminah Sheikh

faiqa

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

My stories arise from discontent, disenfranchisement, the periphery. Mainly because I’ve grown up in a country that refuses to accept its own plurality, is determined to forget its history even as it flounders on the brink of self-destruction.  I internalized the subliminal conflicts of daily life wrought with issues that should be clichés but were my reality: patriarchy, lack of opportunity and gender discrimination. I, as an individual—woman, thinker, writer—was at odds with the limiting and reductive social constructs of my culture. And I read and wrote to make sense of everything around me.

Being an educated woman; being a writer, and writing in English particularly, make me a minority, and these realities have pushed me to resist labels, categories, and monolithic ideologies, in life and so perhaps my very identity is a site of resistance. How can I not write?

I’m a product of the textual multi-verse. Stories are my home, and literatures in Urdu, Punjabi, English, as well as translated literature from around the world, have informed my intellectual landscape.

Writing was not a conscious choice. I write in English but my diction is steeped in cultures, languages and literatures that are not English. I feel privileged to have a voice with multiple and multifarious echoes that coalesce together to form new patterns. I have to write to stay in touch with who I am. I am most myself when I write.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

This House of Clay and Water is very close to my heart. It’s a love story. Love as incarceration, and intertwined inextricably with tragedy, is an important theme in my novel, and the metaphors of walls and boundaries represent that idea in a way. I’m fascinated by the dichotomies of appearance and reality, duplicity, the panopticon gaze of society which exists to police others and force into conformity. I write mostly about all of these themes and about self-deception, the struggles of ordinary women to achieve extraordinary personal heights as my protagonist Nida demonstrates with her refusal to be corrupted by the world around her.

Imposed gender roles lie at the heart of this novel and the body is an important symbol. But it’s not a male body. The body of the other is shown as a commodity — to be claimed, owned and discarded — it is the site of power struggles for men.

My novel focuses on the various kinds of love and its failure. When I write, I’m only ever trying to tell a good story that will engage the deepest parts of the reader’s heart and mind.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I want to write the kind of books that crack the reader’s assumptions about life and universal truths, about human nature and the condition of being human. I like fiction which gives value to the action happening inside character’s minds and hearts.

So for me, unless a character speaks to me intimately I don’t have a story. I start writing only when a character begins to live with me and I hear them constantly. I don’t plot and plan. I write what I hear from the character. Once I have a first draft, and it’s often a slow process, it takes me a year to write the first draft, only then do I proceed to edit. I start from the top every day to edit. Again, it’s a rather slow process but the good thing is that I have very few edits by the time it goes to an agent or publisher.

I prefer working in the morning after the boys have gone to school, but I also work after they’ve all gone to bed. But that’s only when I feel I won’t be able to sleep if I don’t write whatever I have thought of to add.

I want to be able to write stories that leave a residue behind with the reader, because those are the kinds of stories that I have always loved. Anton Chekhov, Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal and Michael Ondaatje are some of the writers who awoke the wonder of words in me and whose stories I go back to repeatedly. I am not shy of overreaching in my writing. I aspire to the highest models.

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‘A writer can build only half a bridge’

By Tishani Doshi

Kiran Nagarkar is an author who generates an extreme level of devotion among his fans. Some, including the author himself, would say that there aren’t enough of them, but if a fan-o-meter were somehow employed, his followers would surely win top prizes for fervency. His play Bedtime Story and first novel Saat Sakkam Trechalis, (republished in English as Seven Sixes are Forty Three) are both landmarks in Marathi literature.

Of his Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel Cuckold, Nagarkar says he takes no credit. It was an inspired piece of writing where he was just the “third rate secretary.” Nayantara Sahgal has described his Ravan & Eddie trilogy as India’s fourth great epic, after the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the struggle for freedom under M.K. Gandhi. In person Nagarkar is tall and gregarious, prone to self-deprecation and chuckling. Excerpts from an interview.

What kind of home did you grow up in?

I grew up in a poor family but that was because my grandfather died early. So my father had to educate his seven or eight brothers and sisters. I’d always known that my grandfather was a Brahmo Samaji but it’s now coming to light that he went (to America) with Vivekananda in 1893 and 1903. Obviously, he did not make the kind of impact that Vivekanandaji made.

But it’s curious, a friend of mine did some research, and found that my grandfather was asking for independence of India in 1893, at a time when neither Gandhiji or anyone else was asking for it. Read more

Source: The Hindu

A dark coming-of-age tale: Book review of Hirsh Sawhney’s South Haven

By Pradhuman Sodha 

havenTo read a story of an Indian family that had achieved the American dream, settled down in USA, can be insightful, and could even inspire and encourage people with similar goals. But more often than not the tales of Indian expatriates or their descendants’ fail to capture the imagination of Indian readers, who are often the prime target audience of this genre.

The reasons are numerous. One of them could be that readers find that the American dream is not all that it’s cracked up to be. This sense of disappointment is carried through the book by all characters, it seems. It is one way the writer brings out the darkness and tragedy of circumstances that shapes the childhood of the protagonist Siddharth.

The events of the book starts with the children losing their mother, the man losing his wife and the house losing its woman. Unlike most novels, things might not change for the better as many readers might expect. The climax, however, doesn’t lose steam and the reader will feel quite satisfied at the end. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times

Excerpts: This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab

This House of Clay and Water (1)BHANGGI

My body, ji, isn’t my own. It’s a communal vessel for lust that finds expression in dark corners. I learnt that early in my life, na. I am like the spaces that belong to no one; a dirty thought never acknowledged.

This cage of bones and flesh that holds me prisoner . . . makes a mockery of me and my desires, destroys me daily. How can anyone be held responsible for the body they’re born with, ji? Who can help that?

Growing up, I’d watched men haggle with the older hijras, over the price of an hour of guilty pleasure. It’s the price of a life they squabble over, and it’s cheaper than an old chicken. Few hijras live past the age of forty. We trade our lives for a few rupees, ji, agree to bear the burden of desires, confidences and diseases that no one else will. Women are more trouble. More expensive too. Hijras are simpler; no questions asked, even if caught by the police—some of whom are regulars too.

Some prefer about anything else to a woman.

I watch the Nightingales every night. Once the streets are empty and everything is quiet and even the dogs stop barking, the silence is broken only by the sounds of occasional cars passing by, or a drunkard, yelling at a cat underfoot, the hijras known as Nightingales emerge from the few houses in the alley, a space that is only ours: the hijra chawl.

There are five of them, and their haunt is the crossing, where the narrow alleyways meet. Twinkling like fireflies in their sequined shirts and shiny synthetic silks, they laugh and chat as they wait for the regulars. They are prettier than the other hijras, whose job is to beg in the streets by day; they act as pimps for the better-looking ones. The beggar hijras look different. Their powdered faces look grey, and the exaggerated thick eyebrows and painted red lips only accentuate the hardness of their features. It is a poor disguise. as soon as one looks into their eyes, one knows.

They all said I was pretty too. I would be a Nightingale when it was time, not a pimp beggar. I could hardly wait. Nightingales are important. They bring in the big bucks, so everyone treats them well. They get the best bits of meat in the curry, and the best clothes.

The Nightingales stand together at the corner,  talking, laughing, and at times  a  hearty  guffaw  would  carry  in on the night air and thrill me as I lay in the small room, listening.

They were happy, I thought. as a child, laughter is all you need as proof of happiness. as a child you don’t know there are so many different kinds of laughter—like different varieties kinds of birds. Some are flightless.

They share a bidi, and the ends glow in the darkness. Sometimes they share a bottle of homemade liqueur. and I long to try both. Even though I know it is Shaitan’s drink. Or maybe because I know it is.

Gulabo, the master, the guru of our community, found me as a newborn, wrapped in a filthy bloodied towel outside the door of daata’s dargah. She took pity on me, she says. She fed me and clothed me, yes? She looked after me, even when those who’d helped me abandoned me. They didn’t want me. They didn’t want the shame that comes attached to me, a hijra.

Gulabo took care of me. She was also the one who sold me the first time, when I was eight. I was nothing more than an investment, an object to barter for little conveniences: indemnity from the police and a discount at the grocer’s for an hour every night, maybe a few rupees sometimes from a street wretch, if times were hard. That is the only life I am entitled to. There is nothing more, nothing else.

Growing up, I found refuge from the neighbourhood boys in the dilapidated junk shop with the kabbadiya. I hid there because, by then, I already knew why the bigger boys chased me. No one followed me into the dark alley where the kabbadiya lived, usually passed out on his piles of outdated books, magazines and newspapers. There was always a lantern burning low, hanging on the wall inside the shop, the corrugated-iron shutter only half closed. Two gigantic piles of newspapers, so old they were stuck to the floor, held the runner of the shutter up. I squeezed in between those two columns of newspapers, panting, listening to my thudding heart, waiting for the dreaded whispered insults of the eldest boy with the cruel eyes. Often the boys didn’t follow. They were afraid of the kabbadiya. People said he was a jinn. Few people had seen him in years.

But the kabbadiya found me one night.

I’d gone to sleep looking at the colourful pictures in a tattered, yellowing magazine. It was the smell of his  breath that awoke me. It was hot and sharp. I’d smelled it on men before, yes? It was Shaitan’s drink. I woke up with my hands reflexively covering my head to avoid the blows I knew would follow. But they didn’t. The kabbadiya pulled me out of the corner.

‘You’ve been here before, haven’t you?’

I nodded; I couldn’t get my tongue to detach from the roof of my mouth.

‘You  leave  the  magazines  lying  around.  You  wouldn’t make a good thief. You know who I am?’

I nodded again. He was the junk-shop owner. The jinn.

His eyes were sharp, dark.

‘You don’t know.’ He gave a short laugh and said, ‘That’s new. I used to be the gossip for years. Whose shame has taken over mine, I wonder, that people no longer talk about me. Well, what does it matter? There’s plenty of that to go around.’

He sat down with a big laugh, on the single, broken chair in the corner. He looked at me.

‘a little hijra, eh?’

He looked down at his hands. He had the magazine I’d been ogling. I was ashamed. It was full of pictures of women. Beautiful women, ji.

He raised his eyes to me and asked, ‘Can you read?’ I shook my head.

‘are you mute?’

I shook my head. He laughed softly. ‘Come here. Sit. are you hungry?’

I  didn’t  respond. My  legs  were  still  shaking. My  heart, curious and fearful, waited for the jinn to do something jinn- like. From a small half-broken wooden crate next to his chair, he took out a newspaper shaped into a cone and began to unfold it. It revealed two chapattis carefully nestling some vegetable curry. He gave half of his dinner to me.

‘Eat. I cooked it this morning. It’s fresh. Eat.’

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The Nothing by Hanif Kureishi, book review: Bombastic theatrical style over substance

By Lucy Scholes

nothingA Hanif Kureishi novel with an elderly, incapacitated and impotent protagonist, there’s something I never thought I’d read, but here he is. Waldo was a once celebrated film director, who used to run with the great and the good, his now defunct study a shrine to his illustrious life and career: Baftas, “birthday cards from Bowie and Iman,” a photo with Joe Strummer. Vanished is his “fuckability,” that “ass you’d pay to bite”; these days he’s not so much a shell of the man he once was, but rather the bloated carcass. Obese, weak and riddled with illness – “diabetes, prostate cancer, an ulcer, early MS, constipation, diarrhea and only one good hip, a cough, phobias, addictions, obsessions and hypochondria” – he’s bed- or wheelchair-bound: Rear Window’s L. B. Jefferies played by a late career Marlon Brando.

Spying on his neighbours passes the time – “I sit here like a large fly at the windowpane, investigating fantastic lands across the way” – but the object of his obsession is his wife, Zee. She’s twenty-two years younger, and the only woman he’s ever truly loved, the “one whose body I enjoyed more than any other,” (including those “magical fucks” of his LSD-tinged, California commune days with the “live-in lesbians”). Now, however, Waldo suspects she’s making a cuckold of him with his sort-of friend Eddie: a freeloading throwback from old Soho, a “dirty-minded raconteur” who’s a sucker for celebrities, “his voice smoky with public-school corruption and changing-room decadence.” Read more

Source: independent.co.uk

India: Assam govt to hold seminars on Rabindra Jayanti from next year

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today described Rabindranath Tagore as a great humanist and said Tagore made indelible contribution to glorify Indian literature at the world stage.

He was speaking at a Rabindra Jayanti celebration organised by the Greater Guwahati Rabindra Jayanti Celebration Committee in association with the Directorate of Cultural Affairs.

The Assam government would hold seminars on Rabindra Jayanti across all districts in the state from next year, the chief minister said. Read more

Source: India.com

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