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When writing fiction hurts the people you love

(From The Literary Hub. Link to the complete article given below)

I was sitting in the Science Center Library, reading Paradise Lost. This was in the late 1970s, when I was an English major at Harvard. There are famously gorgeous libraries at Harvard, but I preferred to sit in one of the uglier spaces, beneath buzzing fluorescent lights, with calculators clicking all around me. I was unlikely to run into anyone I knew in the Science Center, though there was no reason for me to be so furtive. It’s just the way I am, habitually keeping to myself. Private and solitary.

I came to the end of the poem. Adam and Eve, our guilty parents, cast out of the garden. But then: “The world was all before them, where to choose / Their place of rest. . . They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, / Through Eden took their solitary way.” The lines hit a nerve and I burst into tears. Loud, gulpy, snot-filled sobs. In the middle of the Science Center, for everyone to hear. I could not stop. I sat in that cubicle and wept and wept.

Guilt has always moved me. I imagine the pain someone must have been in to do whatever awful thing he did and want him to have another chance. Such possibly kind, possibly stupid empathy is useful for a writer, but it’s not the whole story. My mother was a war survivor and I inherited her unspoken guilt at having made it out alive, but that doesn’t fully explain it, either. I feel guilty for being a fiction writer. I’m not referring to the self-doubt many of us feel about making up stories while the world burns. I’m talking about the suffering we cause by writing.

Read more at the Lit Hub link here

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Fragments from a war-torn childhood

(From Guernica. Link to the complete article given below)

I spent the first eight years of my life in a war zone. Eight years of deafening noise: the staccato scream of anti-aircrafts, the whiz of military jets, the rattle of Kalashnikovs, the successive booming of landing mortars. Eight years of blinding lights: the dark orange cloud of fire after explosion rolling over and onto itself, the thin red thread of bullets shooting out of gun barrels, burning cigarettes shining in the streets like lighthouses in nights of total blackout.

In September 1980, several days short of my first birthday, the Iran-Iraq war began. At the time my parents lived in Ahvaz, Iran, seventy miles east of the frontline. Ahvaz is an expansive, flat urban area home to more than one million people and known for the Karun River, fertile palms, and flames that leap out of burning oil wells. A few months into the war it became clear that Saddam was seeking to annex the state of Khuzestan and nothing less, and that all the Western superpowers supported him. The people of Ahvaz began to leave. Neighbors and friends crammed their most precious belongings into cars and hit the road, transforming overnight from well-off southern oil families to internal refugees.

My parents stayed. My dad had a sensitive position at the oil company. My mom was a nurse. The gravity of their tasks, combined with their desire to fight for home and the disappointing reception of refugees elsewhere in the country, compelled them to remain there through the war. The war went on, uninterrupted, for eight years. It claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and scorched vast swaths of land on both sides of the border.

I am thirty-eight now. The war that made me who I am ended thirty years ago. I don’t talk about it much, if at all, though the tentacles of my mind frequently slip into the bag of memories I’ve been hauling around. Like many people with PTSD, I am a minimizer. I recall my life at six years old and think, Sure, it’s horrific that you saw that man looking at the hole a piece of shrapnel burned through his stomach before he fell to the ground. Yes, it’s traumatizing to wait with five hundred other kids in a small concrete bunker without ventilation for hours for Iraqi jets to get the bombing done. It is indeed depressing to think of your seven-year-old self stalking around rubble to collect shrapnel pieces and bullet jackets to expand his collection with the intention of arousing the envy of other kids in the neighborhood. But, I tell myself, look at the Iraqis and the Afghanis. They have lived this way for generations. Extend your eight years of war outward so that they fill a lifetime, multiply the amount of horror several times over, and you wouldn’t even approach the experience of the average Iraqi. The average Iraqi would laugh at your “war memories.”

Read more at The Guernica link here


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Poetry: The Nightingale of Reason by Ritwik Chaudhury

The Nightingale of Reason by Ritwik Chaudhury

Ritwik Chaudhury

Ritwik is a student of literature and theatre. He spends most of his time writing or reading. Currently he is pursuing his education from distance mode and hopes to move to university next year for further studies. Writing is his sole passion but he does it for himself, not to make a career in it; he doesn’t write for others, nor does he hope to write for commercial purpose. He hopes to study up to Ph. D after which he will take up teaching. Ritwik lives in Mumbai in his parent’s house.


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From Insta Novels to “Cat Person”: The digital platforms revamping literature

(From The New Statesman. Link to the complete article given below)

The popularity and ubiquity of online fan fiction (fan-written fiction created based on existing narratives) cannot be overstated. While often relegated to a niche in internet culture, assigned the same nerdy status as Tumblr teens and Reddit bros, “fanfic” is due the credit for a growing number of pieces of mainstream culture (Fifty Shades of Gray was originally Twilight fan fiction). But while fanfic has thrived, the internet has remained an unobvious place for the majority of society to go to read fiction. Opting for Kindles, literary magazines, or hard copy books, mainstream culture tends to use digital platforms for consuming news stories, culture reports, and opinion, and leaves its literary consumption to more traditional channels.

However, that could all be changing. The New York Public Library announced last week the launch of their series called “Insta Novels”: a “revolutionary new program that will bring digital novels to Instagram”. Classic novels, poetry, and short stories will be shared via their Instagram Stories feed, making literature accessible on a platform that millions of people visit daily. The first in the series is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; told through a series of animated videos and pictures spliced between images of each and every page of the book. It will be followed by the Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and the short story The Yellow Wallpaper.

Read more at The New Statesman link here


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How writing a short story collection is like starting a zoo

(From Lit Hub. Link to the complete article given below)

People are always saying, “I have an idea for a story.” But if a story starts in an idea it might as well give up and be a novel. I think ransacking your mind for story ideas builds up an immunity to the mysterious form itself. At some point you have to bow to the story’s elusiveness and refusal of paraphrase, that is, of expression as an idea. As Lucia Berlin said, “Thank God I don’t write with my brain.”

You saw something—even a word in somebody else’s story misread at first. You heard something. For a moment an awareness was yours, and you want it again, you want the words for it. It’s a kind of apparition.

Walter Benjamin says, “It is half the art of storytelling to keep a story from explanation as one reproduces it.” Reproduces!  Perfect word. Somewhere, the story already exists. You glimpsed it, you have to find it.

And then—it’s in the door like a stray cat. Then, for me, comes an occasional deceiving fondness, followed by the wish, in the middle of cooking or talking to somebody, to go get the story and grab it by the neck and be rid of it. This is after weeks, months. It’s my cat by then.

The very short ones are what I’m most interested in now—or most pressed to do. My stories have always been long, and now I want compression. The short shorts in my new book Terrarium (Counterpoint, August 2018) aren’t what I’d call flash fiction, maybe because the word “flash” is too—bright. Also, in our moment, it seems to be at the fingertips of anyone who write stories or wants to. I think readers believe it’s easy. Instead, like any short story, it requires concentration from the reader. And it’s not an invention of our period. I consider what’s now called flash fiction to be one manifestation of an art that goes back as far as we can see. Always, stories have been short and they’ve been long, depending on what overtook the storyteller and/or what the audience cried out for.

Read more at the Lit Hub link here


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The loneliness of long-distance writing

(From Lit Hub. Link to the complete article given below)

“You are alone out there,” my college track coach said, pointing to the farmland that stretched to the horizon. Years later, I know his words also describe writing a book.

We were stretching on the hot track, and would soon head out on the country roads for a long-distance route. Coach Taylor didn’t want us talking during our runs. He said it slowed us down. Track is a team sport on paper, but in reality, running is an individual struggle. You against the rest of the field. You against yourself. You against time.

I liked running in the heat. Growing up, I never followed my parents’ advice to run early or late in the day—I loved afternoon runs in open fields, under the wide sun. The heat warmed me up, and it also wore me out, but it was a comfortable type of exhaustion. I was a middle-distance runner, a sprinter who wasn’t fast enough for the 100 or 200, a little slow for the 400, and without enough wind for the 1600. But the 800 was just right for me. There was a symmetry to it, a distinct first and second act.

Coach Taylor sold me on the idea that you have to train further than you race. I began running ten miles past the Amish selling rugs and pies, past old homes that were an arm’s length from the road, past tired cows and lazy pigs. Running is an acquired taste, but at some point I tricked myself into enjoying it. I fell in love with the silent drift of long-distance. I liked to be out there, hot and tired, and alone.

Read more at this Lit Hub link