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I’m outraged a media house doesn’t want to review Indian authors: Amrita Talwar

It seemed like a normal “Monday” working day.

I logged in and started trawling through my email. I came across a name marked in bold that I was dying to hear from. The email was from a journalist to whom I had pitched an author profile and I had been following up persistently for an answer. You know how publicists feel when they are desperately trying to pitch an Indian author for an interview and then suddenly a mail pops up on the screen. It’s the equivalent of finding a Rs 1,000 note in your jeans when you are absolutely broke.

I manage publicity for a reputed publishing house in India and my forte is promoting writings by Indian authors – novels, narrative non-fiction, commercial and literary. Finding media space for their work is something that I quite like doing. And I tell people happily and proudly that “shrinking” media space in India is a myth. I gloat to my UK counterparts that India is probably the only country that still has lavish Sunday pages dedicated to books, author interviews and websites that happily carry book-related stories. Read more

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Short Story: How Abstract Art Liberated Me and Infuriated My Peers

 

by Michelle D’Costa

Wine Glass Breaking

The wine glass shatters. It’s Tuesday. It is the fifth glass shattering this week. After I Whatsapp Mom to clarify if shattering glasses bring good news or the polar opposite, I sweep the shards into the dust pan and wet a duster so that the minute particles that have escaped the broom will be absorbed by the cloth. I do it immediately for if I forget and if Kriti steps on it later, I would never forgive myself.

She is in the fifth grade — she is small. She got her periods last week — not that small.

She has gone to school. I wonder what to do. I check if Mom has replied. Blue ticks. She has seen it. I log into Facebook.

Post: Artist hacked to death over explicit painting

My God! Continue reading


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Photo Feature: Kitaab launches T A Morton’s ‘Halfway Up A Hill–Stories from Hong Kong’ in Singapore

Singapore publisher Kitaab launched Denmark-based writer T A Morton’s debut collection of short stories, Halfway Up A Hill–Stories from Hong Kong, on Friday (19 February) at Books Actually in Singapore. Here are some images from the launch.

Copies of the book are available now at Books Actually, Singapore and will soon be available in all leading bookstores in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

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In Halfway up a Hill, an array of characters from the eight distinctive short stories converge and interact in and around a busy Soho coffee shop in Hong Kong. In the air-conditioned confines of an unassuming coffee shop halfway up (or down, depending on your point of view) a steep Hong Kong hillside, a multitude of lives entwine, unravel and spin off, together and apart, all watched over and influenced by forces the people involved only vaguely apprehend—as well as observed by the benign spirits that occupy the shop bathroom. The collection of intriguing stories told in Halfway up a Hill both stimulate and beguile, like a sip of hot coffee on a cold day.

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T.A. Morton (holding her author’s copy at the launch) has worked as journalist and editor for Longman Pearson in Hong Kong. Returning to Europe she now resides in Copenhagen where she works as a freelance editor. She lives with her husband and daughter and is the proud godmother to a commercial ship, Tracey Kosan. Currently she is working towards her masters in Literature, and also on her third novel.

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Something for the tastebuds at the launch @ Books Actually

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T A Morton in conversation with her readers

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Novelist and poet Krishna Udayasankar was in conversation with the author, T. A. Morton.

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And the book is launched: (from left) T A Morton, author of Halfway Up a Hill; Zafar Anjum, publisher, Kitaab; Krishna Udayasankar, novelist and poet; and Helen Mangham, agent, Books@Jacaranda


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Kitaab Review: Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar’s ‘The Adivasi Will Not Dance’

by R K Biswas

THE ADIVASI WILL NOT DANCE - COVER FOR KITAAB INTERVIEWHansda Sowvendra Sekhar’s debut book, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baski, had ushered in a new voice into the Indian English literary scene. A voice steeped in the soil of its origin—the land of Santhals—and refreshing in its clear visualisations of his people. His second book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, published by Speaking Tiger does not disappoint. In fact, being a collection of short stories, this book feels (at first) like a Santhali Thali meal, with an array of ten (Santhali) dishes, each giving off its own aroma, distinct from the rest, strong or mild, sweet or over powering, creating together, a hearty experience. The colours, the sights, sounds and scents, the Santhali spirit—put together, they make up the essence of Hansda’s prose.

In the first story, “They Eat Meat”, the Soren family have to go and live in Vadodara, Gujarat, when Biram Soren, a high ranking officer, is transferred. The Sorens overcome the restrictive food habits of a vegetarian city, and even grow to love the place. But soon they are forced to confront the spectres of religious and caste divides, especially in the aftermath of the Godhra killings. And this is where this heartwarming story charmingly displays the indomitable human spirit of ordinary Indians.

“Sons” is the story of two women whose grandfathers were brothers. Like the two mango trees in the narrator’s house, one nurtured but fruitless, and the other left to grow wild but with the sweetest mangoes in their locality, their sons grow into manhood. Told in a conversational style, as if the narrator is relaying the events unfolding before him, “Sons” takes us straight into the bustle of a middle class Santhal home. Continue reading


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Kitaab Review: The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria

rafia_zakariaThe Upstairs Wife is an important testament to Pakistan’s political and individual family histories, says Mantra Roy in this review.

The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria. Beacon Press, 2015.

“Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated in Rawalpindi,” whispers the narrator’s father into the phone, while the family is waiting for a relative’s health status at hospital. The Upstairs Wife (Beacon Press, 2015) takes readers on a swift journey through Pakistan’s political and social history via a personal, family history. Rafia Zakaria’s school-going Pakistani girl’s perspective provides a mysterious narrative voice. She observes her aunt’s marriage crumbling because of a Pakistani law that permitted Pakistani men to take legal second wives in the 1980s. Continue reading


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Publishing trends: On e-books and Genre Writing in South Asia

by Zeenat Mahal @zeemahal

SLMHLMN-cover-final (1)Genre writing in English by South Asians is a comparatively new phenomenon. Though there are writers like Shobhaa De who have been writing popular fiction for the last two decades, most writers want to be known as ‘literary’ authors. The common belief in South Asia has been, until now, that in order to have any merit, writing in English has to be ‘literary,’ a term used to signify art. A literary book is supposed to have finer prose, important themes and most of all, it is expected to be a piece of such crafted excellence that it can withstand the test of time. Traditionally, value has been placed with this form of writing, while all other forms of writing are dismissed as worthless. This prejudice is true anywhere in the world, but it has lasted far longer in South Asia. Popular literature by South Asians has only recently found an audience in South Asia.

There are two phenomena at work here. Homi K. Bhabha suggests that the fascination with the written word leads to the ‘book [being regarded] as wonder.’ The other is the fascination with a person who can make a story out of nothing, or worse, ‘put you in a book.’ There might be remnants of post-colonialism working here as well. Writers who can employ the language of power, i.e. English, to write and to capture ‘truths’ and ‘reality’ are celebrated more than those who write in local languages, not counting the great poets and classical writers. The idea that the revered written word may be ‘reduced’ to nothing more than ‘pulp’ appal these gatekeepers of ‘taste’ and ‘merit.’ The written word as entertainment is frowned upon, because reading as a leisurely habit has been associated with rich, well-educated people who want to come across as intellectuals. Continue reading


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Granta’s India issue disappoints

Granta’s second India issue brings together a new crop of writers who don’t quite up the ante, says Faiza S. Khan in Open

Too much of the fiction (and non-fiction) in this issue is competent if utterly mundane; I’m hard-pressed to remember it two days after reading it. I’d venture that it isn’t a sign of the much-ballyhooed Death of the Novel or any particular crisis facing Indian literature at the moment; it seems to me a matter of poor selection—more work in translation for example would have been great—and the same problem Raymond Chandler wrote to a friend about in 1947: ‘Undoubtedly we are getting a lot of adept reportage which masquerades as fiction and will go on getting it, but essentially I believe that it is lacking an emotional quality. Even when they deal with death, and they often do, they are not tragic. I suppose that is to be expected. An age which is incapable of poetry is incapable of any kind of literature except that cleverness of a decadence. The boys can say anything, their scenes are almost tiresomely neat, they have all the facts and all the answers, but they are little men who have forgotten how to pray.’

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From India’s bestseller charts: Ten surprising things about book buying behaviour in India

What does not sell in India are poetry, translated books and literary non-fiction–in other words, the best-produced books in the business: Scroll.in

Here are ten things you probably didn’t know about the sales of books that you read and buy regularly.

1. The books on the charts stay on their regular trajectory for about 140 successive weeks. Then Chetan Bhagat launches a new novel. In that very first week, Bhagat’s book almost ‒ not quite, but almost ‒ sells as much as the rest of the top 500. Certainly more than the rest of the top 400. Continue reading


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Excerpt: “The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer” by Laxmi Hariharan

ReducedRubyCoverTHE MORNING INVOCATION from the Shiva temple seeps through the holes in the faulty concrete walls of my bedroom. By the time, they reach my ears, the Sanskrit chants entwine with the pinging of my iPhone, a multi-layered vibration, which blends with the humming of the air conditioner. The resultant noise is a mix of the spiritual and the electronic, tinged with the salty air from the Arabian Sea, then filtered through dusty vents. It’s that special Bombay vibe. Unique to this urban sprawl, the former seven islands of Bom Bahia—the Good Bay, as named by its Portuguese founders.

Reaching out to shut off the phone, my hand slams into the glass of water next to my bed. It promptly falls over, the crash more effective in cutting through my sleep than the iPhone’s wake-up alarm. Opening first one eye then the other, I reluctantly slide out my arms from under the cotton sheet, which has kept my body at just the right temperature through the night.

Meanwhile, the air conditioner—a luxury I can ill afford, now that I am paying my way through life, instead of living under someone else’s roof—continues to work overtime, trying its best to bring down the temperature of the room to less than blistering hot. When the cool draft caresses my skin, the chill slithering along the dusty floor to keep the feverish temperatures of the city at bay, only then can I drift off to sleep.

I stumble out of bed, and into the adjoining kitchen and fire up the stove below the saucepan already half filled with water. Yawning, I stretch my hands above my head to work out the kinks in my back. One by one, the vertebrae along my spine pop, as I straighten.

“Where’s my chai?” Pankaj, my flatmate, props himself against the doorway to his own cubicle-sized room.

“Get it yourself, bitch,” I reply mildly, spooning out tea leaves into a saucepan.

“… Please?” He wheedles, “pretty, please?”

Ha! I’ve trained him well. “But, since you have asked me so politely … I might just make your chai. This time.”

“Haven’t I told you to wait till the water boils before adding the tea leaves?” Pankaj protests. I mentally mouth before adding the tea leaves in sync with his voice. He loves to watch my fumbling efforts in the kitchen, just for the sheer pleasure it gives him to criticise my every move.

“Okay Mum,” I mumble, splashing milk into the now boiling liquid and letting the concoction stew for a few seconds before pouring it into the mismatched cups. Looking around for the sugar, I add the white crystals to Panky’s cup, pausing in the act of adding a spoonful to my own.

“Ah! Time for the sugar dance I see.” Continue reading