mehtaBrian Leung reviews Rahul Mehta’s debut short story collection Quaratine in AAWW

Quarantine is a book one can walk with. I have done so, literally, on the summer-steam streets of Louisville, and again in the dappled light of Bethel, Maine’s asphalt roads and gravel trails. A book that becomes a walking companion is one that isn’t in a rush because, pages in front of your face, rocks and pot holes and road kill in your pathway, you can’t be in a rush either.

JhumpaThe author explains how months or years can elapse between a story’s conception and its construction (The Guardian Book Club)

Many of the stories were abandoned for several years before I returned to them. The first to be conceived, and among the last to be written, was “Once in a Lifetime”. I began working with the characters and situation – two families living for a time under the same roof – in 1998, the year before my first collection, Interpreter of Maladies, was published. Initially I thought the ingredients of the story might yield a novel. But after introducing the premise, and establishing a tension between Kaushik and Hema, the two principal characters, I was unable to move forward. The story was narrated in the third person then, and though the characters felt alive and specific to me, the structure was feeble and the narration felt flat, without heat or dimension. I set it aside and went on to draft The Namesake, my first novel.

The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and its partner the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) have launched an online voting platform for the short story contest, Long Way Home

483 entries were received from Asia and Europe for the contest; a professional panel of judges have shortlisted 10 stories which are now featured online and two lucky winners will be chosen by members of the public.

In other rooms, other wonders_edIn Other Rooms, Other Wonders

By Daniyal Mueenuddin
Bloomsbury, 237 pages

My first brush with Pakistani writer Daniyal Mueenuddin’s material was in the pages of the New Yorker. I don’t remember the exact year but I had noticed the title of the story (Nawabdin Electrician) and the author’s name—not a very common feature in the noted American weekly. I was not going to miss it.

I remember reading the story and not being very impressed by it. I think I read it off the web, maybe after downloading the story and printing it out. I must have read it on the go—I admit that’s not a very good way of reading stories but that’s how I read books. We all live hurried lives. Anyway, I had decided that it was not a good story and after reading it, I had forgotten about it.