“One of the things we look for when we read is just that level of commitment, that totality. We seek out the full realisation of a unique presence, a voice other than our own: the viewpoints of human beings beyond ourselves: the precision of experiences we cannot have, described by somebody we cannot be… The writer gives us two miracles, a world other than that which we inhabit and the ghost of their company, their voice.” Since this is A L Kennedy, her speech also includes the brutal truths underlying a career in puppetry, Mr Duck the Postman, and having your picture taken while you balance on a pile of Arran Highland Dress Socks.
The Babu’s an unabashed Potter fan, but all the same–hallelujah, the Lord be praised.
“I suspect that most professional critics don’t really enjoy books, the same way most porn stars don’t really enjoy sex. Day after day, fucking or getting fucked by the newest twenty something hipster with a coke problem or an advanced degree Victorian literature — it must be tedious.” Brokentype responds to Laura Miller’s attempted evisceration of Chuck Palahniuk in Salon.
Amitava Kumar in the Hindu on Bunker 13’s Minty Mehta, an anti-hero for our times. “His seductive cool represents the triumphant upward mobility of the Indian middle class. In the novel, it is the voice of an aggressively Westernised and global elite with a taste for American slang and a variety of brand names. Of course, if you don’t buy it, then what you are left to sympathetically examine is the touching pathos of such desire — and the pull of the unabashed gaze that is forever fixed on the upper rungs of the social ladder. MM confidently lays out brief manuals for drug-use, sex, and different types of lethal weaponry. He also presents a manual on torture and the use of chemicals. All such manuals are on the same moral plane. They offer the middle-class readers the chance of self-improvement in a fast-changing world that is opening up to them in ways previously unimagined.”
The Babu went through a mercifully brief period when he wrote dark, bitter verse about driving a minibus (still a seriously lethal weapon in the right hands) around Calcutta and mowing down everyone he didn’t like (three extra verses were added in tribute to Delhi’s lumpen, streets ahead of Calcutta in the crudeness and rudeness stakes). The school authorities didn’t like it much (for excellent reasons–it didn’t scan very well), but at least they didn’t arrest him, charge him and then ruin his entire career. Schools in the US are targetting fiction as a dangerous weapon, unlike the mostly harmless, available over-the-counter common or garden gun.
P K Rangachari offers tips on suitable reading material (candles not included, bring your own) for a power blackout. The only work of fiction he mentions is Jhumpa Lahiri’s A Temporary Matter, which set the Babu wondering if there are other works by Indian authors on the subject. He can recall a plethora of references to sweating in the summer, even the odd poetic simile about the drone of the generator in the background, but that’s it. What, no novels revolving around loadshedding? No thrillers where the villain cleverly times her murder to coincide with the hour of the scheduled power cut? No Mohsin Hamid-style discourse on the importance of airconditioning as a social marker? Suggestions welcome.
“There have been the inevitable comparisons between Ali and Zadie Smith… Both women are possessed of that potent combination of talent and looks that the book marketers couldn’t dream up. But their writing is altogether different.”
Okay, indignant Letter to the Editor time: The Babu’s heard about this potent combination–brains and beauty too!–in relation to Ali, Smith, Arundhati Roy and Jhumpa Lahiri, and thinks that a call for parity must be made. If the media can’t get it through its sexist head that a) some writers, who happen to be women, also happen to be quite attractive and b) this has little to do with the quality of their writing, then perhaps it might at least be even-handed enough to level the same scrutiny at men. Where’s the burbling paragraphs about the “talent and looks” of Hari Kunzru or, well, Chuck Palahniuk, then? And (for the last time) quit dragging Ali and Smith into the same sentence.