Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Things I've Been Reading: A New Year Special

The Middle Stage wishes all its readers a happy new year and a happy new decade. (It had some good times in the last one). Here are some things I've been reading recently that might interest you:

A new Indian literary webzine dedicated to the short story, Out of Print, run by three friends of mine: Indira Chandrasekhar, Samhita Arni, and Mira Brunner. The first two issues contain work by a number of excellent Indan prose writers, including Anjum Hasan, KR Usha, Nighat Gandhi and Mridula Koshy. If you'd like to submit work to the magazine, the guidelines are here.

The new issue of the Indian (but world-literature focussed) literary magazine Almost Island, including Adil Jussawalla's essay "Being There: Aspects of an Indian Crisis".

"The Danger of a Single Story", the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's lovely meditation on how we are both imprisoned and liberated by the kinds of narratives constructed about us ("This single story of Africa ultimately comes, I think, from Western literature. Now, here is a quote from the writing of a London merchant called John Locke, who sailed to west Africa in 1561, and kept a fascinating account of his voyage. After referring to the black Africans as 'beasts who have no houses,' he writes, 'They are also people without heads, having their mouth and eyes in their breasts.' Now, I've laughed every time I've read this. And one must admire the imagination of John Locke. But what is important about his writing is that it represents the beginning of a tradition of telling African stories in the West. A tradition of Sub-Saharan Africa as a place of negatives, of difference, of darkness, of people who, in the words of the wonderful poet, Rudyard Kipling, are 'half devil, half child.'").

"Desperately Seeking Susan", the writer Terry Castle's marvellously zingy memoir of her relationship with the American cultural critic and intellectual icon Susan Sontag ("We were walking down University Avenue, Palo Alto’s twee, boutique-crammed main drag, on our way to a bookshop. Sontag was wearing her trademark intellectual-diva outfit: voluminous black top and black silky slacks, accessorised with a number of exotic, billowy scarves. These she constantly adjusted or flung back imperiously over one shoulder, stopping now and then to puff on a cigarette or expel a series of phlegmy coughs. (The famous Sontag ‘look’ always put me in mind of the stage direction in Blithe Spirit: ‘Enter Madame Arcati, wearing barbaric jewellery.’)").

"L'Etranger In A Strange Land", Brendan Bernhard's hilarious essay from 2005 on a meeting in Los Angeles with the enfant terrible of French fiction, Michel Houellebecq, even as the writer tries to outwit two other journalists trying to write a profile of Houellebecq at the same time ("A passerby stopped at the table and stared down at the cup. “Is that a quadruple espresso?” he asked in amazement, and everyone except Houellebecq burst out laughing. What the passerby couldn’t know, of course, was that Houellebecq was a French writer; that all French writers worth their salt drink terrifyingly strong coffee, usually in enormous quantities; and that, historically, the crème de la crème like Jean-Paul Sartre have added to their coffee habit several packs of cigarettes a day along with amphetamines in the morning and barbiturates at night. It’s a tough tradition to follow, but Houellebecq was doing his best).

"In Search of Dieguito", the novelist Martin Amis's acute reading of Diego Maradona's autobiography ("In South America it is sometimes said, or alleged, that the key to the character of the Argentinians can be found in their assessment of Maradona's two goals in the 1986 World Cup. For the first goal, christened "the Hand of God" by its scorer, Maradona dramatically levitated for a ballooned cross and punched the ball home with a cleverly concealed left fist. But the second goal, which came minutes later, was the one that [England manager] Bobby Robson called the 'bloody miracle': collecting a pass from his own penalty area, Maradona, as if in expiation, put his head down and seemed to burrow his way through the entire England team before flooring Shilton with a dummy and stroking the ball into the net. Well, in Argentina, the first goal, and not the second, is the one they really like").

See you in 2011!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to your best of 2010 list!

Anand said...

Hi Chandrahas,

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Thanks
Anand

radhika said...

Here is another TED talk that I find makes a good companion piece for the Adichie one.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elif_shafak_the_politics_of_fiction.html

And here is the link to the Adichie one, the transcript of which is linked to in the post.

http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html