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In twelve startling and vividly imagined stories, Ranbir Singh Sidhu overturns the lives of ordinary Indians living in America to bring us a bold debut collection, Good Indian Girls.
“Achingly merciless, London-born author Sidhu’s 12 short stories sharply delineate the edges of identity and sanity…These haunting tales simultaneously attract and repel, enchant and shatter…Sidhu creates inscrutable characters inhabiting bewildering circumstances. Smart, provocative and poignantly disturbing, this collection, the author’s U.S. debut, signals a writer to watch.” —Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Though weird and eccentric, Sidhu’s stories are also empathetic and refreshingly free of the clichés of immigrant narratives. He manages to portray his characters as uniquely Indian without losing sight of their individuality, offering small, piercing looks into the humanity that resides in every situation and person, no matter how strange.”—Publishers Weekly
“With adeptly drawn characters, Sidhu demonstrates a dexterous grasp of the human psyche, while the prevalence of dark twists displays his love of the fatalistic. This propensity for the morose will be off-putting for some but is sure to please those with a taste for black humor and shades of the diabolical.”—Booklist
“‘Border Song,’… finds the transformative grace in grief and a closure of sorts that eludes characters in ‘The Order of Things,’ a masterpiece of a story that could have you marvelling at Sidhu’s incisive and distinctive perspective for the Punjab experience of violence, exile and estrangement—both within India and abroad.”—Outlook India
“Whenever I pick up a story by Ranbir Sidhu, I feel as though I’ve been released from the cedarwood closet of literature into the fresh air of active creation; as though I’d been fitted with brand-new high-tech earphones picking up an infinity of eloquent microphones cleverly scattered around the world. The pops and squeaks of new life crackle in my ears, and even when they’re threatening or saddening, I’m inevitably overcome by the hope that they’ll never stop.”—Harry Mathews, author of My Life in CIA, Cigarettes and The Journalist
“Ranbir Sidhu is imaginative, with a dry, sly wit, very intelligent, and owns a wicked sensibility, all of which makes his fiction smart, daring, sensitive to human perversity, and keen in its observations. He is one of the most compelling and sophisticated younger writers today; and his writing is beautiful and entertaining.”—Lynne Tillman, author of American Genius, A Comedy and No Lease On Life
“[Sidhu’s] work takes risks, is often daring and imaginative, and I appreciate the intelligence he brings to his craft. I look forward to reading his new collection of stories, Good Indian Girls.”—Edward Albee, author of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“The first-person narrator of ‘The Good Poet of Africa’ despises poetry, repays compassion with insult, and enjoys lying to children. but, by story’s end, the moral universe will be turned on its head, and the reader will empathize with Ranbir Sidhu’s loathsome protagonist. This is writing of uncommon assurance and skill.”—Jeet Thayil, author of Narcopolis
“In twelve vivid stories, Ranbir Singh Sidhu paints tender, uproarious and incredibly insightful portraits of Indians living in America.” —Barnes & Noble Review
In an excerpt from Daniel Menaker’s memoir about his years working in publishing, My Mistake: A Memoir, he offers a deadpan and often hilarious take on what goes on there behind the scenes. Read it at Vulture.com.
Publishing is an often incredibly frustrating culture. If you want to buy a project—let’s say a nonfiction proposal for a book about the history of Sicily—some of your colleagues will say, “The proposal is too dry” or “Cletis Trebuchet did a book for Grendel Books five years ago about Sardinia and it sold, like, eight copies,” or, airily, “I don’t think many people want to read about little islands.” When Seabiscuit first came up for discussion at an editorial meeting at Random House, some skeptic muttered, “Talk about beating a dead horse!”
To make matters worse, financial success in frontlist publishing is very often random, but the media conglomerates that run most publishing houses act as if it were not. Yes, you may be able to count on a new novel by Surething Jones becoming a big best seller. But the best-seller lists paint nothing remotely like the full financial picture of any publication, because that picture’s most important color is the size of the advance. But let’s say you publish a fluky blockbuster one year, the corporation will see a spike in your profits and sort of autistically, or at least automatically, raise the profit goal for your division by some corporately predetermined amount for the following year. This is close to clinically insane institutional behavior.
In a brief, but glowing, one line review, Barnes & Noble Review says some very nice things about my book (though they misspelled my name). Link here.
In twelve vivid stories, Ranbir Singh Sidhu paints tender, uproarious and incredibly insightful portraits of Indians living in America.
Harry Mathews has been a friend and supporter of my work for some years. He wrote a glorious blurb for the book, all heartfelt, for which I’m deeply grateful. One day, I’ll write a short piece on how we met, which was certainly amusing, and involved large quantities of alcohol and cigarettes. In the meantime, for those who don’t know his work, or want to know a little more about it, there’s a lovely essay by Blake Butler in Vice Magazine that sums up much of his work. Check it out here.
Easily my favorite of all Mathews’s work, and probably of all I’ve read from the Oulipo, The Journalist is the most concretely formulaic of his narrative concepts, but also his most expansive. Almost like a mirror to the practice found in 20 Lines a Day, the narrator of The Journalist begins writing down his thoughts about what happens to him every day. The act is meant to be a system of relief for the writer after having just come out of a nervous breakdown, but as the book goes on the narrator’s mania for his recording project grows and grows.
So last night the lovely and marvelous Lynne Tillman joined me in helping to celebrate the publication of GOOD INDIAN GIRLS at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We had a great crowd, and a good conversation after we both read. All in all, a really lovely evening. Thanks to all who attended!
Melville letters are rare things, and this one is a fine example, pushy, in need of money, and at its heart a difficult, rebellious story which he was trying to sell called “The Two Temples.” Stephen J. Gertz tells the whole story over at The Booktryst.
And as a side note, the five dollars per printed page which HM asks for is more than I’ve ever gotten for the majority of my stories — and those are 1854 dollars!
Pittsfield May 9th Dear Sir -Herewith you have a manuscript.As it is short, and in time for your June number, therefore – in case it suits you to publish – you may as well send me your check for it at once, at the rate of $5 per printed page.- If it don’t suit, I must beg you to trouble yourself so far, as to dispatch it back to me, thro my brother, Allan Melville, No. 14 Wall Street.YoursH. Melville
A lovely new interview up over at W3Sidecar. Check it out here.
I can be stuck on a story for years—actually many of the stories included here were written in part, left unfinished, and then returned to years later to finish. Where that final push comes from I don’t know, except that time is mysterious, it allows connections to be made that otherwise wouldn’t have, and it allows a much deeper immersion into a character—someone I might have casually created without any clear goal in mind—to develop and emerge.
If you’re in New York City next Tuesday night, come out to a reading from GOOD INDIAN GIRLS at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’ll be reading with the marvelous Lynne Tillman. Details here.
7 PM, WORD Bookstore, 126 Franklin St, Brooklyn.