Over at The Story Prize blog, I have a guest post up. Check it out here.
In presenting deeply conflicted characters, and sometimes unpleasant characters, I guess, in hindsight, I was looking for ways to broaden the emotional landscape of much of so-called contemporary Indian American fiction—though perhaps more accurately I was reacting to what felt like a strangled emotional territory. And also to make, in my own small way, a larger claim on the universality of experience, and that it doesn’t have to born out of exhausted tropes— the newly arrived immigrant, the clash of cultures, the relatively narrow emotional bandwidth of adapting to American middle class life.
My friend Diane Mehta has a wonderful, and deeply felt, essay over the Paris Review Blog this month. Definitely worth your time to take a look.
There it was: desire was about self-awareness, about becoming uncaged. It was a not unfortunate discovery, the years after my marriage split, that casual sex could exist in the on-and-off world of custodial parenthood. It could take place freely without the awkward recognition that a child is in the house. Sexual experience could be immersive, even obsessive, and endlessly amped up in ways that the psychological necessity of married family life would not allow. But the mistake of sexual freedom, both in my new relationship and then, later, out of it, was to assume that liberated sex corresponded to liberated emotions.
Over at The Guardian, Philip Pullman calls any form of illegal downloading “moral squalor” and equivalent to stealing money right out of an artist’s pockets. I’m a strong defender of copyright. I find apologists for illegal downloading and the net anarchists who argue that all information should be free to be both delusional and dangerous.
However, I do believe there is a place within the ecosystem of the Web for free downloading, even for illegal downloading. It’s going to happen, and it’s primarily going to happen among young people. And in certain parts of the world, say in India, it’s almost necessary. Much of the content is not even available to buy, or the cost is set at Western prices, out of reach of many in the middle classes.
What I’d argue for are forms of education that help re-instill the value of actually paying for something, and also spell out the consequences for a culture, and a world, in which artists and creators are not compensated. And I certainly believe those consequences are dire.
Illegal downloading is a kind of “moral squalor” and theft as much as reaching in to someone’s pocket and stealing their wallet is theft, the author Philip Pullman will say this week.
In an article for Index on Censorship, Pullman, who is president of the Society of Authors, makes a robust defence of copyright laws. He is withering about internet users who think it is OK to download music or books without paying for them.
“The technical brilliance is so dazzling that people can’t see the moral squalor of what they’re doing,” he writes. “It is outrageous that anyone can steal an artist’s work and get away with it. It is theft, as surely as reaching into someone’s pocket and taking their wallet is theft.”
There’s much to think about and argue over in Franzen’s new essay on Karl Kraus (and a lot that resonates for me), but in the end I wonder if he’s saying anything at all. It seems more as if he’s reduced himself to an attitude, and that he’s not particularly convinced himself. The argument seems to be: “I could have been a “hater” but I grew up, so now I’m just a “hater-lite” but maybe I’m not even that.” Read it here, over at The Guardian.
I wasn’t born angry. If anything, I was born the opposite. It may sound like an exaggeration, but I think it’s accurate to say that I knew nothing of anger until I was 22. As an adolescent, I’d had my moments of sullenness and rebellion against authority, but, like Kraus, I’d had minimal conflict with my father, and the worst that could be said of me and mother was that we bickered like an old married couple. Real anger, anger as a way of life, was foreign to me until one particular afternoon in April 1982. I was on a deserted train platform in Hanover. I’d come from Munich and was waiting for a train to Berlin, it was a dark grey German day, and I took a handful of German coins out of my pocket and started throwing them on the platform. There was an element of anti-German hostility in this, because I’d recently had a horrible experience with a penny-pinching old German woman and it did me good to imagine other penny-pinching old German women bending down to pick the coins up, as I knew they would, and thereby aggravating their knee and hip pains. The way I hurled the coins, though, was more generally angry. I was angry at the world in a way I’d never been before. The proximate cause of my anger was my failure to have sex with an unbelievably pretty girl in Munich, except that it hadn’t actually been a failure, it had been a decision on my part. A few hours later, on the platform in Hanover, I marked my entry into the life that came after that decision by throwing away my coins. Then I boarded a train and went back to Berlin, where I was living on a Fulbright grant, and enrolled in a class on Karl Kraus.