Read an extended excerpt from the title story over at The Aerogram.
That night she dreamed of a naked old man in a cowboy hat hopping cross-legged from one feathery cloud to another while his knees streamed blood and his limp penis flopped menacingly between his hairy thighs. The dream must mean something and she told herself to write it down and think on it, though she never did, and a week later, trying to recall it, all she could remember was a floating cowboy hat taunting her from the heavens. The memory held an erotic charge, though why, Lovedeep could not say.
In my view, one of the central purposes of art is to unsettle, and to destabilize our own fixed notions of who we are, and who our fellow humans are. If, after having read this collection, the ground is a little more unsteady under the reader’s feet, then I’ve done my job. There’s something of the natural provocateur in me, and I get bored when everyone is going along nicely and not questioning the larger structures of their own lives. So I do hope that it provokes, and that it reaches those people who are at the moment sitting a little too comfortably in their own lives.
Over at her Intermittent Visitors site, the marvelous poet and blogger Joanne Merriam has a brief interview with me up. What will you learn? That I’m a messy writer who hates getting out of bed, thinks you should ignore all writing advice, and oh yeah, still an Alasdair Gray fanboy after all these years. Take a look here. And check out her small publishing house, Upper Boot Books, here.
What is your writing process?
Messy and undisciplined, with no clear schedules. I write in bed when I can, and I often try and get away and write while traveling, where I can keep the laptop next to my head, wake, sit up with some pillows behind my back and pull the computer onto my lap and get immediately to work, often still half-asleep and remembering dreams.
The weight of the literary novel, its dull determinism, the head eating the tail, and a search for paths of escape, which, after all, is the trajectory of modernist fiction. Tim Parks, over at the NYRB, looks at some of this, and finds he comes away disappointed with the books he reads these days. I’d agree, in general, more and more so as time goes on. The novel fails to answer the questions of modern life, and the questions it does answer, well, we know all those answers already, so it becomes little more than bedtime reading, a quaint voice lulling us back to sleep.
Read it here.
My problem with the grand traditional novel—or rather traditional narrative in general, short stories included—is the vision of character, the constant reinforcement of a fictional selfhood that accumulates meaning through suffering and the overcoming of suffering. At once a palace built of words and a trajectory propelled by syntax, the self connects effortlessly with the past and launches bravely into the future. Challenged, perhaps thwarted by circumstance, it nevertheless survives, with its harvest of bittersweet consolation, and newly acquired knowledge.
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.
Over at the New York Times today, Tim Kreider — whom I didn’t know but now wanna read more of — lays it on the line about all the bullshit editors out there who think artists drink air, eat water, and pay for their clothes in Facebook likes. As Beyonce says, editors, If you like it….
This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them. The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.
You know you do– and in this case, you don’t even have to have a complete novel, just help out writing a group novel. In conjunction with NaNoWriMo, the national novel-writing month of November, the fine folk at Grammarly are organizing a community written novel. And you know what community means: it means you. Check out the details here. Deadline to join in is October 25th, so get over there if you want to take part.