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.
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 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.
This post sponsored by Grammarly’s plagiarism detector which next time you try and whip your dick out during a press interview, will tell you for sure whether you’re being a true original or just another Johnny-come-lately.
Don’t know what it is about me, but interviewers invariably tag me fucking “mild-mannered.” Infuriating, a tad? No doubt the accent contributes. But what really galls is that it often serves as an easy way out for them to avoid talking about the stories (or in this case, to avoid quoting much of what I said, which was far more interesting, trust me).
I do want to give the writer real credit. The interview was enjoyable, and she read the book with serious attention, and was strongly affected by it. And this is really fine as an interview goes, but I just wish once I’d get to be interviewed by someone not blinded by the immediately superficial. We were having lunch, after all, in a pretty little Fort Greene establishment. And to future interviewers, hey, what do I have to do? Whip my dick out during the salad course and start rubbing it in the arugula, or just drool and spit, and maybe jump up and bite one of my fellow diners’ ears off, just so I can prove to you I have the emotional cred out of which my stories are born?
It’s hard to believe the stories in Good Indian Girls come from the mind of mild-mannered Ranbir Singh Sidhu—stories that are wildly imaginative and remarkably sordid, disturbing at their best, eccentric at their tamest and deeply intriguing all throughout.
Read the interview over at Kirkus.
[UPDATE: The writer tells me her word choice was "soft spoken," which is much more accurate, and the editor changed it to "mild-mannered." What's the takeaway from this: Editors, trust your writers!
UPDATE 2: The good people at Kirkus, at the writer's request, have changed me back to my "soft spoken" self. No more of this fucking "mild mannered"! Many thanks to the writer, Nidhi Chaudhry.]
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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
Launch of The Happy Hypocrite – Freedom, Issue 6
edited by Lynne Tillman
21 September 2013, 7.00pm onwards
55 Walker Street
Yasmine El Rashidi
Ranbir Singh Sidhu
Robin Coste Lewis
Followed by a discussion with Lynne Tillman and participants.
To purchase this title please visit the Book Works website.
This new issue of The Happy Hypocrite challenges the restraining notions found in art and writing about who and what can and cannot speak. What can and cannot be said or thought. In part a response to Kafka – to that which we don’t know has damaged us – freedom is presented as an important and urgent concept, and a complicated word, in which and beside which hypocrisy also resides. (Hypocrisy can be construed as a freedom). The Happy Hypocrite offers its pages to ingenious fictional, nonfictional, and visual responses to the various meanings of ‘freedom’.
Contributions from Gregg Bordowitz, Paul Chan, Gabriel Coxhead, Lydia Davis, Yasmine El Rashidi, Chloé Cooper Jones, James Jennings, Allison Katz, Robin Coste Lewis, Craig Owens, Sarah Resnick, Ranbir Singh Sidhu, Abdellah Taïa, an interview between Lynne Tillman and Thomas Keenan, a cover by Susan Hiller, and archival material from Paranoids Anonymous Newsletter.
In Bookforum, William T. Vollman meditates on what it means to be an American and also to disappear, if that’s possible anymore, or if it ever was.
James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales retail the now quaintly preposterous exploits of a self-sufficient woodsman who, with his loyal Chingachgook, adventures deep into near-virgin forest, where he does unto noble and fiendish redskins as they deserve, and then, after mostly triumphing in this American endeavor, heads for the delectably unknown West, so as to die in sight of the Pacific. Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage brings its hero and heroine into a beautiful valley whose entrance they seal off forever to save themselves from the murderous lechery of Mormon elders. How convenient; how easy! Once we have escaped the grid, won’t it be dreamlike? “Deerslayer determined to leave all to the drift, until he believed himself beyond the reach of bullets.”