The “Lost” Chapter of John Jourdain

Read an excerpt below from the new story. The whole work is in the current issue of Conjunctions — on newsstands today.

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THE ‘LOST’ CHAPTER OF JOHN JOURDAIN

Scholars of Seventeenth Century literature of the sea have yet to fully take up cudgels in the debate on the veracity of the purported “lost” chapter of John Jourdain’s journal. In the published account (as reprinted in the venerable Hakluyt Society edition of 1905) of his visit to the island nation of K., The Journal of John Jourdain, 1608-1617, Describing his Experiences in Arabia, India, the Malay Archipelago and Lands Nearby, Jourdain wrote scathingly, describing K. as “hotte, uglie, and wythoute even those accomadations anye beggar mite finde agreeable.”

Little more was said for some two hundred years, the location of K. left a mystery, which it remains to this day, and the subject thought of little interest; until, inside an old seaman’s chest abandoned in a Kent attic, were discovered the yellowed pages of what appeared to be the entire original manuscript, which included the never before seen “lost” chapter. This seaman’s curiosity was passed among a group of self-described ‘enthusiasts’ for many years, and has only recently entered the broader realm of scholarly interest.

Though many consider it a forgery, the fact remains that the handwriting matches verified contemporary samples from John Jourdain, and the spelling matches his own quite unique form, which meandered among possibilities as much as he meandered across the globe. That the seaman John Jourdain, or his original publisher, would want to suppress this version seems more than likely, as it touches upon topics that might well have been considered inflammatory in its age: the hot-blooded whimsy of a traveler obviously affected either by fever or alcohol or, as is suggested in the account, other substances. As such, it can placed next to Cyrano de Bergerac’s account of his journey to the moon or the adventures of Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelhausen’s creation Simplicissimus in his flights of unfettered imagination.

But such poetical whimsy from so otherwise as obtuse a seaman as Jourdain seems unlikely, a fact that the considerable number of supporters of the veracity of the lost chapter never fail to point out. The weight of testimony on both sides of the argument thus stands quite strongly, and the debate, as noted above, has only begun to be argued among scholars and the more learned professionals of the sea. In the meantime, it is up to the reader to decide for him or herself as to the credibility of events, places, and individuals described.

A Mostt Curiose Sojerne inn the Landes of K.

by John Jourdain

Att my cominge aland upon an Unnamed Shore I found the Kinge and his Unkle both together, with many Others; of whome I demanded Leave to rest for several Daies for the Heate had strucke myself and my companions alsoe siche that wee knewe not some among us our verie Names and walked the Deckes like Ghosts unto ourselves and unto each one the other; all of us terriblie affrighted by the casualtie to our Common Senses. At one time I would calle my Chief mate by the Name of the most common Seeman, even of the Boy, and he would looke att me as though I had become one of the verie Natives that had soe affrighted us manie Daies before on the Ilandes wee did lande upon. At another time the entyre Crewe would not knowe me and calle me by siche strange Names and speake with siche curios Tonges that I guessed not who I myself was, holding the Beliefe that they who knewe me not knewe some larger Truthe. The Heate was the verie Devile Himself for it would leade oure Sense one way and when we felt the strength of Certaintie it would knocke all wee knewe downe and wee were but required to Build up again oure Worlde from Senses recentlie attacked. And then when again wee felt a common Beliefe growe among us, that wee each knewe the Name of each other, that wee knewe our owne Selves, the Devil in the Cloake of the Heate would come at us againe and knocke at our Certainties and Knowledge. Sailing aboute like this wee were at the edge of Great Blows and Violence wiche, had notte we landed at the Unnamed Coaste and there mette with soe kindlie a Kinge, wee would without doubt have become the Servantes of the Evile One in his Designes upon this Worlde.


Far outside the expectations…

A feature interview over at India Abroad this week. Check it out here.

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“Tender, uproarious and incredibly insightful”

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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.


“Stuck on a story for years…”

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 2.02.56 PMA 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.

Reading: Tuesday, November 12th

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.

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“Good Indian Girls”

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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.


“I get bored when everyone is going along nicely and not questioning”

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The fine folks at The Aerogram have published an extended interview with me on the book. Take a look here.

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.

 


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