It’s a rare event when a major new literary magazine comes out of India, and rarer still that one of such scope and deep seriousness as The Byword emerges. But here it is, and to me it is a real cause for celebration. If you’re in India, run out to your local bookstore and see if you can get a copy, and if they don’t have one, tell them to order it. I’m proud to say I’ve got a major new story, “Jerusalem”, in the debut issue, but there’s so much else besides, and much of it fantastic. Finally, in India, a print venue where not only new writing is published, but also celebrated.
Much that happens in the writing world is supported by people who do it just for the love of art — as those of us who write so often do. So here’s a shout out to the fine people at indianshortstoryinenglish.com — and their excellent work in putting together a compendium of what’s happening right now in the Indian short story form (as practiced by those who write in English). You can check out my page by clicking here, or on the image below, and search through the site to find some really fine writers of the form.
The blogger Kelly Lynn Thomas recently interviewed me — and asked some excellent and searching questions. Read the whole interview here.
For me as a person, the idea of home is one I feel increasingly distant from. I’ve never felt “at home” anywhere—it’s a stance that’s been useful to me as a writer, for it’s allowed me to remain to some degree an outsider. It’s also a deeply uncomfortable feeling, and one I don’t particularly enjoy, and yet I have no experience of the opposite—what it would feel like to be at home somewhere, or to have a sense that you come from somewhere, that you have a hometown, that you have a place to go where you feel accepted and yourself. All of these experiences are completely alien to me.
Kelly Lynn Thomas reviews Good Indian Girls over at her blog.
Although most of the stories focus on the experiences of Indian immigrants in America, these are not the typical “adjust to American life” or clash-of-culture tales. Instead, Sidhu writes stories that take place at the convergence of the darkest aspects of the two cultures. These are modern gothic stories wherein each sentence is like a surgeon’s exacting scalpel cutting away ideas we hold dear. I didn’t notice a single line that sounded awkward or that didn’t ring true.
The quickest turnaround from acceptance to publication I’ve ever had. Got the email Sunday night, and here it is, Tuesday night and the story is up. Many thanks to the wonderful wee magazine Oblong. Read here or click on the image — one more selection from my long, unpublished novel, The Echoes.
It was no different from taking out a pair of pants that have gotten too tight, she didn’t know why Ralph was making such a fuss, it wasn’t like she was shooting junk into her veins, which was all the rage, by the way, not like she hadn’t thought about doing that because let’s be honest, who hasn’t thought about it, and if she wanted to, why shouldn’t she, why shouldn’t anyone, a woman should be able to get it on the NHS, get a prescription, just want a bit of a lift today, doc, feeling down and frowzy if that’s a symptom, why not offer junk, could do the world a lot of good, have you seen the way people walk down the high street, Ralph, with their stone dead faces and children screaming and carrier bags, why not give them heroin, why not give them coke …
Read an excerpt below from the new story. The whole work is in the current issue of Conjunctions — on newsstands today.
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.
A feature interview over at India Abroad this week. Check it out here.