So last night the lovely and marvelous Lynne Tillman joined me in helping to celebrate the publication of GOOD INDIAN GIRLS at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We had a great crowd, and a good conversation after we both read. All in all, a really lovely evening. Thanks to all who attended!
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.
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.
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.]
Over at Goodreads.com, my publisher, Soft Skull Press, is giving away five copies of Good Indian Girls. Entries open from now until the end of the month.
Apparently, all you have to do is send a blood sample encoded genetically with your social security number and a detailed history of your sexual liaisons, with the more perverted highlighted in hot pink please, and you should be good to go. I’ve been told confidentially that anything involving a dwarf, first press Cretan olive oil, and a liberal serving of Hamburger Helper sends you straight to the top of the list. Don’t ask, just what gets them going in the morning I guess.
Do note though that if you win, they will be checking. Click here to take a look and enter.
“These haunting tales simultaneously attract and repel, enchant and shatter, evoking the ambiguous relationships between past and present, others and self… Smart, provocative and poignantly disturbing, this collection, the author’s U.S. debut, signals a writer to watch.”
Read the whole review HERE.
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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