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.
For some years, I’ve been at work on an outrageously long novel. It’s had various tentative titles over the years, and most recently it’s called The Echoes. Over at Word Riot, they’ve been good enough to publish a brief selection. Take a look here.
The TV had been blaring when she had darted out in the afternoon’s customary haste, ever late, and it still was now, how many hours later, tubing, as always, the Rev Boone Slaughter of the Church of Our Lord of Higher Necessity on one his 24 hour-plus marathons. “Duane’s dark angel” (Pin). Someday soon, the Rev declared, on what day he could not clearly foresee, but that it was written in the Book of Habakkuk, the eighth among the Prophets, if one employed a certain code developed by Al Kinditoy, that wily blind hermaphrodite sage of 16th century Andalusia, that a plague was coming upon the land and soon all would be crying into their pretty little ceramic espresso cups, the ones he found such darling temptresses in the European films of his misspent youth. She turned the volume down and left the picture on, where Slaughter in white robes and Santa Claus beard elucidated his findings through full-color overhead projections, and showered and changed into jammies. She watched the building of the Pyramids, then their cross-sections, then diagrams of their ratios, then a velvet haloed portrait of Al Kinditoy, who from his looks could well have been Slaughter’s lost cousin, then, as the station identification letters KRUT came on the screen, poured herself a gin and tonic, sliced a lime and dropped it in using a hairpin as stirrer, then recalled: the summer reading Moby Dick while her boyfriend, Serge Yavlinsky, increasingly disengaged himself over what he said was the erotic charge she received when learning of the processes of lamp oil production and wondered: Was that what was happening? Was Duane, at this moment, slipping into the icy void, had he moved from cool to cold so fast, did Slaughter’s mesmerism, his brilliant crazy surface, mean more to Duane than she’d ever done?
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.
Over at Artnet, I take a look at Izhar Patkin’s glittering show at Mass MoCA. Read it, see ie. Click the image.
Narrative, performance, the self and its creations, are seen in constant and ever-shifting flux. To look for answers here, Patkin suggests, is a fool’s errand, but to ask questions, and to continue asking them, though not a path to redemption, can lead to ever more refined ideas about the possibilities of being.
Join Quintan Ana Wikswo, Matthew Sharpe, and Ranbir Singh Sidhu as they bring new work to the stage for an evening of morphological misadventure within the uncanny nooks and crannies of newly invoked worlds.
$10 at the door; advance tickets online here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/702551
QUINTAN ANA WIKSWO (www.QuintanWikswo.com) is recognized for projects that integrate her original literature, visual art, video, and performance works. Her collection of short stories and photographs – The Hope Of Floating Has Carried Us This Far – is forthcoming on Coffee House Press. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and theory appears in anthologies, fine art catalogues, artist’s books, and in magazines including Tin House, Gulf Coast, Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and many more. Her works are exhibited, published, and performed at prominent institutions through Europe and the Americas, including three solo exhibitions at major museums in New York City and Berlin, and performances at (Le) Poisson Rouge, St. Mark’s Church, Incubator Arts Project, Dixon Place, Beyond Baroque, and others. She is the recipient of fellowships from Creative Capital, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation, Theo Westenberger Estate, Yaddo, and more. She maintains a lively visiting artist practice at NYU, CUNY, Colgate College, California College of Arts, California State University, and others.
MATTHEW SHARPE (http://sharpestories.blogspot.com) is the author of the novels You Were Wrong, Jamestown, The Sleeping Father, and Nothing Is Terrible. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University, and has been posting a one-page story every week to his blog Very Short Stories R Us.
RANBIR SINGH SIDHU (www.ranbirsidhu.com) is the author of Good Indian Girls, and a winner of the Pushcart Prize in Fiction and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and other awards. His stories appear in The Georgia Review, Fence, Zyzzyva, The Missouri Review, Other Voices, The Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Barcelona Review, The Happy Hypocrite and other journals and anthologies. His work for theater has been supported by MCC Theater, the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, La Mama ETC, the September 11th Fund, and the New York State Council for the Arts among others.