The marvelous Titi Nguyen recently interviewed me for the Ploughshares blog. Read it all here.
Thank you to Alex Shakar for the incredibly generous blurb, which he assures me is heartfelt.
“This is no picturesque coming of age. In an immigrant family and an adopted land both straitjacketed by denial and rage, it’s an open question—and a propulsive one—whether Deep Singh’s lashings out to save himself will lead to salvation or destruction. Deep Singh Blue is work of ferocious bravery, intelligence, and art.”
—Alex Shakar, author of Luminarium
So pleased to see — thanks! Check it out here.
WATCHING TELEVISION FOOTAGE OF REFUGEES streaming west by their thousands, along the highways of Hungary toward the Austrian border, my first thoughts are about my mother. She made a similar trek, 69 years ago almost to the day, when she was only six. I see her in the girl raised by her father above the fray at the Bicske railway station in Budapest, or holding tight onto her mother’s hand in the throngs filling a nighttime road, led by men using their cellphone GPS to find the way. She too was fleeing war — or more exactly, walking through the heart of it, as what had been the Indian Raj was violently split into India and Pakistan.
Read the full article over at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
I’m proud to have an essay up on VICE, all written in this last week in the heat of the fallout from the Greek referendum and the (perhaps) closing of a deal with the creditors. If you want to know what’s happening in one small part of Greece right now, please read. Click here for the article, or on the image below.
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.
Very happy to report that my story The “Lost” Chapter of John Jourdain will appear in the upcoming Fall issue of Conjunctions.
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.