Booknotes: Oscar and Lucinda

Screenwriting guru Syd Field often wrote/said: When you’re writing a scene, look for a way that dramatizes the scene “against the grain.” My book notes today are related specifically to this technique of going “against the grain”, using Peter Carey’s 1988 Booker-winning ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, as example. I have loved this novel since I first read it and still dip into my favorite bits from time to time. Continue reading Booknotes: Oscar and Lucinda

Booknotes: Jane Eyre

Originally posted on indiatopia:
In my book circles, the Austen vs Brontës debate has come up often. And, though I’ve come to appreciate Austen’s finer points over time, I have always preferred the Brontës. With the three Brontë sisters, there’s the Charlotte vs Emily debate (Anne, sadly, doesn’t get much airtime). This has been harder. For years, I stuck with Emily because I found ‘Wuthering… Continue reading Booknotes: Jane Eyre

5 short stories

Top Five Short Story Reads From March 2017

Fiction from real world events has been done since our cave-dwelling ancestors drew crude wall graphics or sat around fires telling each other embellished and exaggerated personal anecdotes. So, the first step for me, before I began my own such short story, was to look at examples of outstanding short fiction primarily inspired by headlines or real events. Below, you will find five such stories (free to read online, just click the story title link) from Roxane Gay, Robert Olen Butler, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Susan Glaspell, and Meera Nair. From quietly tragic to cleverly satiric to magically surreal, these stories do a whole lot more than tell us what simply happened: they show us the textures, shapes, and densities that might exist below the superficial layers and what that might mean for our own lives. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads From March 2017

Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

With ‘The Bluest Eye’, Morrison wanted to explore racial self-contempt and how that comes about in us. In the late-60s, when the idea of different kinds of racial beauty was just beginning to be properly articulated and accepted, she wanted to show, through the life of a twelve-year-old girl, Pecola, how concepts like “ugly” become personal and how they shape personality and, therefore, life. Throughout, Morrison has also scrutinized the effects of religion, shame, classism, colonization (of the mind), gender politics, incest, child molestation, etc. To avoid dehumanizing those responsible for creating this kind of mindset in a child, Morrison has given us complex, layered characters who are, to me, almost Dickensian. I say “almost” because it is when describing the worst things that happen to or are done by some of these characters that Morrison surpasses Dickens’ pathos. Her truth is searingly honest but kind, and her kindness carefully extends to both the flaws and the virtues of these men and women. Dickens showed us who people are or can be; Morrison shows us who we are or can be. Continue reading Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

5 short stories

Top Five Short Story Reads From February 2017

Over the past month, I focused on writers from the seven countries that were/are on the US Travel Ban list. Most of them are, of course, Arabic language writers, so I am thankful to be able to find English translations free online. I got the idea from Asymptote Journal’s project to collect writing from these banned countries. Their special feature issue, with at least two stories from each, will be out in April 2017. Though the list below is rather male-centric — because we are dealing, mostly, with highly patriarchal cultures — I have searched harder to get some women writers too. So here are stories from: Goli Taraghi (Iran); Hassan Blasim (Iraq); Hisham Matar (Libya); Nuruddin Farah (Somalia); Leila Aboulela (Sudan); Zakaria Tamer (Syria); and Nadia Al-Kokabany (Yemen). Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads From February 2017