In 2014, I wrote a six-part series about bibliomemoirs published from 1990-onwards till early-2014. This month, we have three bibliomemoirs featured in that series — Rebecca Mead on George Eliot; Alexander McCall Smith on W H Auden; and Janet Malcolm on Chekhov. First, why bibliomemoirs? Read Part 1 of the series for that. For now, let me share Joyce Carol Oates’ definition: “Rarely attempted, and still more rarely successful, is the bibliomemoir — a subspecies of literature combining criticism and biography with the intimate, confessional tone of autobiography. The most engaging bibliomemoirs establish the writer’s voice in counterpoint to the subject, with something more than adulation or explication at stake.” Second, why bibliomemoirs as writing how-to? I find that when we dive deep into how a particular literary work has been written — peeling back the layers of biography, history, writing process, narrative structure, etc. — we gain a much deeper understanding of both the work and the art and craft of writing. It helps, of course, when the literary work is one we also enjoy and admire. Continue reading Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 3
For the many creatives who may be struggling with the non-stop barrage of world events across news and social media, a thread of thoughts. It is important for a creative to protect his/her headspace. Or “inner life” or “reflexes.” Our work comes from ideas consumed/responded to. This is more difficult for creatives because our sensory receptors are, necessarily, always in “receive” mode to external/internal stimuli. Continue reading Some Thoughts for the Struggling Creative
In recent weeks, President Trump’s administration announced major changes to the US immigration system. Politically, immigration in the US has always been a hornet’s nest with both the Left and the Right using conflicting arguments to suit their specific agendas at any given point in time. Brexit has highlighted how immigration has become more than a deep-rooted concern in Europe. In his essay, Reflections on Exile, Edward Said described different immigrant categories — exile, refugee, expatriate, and émigré. Whatever category an immigrant may fall into, he/she has to constantly redefine and renegotiate his/her socio-cultural and geopolitical identities. This ongoing complex, scary, and messy tussle is both personal and political and is often not explicitly understood by even the person trying to cope with it. Here is a stellar collection of short stories — by Bernard Malamud, Amy Tan, Anzia Yezierska, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Oindrila Mukherjee — revealing and highlighting exactly this dynamic. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads for August 2017
Last month, I began this series to share various books I have found helpful for my own writing practice. As I wrote in that first post, these are not necessarily all traditional writing how-to books. However, they do all deal with the art and craft of writing in some way or another. This month, I am sharing three letter collections: Chekhov, Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell, and Vincent Van Gogh. If you have followed my blog over the years, you will know that I am a big fan of letter collections, especially those by writers and artists. It is, of course, a dying art nowadays, where social media has replaced both letters and emails. Continue reading Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 2
This month’s collection of short stories is related to travel. There are five new stories and five that I have featured in past months and am resharing in case you missed them earlier — all free to read online, just click the titles. The traveler-writers included here: Jack London, Virginia Woolf, John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, Nanjil Nadan, Joy Williams, Reem Abu-Baker, Meron Hadero, Goli Taraghi, and one of my own published earlier this year.
For me, travel has always been a more purposeful endeavor beyond a change of scenery or relaxation or checking off a to-do hotspot — beyond “tourism,” really. This is also why solo trips work best for me (and I know they also work best for my family members.) In these times, going somewhere new ought to be about a deeper personal transformation and not simply about eating, shopping, and being waited upon while rushing from one place to the next taking a gazillion photos. We can do most of this now from the comfort of our homes. Global cuisine is now delivered or cooked locally, Amazon offers everything from all corners of the world, a tap of a phone app brings an army of service providers to our doorsteps, and Google/Flickr has a treasure trove of photos better than anything a layperson can manage.
Taking in an underground play in East Berlin shortly after the Wall came down, cruising the Loch Ness at midnight, driving cross-country through national parks and small-town USA, sharing bread and cheese with a French gardener in a near-deserted country chateau in Dijon, meeting writers from around the world at the Jaipur Literary Festival, practicing Yoga in the mountains near the Himalayas — these are the kinds of travel experiences where I have met the most interesting people, collected fascinating stories of past and present, and, most importantly, learned more about the world and myself in conscious, mindful, and transformational ways. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads for July 2017