Friday, November 28, 2008

India's 911

From my tech blog:

Yesterday morning, once again I realised the futility of reading newspapers for getting news. Mumbai was under siege and my print paper gave me no idea of it.

I reached office and checked my e-mails—that’s when I saw a message from Sree Sreenivasan, a professor of journalism at Columbia University and co-founder of South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) in the US. His message was about a radio blog discussion on the breaking story of the terror attacks in Mumbai.

What! Another terrorist strike in Mumbai?

I was both angry and sad. What were the security and intelligence forces doing that allowed another terror attack on India’s financial nerve centre? I was sad at the loss of innocent lives.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wounder and wounded

My man, The New Yorker's James Wood has written the most insightful review (Wounder and wounded) of V S Naipaul's biography by Patrick French. It is just brilliant. A must read.

The Indian social theorist Ashis Nandy writes of the two voices in Kipling, which have been called the saxophone and the oboe. The first is the hard, militaristic, imperialist writer, and the second is the Kipling infused with Indianness, with admiration for the subcontinent’s cultures. Naipaul has a saxophone and an oboe, too, a hard sound and a softer one. These two sides could be called the Wounder and the Wounded. The Wounder is by now well known—the source of fascinated hatred in the literary world and postcolonial academic studies. He disdains the country he came from: “I was born there, yes. I thought it was a mistake.” When he won the Nobel Prize, in 2001, he said it was “a great tribute to both England, my home, and India, the home of my ancestors.” Asked why he had omitted Trinidad, he said that he feared it would “encumber the tribute.” He has written of the “barbarism” and “primitivism” of African societies, and has fixated, when writing about India, on public defecation. (“They defecate on the hills; they defecate on the riverbanks; they defecate on the streets.”) When asked for his favorite writers, he replies, “My father.” He is socially successful but deliberately friendless, an empire of one: “At school I had only admirers; I had no friends.”


Here is an audio interview with Woods on his New Yorker piece.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The World Is What It Is

Sorry, have been away, writing my blog at Have been reading Naipaul's Guerrillas, along with a few other books.

Found yet another interesting review of Naipaul's biography at the IHT:

After he had become an internationally famous writer, Naipaul liked to claim that he was a man without commitments or entanglements, free to observe and tell the truth as other, more sentimental souls were not. But at the darkest moment of his life, he attached himself to a quiet, intelligent, self-effacing young Englishwoman from an unhappy lower-middle-class family named Patricia Hale; and she kept him from drowning. Excerpts from their letters reveal how desperately Naipaul clung to her: "You saved me once, and it is from that rescue that I have been able to keep going - from Feb. 9 to today. I love you, and I need you. Please don't let me down. Please forgive my occasional lapses. At heart I am the worthiest man I know."

"The relationship began with Pat in the position of strength. Once they married and Naipaul began to publish his early books, the balance of power shifted decisively to him. Pat became his indispensable literary helper, his maid and cook, his mother, the object of his irritations, the traveling companion who never appears in any of his nonfiction. They had met as two highly repressed and untutored virgins, and a true sexual connection never formed. French places Naipaul's tormented sexuality at the center of his creative efforts, revealed in detail through various sources, above all Naipaul himself, without ever sinking into voyeurism or what Joyce Carol Oates called "pathography."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'A sadist and a smell-smock and a coxcomb'

Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things, on Naipaul's authorized biography:

Perhaps there's some master plan behind it all, some half-baked notion in which Naipaul imagines that future generations will see him as a heroic refuser of hypocrisy. He's always been a sadist and a smell-smock and a coxcomb, and he's always enjoyed it. So why should he act the man of prissy virtues after he's gained all the rewards that a successful highbrow writing life can possibly bring? He has the Nobel Prize, after all, together with a knighthood and more money than he can spend. His interests now lie only in making sure that readers a hundred years from now will find him interesting. And thus he places a bet that prurience will never go out of fashion and that all the tabloid titillation will keep his name alive.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Interview with Balli Jaswal, 2007 David T.K. Wong Fellow

I met Balli Jaswal (T K Wong Fellow 2007) at the Arts House, Singapore for an interview. Balli, who is still at work on her first novel, tentatively titled, When Amrit Returns, is the youngest winner of the David T.K. Wong Fellowship.

For introduction's sake, Balli was born in Singapore and grew up in Japan, Russia and the Phillipines. She studied creative writing at Hollins University (where Kiran Desai also went) and George Mason University. She is currently based in Singapore and works as a journalist.