Friday, January 30, 2009

Jaipur Literature Festival- let's go in 2010!

Note the lines by Nadeem Aslam: "Mueenuddin mused on the tremendous changes in Pakistan and how that causes a sort of “premature nostalgia,” and the urge to commit it all to print, to pin down a precious, disappearing world. In Aslam's words, it's like “writing very fast with a quill whose other end is on fire.'”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sea of Poppies by Ghosh and Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan

After a slightly longer absence than usual due to holidays and lovely excursions to India (for the lucky!) we got together to talk about these two titles. The suggestion had been made to read two but also due to the above most people read one or the other, so some catching seemed in order. Love Marriage is a freshman effort by a writer who does more journalism at this point, and several of the group felt that the book read more like non-fiction in general. All were grateful to have a better exposure to Sri Lankan Tamil points of view, and there was a pretty great level of description of what a first generation emigre from a minority group tends to carry in baggage, in particular as the country of origin is warring still. There was sense that some of the themes introduced did not get played to their conclusion, particularly regarding the Tamil Tiger uncle in the story. There were some sparks of literary phrase here and there, but the overall work seemed strangely dry and needed some editorial assistance.

Sea of Poppies had a few strong supporters, Amardeep for one considered it almost a thesis, one could learn quite a lot about the period of time and phenomenon and mechanics of the opium trade. Kate P. talked a bit about the boat brother/sister phenomenon and how that actually manifested in Trinidad, where Hosay is still celebrated among formerly indentured South Asian migrants hundreds of years later. (Until recently also in Jamaica but now in demise due to cross cultural marriages, according to a friend from there). There was some discussion about the language, Amardeep noted that Ghosh's use of Hobson-Jobson vocabulary is quite unlike Rushdies in that it is used accurately for the time and not as word play. Sonan was not entirely impressed with the writing style, finding it I think stilted. Samian I think liked the story overall and is generally a Ghosh fan. Sanjay and others were surprised at the sudden drop off at the end of the story- although we realize this is the first part of a trilogy, it seemed as if it could not stand alone as a separate work, a small flaw according to the English teachers of the group, including Anne. There was an interesting split between people who considered it almost to the academic side of fiction and those for whom the book struck an almost popular/romantic fiction tone, because of all of the unrequited love dramas being played through. Perhaps it was in fact a balance of both!