Monday, October 29, 2012

Out of Print Author Series: Mridula Koshy

Mridula Koshy’s Not Only The Things That Have Happened will be released in a few weeks. The book summarised: With her dying breath a mother dreams of reconciliation with the son she gave away when he was four years old; a world away the son is a grown man struggling to inhabit a life in which the past is an unknowable dream.

Out of Print knows Mridula’s work from her collection If It Is Sweet (Tranquebar Press, 2009). Our inaugural issue reprinted a story, The Good Mother from the collection, a close examination of a woman who, ‘At the end of her tenure as mother, … leaves Manchester for her parents' home in Dehra Dun to enact … a pilgrimage.’

We asked Mridula about the experience of writing a novel as opposed to short fiction.

MK: Certainly writing the novel was more of a slog when compared to the work of writing the short story, which springing from inspiration stays in that hallucinatory realm to the last line. However editing short stories individually and finally putting together a collection had some of the same slog factor as writing the novel. The novel fulfills a different ambition, it has a built in capacity for the panoramic view, which I wanted and needed to tell the particular story of 'Not Only the Things That Have Happened'. In this novel I got to cover roughly four decades in the lives of the two protagonists, in addition to wandering afield in the history-politics-culture of two societies, that of Kerala and the Midwestern United States and finally to take a hard look at the much romanticized institution of adoption . Both forms have the capacity for experimentation but the novel with its multitude of built in assumptions resists experimentation as the short story doesn't. The short story is ultimately the more honest of the two devices, less concerned with real time verisimilitude, the desire to imitate life or even plausibility.

Out of Print Author Series

1       Annam Manthiram with After The Tsunami   Sep 06, 2011
2       Murzban Shroff with Breathless in Bombay   Oct 01, 2011
3       Annie Zaidi’s The Bad Boy’s Guide To The Good Indian Girl (with Smriti Ravindran)   Oct 18, 2011
5       Annie Zaidi’s script Jaal  in production   Jan 05, 2012
6       Anjum Hasan’s Difficult Pleasures   April 03, 2102
8       Sampurna Chattarji’s Land Of The Well   May 31, 2012
10    Janice Pariat’s Boats On Land   Oct 01, 2012

Behind The Shadows

A recent e-anthology, Behind The Shadows edited by Rohini Chowdhury and Zukiswa Wanner with the objective of bringing together the continents of Africa and Asia bears the theme outcast. It features work from associates of Out of Print, Rumjhum Biswas and Sucharita Dutta-Asane.

Sucharita Dutta-Asane’s story, Absolution was run on the Out of Print blog to accompany the mythology issue of the magazine. The story is preceded by  a quote from Arshia Sattar’s, The Ramayana by Valmiki, (Penguin Books, 2000) that reads, ‘Then Gautama cursed his wife. “You shall be invisible to all creatures as you do penance in this hermitage! You shall be purified only when Rama, the invincible son of Dasaratha, comes to this forest. Wicked woman, when you offer hospitality to Rama, you shall be freed of your lust and passion. You shall regain your earlier form in my presence!”’ It opens into a contemporary tale of perceived sin and absolution.

Rumjhum and Out of Print editor, Indira Chandrasekhar got to know each other in the process of releasing Pangea, the anthology that Indira edited with Rebecca Lloyd. Rumjhum conducted a series of interviews of that included both Indira and Rebecca, as well as many of the authors. It was really interesting to hear what the authors had to say about their respective stories, and it was fun for Rebecca and myself to talk about bringing Pangea together. The interviews were featured on the Everyday Fiction blog, Flash Fiction Chronicles.

I asked the following of both Sucharita and Rumjhum:
Tell us a bit about your story in Behind The Shadows: what inspired you to write it and why you saw it as fitting into the anthology.

The story that Sucharita has contributed to Behind The Shadows is called Cast Out and follows the wife of a priest in a temple on a hill and the ramifications of her interpretation of the monthly taboos associated with her bodily cycles.
S D-A:
The politics of ‘taboo’ has a strange effect in our culture; it engenders many things, one of which is rebellion. This is true of all societies; in ours it takes on implications that seep into our daily living. Most of us have lived with and through taboos related to menstruation and felt rebellion in our blood. We have been cast out of various portals, but what happens to the gods we worship? Can they be cast out too? How culpable are they in our beliefs and belief systems?

My story ‘Cast Out’ explores the practice of ‘belief’. It involves, rather sweepingly, gender issues, sexual issues, and the concept of what is taboo and what permissible. It hovers along the edges of the personal and the public, of the mind and body. When I started writing it, I only had an image in my mind, of a dark temple on a hill. Often, when I travelled by train between Pune and my hometown Jamshedpur, I would watch co-passengers fold their hands or throw coins towards temples on distant hills, shadowy in the evening light. As I began to write the story, not knowing where it would lead, I remembered that distant image and wondered what the people knew of the myriad temples to have such faith in their invisible deities. What if the temples were non-functional, devoid of their moortis, or a den of vice? This was the trigger. The menstruating woman and her quiet self assertion came much later. When she did, she had me in her grip. Through Tara, I began to feel the denial of existence that menstruating women still experience across our country. I remember discussing this story, much after I had written it, at a writing workshop. Everybody had a story to tell on the subject, horror stories, funny stories, angry stories.   

‘Cast Out’ went through quite a few drafts before it reached this stage. In each draft, I saw it evolve, grow out of my control, spread out, retract, cave in, assert itself. I didn’t know where I would send it or how it would be received. I just knew that this story needed to be told. I’m so glad it has found a warm home for itself.

Rumjhum’s story in the anthology is called The Vanishing Man and is about a clerk in an office who has retired and how he perceives the world as seeing him. The story emerges wonderfully through the everyday activity of the protagonist.
R B:
I wrote The Vanishing Man sometime in 2003-2004. The story was first published in The Paumanok Review in 2004 (I think), before the magazine went on hiatus. I believe it re-opened recently, and my story is still archived there.

‘Outcast’ – the theme, concept, its many manifestations, effects and influences – is close to my heart. The Vanishing Man is not the only story around this theme that I’ve written. There have been other stories as well as poems; I seem to be working on something or the other around this theme, every now and then. My novel, which will be published sometime in 2013 by Lifi Publications, also has characters that are outcasts. From an early age I have been able to identify with those that fall under the category of ‘other’ and/or are outcasts. It may have something to do with certain life circumstances, however small. It certainly has to do with me as a person. I remember as a small child, looking at lepers and (mentally) transmigrating into their bodies; for an hour or so I was in my inner world as a leper tackling life. And that was not the only time, and not only with lepers either. This identification with the other naturally seeps into my creative writing.

Regarding the story and its protagonist, I've noticed that sometimes, in our male dominated and male-centric society, it is the man who becomes the victim. It's a curious thing. These men, reared on the belief that man being superior must therefore shoulder all the responsibilities that come with it as husbands, fathers, brothers etc., become helplessly caught in their own notions of duty. And their self esteem and sense of worth are irredeemably tied to it. Men (in our society) go through depression and feel they've lost their masculinity (and I mean masculinity and not merely virility), their idea of themselves as men, once they retire. In our country we have no rehabilitation programme or pre-retirement sessions that can help pre-retirees tackle their superannuated lives better. Family members are not sensitised. Wives and grown-up children in many cases treat such men with derision. Once they've stopped becoming bread winners, they no longer deserve the special treatment meted out to them before, like being served first at the table, their opinions sought etc. Not many men are able to turn philosophical and forgiving at the sudden change in attitude. The man, bewildered and at a loss, has no means of filling up his suddenly empty hours with meaningful activity. I've seen elderly men turn either extremely meek or vicious. The more they lose their physical strength, the more mentally debilitated they seem to become. Sometimes, the man is successfully able to deal with post-retirement issues, mostly due to his own efforts and sometimes thanks to good family support. Our government and society offer little or no help. In my story, my protagonist Satyabrata, comes to terms with his new status, in his own way; at the end when he has nothing, he still has his faculties about him, his mental strength to become free.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Out of Print layout recognised

  Praise for Out of Print from Marko Fong, fiction editor of  Wordrunner In an article in Flash Fiction Chronicles entitled Electronic Chapbooks: A Manifesto part 2 – Now and Future, part 3 of a series on chapbooks, Marko says:

… layout, appearance, and navigability matter…. Every editor has an obligation to care about every aspect of production.  Online journals need to be especially vigilant about it, because too many of our peers aren’t. Here are some that I’ve seen meet that standard.  Summerset Review, Kweli Journal, Smokelong Quarterly, Prime Number, Solstice Quarterly, RKVRY, Wigleaf, The Collagist,  Anderbo, Juked, Elimae, Blackbird, Out of Print.  

We are honoured to be in such exalted company!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Out of Print 9

Out of Print 9 features a single work by U R Ananthamurthy. The Hunt, The Bangle and The Chameleon, has never been published in translated form.

The cover is an image from a collaborative community project by N S Harsha.

Chandrahas Choudhury in his review of the recently translated Bharathipura (translation, Sushila Punitha, Oxford University Press, 2011) comments that ‘Mr Ananthamurthy … takes as his great theme Hinduism's relationship to modernity.’ Professor Anathamurthy’s work, Tim Parks says ‘has the all difficulty and rewards of the genuinely exotic, … [in comparison to] the far more familiar Indians writing in English ... who have used their energy and imagination to present a version of India to the West where exoticism is at once emphasized and made easy.

One of Professor Ananthamurthy’s most acclaimed novels is Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man (translation A K Ramanujan, Oxford University Press, 1976) later made into an award winning film by Pattabhi Rama Reddy. In India: A Wounded Civilisation (Andre Deutsch 1977, Penguin, 1979), V S Naipaul sees the novel that in his view captures ‘the Indian idea of the self’, as ‘a form of social inquiry’ which highlights the decay of Indian civilisation. Refuting this as too limited an interpretation, R K Gupta in his article, The ‘Fortunate Fall’ in U R Anantha Murthy’s Samskara (International Fiction Review, 7 (1), 1980, pp. 20-28) suggests that the ‘moral and spiritual growth’ of the protagonist, the Brahmin Praneshacharya ‘through what might be called his "fortunate fall" defines the theme and controls the form’ of the novel. The critical event of the acharya’s ‘felix culpa’ is his encounter with Chandri, a woman of low caste that leaves him recognising that ‘he has lost his virtue. At the same time ... he has ... [a] sense of having attained ... not only physical and emotional fulfillment but also an increased moral awareness as well as a broadening and refining of his human perceptions.’ 

We offer that The Hunt, The Bangle and TheChameleon explores both the social themes of transition and modernity that occupy Professor Ananthamurthy, as well as the transformation of the individual, although here, the defining change in the protagonist, Krishnaswamy comes not from an encounter with sin, but rather with innocence.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Out of Print in Six Questions For ...

Out of Print editor Mira Brunner responds to the questions from the Six Questions For ... blog.

Find out what the top three things are that we look for in a submission, what the top three reasons are for rejecting a submission, and more about how the Out of Print editors think at Six Questions for Out of Print

Our thanks to Jim Harrington for keeping this wonderful project, this great resource for writers going.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Out of Print Author Series: Janice Pariat

We are proud that Janice Pariat’s Embassy, acutely centred in its setting, that appeared in the second release of Out of Print is included in her collection, Boats on Land published by Random House, India.

The blurb proclaims that the book is a unique way of looking at India’s northeast and its people against a larger historical canvas — the early days of the British Raj, the World Wars, conversions to Christianity, and the missionaries.

Janice creates a world in which the everyday is infused with folklore and a deep belief in the supernatural. Here, a girl dreams of being a firebird. An artist watches souls turn into trees. A man shape-shifts into a tiger. Another is bewitched by water fairies. Political struggles and social unrest interweave with fireside tales and age-old superstitions.

We asked Janice a couple of questions:

OofP: The stories in this collection are profoundly linked to place. However contemporary the piece, however universally accessible, your stories are woven into the North East, its culture and geography.  Were the stories written when you lived there? How is this connection to place affected by moving out of the region?
JP: Mostly here and there. A bulk of the stories in Shillong - where I had the space, time and quiet to work. The rest in London, where I was studying History of Art at SOAS.  I don't think the connection is in any way broken. I carry the places in my head - Shillong, Cherrapunjee and parts of Assam. They're ingrained in you, where you spend your years growing up. And that's part of the challenge (and fun), to re-imagine the places you love.  

OofP: Has any writer or work had a particular influence on you, and how?
So many. It's a long history of reading. Nabokov, for his ethereal prose, Virginia Woolf, for her lyricism. But if I had to pick one writer in particular, especially for Boats on Land, it would have to be Jeet Thayil. I read Narcopolis while working on the first edits of my stories - and his language is fearless. It quietened the tussle I felt between poetry and prose.