July 18, 2014 | by Amitava Kumar
I first noticed Harry Roseman’s art while dropping off my shirts at the dry cleaner near my home. It is a photograph of the wall in the dry cleaner on which the photograph hangs. Roseman had taken the picture because the sun had thrown on the wall the shadow of the shop’s neon sign. The name is spelled in outline on the drab wallpaper: Gladmore Cleaners. The picture hangs in the same spot where the shadow had fallen.
Then I noticed another one. Shirts under plastic covers and suspended from white, metal hangers form a line behind the register. Each shirt has a yellow slip attached to it. My own shirts hang there, ready for pickup. When the owner moves a section of shirts aside, a large photograph comes into view: a tight composition of the scene that has just been disturbed—all the shirts in their neat row.
Gladmore Cleaners in Poughkeepsie, in upstate New York, is owned by a Korean couple, Jongwon and Insoon Chung. In the recent past, Roseman has added their portraits to the collection in the store. High up above the counter is a photograph of the Chungs. They are standing at the counter, Insoon in more formal attire and without her glasses, Jongwon beside her wearing his customary white cotton vest.
This picture appears in another photograph of the Chungs taken by Roseman. The second picture hangs on the wooden wall beneath the counter where Insoon has her register. The scene is repeated here—the photographer and his subjects both keep their places from the first photograph—except that in the later picture, the Chungs are smiling and wearing brighter colors. Read More »
March 6, 2012 | by Amitava Kumar
Hari Kunzru’s latest novel, Gods Without Men, is being released in the U.S. today. Set in the Mojave Desert, the novel is an echo chamber for stories divided across more than two centuries. The clever symmetries that link the stories reveal the bleached bones of American identity—racial mixing, violence, an unending contest over the politics of meaning and faith. This is Kunzru’s fourth novel; his debut, The Impressionist, appeared in 2003 and was followed by Transmission (2004) and My Revolutions (2007). I conducted this interview by e-mail, but I saw Kunzru only a few weeks ago, in late January, at the Jaipur Literature Festival. He had done a public reading from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses , a book banned in India since its publication more than two decades ago. Rushdie had been scheduled to appear at the festival but, because of threats to his life, decided to stay away. When I last saw Kunzru, it was close to midnight and he was making calls to lawyers overseas. He had been informed that he was facing arrest. The next day, on legal advice, Kunzru left the country.
The first time I read about you, you were described as having “a nonspecifically exotic appearance” that marked you “as a potential native of about half the world’s nations.” How do you usually explain your origins?
I was born in London. Depending on who I’m talking to, and how I feel, I might describe myself simply as a Londoner, British (that one’s only crept in since I came to live in New York—to anyone in the UK, it’s weirdly meaningless), English, the son of an Indian father and an English mother, Kashmiri Pandit, rootless cosmopolitan … Read More »