Posts Tagged ‘Akhil Sharma’
July 12, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- In 2003, as the U.S. mustered its forces for a long, messy invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein sat in solitude. He had an important task: he was putting the finishing touches on a piece of fiction. Not a novel, mind you—he’d already written three of those, and now he was just slightly too busy for another—but a novella, yes, called something like Get Out, You Damned One, and soon to arrive in English, at last: “The manuscript was reportedly carried out of Iraq by Saddam’s daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein, in 2003. She announced plans to publish the 186-page novel in Jordan in 2005, before it was quickly banned from sale, resulting in multiple bootleg versions appearing … Hesperus has yet to announce what its English title will be. A spokesman for Hesperus described the book as ‘a mix between Game of Thrones and the UK House of Cards–style fiction,’ and said it was full of political intrigue, but that the publisher would be ‘keeping the rest secret until Christmas.’ ”
- Like thousands before her, Elif Batuman has learned to love her fate, to heed the call of an ancient destiny: she’s moved to Brooklyn. “For a long time,” she writes, “I used to make fun of writers who lived in Brooklyn. There are a lot of things about Brooklyn that are both funny and sad, but none more so than the density of writers per square yard. I was trying to explain it once to a Russian novelist, back in the old days. We were sitting at a table. ‘There are writers everywhere. If this table was in Brooklyn, you would look under it, and there would be a writer.’ The novelist looked under the table, and said: ‘Like mushrooms.’ ”
- Akhil Sharma, on the other hand, stood in bold defiance of his fate, which was to spend way too much money on a bespoke Savile Row suit cut by Davide Taub. He tried to get another tailor in Vietnam to fake it instead. It did not go well. And thus he came to understand Taub’s art: “As I sat in a corner of the living room, a tall young man stood before the mirror and tried on a dark blue suit that was gridded with threads and chalk. Taub stepped back and forth and walked around him. To me, the suit looked great and the young man very handsome. Then, Taub pinched a bit of cloth at the bottom of the trousers. The line of the back of the legs became much more legible and the young man grew taller by an inch. Taub fiddled with how a sleeve entered the jacket’s shoulder and this made the customer look longer-armed and more elegant. Taub spent about thirty-five minutes making small adjustments, and I felt as though I were watching a writer polish the final draft of a paragraph.”
- Whither the stochastic, parodic Garfield spin-off? Anyone looking for an undercurrent of existential dread in America’s fattest cat can find it in any number of unauthorized novelty sites: there’s Garfield Minus Garfield, Minus Jon Plus Jon, Square Root of Minus Garfield, Garkov, and Random Garfield Generator. One artist explained the appeal: “The relative inanity of the original strip’s dialogue is a uniquely strong setup for weird/broken/scrambled non-sequitur text. I think that’s what works so well about so many Garfield variations, really; it’s such a sterile, safe, drama- and menace-free strip that injecting any kind of Dada strangeness or emotional complexity into it makes it jump off the page a bit.”
- In New York, the long-awaited revitalization of Governors Island is finally complete, and it promises to be a nice park and all, but Martin Filler sees more in it than that: “Symbolically, the completion of the Hills could not have come at a more opportune moment. During a season when mindless hatred against immigrants runs rampant in our land, the vista from the top of Outlook Hill offers an instructive panorama. It begins at the mouth of the Atlantic beyond the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, continues past the Statue of Liberty and her upraised torch in full-frontal welcome, moves toward the longed-for gateway to freedom, Ellis Island, and then culminates with the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan … The Golden Door, as the poet Emma Lazarus called this stretch of waterfront, has never been presented in a more inspiring visual perspective than is now available from Outlook Hill.”
May 21, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
The Paris Review is known for its interviews. Our first issue, from Spring 1953, featured a conversation with E. M. Forster on the art of fiction, inaugurating a series that’s grown to include hundreds of poets, novelists, playwrights, translators, cartoonists, and screenwriters. These Writers at Work interviews have created a genre and canon of their own.
In the spirit of that tradition, we’re proud to present “My First Time,” a new video series where writers discuss the trials of writing and publishing that first novel, that first play, that first book of poems. This is a chance to see how successful authors got their start, in their own words—it’s a portrait of the artist as a beginner and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.
Next week, starting on Tuesday, we’ll launch the first four videos in the series, featuring Christine Schutt, J. Robert Lennon, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and Gabrielle Bell. You can see a preview above, including writers from future installments of the series such as Donald Antrim, Akhil Sharma, Tao Lin, Ben Lerner, and Sheila Heti. And stay tuned—we’ll announce more writers in the months to come.
This series is made by the filmmakers Tom Bean, Casey Brooks, and Luke Poling; we’re delighted to collaborate with them.
April 27, 2015 | by Brian Mastroianni
Duras’s The Lover, thirty years later.
Early in Marguerite Duras’s The Lover, we encounter an indelible image: a strange rag doll of a girl rides the ferry across the Mekong River en route to Saigon. She’s an adolescent, fifteen and a half, and she looks both too young and too old for her age, in a sleeveless, low-cut, red silk dress, a leather belt that belongs to one of her older brothers, gold lamé shoes, and—the most striking piece of her ensemble—a large, flat-brimmed men’s hat:
Having got it, this hat that all by itself makes me whole, I wear it all the time. With the shoes it must have been much the same, but after the hat. They contradict the hat, as the hat contradicts the puny body, so they’re right for me.
That elliptical, dreamlike tone is characteristic of the novel. The book’s narrator is a young woman in flux. She’s outgrown childhood and has poured her body into oversize markers of adulthood; the conclusion of the ferry ride signals the start of her sexual awakening, as she first glimpses the chauffeured black limousine that belongs to the twenty-seven-year-old Chinese businessman, the novel’s eponymous lover.
The Lover, Duras’s forty-eighth work, was published in France in 1984; the English translation arrived in the United States a year later. If the book, at just over a hundred pages, reads like the hazy, disconnected musings of a seventy-year-old writer looking at faded snapshots of her past, that’s because it is. When Duras claimed that the novel was entirely autobiographical, it became something of an international sensation. But, as the New York Times noted, “truth, in the Durasian universe, is a slippery entity”; Duras also went on to say “that the story of her life did not exist.” She and the novel found even more notoriety a decade later, when Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film adaptation was released. Duras eventually washed her hands of the film, which focused mainly on the erotic elements of the story—and indeed the novel’s depictions of sex receive an outsize portion of attention. But it’s also a study in the narrator’s fraught connection with her family and the cultural fissures in French-colonial Indochine. Read More »
March 24, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Congratulations to Akhil Sharma, whose novel Family Life has won the Folio Prize. Writing the book, Sharma said, was “like chewing stones”: “I’m glad the book exists, I just wish I hadn’t been the guy who wrote it.”
- “The traditional complaint about teenagers—that they treat the place like a hotel—has no purchase on me. In fact, I quite like the idea. A hotel is a place where you can come and go autonomously and with dignity; a place where you will not be subjected to criticism, blame or guilt; a place where you can drop your towel on the floor without fear of reprisal, but where, hopefully, over time, you become aware of the person whose job it is to pick it up and instead leave it folded neatly on a chair.” Rachel Cusk on raising teenagers.
- The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 to lukewarm reviews and sluggish sales—how did it become a classic? Salute (or blame) the GIs: “As a part of a revolutionary scheme of donating more than 22 million books to World War II troops abroad, a publisher threw in a random book from its backlist: The Great Gatsby … Gatsby and others entered the consciousness of millions of men who returned from war with an appreciation for paperback books and reading.”
- A group of Catholics have proposed G. K. Chesterton for sainthood. “Chesterton, in his jolly way, was a militant. A blaster of the superstitions of modernity, a toppler of the idols of materialism. He inveighed ceaselessly, at great length, and without ever once repeating himself, against ‘the thought-destroying forces of our time’: pessimism and determinism and pragmatism and impressionism.”
- A brief history of gayness on television: “By the fall of 1974, three years after the first gay cameo on popular American television (the vehicle was the liberal lodestar All in the Family), there were a handful of gay characters on prime time … ‘All were rapists, child molesters, or murderers.’ Activists lobbied networks to stop depicting gays as criminals and, within a few years, moved on to more subtle forms of otherness.”
February 5, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- A reminder from literature: capitalism was always a disaster, even in the days when virtue and commerce were thought to go hand in hand. “The gentlemanly capitalism we were brought up to believe in was, if not wholly mythical, a sideshow in a noisy cavalcade of fraud, theft, and what Walter Bagehot called ‘ingenious mendacity’ on all sides … We should return to the pages of Dickens and Trollope to remind ourselves that there were wrong ’uns at every level and turn of nineteenth-century commerce, from crooked agents, clerks, brokers, and jobbers to ‘lords on the take, knights on the make’—and that ‘the thieves were often difficult to distinguish from the legitimate,’ to the cost of the ill-informed and gullible investor and customer.”
- In Donetsk, Ukraine, as artillery continues to barrage the city, the show must go on. “The persistent shelling was barely audible through the thick stone walls of the Donetsk National Academic Opera … The highly regarded opera continues a regular schedule of weekend performances, as does the neighboring dramatic theater. Performers at the popular Donetsk circus, having finished their New Year’s routines, are planning a new round of shows in February. The planetarium open every weekend. Many cinemas are operating.”
- Akhil Sharma on Chekhov the journalist: “Sakhalin Island is the greatest work of journalism from the nineteenth century … It has the pleasure of moving through a physical, distinct world and the keenness of documentary analysis.”
- Van Gogh, method actor: He began his professional life “in the Borinage, the former industrial and mining region to the southwest of Mons … He originally intended to be a pastor, but the sickly, impoverished mining communities were often baffled by his attempts at asceticism and his clumsy efforts to fit in by wearing rags, blackening his face and sleeping on the ground.”
- “Many of us have at least one thing we have put our name to that we have later regretted and desperately hoped might never again resurface to embarrass us, something that is far from guaranteed in an age of social-media outrage cycles … Pat Conroy’s novel The Great Santini was such a thinly-veiled portrayal of his tyrannical military father that Conroy’s mother presented it to the judge at her divorce proceedings, saying, ‘everything you need is in there.’ ”
January 17, 2014 | by The Paris Review
It’s been almost fifteen years since Akhil Sharma published his first novel, An Obedient Father. This terrible, improbably funny book—about a single mother forced to share an apartment with the father who raped her as a child—won Sharma a PEN/Hemingway prize, a Whiting Award, and praise from the likes of Jonathan Franzen and Joyce Carol Oates. (I remember because it was the first novel I had the honor of editing.) Now Sharma is back with Family Life, the tale of an Indian American boy coming of age in the shadow of a family disaster. It too is terrible and improbably funny, and is excerpted in this week’s New Yorker. With acid, deceptively artless prose and a faultless ear for dialogue, Sharma strips his characters bare from page one and dares us to love them in their nakedness. I cannot think of a more honest or unsparing novelist in our generation. —Lorin Stein
Michael Hofmann is the only translator whose work I would read no matter what he decided to English—if only I could keep up with him! In the excellent new issue of Asymptote, he tells a story about interviewing Wolfgang Koeppen in 1992, four years before the German novelist’s death. (“With my English reticence and youth, I met Koeppen halfway: in other words, we were both barely out of our shells.”) He also writes of the Joseph Mitchell–like silence that Koeppen fell into after the publication of Death in Rome (1954) and lauds the still-untranslated last book, Youth (1976)—giving us reason to hope he might be at work on an English version. The final remarks on Koeppen’s sentences—continually “sidestepping into freedom,” “scrupulously managed, supple, cadenced, sumptuously lexical, expressive prose”—double as a description of Hofmann’s own writing. —Robyn Creswell
Poetry’s January issue contains a thirty-page feature on Jane Freilicher: her artwork and her close friendships with a number of poets, among them Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. The section is adapted from Tibor de Nagy Gallery’s wonderful exhibition, last summer, “Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets” (it’s currently on view at the Poetry Foundation, in Chicago). I remembered having glimpsed the show’s catalogue in Lorin’s office. I liberated it, and I’m not sure I’ll give it back. It’s like having a scrapbook made by the people whose work you most admire, and it shows that they had as good a time in one another’s company as you’d imagined. “Some little gremlins seemed to have popped loose in my idea factory and I think they may have been sent over from Koch’s brassiere factory,” writes Freilicher to O’Hara. And in what may be my favorite letter in the whole book, from Jane to Frank on a poem of his: “it just don’t seem to have that real low-down smelly sexy everyday Olympian quality your admirers depend upon.” —Nicole Rudick Read More »