Knowing Your (Burmese) Neighbors

During my first 2007 visit to Crosswords, which is Kolkata’s version of Borders Books, a strategically placed table of books wrapped in narrow, yellow sashes that said “We guarantee you’ll like it!” caught my eye.  I’m always amused by “guaranteed” books like these, full of eagerness, like kindergartners in front of a playground fence.  They are in most cases a store’s brief attempt at (re)establishing a canon of literature, or ridding shelves of overstocked items.  The idea, though, of returning a book in 14 days and saying, “You know, I just didn’t like it, can I have my 225 rupees back” is… well, I don’t know what it is…I just wouldn’t do it.  Continue reading →



Just about 11 months ago, I moved out of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.  It had been my home for two months.  Today a suicide bomber tried to blow it up.  News reports say he attempted to enter the hotel through a nightclub entrance.  That entrance is on the side of the hotel, near the laundry entrance where the marriott staff laundered and pressed my clothes every day.  Including underwear.  Across the street is a gravel and dirt parking lot where the valets park cars, and where I parked my rental car when I didn’t feel like using the valet service.  You always had to keep an eye out for drivers drifting across lanes when you walked out of that parking lot — they habitually swerved around cars that were going to slow or turning.  In the mornings I checked underneath my car the first few times I parked it in the lot, even though the lot was guarded.  On those days, turning the key in the ignition sucked.

Three Words:

Simply saying the words “social bookmarking” gives me pause, but I’ve decided to give it a try.  You’ll now notice a new category called “My Days”, which will contain links to articles  based on the bookmarking site.  Apparently, it’s all about tagging.   This is for items that might not merit their own posting — though the Townhouse merits construction, that’s for sure.   One thing though:  wouldn’t you rather split up “delicious’ as de.lic.ious? 

Facing the Cult of Authenticity

Some years ago, Vikram Chandra – author of Red Earth, Pouring Rain, Love and Longing in Bombay, and the eagerly anticipated (two articles in the NYT — score!) Sacred Games — got into a spat with some members of the Indian academic literati. It began with their questions attacking the contents of his fiction, and clearly was an attempt to claim possession of the Indian literary voice, if you believe such a thing exists in the first place. Chandra’s response was a spirited, often sarcastic attack on the “Cult of Authenticity.” His essay appeared in the Boston Review, and you can read it here. Chandra points out that no one has a right to say who does or doesn’t speak for Indian writing, certainly not the cultural commissars who question his “Indianess.” Continue reading →