Posts Categorized: Criticism

Nothing Happens

My latest “The Bookist” column for HT Brunch: “Eight Essential Tips for Writers” or “10 Rules for Writing Fiction” or “Advice from Writers” – such bland compilations often include the following line from Kurt Vonnegut: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” But then you come across novels… Read more »

The Literature of Sedition

In my latest The Bookist column for HT Brunch, I have reviewed the literature that is critical of the nation-state and its violence. If the police were to burst into your room while you were sleeping and, putting a gun to your head, ask you to name a literary work that was critical of the… Read more »

Anti-Stories

On a recent visit to Kolkata, I went in search of a writer of “anti-stories,” Subimal Misra. Misra is an unusual writer, not only because he has avoided the limelight but also because he is has found a form that contests narrative conventions. He has said during an interview: “While watching Sholay, I only wanted… Read more »

The Small Voice of Literature

My latest column for the Hindustan Times is on the literature of small towns. Politicians offer propaganda in a loud voice. Ditto for pundits. I love the small voice of literature. As Joan Didion said, we tell ourselves stories in order to live. The writing about small towns or about provincial life is appealing because… Read more »

Sacred Cows

Scroll has posted an article about the police taking offense at a plastic cow used in an art installation in Jaipur. A couple days ago, Scroll had also published an article by me, recounting a conversation with scholar Wendy Doniger about cows and the beef controversy: Doniger is perhaps the most renowned scholar of Hinduism… Read more »

Self-Help for Academics

In my latest blog for The Chronicle’s Lingua Franca, I write about the widespread suspicion of self-help books and also why it might makes sense for serious writers to write in that genre: In 1997, Alain de Botton published his book How Proust Can Change Your Life. I was charmed by it. I remember using… Read more »

Dear Committee Members

In the inaugural issue of Catapult, I offer advice on how to write a recommendation letter: To Whom It May Concern: I am writing to recommend to you a novel by Julie Schumacher with the marvelous title Dear Committee Members. This is an entertaining epistolary novel made up entirely of that least promising of forms,… Read more »

Roth

I was fortunate to be asked to write about any American classic of my choice for the Library of America: On the right side of my writing desk in my study is a black wooden bookshelf with thick, box-like sections where I keep books I need for my current projects. But on the wall in… Read more »

Partition Lit.

My piece for HT Brunch on the literature of the Partition has a somewhat dissenting take on Manto: In the famous story Toba Tek Singh by Urdu writer, Saadat Hasan Manto, we get a brilliant, biting commentary on the arbitrariness of borders. Manto’s protagonist, Bishan Singh, lives in a lunatic asylum. He doesn’t know whether… Read more »