Platform Magazine Interview

An interview with me has just come out in Platform Magazine. I’m posting this primarily because the author photo was taken by my former student and now international artist Caleb Stein. (It was a cold day in December, a couple of years ago, and we just went to the creek that flows behind my house. I had begun to feel the effects of the second Covid vaccine, a fever climb into me seemingly from the frozen ground underneath, introducing a chill into my bones: I appear to be standing firm but my legs were as shaky as the reflections of the leafless trees in the water behind me.) Anyway, this is an excerpt from the interview online. I hope Platform Magazine sends me the hard copy!

We failed to save so many lives during the pandemic. At one point, I looked outside my window in upstate New York and saw that flowers had come up through the cover of snow. Daffodils, crocuses, tulips. I began to paint these flowers on the obituaries printed by The New York Times. I was trying to answer the question of how to keep creativity alive when there was so much death around us. My friend Hemali Sodhi from A Suitable Agency wrote to me and said that these paintings I was making belonged in a book. That is how The Blue Book came about.

Time passed. Covid returned. I had taken my students for their junior semester abroad to London. We were on the street a lot and we were visiting different places, making discoveries, I told my students they would learn more, they would notice or observe more if they kept a journal and took notes and even sketched. I was trying to practice what I was preaching. The Yellow Book is a record of many travels, not just to England but also to India.

Just the other night, I was visiting a friend’s house for dinner and I read something that answers your question. There were books everywhere in this house. My friend was making lamb chops for me and so I opened a book I saw there. It was an instructional book for artists. The Campari I was drinking has wiped out any memory of the title or the author but what I have with me now are the words I noted down in my little pocket note- book: ‘Amplification is the basic building block of all art. Find one simple idea and build on it—fast, slow, inverted, forward, splintered, whole’. This is all to say, that this process of ‘amplification’ is central to the idea of thinking about sequels.

I wanted my readers to think about how we could become the authors of our own histories. And, more specifically, how this account could be an artistic one. Even during the pandemic, I had wanted my readers to be alert, not just to loss but also to visions of blazing beauty. I think my fundamental credo remains unchanged: don’t let your life pass unnoticed. One day passes, then another. A whole succession of days turns into months and years. How to mark our separate days? The places we have been. Our individual passions, our pain. Against the blurring of years, the clarity of a record. My books show a way of doing all this but they also nudge you to find your own way.

Particulate Matter

In which I report on my visit to India this past winter. Many thanks to the editors of Granta magazine.

A Bihari man working as a driver in Delhi told me a strange story. His name was Deepak. When his mother complained of chronic stomach pains, Deepak brought her from the village for treatment in a hospital in Delhi. The doctors told him that his mother would require surgery; there was a problem in her uterus. After the operation, which incurred a considerable expense, the lady returned to the village. Her health problems, the pain in her stomach, continued. Deepak brought his mother back to Delhi. This time he took her to another doctor who decided to do tests and run some scans. This doctor found that during the previous surgery the mother’s uterus hadn’t been touched at all. Instead, she was now missing a kidney. Deepak and his father went to the first hospital to complain, but were shooed away. Deepak’s parents then returned to the village, and two years later his mother died.

We were driving through Gurugram at that time, passing the high-rise offices that house the likes of Google, Deloitte, Oracle, Microsoft. I didn’t know whether Deepak was talking of this shiny new India when he told me that the poor were scared of cities like Delhi. They will die if they come here. I wanted to tell Deepak that people like him kept the city running, but it would have sounded hollow, and I remained silent.

More here.