The intended readership of Writing Badly Is Easy may seem to be academics, students and those working towards joining the ranks of scholars, but Kumar’s approach, a combination of donnish table-talk and friendly advice over a drink, should appeal to anyone who has ever sat before a blank page and felt a surge of panic.
An Indian newspaper asked me to contribute a hundred words about a summer that was transformative. I wrote about the summer when I wrote the first draft of Immigrant, Montana. (The novel was published in India as The Lovers.) I was also asked to supply a photo from the time I was writing about. My daughter took this photo of me embracing her little brother a minute after my return from the residency.
My friend Vasundhara at Aleph Book Company in Delhi asked me to share my writing advice. It was pub day for my book Writing Badly Is Easy. When I got her note on my phone, I was at Mass MOCA in North Adams. My daughter took this picture. I have now written a few lines in response to Vasundhara that you can hear here.
What do you love and hate most about travel, today?
I like that travel gives you new eyes. When I arrive in a town, and
am taking pictures, I realise that most often my best pictures are the
ones taken on the first day. Intimacy is overrated; newness is
What do I hate about travel? How much time do you have? The presence of large crowds in packed enclosures, waiting to criss-cross the earth, makes me think of what we are doing to the planet. I’m put in this mood to entertain pessimistic thoughts because I feel my age when I travel. My body aches, I want to lie down. I crave silence.
I have just returned from a lovely visit to Yale University where I visiting Professor Leah Mirakhor’s writing class and then did a reading and talk at Ezra Stiles College. (At Ezra Stiles, I read from Immigrant, Montana and collected some valuable merch. An Ezra Stiles woolen scarf and thermos. Thank you for the opportunity, Professors Stephen Pitti and Alicia Camacho-Schmidt.) One of the things I talked about with Professor Mirakhor’s class was an essay of mine called “Flight.” It demonstrates the often-quoted axiom of John Berger’s: “Never again shall a single story be told as though it were the only one.” In other words, the truth of juxtaposition. In that essay, written in the days immediately after the attacks of 9/11, I put beside the story of the hijacker the shadowy figure of the stowaway in order to tell a different tale about the tragedy of the world.
It was an honor to deliver the 2018 Vassar College Convocation Address on September 12. A preview was offered here. I love in particular the beautiful and historic chapel on campus. Photos by Karl Rabe.
In other news, the audio reading I did of Immigrant, Montana has received a wonderful review here: