Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Torch Songs
Arundhati Roy's new volume of essays burns with anguish.
By Jyoti Thottam, TIME Monday, Aug. 31, 2009
In her new book of essays, Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy (which for some reason has its title and subtitle reversed in the U.S.), the country isn't merely sundered into the worlds of the rich and the poor. It is a lawless dystopia, plagued by rapacity and violence: "In eastern India, bauxite and iron-ore mining is destroying whole ecosystems, turning fertile land into desert," she writes in the introduction. And in an essay, about the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat: "Women were stripped, gang-raped; parents were bludgeoned to death in front of their children."

The writing is extremely provocative — corporations are marauders, politicians are fascists who commit genocide — and yet it is always gorgeously wrought. Her pitch-perfect prose is the one thing that fans of her famous novel, The God of Small Things, will find familiar in her third volume of nonfiction.
Link to TIME for the full review.

Lahore Calling
Ali Sethi's debut novel joins a remarkable wave of contemporary Pakistani writing
By Tim Kindseth, TIME, Monday, Aug. 31, 2009

These are prolific, topical times for Pakistani fiction. Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, published in early 2007, was the first of the recent bloom. Hamid's unnerving novella, about a Princeton grad who grows a beard, quits his fancy New York consulting job and returns home to Lahore after 9/11, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Mohammed Hanif's 2008 novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes, based on the 1988 plane crash that killed General Zia ul-Haq, was a finalist for the Guardian first-book award. And Daniyal Mueenuddin's superb In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, a sage, Chekhovian collection of tales set in rural Punjab, has been wowing critics since publication in February.

Ali Sethi's hefty novel The Wish Maker, set mostly in Lahore during the 1990s and early 2000s, is also certain to keep the critics talking.
Sethi's engrossing if uneven debut is written in astoundingly assured prose that belies the author's youth (he is 25), particularly in his throbbing takes of contemporary Lahore, where he grew up and returned to after his undergrad years at Harvard.
He describes everything from the "mewl of bargainers" at a fabric shop to card games played by bored guards at gated homes like the one in which middle-class narrator Zaki Shirazi lives. Also in the house are three related women whose lives mirror the tottering arc of recent Pakistani history — from partition to the bruised Bhutto years, caught between purdah and leggy Jane Fonda workout tapes, Suzuki Swifts and donkey carts. They are Zaki's grasping grandmother Daadi; his widowed mom Zakia, editor of a progressive women's magazine that criticizes the government and runs interviews with acid-attack victims; and Zaki's teenage cousin Samar Api, who is on a lame quest to find an Amitabh Bachchan to sweep her off her feet.
Link here for the full review.

And for a review from the New Statesman link here.
And from The Guardian.
This title is published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton.
In NZ Penguin Books released it 13 July 2009, NZ RRP $37.00

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