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Posts tagged ‘books’

Reading Recovery

Published in the year of his death from cancer, Henning Mankell’s After the Fire is a slow examination of a seventy-year-old’s confrontation with solitude and loss.  The protagonist, a retired doctor,  lives in a archipelago being visited by an arsonist, and we begin at the site of the first fire. Finding the arsonist is relegated to the background, as what it means to live in a community where trust is replaced by wariness is explored, even as death and old age is the larger specter in the forefront.  Yet this is an optimistic novel, where friendship and family, however distant, is embraced, sometimes gingerly, sometimes with affection.

This was the one of the last books I read before I broke my wrist, but not the last book I’ve read since.  There was a fatalistic stoicism in the narrative that strikes me deeper as  I now try to fill my days with no-impact activity.  Thus constrained to cat care, lackluster weeding, a great deal of sighing, a fascination of one-handed bottle opening techniques, elevating my arm on pillows, watching repeats of mysteries, instagram, I am reading with an awareness that my situation could have been worse.  The Great Believers by the quite brilliant Rebecca Makkai, a Claire Messud novel, Elif Safak‘s Forty Rules of Love,and a wonderful novel by Caitlin Macy called Mrs. Now, biding my time, easing insomnia, I am romping through Kevin Kwan‘s Crazy Rich Asians, which will become a film*. it has an all-Asian cast, for it is story about Asians.  Apparently, one filmperson wanted the heroine to be re-cast white, but no.  She will be a wary non-rich, non-crazy Asian woman portrayed by an Asian.

Sometimes  the fates shift the balance.

*the book is different than what the film preview shows, from dialogue to fashion, alas.

Birds in flight, with delay.

Indira Ganesan, Heron, 2015

Indira Ganesan, Heron, 2015

A few days ago, I was driving to work, passing the beautiful flats near where I live.  The stretch of sand and water always presents a view worth seeing, so I add an extra five minutes on my commute to drive past.  Two herons were in flight.  And later in the day, two swans.  Of course, I wondered at the meaning.  Had it to do with my parents, my mother and my father? My father had passed away so unexpectedly last year.  Immediately, I worried for my mother, and later that day, managed to call her instead of doing other things, and had a long conversation.

Maybe it was just a day I was lucky enough to observe two extraordinary events, the flight in pairs of rarely sighted birds.  These are the moments that bring us out of ourselves, to see exactly what is in front of us, mouths open, mind stopped.  Of course, the mind hasn’t stopped.  It is processing the wonder* of the moment, for at long as it lasts, and then in retrospect.   I had meant to write about the two flights that evening, but I put it off.  Now, I can conjure only the bellies, I think, of the swans as they passed, but even that seems a dream, something I imagined.

Jorie Graham once told a class I was taking that when we are stopped in our tracks by nature, I think she used the word nature, though now, i am not so sure, as it was some thirty years ago, that when we are stopped like that, poetry occurs.  Poetry is then the moment when the heart nearly stops, gasping with surprising at the splendour in front of one’s eyes.  When I lived in Sag Harbor, I had a practice of sitting out on my deck and writing a short something in the form of verse every morning.  Recently, I went back to Long Island to hear two extraordinarily talented women speak about translation and copy editing. One was Ann Goldstein who translated the works of, among many others, Elena Ferrante, and the other was her cooleague (yeah) at The New Yorker, copy editor Mary Norris who wrote  Between You And I: Adventures of a Comma Queen.

Intimations of winter arrive in the early dawn almost like couplets, small short somethings, even as fall is yet to reveal her full beauty.

 

 

*( Speaking of wonder, anthropologist Tulsi Srinivas, at the Radcliffe Institute, has a forthcoming book I am looking forward to called Worlds of Wonder: Ritual Creativity and Ethical Life in Bangalore.)

What I’m Reading this Summer

Indira Ganesan, Summer Reading, 2014

Indira Ganesan, Summer Reading, 2014

Long before I drenched myself in eau de bug spray, donned hat and gloves to weed and plant and rethink the garden, summer has meant reading.  Three months of reading novel after novel like chocolates.  For some years, when I taught full-time, I read mysteries: Dorothy Sayer, P.D. James, Martha Grimes, Reginald Hill, all of whom featured  reoccurring detectives, who like Hercule Poirot, most always got their criminal.  That is the appeal of the mystery: a glimpse into a horrific situation in which things will be put to right, and unlike in real life, justice prevails.  Kate Atkinson’s mysteries were a special treat, because  she, like James, was literary,but warmer.   Her sad-sack detective was winningly losing directions and falling for women who treat him dishonorably.  After I read Wallender and Steig Larsson, I stopped reading mysteries.  I felt as I had run out of good ones, and Jo Nesbo did not appeal. So this summer, I amassed my books to read for pleasure, thinking now is the time for Dostoevsky, for Hilary Mantel, and the Grantas that have been piling up.  But a friend told me of a thick, fat read, made for the summer, written by JK Rowling, featuring a detective who puts it all to right.  I dug right in.  I am told it is a series.

      then then a frie

When the Hummingbird Looks You in the Eye

© Conchasdiver | Dreamstime.com

© Conchasdiver | Dreamstime.com

You blink.  It is hard to believe this bullet shaped body, green like a parrots, hovering in front you  and beating its wings so fast, the sound is as thick as a bee hive.  It wanted the lavender astilbe which finally decided to bloom, the specific bloom I was standing next to.  It looked at the bloom, then at me. I f I reached out my hand just a little, I could try to touch it, but I stood still, thinking it would surely move on.  We had a human to bird face-down, I waiting for it to move, and it for me.  I spoke to it all the while, and maybe my voice kept it hovering.  When it finally darted away, I stepped through the garden and turned from the stairs to watch.  It perched on a tree, and only when the coast was clear, waded in.  My metaphors are mixed because the hummingbird is a mix of a bird and bee to me.  I will post the video from last year of the boy and his rescue of a hummingbird below.

Meanwhile, I attended two phenomenal literary events.  One was the Wequassett Literary Luncheon, presented by the Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore on Cape Cod.  Every summer,week by week,  guests fill the banquet halls to lunch with old friends and hear various writers talk and read from their new books.  I accompanied J.Courtney Sullivan, author of The Engagements, a book that is engaging from the first page, and Ann Hood, whose most recent book is The Obituary Writer.  It was a lively event, with an audience who listened intently, loving books so much to spend a summer day inside. My table was filled by multi-generational members of a family tree and friends, with makes true the notion books create literal and figurative companions.

Wequassett Inn Literary Luncheon, 2013

Wequassett Inn Literary Luncheon, 2013

Boy& Hummingbird http://youtu.be/LvrcdQWzH-8

Sneak Peek: Paperbacks in November

I’m delighted to announce that Vintage will be publishing both As Sweet As Honey and Inheritance as paperbacks, on November 5, 2013.  The date is coincidental but serendipitous, as it happens to be my birthday.  It is been tremendously fun and fulfilling to have a new novel out after so many years.  I’ll celebrate the sixth-month anniversary of As Sweet As Honey in mid-August.  My agency with Sandra, Elise, and Andrea at the helm is patient and enthusiastic, cheering me up when my spirits were down, and  applauding my small steps.  I am so grateful Sonny Mehta signed off on the project with his blessings, and that Ann, my editor par excellence, stood by me as the novel took its final shape.  Sara, my publicist, has been promoted, and I am now in the capable hands of Erinn, whom I look forward to working with.  Random House merged with Penguin, combining two of my favorite houses to ally against faceless corporate booksellers. And now, Vintage, keeping me in print.  An embarrassment of riches.

Here is a peek at the new covers:

Vintage Cover for As Sweet As Honey

Vintage Cover for As Sweet As Honey

Vintage cover for Inheritance

Vintage cover for Inheritance

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