Sunday, January 28, 2007

Post Traumatic Post Modernism - Flash Fiction?

It has been pointed out to me that to criticise one should know first. I am writing back that one should not just know, but should know better.

Oulipians are Rats who build the labyrinth from which they will try to escape.
~Raymond Queneau

The message was handwritten. cursive feminine letters. As known - It was a healthy girl. The mother was fine, a bit exhausted. His secretary earnestly congratulated. And there were many handshakes . He cut short the meeting and cancelled the day’s schedule.

He has seen this many times. Yet he cannot remember . Or forget. It is neither prose nor poetry, it is like a critique. A complete stranger reserving the power to hurt you. Again and again.

The dark torsos of trees were trailing rapidly beside the road. The leaves rustled in the wind. Autumn is a wretched season. Full of remembering , forgetting and longing he thought as he drove on.

They all had agreed to call her Susan after her late aunt. All the requisite shopping had been completed a week before the expected day. Grandma had even knitted a pair of tiny woollen socks. Pink coloured.

He continues in this state. Of speculations. Ifs and If nots. And If onlys. A world opens inside his head, drawing him away from everything , mostly himself. It doesn’t hurt after a while. He just gasps when he wakes.

On the way he thought of buying a champagne and a box of Thornton’s . He decided to take a right at the next intersection. It felt so ethereal for a minute. Almost. To be a dad.

When he wakes up at night, he finds himself shivering and drenched in sweat. He silently watches the arcs of light from the passing traffic climb onto the room walls. He tries to remember. But nothing comes to his mind. His despair is married to the fact. That he has to live with it. He weeps.

The autumn sun sunk slowly in the greying sky, casting long sombre shadows. The traffic was light. He hummed along with Cohen on the radio as he turned right. He wasn’t driving too fast. But as it often happens, he just couldn’t stop when he wanted. It was too late.

The girl wore a pink skirt. She had turned seven a week before.
It was later in the hospital mortuary he learnt she was called Susan.

PS- I have exercised my chosen constraints. The consciousness (apple) has been cut into four slices each. Admixed tenses are symbolic of this. The last two lines is a specific attempt aimed towards a reader who requests an easier understanding.

The motif is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, dealt in present, while the event is a memory of the past. The write-up is a depiction of a nightmare in the ailment. The idiotic theme 'message' is included just to be democratic.

Of course, Not submitting, but if anyone steals it, remember you saw it here first.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Flash fiction and the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival...

Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta's weblog tells me about the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2007 (KGAF) They have four areas where they seek entries: SMS Poetry, Flash Fiction, Graphic Flash and Poetry Slam.

Flash Fiction must be within 300 words. The theme for this year is : Message. This is a submission I made (I rattled it off in fifteen minutes - one can submit multiple entries)

The Brown Paper Packet

She knew he would be there. He had promised her. And sure enough, he was true to his word. When she reached the spot at 8 p.m. he was standing there. And by the looks of it he must have arrived at least half an hour earlier. "Hi!" she said. He smiled in reply. "Have you got it?" she asked. He handed her a brown paper packet. She took it and opened it. She smiled when she saw the contents. “Thanks,” she said and walked away. He stayed back for a few minutes and then made his way back home. She had defeated him.

The message had arrived at six in the morning when he was asleep. It was brief. “I want to meet you. Usual place. Usual time. But get me the present you have kept safe for me all these years.” He had trembled when he read the message. He knew that there was no way he could disobey her. That was the kind of hold she exercised on him. He sent her a message promising her he would be there.

It had all started ten years ago when they were courting. She had given him a packet. It was wrapped in brown paper. She had asked him not to open it. And he had promised her that he wouldn’t. As their courtship had progressed he had been consumed by the desire to open it. And he had told her about it. “Never,” she had whispered with an urgency in her voice, “never, ever do that.” He had got scared when she had said it in that tone. “Tell me,” he had pleaded, “what’s inside it?” She took her time answering him. “You,” she had said with a strange smile on her face.

I hope Neti Neti doesn't disown me!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Literary Landscape..

Hello all,

I know its been a while, but we all are allowed our share of its been a while moments, aren’t we?
Firstly, belated new year wishes to you and your beloved. Hope all are doing good. I for myself, continue to keep my pathological optimist nose above the waters.

I am doing Goethe’s Letters from Italy, which was bought 5 years back.(Yes, shameless I know). Reading it now refreshed one of the questions that has been bugging me for sometime .

Past the first twenty pages and I am totally awed at Herr Goethe’s ability in wordpainting the Italian landscape, which he is visiting for the first time. I must say that the rich and the vivid description converts any reader into a companion travelling along, inescapably hooked onto his admiring prose.

For instance this paragraph , giving an account enroute to Verona:

The Adige now flows more gently and in many places forms broad islands of pebbles. Along the river banks and in the hills everything is planted so thickly that you would imagine each crop must choke the other-maize, mulberries, apples, pears, quinces and nuts.

Walls are covered with a luxuriant growth of dwarf-elder and thick-stemmed ivy clambers and spreads itself over rocks; lizards dart in and out of crevices, and everything that wanders about reminds me of my favourite pictures. The women with their braided hair, the bare-chested men in light jackets, the magnificent oxen being driven home from the market, the little heavily laden donkeys--all this animated scene makes one think of some painting by Heinrich Roos.

As evening draws near, and in the still air a few clouds can be seen resting on the mountains, standing on the sky rather than drifting across it, or when, immediately after sunset, the loud shrill of crickets is heard, I feel at home in the world, neither a stranger nor an exile. I enjoy everything as if I had been born and bred here and had just returned from a whaling expedition to Greenland.

This reminds me of yet another treat of a passage from Gatsby by fellow drunkard Scott Fitzgerald wherein he describes an American house:

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rose-coloured space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end, The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up towards the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-coloured rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea."

Both the examples made me wonder about the dynamics involved in the art of narrating the landscapes. And how with little influence on the actual plot or story it provides an appliance for writers to reflect their observational perspectives without being pushed to get on with the story. And in this regard I could say landscapes are the Macguffins for writers. I know, perhaps they might not actually be as trivial as a real MacGuffin in a movie but given the variable dynamics of both the media, it wouldn’t be such that they are completely beyond comparision.

This naturally led to one of those questions Mr Naipaul had left me lingering ages back. I think in one of his books, the name of which eludes me now, he expounds how one can tell the style and depth of a writer by knowing his account of landscape description. If Im not wrong in guessing, I think he was referring to Gandhi’s lack of it(landscape accounts) in his journals either in England or South Africa.

What do you folks think about landscape description? How important a tool do you think it is? And do you have any such accounts or passages that had a strong influence on you while reading. Raj, I know one of yours is ‘The Mercedes episode’ from Portrait.
And again inevitably, this following a discussion with one another friend , would you say that when it comes to landscape the Indian writers could be gauged on the same scale that weighs the authors from other parts of the world ? Mind you , lets not forget that the Indian landscape, both of the country and urban alike are far more lively, lush and unique. I’m sure that makes it more complicated to express it and especially so in a language which originally is not Indian. See, so many variables already.

My take on the last bit is, from what I have read of the Indian literature , although at moments it is sublime it mostly tends to be two dimensional and if otherwise seasoned with emotional ingredients. I would go on to include Mr. Seth’s descriptions in the same bracket too. But I would like to think I am wrong.That there are really good descriptions out there, which justify the salient identity of the indian landscape.

In specific, there is this vast unsung and orphaned library of vernacular literature. With members here being from different corners of what defines vernacular in every sense of the word, I would be obliged if you could share your pennies on this- landscape literature in general and few other interests raised above either here or in the group.

My main interest is to identify and understand the reasons behind how the European perspective went onto express itself abundantly in painting as against the reasons for the Indian perspective which did not express as much in painting as in other art forms.


PS- It seems that even the Microsoft Word Processor doesn’t like Naipaul , it insists on addressing him as napalm. I can imagine some of Indians dying with glee.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The 2007 Edge Question

Hi everybody. Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year. The World Question Centre run by Edge has posed its annual question to a galaxy of intelligent persons. The 2007 Question is: What are you optimistic about? The contributors include, among others, Daniel C Dennett, Daniel Goleman and Steven Pinker. The philosopher Daniel C Dennett, for instance, is optimistic about The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion.
Click here to get to this not-to-be-missed feature. This is what the BBC has to say about Edge and its Question Centre:
"Fantastically stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question."
— BBC Radio 4 (2005)