Spring Round-Up

...Since it's been an entire season since my last round-up!

In early March, I interviewed the lovely Tania James about her new novel The Tusk that did the Damage for the Los Angeles Times. Tania, a third time novelist, spent time in India interviewing poachers as research for her novel, and had much to say about conservation in India.

My extended review of Nobel winner Mo Yan's Frog went up on the Los Angeles Review of Books, warmly subtitled 'No Choice but Fantastically Disguised Compromise' (editor's choice - I quite like it). Chinese literature is actually something that's a bit lacking within my own reading, besides the lean and poetic prose of Gao Xingjian and Mu Xin, both of whom live in exile as writers and painters. I was quite interested to read the work of someone who writes from 'within the system', although I can't say that the idea of it being 'compromised' did run through my mind as I was reading it. Though my own tastes probably stretch towards those of the two exiles, it was revealing to read Mo Yan's 'hysterical realism' and see how he dealt with getting through the censorship (and one could argue all writing is in some way censored).

An essay about New York went up at Brooklyn Quarterly, but like the nun essay, it's been doing the rounds, so no mean glares for not reading.

My review of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara went up at the Washington Post. Dear reader, I cried; and as much as I tried to slip this into the review, I also was aware that it was probably going to get cut out (which it did). Hanya Yanagihara has achieved quite the remarkable feat of being not only able to publish two almost perfect books at the age of 40-something (her first, The People in the Trees, won many accolades), she's managed to stay largely out of the spotlight, despite working as a Conde-Nast Traveller editor-at-large. How does she do it? I'm going to a Q and A with her next week, and if I find out (how she does the elusiveness, plus how she does the 'here is my work, perfectly made'), I'll let you know.

*Update* I just found this! Excuse me while I go and geek out for an hour.

My review of I Refuse by Per Petterson went up on the Boston Globe. I have to admit, I struggle with Petterson a lot. But it's interesting to push yourself and try to see what others see.

Mislaid by Nell Zink for the Los Angeles Times was my first mostly negative review, and I have to say I spent hours agonising over it. As a satire, it's pretty provocative; but it was more the technical aspects of the plotting and characters that failed to work (an argument backed up by Dwight Garner at the New York Times). Zink is a pretty ebullient writer, though, with a lot of talent, so I'm still keen to read what she's got next.  

I also worked on the PEN World Voices Festival: On Africa while I was a Spring intern, and it was great fun and a wonderful learning experience. I also had the opportunity to report on some of the events for the Guardian US, a panel on Armenian Genocide: A Dark Paradigm, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's closing address as the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write lecturer. The article on Chimamanda's address has had over 15,000 shares, which is pretty cool!

And finally, I belatedly forgot to mention that I was accepted into this year's Voices of Our Nation (VONA/Voices) workshop, which means I'll be working on my manuscript with the American Book Award winning author Chitra Divakaruni in June/July, which I'm very excited about. The workshop was started by Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz for 'writers of colour', and while I'm. I just got an email about how I should bring swimmers ie. beach + literature = (warm) Valhalla!

Till next season!