Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Ishiguro Album

"The mere fact that she was listening to him seemed to draw fresh layers from his imagination, and in the hours between these afternoon sessions, he'd often find himself preparing a piece in his mind, anticipating her comments, her shakes of the head, her frown, the affirming nod, and most gratifying of all, those instances she became transported by a passage he was playing, when her eyes would close, and her hands, almost against her will, began shadowing the movements he was making."

'Cellists'~from Nocturnes, by Kazuo Ishiguro

My personal Nocturnes playlist (most of these are mentioned in the book; a few are my riffs):

The Godfather, in Venice

By the time I get to Phoenix (Isaac Hayes)
I Fall in Love Too Easily (Chet Baker)
...and Keith Jarrett...
One for my baby (and one more for the road)(Frank Sinatra)

Come Rain or Come Shine (Judy Garland)
Georgia on my Mind (Ray Charles)

Lover Man (Sarah Vaughan)
...and Billie Holiday...
...and Norah Jones...

April in Paris (Sarah Vaughan, net radio)

...and Thelonious Monk...

Dancing Queen (ABBA. Ick.)

My Foolish Heart (Bill Evans)

The Nearness of You (Connie Boswell)

...and Keith Richards...

Black Orpheus (solo, Ray Brown)

The Godfather theme (Slash)

Vandana Singh on SF and the end of the world

Vandana is one of India's best SF writers. Not best-known; best. So when she says she thinks the end of the world might be closer than we realise, I'm listening. (Courtesy Anita Roy).

What I’m calling for is a dialogue among SF writers about climate change. Not an argument about whether it is real or not but a brainstorming session in which we sit down at our computers across the world and think of ways to avert what might already be upon us, before it is too late. But since we are dealing with a complex system, these ways can’t be simplistic. They can’t be technological alone. We have to draw upon our sociological imaginations as well. We have to draw upon what different cultures around the world have come up with to inspire and mobilize people. It has to be a massive, interdisciplinary effort. We have to pull in scientists and community organizers, village women and students. Perhaps we are uniquely qualified for such a discussion because many of us SF types straddle boundaries of various kinds.

And then I want us — and the plumbers and ballerinas — to act.

Got (good) poetry?

Passing this on, courtesy Sridala Swami:

The inaugural Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize.

The Prize was instituted by the Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust to recognize excellence in poetry written in English and is being administered jointly by the Department of English, University of Hyderabad. The prize consisting of a cash award of Rs.10, 000 and a citation will be presented annually at a literary event in Hyderabad in the month of October. The entries will be judged by a distinguished jury of poets and literary personalities.

Entries are invited from any Indian citizens between 20-40 years old who write poetry in English.

Entries must include -

1) Five different poems.

2) Evidence of age.

3) Complete contact information (including all phone numbers and email addresses).

Please Note:

Do Not Put Your Name on the Poems to be Submitted to the Jury Members.

Entries from Indian citizens between the ages of 20 and 40.

Deadline: September 1, 2009

Entries must reach

Dr. Aparna Rayaprol

Conveynor, Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

C/O Study in India Program

University of Hyderabad

Gachibowli, Hyderabad – 500 046


The winner will be announced by the first week of October. Arrangements will be made by the Trust and the Department of English Hyderabad for the winning poet’s travel and accommodation.

The Srinivas Rayaprol Trust was started in the year 2000 to perpetuate the memory of the poet and to promote Indian Writing in English. Srinivas Rayaprol (1925 – 1998), son of the famous Telegu poet Rayaprolu Subba Rao, is considered one of the significant personalities of early Indian English poetry. His major poetry volumes are Bones and Distances, Married Love and Other Poems and Selected Poems, all published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Daniyal Mueenuddin @ Random House blog

The Random House India blog offers a new short story by Daniyal Mueenuddin:

Peering into the gloom, Mustafa saw a figure with a short torso and bent legs thin as a man’s wrist, topped by enormous knees. It hopped and twisted along on strong arms, bulbous knees upright and cradled on its chest, resting between steps on a leather pad tied beneath the buttocks.

“There’s someone from your part of the desert here,” said the dark-skinned man with the ring. The other drivers looked over at Mustafa.

The boy lifted his head, which had been settled into the mass of his body, slowly elongating his neck, and then dragged around to Mustafa’s end of the bench.

“I know you,” he said cheerfully. “You’re from Sandhey Khan’s Village, aren’t you? You drive the car of Chaudrey Abdul Ghafoor. Do you remember who I am? How can you forget, there aren’t many beauties like me.” He squatted down familiarly next to Mustafa and put his arms toward the fire.

The BS column: Make mine a memorizer

(Published in the Business Standard, July 13, 2009, in a fit of frustration at the quality of e-readers on the market. Quick summary: "What kind of reading revolution can you usher in with blunt swords such as these etc?")

In A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller imagined a world where reading was banned, books contraband, ideas feared. In this world, a small group of monks work as bookleggers, concealing books in kegs, smuggling them out when possible, and as memorizers, committing works of literature, history, science to memory in giant, library-shelf sized chunks.

Like many book lovers who struggle with the downside of maintaining large and unwieldy personal libraries, I’ve often wanted a memorizer of my own—a highly efficient reading machine, trained to understand your tastes and regurgitate the texts you want. But as Plastic Logic and Cool-er join the ranks of the Kindle and the Sony e-reader, I’ve gone from e-reader evangelism to scepticism, watching in dismay as the industry gets it dead wrong.

Those who’ve followed the e-reading debate over the last decade will know that most of the discussion has focused on the pros and cons of reading on a device versus the familiarity of the dead-tree book. But the real question is what we get and expect from a book versus an e-reader, and this is where the manufacturers have messed up. It’s been nine years since the first iPod came out, but none of the present e-book readers seem to have learned anything from the music industry. Here’s a short list of what I want from an e-reader, and what’s missing from the current generation.

I want a wide choice of books: The Kindle restricts readers to what’s available on Amazon, the Borders e-reader offers books from the Borders stores and the easiest way to get books on the Sony e-reader is through CONNECT. This is theoretically a wide enough range for most readers, and some argue that it mimics the bookstore experience, where you’re restricted by the bookseller’s choice of what to stock. But you’re buying a device, not a book—and that device should be a portal into all online bookstores. The current situation would be analogous to buying a car and being told that you can only drive on certain roads.

I want to buy books at a lower price and in a choice of formats: Currently, e-books are cheaper than paperbacks—but not by a large enough margin. If I’m sacrificing some things—print quality, paper size, reading ease with some e-reader screens, comfort levels—in order to buy an e-book, I want it to be as relatively cheap as the average iTunes download. I also don’t see why I have to be stuck with bad design, or a font I don’t like, in an electronic format. Not every reader is going to want to turn book designer, but enough of us want at least the ability to fiddle with the text. The biggest problem here is that e-readers, priced roughly between $199 to $300, are too expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of electronically replacing your personal library, and the strong resistance to e-reading from old school booklovers.

I want to be able to share, loan or resell my e-books the same way I do with my personal, dead-tree library: According to students at Columbia Law School who’ve been studying e-book contracts, what readers buy is more a license to read e-books than the ability to own them. As with the music industry, the publishing industry is caught between the need to protect authors against piracy versus the need to let customers own their reading material. Currently, customers lose—and I don’t like the idea that I wouldn’t be able to share an ebook in the same way that I can share my paperback collection.

I want to be able to organise my e-book library with the same flexibility with which I can organise my 3D library: This is a big surprise, but none of the e-readers currently on the market have actually thought hard about letting readers organise their content. I expect this will change pretty fast, but there’s no e-reader equivalent of “playlists” or decent cross-indexing. If you’re trying to use e-readers to read and store magazine or newspaper articles in particular, or if you like rearranging your virtual library shelves every so often, this is a serious negative.

I retain my faith in e-reading itself. It offers a way out for a beleagured publishing industry, and could, theoretically, make a huge difference to the number of readers that the average author might be able to reach. I love the idea of being able to store my library on one device, of not having to wait until books trickle in from the US or the UK.

But until the e-book industry gets it right, I’m considering hiring a monk with a naturally large RAM drive and a yen for memorization. He may require chanting music and a light sattvic diet, but he won’t drive me mad with bad formatting, a truncated reading selection and a reluctance to share texts with my friends.
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