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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finished Flamingos

It was a brutal book. Just completely brutal. I kind of do not know what to think. It caught me off guard because it was so different than everything else I have read from India recently. It was fairly explicit sexually. Sort of, I guess. I mean it was not like romance novel stuff, but it went into some detail. The end of the book though. My goodness. One of the character dies and the book gets a little depressing because it deals with government corruption. And then it seems like every chapter for the last third is just a new super depressing revelation. Someone dies, someone turns out to be a sucky person, a marriage ends, someone is beaten. It is not a horror novel, but after a while I was almost afraid to read the next chapter because I wasn't sure what would happen. The end of the book is so difficult. I mean. I want to not like it, but I have to admit it was a powerful end to the book. I have the author's other book and now I am not sure I want to read it. I have to though, since it was one of the top selling novels in India in recent memory. I just hope it is not so brutal as The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay was. My goodness. I think the author is gay. I mean, I don't know for sure, but watching interviews he was sort of effeminate. Although for an Indian that actually does not necessarily mean anything. But reading the book the men were all described very well and the women, not at all. I think the most he ever described a woman beyond just saying something like she was drop dead gorgeous was saying that one of them had perfect small round breasts or something. Also two of the characters were gay and they lived on and off in San Francisco and he described the gay scene in the city a lot. I can't really say if it was accurate or not, but he spent quite a bit of time on it. Maybe he is just a good writer? Whether or not he is gay does not matter to me in particular, except for how it pertains to what he wrote, how people received it, etc. India is still very closed minded to that sort of thing, yet the author of Flamingoes is one of the best selling in recent memory and has generally received positive reviews from critics. It could be just because only the more westernized elite members of society buy books like his. Maybe people do not pick up on it? It will be interesting to find out.

Currently I am working through The Empire Writes Back. It is interesting. I disagree with about a third of what they say, but so far it has been very informative. It is much more dense reading and I should probably look a few words up in the dictionary. However, it is really making me think, which I like. I have not got very far into it, but I am beginning to feel more and more that having post-colonial studies is essentially racist. The authors keep talking about how much they hope their work is changing the way things are, but I feel like trying to extend or maintain post-colonial studies as the central body for studying the literature of these countries will only hold them back. The core ideas in this book are a couple decades old now, so that may be part of it. Maybe post-colonial studies are not where they used to be. There is a chapter at the end of the book about how the field is changing. I have not read it yet, obviously, but maybe it will shed some light on the situation. Especially where India is concerned I just feel more and more like restricting Indian writing to post-colonialism is stupid. Of all the colonies, I think India emerged with its original culture most intact. There was an obvious impact, but none of the languages, at least the major ones were ever in danger of going extinct. Writing, religion, and culture in those languages never stopped. English only ever existed on the surface. It is the language of the elite and all that, but the heart of the country never stopped speaking their languages. There were too many people and they were never important enough for the British to force into something else. Plus I do not think it is productive to look at India from the perspective of a colony compared to other colonies. Erm, what I mean is, so much of Indian culture is tied to the language and the religion. How can you study what Indians really mean with their writing without taking into account the other languages? For a quick example, Urdu literature was experiencing one of its greatest renaissances during the British occupation and only ended at the very end of that colonization. The British kind of wiped it out at the end there, but for a long time, the most significant literature written in India was not in English, but in Urdu. This is only one part of the country. And I understand that this is another language, not English and that English would obviously be much more colonially focused, but even so, I think it would be much more productive to place Indian English literature in the context of everything else they have been writing, not in the context of what everyone else was writing. At least do not make post-colonial the main category for Indian Literature in English. Anyhow, I feel like I am beating a dead horse at this point, I have already talked about this. Although these thoughts were inspired from my reading. I guess I will update more as I read more of The Empire. Maybe they will succeed in changing my mind.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So let's be honest, shall we?

I happen to adore talking/thinking about India/Indian things/literature and I love talking/thinking about myself (who doesn't?), so...I will probably be updating this blog obsessively. I mean, probably not multiple times a day/everyday like it has been, but very regularly.

Anyhow, so I actually do have a reason, well, I mean a selfish reason, but then this is my blog, so doesn't that go without saying? I mean, unless you are writing a specifically charity blog, I suppose. But yes. So I am continuing my research. I have started going through blogger. Sort of. Mostly I have started amassing blogs which I need to go through. So far my list has about thirty or forty entries and I haven't gone through the links pages on any of those thirty or forty...so in reality the list should really be around a hundred and fifty or so. I do not think the majority of them will prove fruitful, but for now at least, I will set aside time to go through them. I haven't started facebook yet. I suppose I will need at least one picture of myself to put on my front page or whatever it is called so that I do not creep people out when/if I friend request them. That is another thing about facebook. On most other websites you can be whoever you want to be. There is nothing creepy or suspicious about my basically faceless self over on Live Journal. I have many basically faceless friends I have made there, but on facebook you have to spill the beans or no one wants to talk to you. Useless, completely useless. Not that I want to be some sort of mysterious stranger, but I do not like the idea of having to post pictures and personal information on a website notorious for misusing/leaking its users pictures and personal information. Plus I still cannot believe that so many people use a website that openly admits in its privacy information that it happily steals any picture you upload. How does no one have a problem with this blatant reverse piracy?

Oh well. So facebook will...probably happen. I mean it has to happen. I really need to start maintaining contacts within the country. I have been dragging my feet, but really there is no escape this time. I cannot just expect one or two phone calls a year, some promised e-mails, and maybe a visit to suffice. The other problem I have with this is that I am suspicious that I will be much more successful at maintaining Indian contacts if I have a bunch of stuff from American friends for them to look at and find me cool or whatever. There are a few people I don't mind adding, I suppose, but it goes against all my principles.

In other news The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay is...interesting. It started out really shallow and I am pretty sure it is going to stay shallow the entire time. So far it has been obsessed with sex (not pornographically, thankfully), but obsessed with sex. (can you reference a parenthetical aside directly in the sentence as if it weren't a parenthetical aside even though it is while still leaving as a parenthetical aside?) It is kind of a bizarre take from a native Indian since Bollywood is just barely getting around to kissing, much less, well, everything else.

Also, remind me to post my feelings on how India wants to censor foreign websites because they have "offensive content" but remains mum on the fact that The Times of India website features pornography on its front page every freaking day.

Also, also, I should probably figure out tags/labels here pretty soon before I get in too deep and have to waste hours going back and labeling everything. I assume at some point I may need to come back and reference something I wrote.

Am I applying any labels to this entry? No. No I am not, haha.

Midnight's Children

Done. Finally! I was ready for that book to be over about a hundred pages ago. Anyhow, it is done. And I enjoyed it. There is definitely a lot of stuff that I missed, I think. It seemed like Salman Rushdie was trying to be extremely obvious with the metaphorical content of the book, but most of it still went over my head. Which is actually more annoying than if I hadn't picked up on any of it. I will probably have to come around to it again at some point, but for now it is time for other things.

I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do for general research outside of my books. I guess I do not know quite where to look. I have a few blogs I need to flip through, which shouldn't be difficult because as it is I already spend too much time reading through years of other people's lives. The interesting thing about blogger is that it is so public and yet completely fails at helping people make connections. Actually I do not think it is blogspot's fault. Really I think it is combination of mommy bloggers, facebook, and academia. Blogspot is either a place to make money, a place to put a carefully constructed, picture perfect life for your parents and extended family to follow instead of your naked drunk pictures on facebook, or a place to try to get your stuff out there, whether it be research, writing, pictures, music, etc. It is not used to make connections or to meet people. There are people selling you crap, people trying to make "important" connections, or people who aren't actually here, they just seem like they are. Why am I even talking about this. Hm...oh yeah. Anyhow this is relevant to my research, at least at this point, because the few Indians blogs I know of are either people selling stuff (read: someone trying to create something that sounds personal even though what it really is is a formal front to someone's ebay/etsy-esque store) or else journalists/authors. Thus the problem is on the one hand are people who are not actually people, but basically faceless corporations and on the other are people that are not interested on meeting anyone unless they lead to important connection. Not being a prospective buyer, important editor, famous author, or other important celebrity, I am not optimistic for my success at getting at the heart of Indian literature through blogger. Although if I were interested, I suppose studying Indian bloggging and social networking would be fascinating. I think that sentence might be redundant.

I have thought about getting into facebook, which sucks royally, but may be unavoidable. I hate facebook. With a passion even. Such a complete waste of time. It is just social prostitution. Your are promised pleasure and a sense of relationship, but what you get is five minutes of awkward, unfulfilling sex and a feeling of emptiness afterwards. It is the difficult balancing act of using everyone else for attention without getting used. I don't know quite where else to go to at this point, or even who to talk to about it since India happens to be on the other side of the world and well, the whole being on the literal other side of the world limits the amount that actual people can connect between here and there. I have some Indian neighbors across the street who I would love to go talk to, but currently they are just the neighbors across the street. I am not sure if they still have the stereotypical, easy-going, gregariousness that most Indians I have met seem to have. If they do, it would be simple to go talk to them, but if they don't, well it would be so awkward. Plus I can't just show up and start asking them about their reading habits/what they remember about Indian literature in English from when they were in school. I am pretty sure they are from India, not children of immigrants. Anyhow, maybe I will work up the courage to go and talk to them at some point.

On the reading front I have started The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi. This book is kind of a stab in the dark, to be honest. Someone recommended Shanghvi to me, but he is just one on a very long list of other recommendations. I found him easily on Amazon, and so here we are. Amy Tan seems to like him, but what does her recommendation really mean anyways? Actually now that I think about it, I've never even read Amy Tan. I am not quite sure what to think of all these people who may or may not be born and/or raised in the UK or the US who now may or/may not live in India. I may have to sit down and define for myself as a reference point for this project what it means to be Indian and when you have crossed the line where you are no longer Indian but British or American instead. I feel like that only happens in the UK and especially in the US. I feel like Indians in South Africa or Australia never really ever become South African or Australian. I wonder why that is.

I am not pleased with this entry. I feel like I am guilty of bias or racism or something in how I write. That I have missed something crucial throughout these musings I have jotted down. But as this is a research journal, I do not really have the desire to go back and edit or censor myself (excepting blatant misspellings or grammatical errors, I grant myself that mercy at least). I mean, of course I would like to hide any failings and appear as a perfectly careful and logical person, but I also want to expose my hidden flaws and secret racisms (thank you John Campbell for that phrase) so I can expunge them from my character, and hopefully grow closer to a truer reality.

Oh, most awful of fates! I feel pretentious now as well. (forgive the apostrophe. I am still recovering from a class on the romantic period. The Urdu poets of The Last Mughal and the fact that Salman Rushdie uses apostrophes about every other paragraph has not helped matters. I have been thinking in apostrophe a lot lately.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

A small clarification

I don't want you all to think I am crazy or something. When I express myself, due to who I am, I tend to do so in absolutes. So, I mean, I believe strongly in things, but I am not unreasonable. At least I hope not. Also, I am not 100% settled on these ideas. This is just where my weltanschauung (I'm really not trying to sound smart, I just absolutely adore that word and I can so rarely use it, since using it always makes you come off as some pretentious intellectual type, but that is such a shame since it is a positively gorgeous word, haha) is at the moment. So I am open to new ideas on the topic, although I don't think I am willing to back down from breaking Indian Literature out of post colonial literature.

Seriously, I'm not trying to get your hopes up

But it is a break so I have time to just update, so why not, haha. I think I finally made a break through on Midnight's Children last night. I started reading again at like 11:30 pm and I was just clipping along. I was actually kind of hooked finally. I think the remaining two hundred pages will be cake. I have been trying to focus on the meaning of the book as I read. I think a lot of what the main character does and what happens to him reflects Indian history and culture. I kind of wish I had done a through study of Indian history, at least post Britain history, because I feel like the book would make a lot more sense if I knew the history of this time period. I know generally what happened, but I have never really looked into the details. Part of the problem is how politically charged the time period is. I can't stand obviously slanted history. I know all history is fundamentally biased, but I do not like it when you can tell how biased it is. Although maybe that is preferable to the bias you cannot detect because it matches your own.

As I have been reading and thinking about my project, I have decided that the stance I am going to take for my project is to deny the label "post colonial" for the literature I study. If you want to talk about the "post colonial" period of Indian literature, then I would be happy to discuss it. But lumping the writing of Chinua Achebe with R.K. Narayan with the writing of Isabelle Allende is perfectly ridiculous. What do they have in common? How can you group together a academic community based on such diversity? Not only are these "colonies" from different sides of the globe, they weren't even colonized by the same cultures. How is that a coherent field of study? While some of these countries arguably are still wading through the mire of re-establishing their national identities after being released from colonization, India hardly falls into that category. Can anyone create a coherent list of the Indian authors and books in English alone? All my research points to the contrary. In fact I have spent the better part of this year futilely contacting professors from over a dozen institutions to see if I could put together a rough list of the most important authors/works to read to orient myself to Indian literature. No one could help me. No one had any real suggestions. From these contacts and snooping around the internet I have amassed a list of over two hundred Indian authors, each with multiple mentions as an author in English of merit, before I kind of gave up. I maintain it, but not for the reason I did before. If Indian literature in English has grown to the point where it is now impossible for a single person to conceive of it, can it still be lumped in with every other former colony as "post colonial"? It seems to me that it would be much more practical to give Indian literature in English its own field of study, namely Indian Literature, with accompanying sub-subjects for specialization. It is extremely arrogant of the English academic world to try to lump everything that isn't American or British into a broad, amorphous holding pen labeled "post colonial". The English language is like a virus, or, I don't know, like linux or something. It is open source. No one controls it. It is not like Spanish, French, or Icelandic that have unified directing committees that have the final say of what is a word and what is not. By asteroiding into India, Britain infected it with English. It became an Indian language. In fact, due to the diverse languages in India and the proud cultures behind each, English is now an essential language in India, not least to facilitate communication between Hindi and Tamil speakers. Thus if they have their own brand of English and now write fluently, directly in English so prolifically that it is now nearly impossible for one person to hold the entire corpus of Indian literature in English, the brand, like a dog's collar, is not only inadequate, it is insulting. It is time for the genre boundaries to change. If other countries still would like to remain within the confines of "post colonial", that is fine, but as for India, it is time they got an English department of their own as equal participants in the language. Especially since they have technically been exposed to it and had it spoken on their soil for around four hundred years. If my hasty research is correct, that is longer than Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, and at least as long as the Americas, and it is quite possible that the East India Company had a presence in India before the English ever really had a presence in the Americas. Besides, the only reason English is so successful in each of these countries is because their invades obliterated the native culture. Is being labeled "post colonial" then a punishment for resisting cultural cleansing? I don't think the implications are very flattering for the English academic world.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas not readers. I haven't actually told anyone about this yet, so...I don't think anyone will actually read this, haha, but oh well. Things are good. I haven't read as much as I have wanted, but still, I am making good progress. I should still get through all the books I planned to this break. Studying Hindi has not gone as well as I would like, but there is still time to fix that starting today. Or tomorrow. I am not sure if there are family obligations tonight, now that I think about it. In related news I got some reading lights for my room, which is awesome. This will make studying so much nicer next semester. Now that I have put my room together I just need to bring the discipline and things should go swimmingly. I hope. Anyhow, Midnight's Children is really slowing me down. It is a good book, but the chaotic writing style is making it difficult to get lost in. The book I just finished, The Last Mughal just sucked me in. I couldn't put the dang thing down. My mother took it away from me because I wasn't engaging the family enough, haha. Midnight's Children has just been more mental work. The plot is more difficult to follow and the action is not as rewarding. Plus the part I just finished involved the main character's finger getting chopped off in a door. Yeah, I kind of had to take a breather after that. Salman Rushdie and I just have different taste, I suppose. He doesn't mind the ripped skin and snot of the world. I have a harder time with that. I think this is good though. It is stupid to only focus on the beautiful and wonderful in the world. I mean, The Last Mughal was far from the perfect wonderfulness in the world, but it did not focus on snot flinging third graders and stuff like that. Rushdie looks all that full in the face. I have spent most of my life avoiding that kind of thing. So it is a difficult read for me, but I think it is healthy. I feel like it is helping my understanding of India. It isn't a big revelation or anything, at least not yet. But I am hoping that by the time I finish, well, my goal with all of these is to have a better picture in my mind of Indianness. Anyhow, I am just over half way done. I just need one good day and then I can finish it off. The other books I have left won't be so bad because they are lighter and I am kind of excited for them. Anyhow, this is the most productive break I have ever had. It has been great. I need to double down though. I have let myself get a little lazy. So here is to tomorrow, I suppose.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Okay, I got the comment system up and running. I think. This should allow for nested comments which are infinitely superior to the crap that Blogger uses. Now people can actually talk to each other in a civilized manner rather than shouting up and down an unmanageable pile of random comments.

Not that I am promising daily updates

But I might as well post as I have the time. I have a few things I need to get done before next semester starts. Or at least things I really hope I get done. This blog was a big one. It actually came together a lot faster than I thought it would. Previous incarnations took a lot longer, and I was never entirely pleased with the results. I am satisfied with this one however. I even applied to the British Library for official permission to use this background image. I feel so...official and cool now. It's like this is a real project or something. I mean, it is just a personal blog, not like some big organization project or whatever, but having written permission to use something is so exciting! It is like this is for real or something.

I have finished one of the books I brought for the break and I am making good progress through the second. The long drives involved in this trip help a lot. I have four others I brought as well as one of my Hindi textbooks. I think I will get through it all.

I need to turn in that dag blasted paper for the field study. It is the official acceptance document. There wasn't really a question in my mind, but I understood why they wanted us to think about what we were agreeing to since once you agree, you are really agreeing and backing out is costly. Anyhow, I was afraid that I would forget and I did. I don't think it is a problem at all, but, I wish I had remembered. So I will turn it in first thing when I get back to Provo.

Then I need to finally meet with Dr. Eastley to see about arranging a class. I have no idea who I should go to for the second course I need to arrange. Although that actually will probably become fairly obvious once I have my project all figured out.

I need to arrange for my plane tickets before prices go up. That should probably happen during the break or at the very latest by mid January. I am thinking of using Qatar Airways. Mostly because they actually have a pretty good fair right now and I have heard fairly good things about their service. But I also kind of want to take them because one of the hubs is Doha Qatar. I wouldn't really be going to the Middle East, it would just be a layover in the airport, but it is kind of like going and that would be so exciting. Besides, as far as the Middle East goes, Qatar is relatively tame. My one big concern with airfare is I do not know anything about my housing yet. The Kennedy Center is helping me with that. Apparently they know people. Also I have a friend from my Hindi class who has friends and family in New Delhi who has suggested he could help me. I mean, I know I will find housing no problem, eventually, I just feel a little awkward just buying tickets not knowing where I am going to stay exactly.

I also need to work on just more general research. I have spent hours on the British Library looking at old photographs of India. That doesn't directly relate to my project, I suppose, but it has been fascinating. I have gone through a lot on Wikipedia as well. I think the next direction I will go is blogs. There are a few I have identified of Indian authors, journalists, and...other people. I don' t know exactly how to categorize them. I suppose I should get on facebook and friend all the people I haven't friended that I know in India. I just really am uncomfortable with the idea of facebook.

Anyhow, today will mostly be spent reading. I hope to finish the book I am currently working on by tomorrow night. It should be doable. And I have been in a strong reading mood lately. It has been months since I have had that, burning, clawing at the back of your mind, craving for reading. I am not quite sure what has brought this on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Okay, so I think I am finally ready to get things started here. This whole project has changed radically since I first entertained the idea of a field study over a year and a half ago. I don't have the official dates yet, well, I haven't bought my tickets yet, since I set the dates, but this summer I will be living in (most likely) New Delhi, India conducting research for my own project. That is actually kind of terrifying. Not the India part, the doing my own project part.

I have collected a small library of books and I have started going through them to orient myself on my topic. I have not finalized what that topic will be, but the ideas I have floating around right now are a study of readership and authorship in India or a study of the writings, especially personal writings, of female authors (probably British) in India between 1750 and 1850. I am not quite sure on these, as I am not exactly sure about how to start them. I have also been throwing around the idea of looking at the origin and/or evolution of Indian literature in English. I am just concerned that because of the field study timeline, I will basically be on my own. All the universities will be on holiday basically the entire time I am there. I think they will be in session for the first week or two and then not back in session until the last week or two. To study contemporary literature I would be at the mercy of the regular people in Delhi and whatever I can get from whatever publishing companies are there (I know Penguin India is there at least). If I study history, well, I don't exactly know what the national archive has or if a lot of it is locked away in university libraries, or if the documents are just lost, which is unfortunately often the case.

Anyhow, I will be developing these ideas and solidifying them. Hopefully this will happen in the next few weeks as I really need to begin solid planning on what I am going to do. So for the next little while I am just going to power through all the books I have and see if I can't figure everything out that way.

This time this blog will be updated regularly. Since it has to be. I think I am not going to bother with any of the others like I had planned to half a year ago. I think it will work much better if I just focus on this one. My only concern is I have no idea what internet access I will have in India. That is a problem for another day though, I guess.