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Microstory

Highway

A 100-word story.

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What I read

What I Read, Wrote, & Published: April 2022

What I Read: Kafka’s Letter to My Father. Finished Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Judith Guest’s Ordinary People. Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (reread after primary school) & The Poison Belt. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. Needed a light read, and I’d never read this. This is super-light, touching when it’s not preachy, not a story […]

Categories
Book review Personal Essay What I read

What I Read, Wrote, & Published: March 2022

Lots of stuff.

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Short story

The Why and the How

This magic realist/speculative story explores poverty, motherhood, and the ethics of necessity from the PoV of a street-dwelling mother bitch in India.

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Uncategorized

The Why and the How

[Photo credit] Bewildering Stories published “The Why and the How,” a magic realist / speculative short story, in Issue 940 in two parts. Minerva’s pups are three months old, no longer feeding eighteen times a day, but they’re hungry first thing. She feeds the three that remain with her. Then she licks them over, sniffing […]

Categories
Book review

What I Read, Wrote, & Published: February 2022

Voltaire, Hitler. Gladwell, Shakespeare, bipolar disorder, & speculative short fiction.

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Flash story

School Trip

(Image credit. The photo is neither mine nor of me.) Sledgehammer Lit Mag published my flash story “School Trip” on their wacky and wonderful site. This story about social class and empathy was inspired by a trip to Banerghatta National Park. *** They’re nine-year-olds, too old, so by the time they’re taunting the moon bears […]

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What I read

What I Read & Wrote & Published in January 2022

Read: Nonfiction & a novel & drama & some short stories.

Wrote & published: mostly short fiction.

Categories
Book review History Politics

Zweites Buch. Adolf Hitler (1928)

Where Mein Kampf is a sprawling, ill-organised rant overflowing with hateful conspiracy theories, Zweites Buch is a succinct, mostly cogent, well-reasoned statement of Adolf Hitler’s foreign policy views. The ongoing German-Italian crisis regarding the South Tyrol has motivated Hitler to critique Germany’s current foreign policy, and develop a suitable alternative. This he does in the context of considering abstractly the proper motives and goals of any nation’s foreign policy. Zweites Buch is an aetiology of politics itself. If Mein Kampf was an endless parade of Hitler’s destructive delusions and obsessions, Zweites Buch is a glimpse into the mind of an astute politician, a committed if misguided patriot, and a man both “logical and fanatical,” as one observer put it. Zweites Buch puts antisemitism and antibolshevism mostly on the backshelf, and articulates the broad points of the policies Hitler was soon to enact. This analysis of problems and potential solutions – of economics, international rivalries and inequities, and fierce competition over limited natural resources – is a unique window into an important mind, and remains relevant in global politics today

Categories
Short story

Rush

Black Fork Review Issue 5 published my 2400-word short story “Rush” in Issue #5. I was born, I must’ve been, though who’s got time to be born anymore? My mother was a fast-food-counter clerk and daycare janitor, and a third job too, or maybe that was later, either way she wouldn’t’ve had time to give […]

Categories
Interview

Interview with Mithran Somasundrum, author of The Mask Under My Face

I met Mithran Somasundrum via the Internet Writing Workshop. I enjoyed his debut novel, The Mask Under My Face, which I’ve reviewed here. Mithran kindly agreed to do an interview about this novel, his writing life, and his day job. He also offers advice and resources for writers.

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Book review

My Reading List 2021

What I read this year.

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Book review

Places (2021) Ana Vidosavljevic

Places presents the reader with a range of colourful characters having interesting experiences in locales scattered across the globe. Ana Vidosavljevic’s trademark flair for colour, description, humour, and empathy enliven these nineteen tales. Places is an assorted chocolate box so savour over the course of a lazy weekend.

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Book review

The Mask Under My Face (2021). Mithran Somasundrum

Mithran Somasundrum’s debut novel climaxes during the political protests in Thailand in 2010, where communists revolted against the repressive regime. The novel’s events are a protest in microcosm against old Thailand’s entrenched power systems: the old and new wealthy whose privileges included partial immunity from the law. One of Mask’s two protagonists is the middle-class son of a murdered policeman; the other is the upper-class murderer. Mask’s achievement is twofold: first, it heralds democracy in Thailand; second, it gets us to understand, if not to sympathise with, both sides of a murder story. Mask is a promising debut from Somsasundrum, who has previously published short fiction in some of the world’s most prestigious literary magazines.

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Book review

German Voices: Memories of Life During Hitler’s Third Reich (2011). F. C. Tubach

German Voices is an important contribution to a relatively overlooked niche of Third Reich literature: the experiences of ordinary German citizens. Tubach presents original research, comprising of interviews with German and US residents who lived during Hitler’s rule. This information is presented both as short excerpts supporting the themes of a given chapter, and as a selection of full stories illuminating contrasting experiences. This book does not aim to vindicate the lack of resistance, or the active collaboration, of ordinary citizens. It does illustrate that resistance was very difficult, and thereby raises a key ethical question: Is a human being dutybound, at risk of his own life and his family’s, to protect the lives of strangers?

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Book review

Maurice. E. M. Forster. (1913/1970)

Maurice explores homosexuality in upper-middle class England at the turn of the last century. This unadorned narrative follows a love affair between two young men of different temperaments, but both constrained by the social prejudice and legal concerns surrounding homosexuality at this place and time. Maurice is a social document, recording some of the many aids with which human beings try to deny their reality and wish away human nature. Maurice is also a paean of hope for individual liberty.

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Short story

The Decision

A couple in Bangalore discuss whether the Covid lockdown in India has altered the goods & bads of having a child in a troubled country.

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Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday: Three Stories

Three short stories from 2006.

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Poetry

Throwback Thursday: Two Poems: “When Thisbe Was Dead” and “In the Bath”

Two poems from 2011 in Muse India.

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Short story

Courage Anniversary

A magic realist story about a co-dependent relationship in the city of lights.

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Book review

Adam Bede. George Eliot (1859)

Adam Bede is one of my favourite novels. Its setting is idyllic; its cast is diverse, spanning skilled labourers, prosperous tenant farmers, and landowning gentry, speaking a range of Derbyshire dialects, expertly captured; its pace is slow but sure; its story a mature tragedy shot through with hope and acceptance; and everything is suffused with Eliot’s empathy, humour, and grace, already fully matured here in her debut. I first read Adam Bede when I was ten or eleven; it holds up well to rereading.

Categories
Flash story

They Told My Friend

This flash story was originally published by Bandit Fiction on 05 September, 2021. Image Credit They told my friend: “Stop washing your face.” Daniel kept the cleanest face at school – before our mums pulled us out to work. He’d been a good student; he was saddened. Then he laughed and fell to fieldwork.  Daniel […]

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Short story

Biding Time

This story was originally published by uRevolution. Image credit 11:35am.  Almost time for almonds.  They strolled up the walkway towards Halebid  temple.  Dhrub in his arms, Rishab walked slowly.  So slowly, Rita wasn’t sure they were moving.  Were they moving backwards? Whoosh!  They were moving backwards.  Only Rita felt it.  Rita, starved-stoned.  “It’s depressing, visiting […]

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Book review

Letters To A Young Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke (1903-1908), trs Herter Norton (1934)

Written during Rilke’s formative years, his advice in Letters To A Young Poet is a guide not just to artists, but to anyone who wants to live well. Ranging over topics as diverse as vocation and art, sex and solitude, nature and literary criticism, Letters is a lyrical and spiritual guide to living, reading, feeling, and loving. Quick to read, this tiny book will stay with you long afterwards, and hold up to frequent rereadings. Like a holy book, it is best read often and briefly: peep at one passage, savour it, and turn it over on your tongue.

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Book review

Berlin Alexanderplatz. Alfred Doblin (1929). Trs. Michael Hoffman (2017)

Whether you’re looking for an examination of crime and decay, a multi-disciplinary origin-story of individual consciousness, or a landmark in modernism literature that has influenced generations of writers, or just a jolly good narrative – Berlin Alexanderplatz will change the way you read and think.

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Short story

Re:Birth

A magic realist journey of recovery from trauma.

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Book review

Buddenbrooks (1902). Thomas Mann. Trs. H. T. Lowe-Porter, 1922

Buddenbrooks is the four-generation saga of a wealthy 19th-century German merchant family. The Nobel Prize is generally awarded for an oeuvre; Mann’s 1929 citation was primarily for Buddenbrooks: an unusual choice which this novel justifies. Mann’s first novel, written in his early twenties, shows a prodigious talent for observation, an eye for character, an ear for dialogue and dialect, and a canvas ably spanning the better part of the 19th century. Buddenbrooks regularly tops Must-Read Lists of German literature; it has already become one of my favourite novels.

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Book review

Death in Venice (1912). Thomas Mann

Death in Venice records the struggle between discipline and leisure, respectability and abandon in the person of aging writer Gustav Aschenbach. This quasi-autobiographical novella captures the conflict between social mores and primal desire; between the love drive and the death drive.

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Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things: Part 2/4

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Novellas & Novelettes

Zeus and His Things: Part 1/4

“Zeus and His Things” is a humorous speculative novelette inspired by (a) my decades-long love of Greek mythology, and (b) the question: What if things don’t really behave systematically, as we expect them to? This novelette published in four parts in Bewildering Stories Volumes 911 & 912 is a lighthearted engagement with the philosophy of science.

Categories
Book review Philosophy

Siddhartha, An Indian Tale (1922). Herman Hesse

Siddhartha is the fictitious biography of a man who shares a name, and temporal-spatial proximity, with the Buddha, and who echoes many notes of the Buddha’s development. This spiritual journey into the self unfolds in rolling lyrical language, develops psychological insights in vivid imagery, and reconciles the cacophonous conflict between the worldly and the spiritual in a symphony of joy. Siddhartha is most memorable for its portrait of its protagonist: who combines amiability with an openness to endless change, and becomes a role-model for spiritual seekers everywhere.

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Book review Politics Psychology

Group Psychology and The Analysis of the Ego (1922). Sigmund Freud (trs. James Strachey)

Group Psychology summarises the existing research, and offers the rudiments of a unifying theoretical framework: based on the ego-related processes of suggestibility and object cathexis. In the twin human drives of libido, and of identification with an external object, Freud locates the building-blocks for group psychology. A century on, Freud’s monograph remains a useful tool to understand phenomena of mob behaviour: the preponderance of primitive emotions, the suspension of self-interest, and the moral lows and highs between which mob behaviour often swings.

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Book review Politics

In Dubious Battle (1936). John Steinbeck

Inspired by real-life events, In Dubious Battle is a vivid behind-the-scenes portrait of an agricultural strike during the Great Depression. Ingénue Jim joins up with seasoned communist agitator Mac to organise migrant labourers striking for a living age. Good intentions miscarry, priorities are tested, and the mob rises and wavers in this gripping human drama.

Categories
Short story

Fault

Short story “Fault” published in Commuter Lit. This story in five acts, narrated in alternative scenes by the two protagonists, examines exploitation and unassertiveness within the unstructured environment of a PhD in an India institute, and asks: Whose fault is this?

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Book review

Howards End. E. M. Forster (1910)

Howards End is a novel of ideas, an experiment in reconciling idealism and pragmatism via Forster’s panacea: “personal relations.” Written under the shadow of the Great War, the novel is an allegorical plea for peace between Germany and Britain: a peace based on mutual compromise and humility, and the surrendering of fatal ambitions. Howards End analyses a Britain undergoing rapid economic change and social fragmentation: with cars racing across country roads, but social mores and sexual double standards stuck in the last century. Forster offers compelling interior portraits of its protagonists, Meg and Helen Schlegel, and of a handful of secondary characters across the social spectrum. While the plot is problematic, and the resolution rushed, the novel’s poetic philosophical and psychological speculations remain with the reader long afterwards.

Categories
Biography Book review History Politics Psychology

A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler: His Life & Legend. Walter C. Langer, US Office of Strategic Services (1943/1944)

A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler is of historic value to students of personality and of psychoanalysis. Historians have questioned the validity of its sources; the contemporary reader will be amused by the explicit focus on psychosexual development; several of the report’s conclusions are dubious at best; its terminology varies widely from those of contemporary psychopathology. Nonetheless, the Analysis offers plausible reconstructions of Hitler’s history and self-image, and constitutes an imaginative reconstruction of Hitler’s psychological economy.

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Book review History Politics

The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich (1969). William L. Shirer

This monumental tome doesn’t just document the rise of the Nazis and the lifespan of the Third Reich – it also traces the roots of Nazism deep in German history. With meticulous research and mostly able narrative, Shirer offers compelling portraits of Hitler and his closest associates – from the competent and passionate Goebbels, to the vain and bungling Ribbentrop. Notwithstanding frequent back-and-forths in time, a prejudice against German culture as exceptionally repressive, and pejoratives typical of the time but nonetheless distracting to a contemporary reader – this is an impressive work of scholarship, accessible to a lay audience, and a comprehensive introduction to the Third Reich.

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Book review History Politics

Hitler Was My Friend: Memoirs of Hitler’s Photographer (1955). Heinrich Hoffman

Hoffman’s memoirs offer an entertaining glimpse at life in the Nazi inner circle, and at Hitler himself. A light, brisk, anecdotal narrative chronicles Hoffman’s own artistic career, and the course of his professional relationship and personal friendship with Hitler. This modest, self-avowedly apolitical work nevertheless offers some key insights into Hitler and his associates, and makes for entertaining light reading.

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Book review History Politics

Look Who’s Back. Timur Vermes (2012)

What if Adolf Hitler came back to life in contemporary Germany? How would he go about getting a platform to work his way back to power? *Look Who’s Back* captures Hitler’s single-minded drive and prosy voice to present us with a personable if misguided leader. Vermes analyses the dynamics of profit-driven viewer-hungry media, and of a politically disenfranchised populace, in the (re)making of an extremist.

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Flash story

Promises

A flash story about the promises we make ourselves.

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Flash story

The Hours

A flash story about the deracinated, isolated contemporary worker struggling to keep track of the hours and the seasons.

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Book review

A Creek Named Sorrow. Judith Kelly Quaempts (2016)

*A Creek Named Sorrow* is a competently narrated crime/mystery novel that juxtaposes the beauty of a rural New England landscape with human crime and misery. But a dizzying cast of mostly undeveloped characters, and a striking lack of sympathy for/insight into its criminal crharacters, make this novel a less-than-satisfying read.

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Book review

Tiny Novels in A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories. William LaFond (2020)

*Tiny Novels In A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories* delivers maximum story in minimum word-count. This book is a rainbow collection of characters and moods. Its themes range from comedy through life-lesson through love and loss. Its settings span the American landscape; most of the stories are contemporary; a few are set at various key moments in U.S. history. Each of these 30 standalone stories is a delectable read for a few spare minutes. Together, they demonstrate an impressive range from this debut author.

Categories
Biography History Politics

I Was Hitler’s Buddy (1939). Reinhold Hanisch. Article in New Republic

This short memoir by a fellow vagrant from Hitler’s prewar homeless days in Vienna provides insights into how early experiences with destitution and hopelessness shaped a tyrant.

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Personal Essay Politics

You’re Cancelled. Please Exit, Stage Left. Next!

Cancel Culture displaces individual responsibility, creates a hollow sense of satisfaction, and fails to resolve systemic injustice.

Categories
Biography History Politics

The Young Hitler I Knew (1953). August Kubizek

Kubizek’s memoir constitutes one of the few reliable sources of Hitler’s years in Linz, and in Vienna before penury made Hitler homeless. Kubizek’s account is sympathetic but balanced. Combining character analysis with narrative of shared ideas and adventures, it provdes not only insights into the gestation of a tyrant — but a delightful read.