What I read

Monthly Review: October 2022

An English Hollywood actor’s autobiography, my first Cormac McCarthy and J. M. Coetzee, a study of my favourite novelist, and some Bertie & Wooster to round things off.

What I Read:

I’m hoping to resume writing short individual book reviews, so this is just a list:

The Moon’s A Balloon (1971). David Niven

Dickens at Work (1957). John Butt and Cathleen Tillotson

Sandman (2022). David W. Berner. Also did a giveaway and author interview about this novella.

Foe (1986). J. M. Coetzee

The Road (2006). Cormac McCarthy

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963). P. G. Wodehouse

The Inimitable Jeeves (1923). Wodehouse (reread after many years)

Joy in the Morning (1946). Wodehouse

(I loved The Road, but needed something jolly and light afterwards, so went on a brief Bertram and Jeeves binge. Wodehouse is my favourite comic writer, after Aristophanes. Joy in the Morning is a perfect novel, full of colourful characters and surprises, but all unexpected, and every one of the numerous incidents turns out to serve a purpose, and it all fits together neatly like a puzzle. Only you didn’t know you were assembling a puzzle, you just thought you were having the best time in the world.)

Short stories: “Jeeves Takes Charge” and “Extricating Young Gussie” by P. G. Wodehouse; from a recent issue of the Kenyon Review: Jennifer Croft’s “Anaheim,” Dylan Reynolds’s “Butchers,” Abigail Rose’s “Undertow,” Grace Shuyi Liew’s “Old Bones,” Erin McGraw’s “Cruise,” and Tan Tuck Ming’s “Departures.”

What I Wrote:

Reread and edited “The Photograph” (16,000 words). Got a couple of critiques; am planning a rewrite. It read more or less well to me, but one critique partner suggests drastically condensing it, while another wants me to draw it out into a proper novella. Still not sure what length this story should ideally be.

Redrafted “The Toy Soldier” (13,000 words) and got a couple of crits. Still needs more escalation.

Worked, pretty slowly, on third draft of “Growing Pains” (formerly “Love in the Jungle”). Detailed outline, revised that, revisited the outline while redrafting, reread what I had so far before beginning each day’s session, etc. Once burned, twice shy – when I’ve been struggling with a story I tend to get cautious and work very slowly, which can be frustrating but is a natural response I suppose, wanting to make sure of ground that’s caved from under one’s feet before.

What I Published:

“The Doll” (100 words) was accepted by Fairfield Scribes Micro for November. Fairfield have previously published my microstory “Highway.”

My short stories “Courage Anniversary” (2100 words) and “Re:Birth” (3,500 words) were accepted for publication in Caustic Frolic’s Fall 2022 issue. “Courage Anniversary” was previously published in The Dillydoun Review, and “Rebirth” in Goat’s Milk Magazine and (in flash version) in Ligeia. Caustic Frolic have previously rejected several of my stories, so this felt like a tiny win.

My short story “The Sacrifice” (6,000 words) will appear in Rollick’s 2023 issue. Rollick has previously published my story “The Decision” (2,700 words).

How I Fared:

Took a brief trip to Ooty. A beautiful place, and beautiful weather, and I was moved to see there’s still so much wilderness left – I had given up hope for the earth and become a cynic, and now I feel like fighting again for our common cause. Also got to reconnect with my parents. Photographed lots of moss and exposed roots and other curiosities, and got lost in a eucalyptus wood for a bit. There’re few things I love better than getting lost in the woods, and I will do it more often.

Also caught up with my one small local group of friends on the outskirts of Bangalore. Enjoyed that too: new songs to dance to, new spots to photograph, and a new pup to use my hand as a chew-toy. Barely got stoned this time, and enjoyed myself immensely nonetheless. Writing was quite slow – I feel like I’m undergoing yet another moulting in my process of working out what exactly a short story is and how to write better ones going forward – but, writing now in the first week of November, I feel myself emerging from that hibernation ready to write more and better, and feeling energised again about ongoing and shelved projects. I love to sleep, and in the winter it’s easy to sleep, and I need to work harder to find motivation to spend more hours awake and creating and absorbing and living. I always get enough sleep anyway – the demands of my body won’t let me skimp on sleep or exercise – so I’m looking forward to an active few months. Summer will bring its own challenges but I want to learn to live in the moment.


PORTFOLIO of published and upcoming works

By Amita Basu

I'm a writer based in Bangalore, India.

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