& occasionally about other things, too...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bradley Harris’s Thorazine Beach wins 3-Day Novel contest

Bradley Harris

Bradley Harris’s Thorazine Beach is the winner of the International 3-Day Novel Contest. 

Harris is a Canadian writer, editor, and teacher living and working in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the only writer to have won the 3-Day Novel Contest twice; his first novel, Ruby Ruby, won the 21st annual competition in 1998. 

His other works include prizewinning short stories and a dramatic play, Incoming, produced in Memphis and Los Angeles. Brad holds BA and JD degrees, plus an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Memphis. He is currently at work on his third novel in the Jack Minyard series, Six Flags Over Jesus.

About the Book: Jack Minyard is a private dick down on his luck. He’s badly overweight and on the wrong side of sixty; he’s lost his marriage, and maybe a little of his mind. After narrowly escaping charges in a money laundering scandal, Jack must count on private contracts, the kindness of strangers and a pile of prescription drugs to get by. 

In a last-ditch play to resurrect his career, Jack takes on a case that puts him on the wrong side of the tracks and in the midst of some of the roughest trade going. Thorazine Beach is a palpable and enthralling tale that will be released by Anvil Press in August 2013.

Second prize

Embodying Geography by Manpreet Dhaliwal of Surrey, B.C.

Third prize

Drift, Disappear by Mallory McMahon of Brooklyn, New York

Top 12 Runners-Up

Suicide Season by Jay Bethke of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Fauvel by Kayt Burgess of Aurora, Ontario

Recycled Virgins by Dorothyanne Brown of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Fall of Breath by Anne DeGrace of South Slocan, B.C.

The Clothes We Wear by Vanessa Fernando of Montreal, Quebec

Doorways by Barbara Gordon of Victoria, B.C.

The Pledge by Annie Mahoney of Toronto, Ontario

The Jewish Joke Factory by Kelsey Osgood of Brooklyn, New York

Werewolves of Vegas by Teresa Perrin of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Baselines by Anna Stewart of Bakersfield, California

Go Bullet by Rudy Thauberger of Vancouver, B.C.

Giant by Ben R. Williams of Basset, Virginia

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Toronto Festival of Literature and the Arts 2013 - May 3-5 2013

3 days of readings, seminars, music and dance

FSALA is a Canadian arts festival with a difference, promoting writers from South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, and those not writing in English, who are major figures in their own countries though not always known to the global "mainstream."

FSALA also invites many Canadian writers to the Festival, as well as musicians and other artists. In the past we have had dramatists Girish Karnad and Mahesh Dattani from India, novelist Bapsi Sidhwa from Pakistan/USA, and classical dancer Hari Krishnan from Canada. Important features of FSALA are panel discussions on various aspects of the arts, and opportunities for members of the public to meet the artists.

In 2011 we celebrated anniversaries of Rabindranath Tagore and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. The keynote address was by Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada and a writer. For FSALA13, more than 25 Canadian writers and musicians will be present. 
Admission is free except for the Saturday concert. It is advisable but not essential to pre-register.


Amit Chaudhuri (India)
Selina Hossain (Bangladesh)
Oonya Kempadoo (Grenada)
Dannabang Kuwabong (Puerto Rico/Ghana)
Sharankumar Limbale (India)
Harish Narang (India)
Sarmad Sehbai (Pakistan)
Valerie Joan Tagwira (Zimbabwe)
Prasanna Vithanage (Sri Lanka)


Sadhu Binning (Vancouver)
Randy Boyagoda (Toronto)
Christian Campbell (Toronto)
Cheran (Windsor)
George Elliott Clarke (Toronto)
Madeline Coopsammy (Winnipeg)
Tahir Aslam Gora (Burlington) 
Anosh Irani (Vancouver)
Arnold Itwaru (Toronto)
Tasneem Jamal (Kitchener)
Pamela Mordecai (Kitchener)
Michelle Muir (Toronto) 
Rasheed Nadeem (Toronto)
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Toronto)
Munir Pervaiz (Mississauga)
H Nigel Thomas (Montreal)

(Subject to minor changes)

Friday May 3


School visits by selected authors


Session 1: 3:00- 4:00 p.m.
Campbell Room
Panel discussion: Thinking across Regions
Valerie Joan Tagwira, Selina Hossein, Dannabang Kuwabong, Oonya Kempadoo

Session 2: 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Campbell Room
Lecture: Amit Chaudhuri
Moderator: Sundhya Walther

7:00-10:00 pm
Seeley Hall, Trinity College, University of Toronto

Introduction and Welcome
Keynote Address: Professor Deep Saini, Principal, University of Toronto Mississauga
Readings: Anosh Irani, Christian Campbell, Pamela Mordecai
Musical recital

Saturday May 4

Session 4
10:00 am – 12 noon
Munk 108
Growing Diversity, Emerging Media:
Looking at the Future
Readings & Discussion
Tasneem Jamal, Sheniz Janmohamed, Randy Boyagoda, Anand Mahadevan
Moderator: Donna Bailey Nurse

Session 5
10:00 am– 12 noon
Campbell Room
One World, One English, the Many Languages of the Imagination
Readings & Discussion
Sadhu Binning (Punjabi) Cheran (Tamil) Sharankumar Limbale (Marathi), Sarmad Sehbai (Urdu)
Moderator: Arun Prabha Mukherjee

12:00 – 1:30 pm
Campbell Lounge/ Munk 208

Session 6:
2:00 – 3:30 pm
Munk 108
Art, Popular Culture, & Aesthetics
Readings and Discussion
Oonya Kempadoo, Michelle Muir, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Madeline Coopsammy
Moderator: Mariam Pirbhai

Session 7: 
1:30 - 3:30pm
Campbell Room
Thinking Locally, Writing Globally
Readings & Discussion
Christian Campbell, Dannabang Kuwabong, Arnold Itwaru, H Nigel Thomas

3:30- - 4:00 pm

Session 9:
7:00 – 9:30 pm 
Al Green Theatre

Valerie Joan Tagwira, George Elliott Clarke, Amit Chaudhuri

Musical Recital:  
Kiran Ahluwalia & Co

Sunday May 5

Session 10: 
12:00 – 1:30 pm
Campbell Room, Trinity College
Worlds Within Canada
A session with Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu writers of Canada
Moderator: Harish Narang

1:40 - 2:00
Musical Recital
Kamini Dandapani

Session 11 
2:15 – 4:15 pm 
Campbell Room, Trinity College
Prasanna Vithanage (Movie/Discussion)

Buy tickets to Kiran Alhuwalia's concert and readings on Saturday May 4 evening, click here: FSALA-13 tickets

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Taste of Water

The Taste of Water by Franky Dias is a novel that combines folklore with a raunchy narrative and a cast of characters that is endearing.

Replete with fables and mythological tales from India, The Taste of Water is a simple story told with panache that has a page-turning quality to it.

It’s a straightforward narrative of a boy – Victor – growing up from childhood, boyhood and youth to manhood in a southern Indian village.

The author deftly recreates the sights, sounds and smells universal to an Indian village and yet distinct to Uppal.

In many ways, the descriptions of the rural life in The Taste of Water remind us of RK Narayan’s classic Malgudi Days.

The characters of this first novel bring the pages alive. They’re chimerical and yet real. You can’t help but fall in love with the utterly guileless Alvares Spinsters and revel in their amorous sins, or quietly admire the diabolically cold-hearted Meena Rai.  

These are characters that stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page of the book, and there are innumerable others who remind you of people you know, have known or would like to know.

Victor’s weaknesses and flaws – his passionate first romance to his subsequent dalliances – are described in a refreshingly non-judgmental manner.

The author doesn't absolve Victor of the moral turpitude and the inevitable denouement, but he doesn't stand on the pulpit and point an accusatory finger.

These all-too-human foibles in Victor are common and the incidents that led to the breakdown of his marriage and ultimately to a personal catharsis lift the novel from commonplace to masterly.

Another remarkable aspect of the novel is the author’s depth of knowledge of the Indian ethos and his utter conviction in liberal values. The book is imbued in both and but never dominate the narrative except in a couple of instances.

A big thank you to my friend Pankaj Mehra, who gifted this book to me. 

More about the book here: The Taste of Water

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rediscovering a poet

Aleksandra Skiba is a librarian at Pomeranian Library (The Central Library of the West Pomeranian Province) in the Polish city of Szczecin. 

I got an email from her last week, inquiring about my grandfather Harischandra Bhatt (1906-1950), eminent Gujarati poet credited with introducing western sensibilities in Gujarati literature and ushering a new post-nationalistic era in Gujarati poetry.

Harischandra’s only major collection of poems – Swapnaprayan – was published posthumously in 1959. (Incidentally, Swapnaprayan was also Dwijendranath Tagore's second collection of poems). 

He worked briefly at the Polish consulate in Bombay during the Second World War and translated several Polish poets into Gujarati in collaboration with his colleague Wanda Dynowska at the Polish consulate. They published Scarlet Muse, an anthology of Polish poems.

Dynowska subsequently edited an anthology of Polish translation of Indian poems titled Indian Anthology. Vol. IV Gujarati Literature The second edition Gandhi – Selected Writings. (Ed. Wanda Dynowska, Madras, 1960)

Aleksandra translated into English the Polish preface of the anthology that reveals hitherto unknown  (to his family) details about Harischandra. 

Reproduced below is Aleksandra's translation:

Antologia Indyjska. T. IV Gudżerati. Wydanie drugie znacznie rozszerzone. Gandhi – wyjątki z pism. Oprac. Wandy Dynowskiej, Madras, 1960, s. XXIII-XXVIII.

(Indian Anthology. Vol. IV Gujarati Literature. The second edition. Gandhi – Selected Writings. Ed. Wanda Dynowska, Madras, 1960, p. XXIII-XXVIII.

“Before describing Gandhi’s work and his influence on the Gujarati culture and literature I would like to say about Harishchandra Bhatt. I wish India to find among Polish writers as devoted friend as he was for Poles. He worked many years at the Polish Embassy in Bombay and was a tireless supporter of Polish affairs that’s why the longer note should appear in Polish-Indian Library in order to immortalize his name.

He came from the poor but intellectual Brahminic family (Surat). His father died early so being the oldest son he had to take responsibility for the whole family, especially for his younger brother. Thanks to Harishchandra’s devotion and after 8-year study in France his younger brother is a professor of French in Bombay now.

Since he was a teenager Harishchandra was interested in the European literature but mainly the Slavic one. Limiting drastically his needs he acquired foreign books which were almost unknown in India (i.e. he subscribed Slavonic Review). 

The big collection was gathered in his flat. There were the books written by French, German, Polish, Czech and other authors in the beautiful bookbinders because their owner was a bibliophile (until recently it was unique in India where the beautiful bookbinders were rare).

His collection gathered numerous writers from Whitman and Verlaine to Hofmanstahl; from Mickiewicz and Słowacki to Kafka. He was a sensitive aesthete dreaming about a new way of publishing which would be close to the European model. Many years it was his unattainable goal but he was aspiring to it constantly.

He enjoyed his work at the Information Department (Polish consulate) which enabled him to express his love to Polish culture and literature. The numerous articles in the newspapers, countless talks about Poland among friends and the wide correspondence gave him the chance to “serve” Poland and approached it to India.

Harishchandra prepared monograph on Marshal Piłsudski. He translated with me Crimean Sonnets and Wojciech Bąk’s poetry (the last one moved him especially). Working at the embassy he published (thanks to help of his friends) his anthology of Polish poets “The Scarlet Muse” and a volume about great people of contemporary India “Among the Great”. The last one was written by the eminent musician and poet Dilipkumar Roy.

The results of his work was so excellent that some friends decided to cooperated with him and he established a publishing group Nalanda  which was famous in the whole India. The group published over a dozen books which aesthetic standards were equally to the Western ones. That time was the intense for his writing as well as the happiest in his life.

He could create much more but painful disappointment was a reason of his early death. Harishchandra, a sensitive and nervous artist, coped with suppression and burdens too heavy for his mind. Firstly, the family situation made impossible to complete his education and he was suffering because of that the whole life.

Secondly, his work which was hard and wearisome took so much time that he almost didn't have chance for own study, meetings with other poets, writings and the books. What’s more he was in fragile health so heavy work and daily problems were enervating him slowly. His dreams about creative work were not achievable for a long time and when they started to become true the sudden blow broke his spirit completely. He was seriously taken ill and committed suicide.

Harishchandra was fully engaged in his publishing house. The results of Nalanda were great but the costs too high. The only member of the publishing house who had funds began to have financial problems and was forced to give up this project. Harishchandra suddenly had to face the breach of obligations. His plans were ruined and he was deprived from creative work again. It was too hard for his sensitivity. Everybody who knew him and had observed the happiness of the last three years could understand his sadness and despair. Not only he lost the goal but also his viability.

Harishchandra’s writing stopped halfway. He could be among the best Gujarati poet soon. The poems which are dispersed in the newspapers and the only collection of his poetry which he was preparing for publishing cannot guarantee him immortality in Gujarati literature though.

Unfortunately, his best cycle of sonnets titled “For Her” written because of his platonic love to a young girl was never published. The girl was a Catholic and worked as a typist in his friend’s office. It was beautiful, fresh love. I was a witness and confidant of that feeling. The poems about Jesus Christ written because of her were never published either.

The first could get his wife down whom he loved deeply too. The second one needed a longer preface for the readers to explain Harishchandra’s understanding of Christ (Jesus Christ is known in India and he is not only respected but also worshiped and treated as a one the greatest prophet and teacher of the world. There are a lot of houses where His portraits is hanged among other great figures.)

Harishchandra understood Christ particularly and without an explanation about the context his poems wouldn't be comprehensible for his countryman. He didn't prepare anything before his death, so it was impossible to publish them.

In Polish-Indian Library I edited only a one poem from that cycle and some (For Her) which we translated few years ago.

Let the reader have his opinion about Harishchandra’s poetry but I want to add that his language was clear and soft and the style full of undertone and half-light.”

The book also has his biography:

He is very gifted poet but less known and not so widely-read by his countryman. He didn't have enough time to flower his talent and died crushed by hard conditions.

His four year devoted work at the Polish Embassy in Bombay makes him especially close to Poles.

He was honoured with Order of Polonia Restituta for his propagation the knowledge about Poland and advocacy of its side (spoken and written).

Knowing perfectly Polish literature (he had a big collection of books) Harischandra informed his countryman about Poland writing numerous articles and having talks.
He wrote a monograph about Józef Piłsudski which was published in Gujarati and translated into Tamil.

He also translated Crimean Sonnets and Wojciech Bąk's poetry. He loved Poland and dreamt about visiting it. He was a romantic, idealist and enthusiast.     

Photos: Aleksandra Skiba