hari kunzru

This is a milieu that, for every Don Delillo (whose apocalypse-mastery is undeniable), produces several Jonathan Franzens or Chad Harbachs – conservative stylists whose technical gifts are harnessed to a kind of domestic realism, which eschews metaphysical or existential flights in favour of pragmatic, reader-friendly observation. It is a kind of triangulation between the demands of the critics and the market that feels, to many, less ambitious and confrontational than the work being made elsewhere in the world.

This is why, every so often, the city’s twentysomething literary crowd falls in love with a foreign writer, who for a period becomes a sort of talisman, a sign that their aspirations go higher than the current domestic-realist model will allow.

A customer came in asking for authors he'd like if he was a fan of Haruki Murakami, Kevin Brockmeier, and David Mitchell.

We thought some of you might be in the same boat! After Jenn was done hugging him (jk, we are teaching Jenn not to assault the customers), she and Emily recommended:

  • Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, which is a novel-length prose poem about werewolves in LA.
  • Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru, which moves from one character to the next in time but revolves around the same location – a strange rock formation far out in the desert.
  • The Gone-Away World and/or Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, which are funny and action-packed and full of philosophical shenanigans and sociopolitical commentary.

«I am floating in a world made entirely of text. Lines of white courier type stretch away to the horizon, spelling out passages from Borges’s ’s “Library of Babel”: “The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries …” I look down and experience a sudden twinge of vertigo. Below my feet, strings of letters plunge down into an inky black void.»

from: Robert Coover: A Life In Writing — by Hari Kunzru in the Guardian.

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“If we presented the first issue of Athena as a “decuple” issue, that is, numbers 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, we would, at one stroke, secure a marvelous flexibility with regard to the size of future issues. We’d be covered against all contingencies, able to cut back in accordance with our straitened circumstances, without having to resign ourselves to gross approximations.”


From “Athena Magazine” by César Aria, recommended by Hari Kunzru. Read it for free tomorrow in Electric Literature’s weekly fiction magazine, Recommended Reading.

This is the house of the Seth, who has learned, in his century and a half of life, to appreciate the beauty of layering. A man of taste knows that when you change, you should always leave a trace. The common people have short memories. One needs to remind them, to keep things before their eyes.
—  This week, Granta redesigned its website, which now boasts a spiffy black-and-white aesthetic. If you’re looking for an excuse to check it out, you could do worse than reading Year in Reading alum Hari Kunzru’sDrone,” a story which appears in their India issue. (They’re also highlighting great pieces from their archives, among them the story “Night” by Alice Munro.)
Lost in the Supermarket
In his second Letter from London, DAVID MATTIN searches for meaning in the London “shopping riots.”

Bicycle Image London Riots 2011 CC Matt Shaw
British metropolitan police move over London in the Eurocopter EC145 helicopter. Two weeks ago, and for three consecutive nights, I was made extremely familiar with its particular, low, insistent thrum: on those three nights from dusk and into the early hours of the morning an EC145 repeatedly passed back and forth over my house, and sometimes seemed to stop and only hang there in the inscrutable darkness, as though pausing for breath. I listened and felt obliquely connected to the events that held my city, and the entire country, captive.

As it turned out, the night of Monday August 8th was the most violent among the five nights, starting on Saturday the 6th, that constituted the English Riots of 2011. In the south London suburb of Lewisham, about a mile from my flat, hundreds of young people stole from shops, set fire to cars, and fought with the police. But Lewisham — a neglected, overwhelmingly poor working-class part of the city — played only a minor role in a night that saw riots spread from Tottenham (also poor, and rundown) in the north of the city, through Hackney (ditto) in the east, down to Croydon, just south of London, where rioters burned the well-known House of Reeves furniture shop to the ground, and a 26-year-old man was shot dead.

If Monday was the most violent day, though, it was not the most surprising. As increased police numbers helped to dampen the violence in London, Tuesday and Wednesday night saw the riots spread outside London entirely, to Bristol in south west England, Birmingham in the midlands, and Manchester in the north, where buildings were set alight, looting was widespread, and police made over 100 arrests.

For five nights, then, England shook itself free from the shackles that are law and order. In so doing it revealed a part of itself that most of its middle class like to pretend does not exist. Social media and YouTube provided a new, mesmerizing window on this aspect of our country. That is, a country in which an unsuspecting foreign student can stumble upon a crowd, get mugged and beaten, lie helplessly in a pool of his own blood, and then be helped to his feet by a group of men feigning concern who hold him still while they steal the contents of his bag.

Now, two weeks on, Britain is puzzling over what has happened. In the sound of the metropolitan British middle-class — the politicians, the columnists, the activists — trying to explain these riots to each other, there can be discerned a strange, schizophrenic mixture of anger and uncertainty, a frustrating inability to get much beyond first principles. What caused these riots? What do the people who participated in them want? What do they tell us about the country in which we live? What, in short, do the riots mean?

Keep reading

Why are young New Yorkers obsessed with a 58 year-old Hungarian experimental novelist? Hari Kunzru reports in The Guardian:

The venue was crammed. People were jostling for position on the floor, on the stairs. The crowd was overwhelmingly young, interspersed with a few visible Hungarian emigrés (elderly, formally dressed, disgruntled at the mob scene) and one or two poorly groomed men carrying those bulging, faintly sinister plastic bags that for some reason are the mark of the obsessive cinéaste, the characters who never miss a screening at Anthology Film Archives, and whose London cousins are, at this very minute, loudly shushing someone talking through the credits at the BFI.

When Krasznahorkai turned up, escorted by his interviewer, the critic James Wood, he stood on stage to receive a protracted round of applause, which he absorbed genially, turning and bowing slightly, his hands steepled in a vaguely clerical gesture you usually only see from Indian politicians or high-ranking organised criminals on HBO.

Krasznahorkai spoke in English, a language he used lyrically, if not always comprehensibly, informing the enraptured audience that his famously long, convoluted sentences are completely conceptualized in his head before he writes them down, and offering the opinion that the full stop “doesn’t belong to human beings, it belongs to God”, which is why he doesn’t much care for paragraph breaks. There were cellphone cameras. There was a flurry of excited social media postings, several by me. For an hour, the assembled New York book scene bathed in the presence of a writer who Susan Sontag once termed “the contemporary Hungarian master of the apocalypse”.

The thing about New York (and, a fortiori, the gentrified bits of Brooklyn, where writers go when their Manhattan apartments are expropriated by the One Percent) is that it doesn’t have a “contemporary master of the apocalypse”. It has post-Ivy relationship anatomists, adderall-enhanced pop culture essayists, dirty realist white-guy novelists and hipster poets who transcribe their sexts and cut them up with Wikipedia entries on HPV and Jersey Shore. It has, at the last count, 247 trillion recent MFA graduates, at least a dozen of which are to be found, on any given morning, abseiling down the glassy exterior of the Random House publishing building, in an attempt to get Sonny Mehta to read their collection of short stories modelled on Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son.

The energy of the New York book scene is undeniable. There’s a flourishing ecology of small presses, literary journals, readings and lectures. There is a glut of talented, technically gifted writers and editors. There is also a pervasive undercurrent of financial anxiety, and a sense (at least among the minority who can raise their heads from A Visit from the Goon Squad for long enough to remember the existence of the non-Anglophone literary world) that, for all the action, there’s something middlebrow about much of the work that is being hailed as evidence of a New York (or God forbid, a “Brooklyn”) literary renaissance. This is a milieu that, for every Don Delillo (whose apocalypse-mastery is undeniable), produces several Jonathan Franzens or Chad Harbachs – conservative stylists whose technical gifts are harnessed to a kind of domestic realism, which eschews metaphysical or existential flights in favour of pragmatic, reader-friendly observation. It is a kind of triangulation between the demands of the critics and the market that feels, to many, less ambitious and confrontational than the work being made elsewhere in the world.

This is why, every so often, the city’s twentysomething literary crowd falls in love with a foreign writer, who for a period becomes a sort of talisman, a sign that their aspirations go higher than the current domestic-realist model will allow. 

The Guardian: “Why Is New York’s Literary Crowd Suddenly in Thrall to Hungarian Fiction?”

He takes pains with historical accuracy, writes beautifully constructed sentences…never settles for the carelessly selected phrase but almost unerringly gets the correct word for the situation…
— 

Annie Proulx, Financial Times review of Hari Kunzru’s Gods Without Men. 

RSVP for next Wednesday’s event, where Hari Kunzru will discuss his latest book with National Book Critics Circle Award nominee Teju Cole!

You can still make books where stuff happens. I don’t think you necessarily have to be some kind of high postmodernist and refuse any kind of stability of meaning. One way I’ve found is through the use of silence and the use of incompleteness, because that demands a kind of active reading. It demands something from the reader – a kind of collusion with the writer.
— 

Hari Kunzru in his interview with Anne K. Yoder.

Hey, do you live in New York? What are you doing Thursday? Come check out Hari in Brooklyn at an event co-sponsored by WORD and The Millions!