June 23, 2014
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Musharraf Ali Farooqi's Between Clay and Dust is an articulate and moving novel of post-partition Pakistan.
The Sunday Guardian wrote of the book:
"This is a quietly affecting book, with a profound understanding of tragedy: that what happens to us is as much a function of how we respond to events as the events themselves."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
1. One of the challenges in writing Between Clay and Dust was creating the character of Gohar Jan, the accomplished and resourceful courtesan who faced the disintegration of her world with few honorable choices left her. I had her character but no visual coordinate to peg it on. It was while I was watching the 16 March 1962 clip of Maria Callas's silent performance in Hamburg during the prelude to Act 1 in Bizet's Carmen that I glimpsed in her a hint of the character I sought: the reserve and the devastating poise I had imagined, and the calm, superior smile that could look down any adversity with equanimity. It was not the situation Callas faced on stage there but her silent communication with the audience while the prelude played that revealed this personality. Once I had these visual coordinates, writing Gohar Jan's character in the scenes became easier.
2. In the ten years it too for the novel to gestate and be written, I had become very familiar with one music: the Argentine Tango. I had learned the dance in Toronto and then taught it for a few years from 2004 to 2007. I felt the music of the tango classics very close to the Indian classics of the 1940s and 50s -- in their melody of longing if not their poetry or musical structure. It was the music which had passed through the kothas (parlours) of the courtesans in its journey towards the popular medium of cinema. The early Argentine Tango music had more bohemian roots and remained confined to the dance halls for a longer time. Here are some random samples of these two different kinds of music.
"Udhar Tum Haseen Ho"
"Waqt ne kia"
These devotional songs have always evoked in my mind the image of austere, fierce characters moving heavily with adamantine resolves. Sometimes these resolves, no matter how nobly conceived, are mistaken. People like Ustad Ramzi, the protagonist of Between Clay and Dust, was such a man whose righteous certitude about his outlook on things proves catastrophic for all his relationships and ultimately for himself.
Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Between Clay and Dust links:
Asia Society interview with the author
Fuchsia interview with the author
India Ink profile of the author
Open interview with the author
The Rumpus interview with the author
Tea, Cakes, and Books interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists