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June 29, 2017

Book Notes - Diksha Basu "The Windfall"

The Windfall

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, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Diksha Basu's debut novel The Windfall is a literary pageturner, a comedy of manners that cleverly explores important themes.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Culture and capital clash in Basu's charming, funny debut...a modern and heartfelt comedy of haves and have-nots...The novel addresses a rapidly changing India from a plethora of perspectives, and the result leaves readers laughing and engrossed."

In her own words, here is Diksha Basu's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Windfall:

While writing I sometimes enjoy the city sounds providing the background score – be it the sirens of New York City or the honking of Mumbai – cities inspire me but I also often need music to shut my brain off from the activity outside. This is a very stressful list to create because I'm convinced that nobody publicly admits to the music they really listen to but here are the songs, artists, or albums that I turned to time and again while writing The Windfall.

Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar, Passages
East meets West. Could my tastes be any more obvious? But sometimes obvious works.

Vicky Christina Barcelona, the soundtrack
I don't know why. Something about wanting to write with the intensity of Penelope Cruz waving that gun around perhaps?

Susheela Raman, "Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai"
I saw Raman perform in Jodhpur at the Rajasthan International Music Festival (RIFF) in 2010. RIFF was one of the most magical musical experiences I've ever had and the memory of the few days I spent there never fails to take my mind to a calm place. RIFF takes over the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan every October and hosts musical acts from all over the world. It isn't a huge festival but size certainly doesn't matter when you're lucky enough to be sitting in an old fort watching the sun rise behind a Flamenco performance.

The Bartender, Classic Bollywood, Shaken Not Stirred
I love old Bollywood songs and this particular recreation is my favorite. Disclaimer: I'm married to Mikey McCleary, the man behind this music so I may well be biased but the sexy jazz stylings of these songs really help me with my writing rhythm. In any case, when Mikey and I met, I had already been a fan of his work from earlier so even if I weren't now married to him, this would be at the top of my list.

Ariana Grande
She's talented and I think she's in on the joke - the joke being the culture of pop culture. I love pop culture and I find its power both awesome and quite funny and I'm convinced that Grande feels the same way. That music video that's essentially a spin class (a much sexier spin class than I've ever attended but still)? How can you not love it? And why shouldn't books have that kind of reach?

Rabindra Sangeet – the songs of Rabindranath Tagore
Tagore (1861-1941) was a Bengali writer, poet, singer, composer, and artist. He was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and I grew up in a home filled with his words and music and to listen to any of his music now immediately takes me back to my childhood days at home in Delhi or summer holiday afternoons in my grandparents' home in Kolkata. Given that a large part of The Windfall is based in the Delhi I grew up in, Rabindra Sangeet really helped me get my mind away from wherever in the world I currently was and to the setting where I needed to be. In Tagore's music, I can see my late grandmother sitting in her sprawling kitchen in Kolkata chopping vegetables against a boti, a sort of metal standing knife that she would sit with on the floor to cut vegetables the cook would prepare for lunch. In his music, I can see my parents on a lazy Sunday afternoon in New Delhi reading in the fading light with cups of tea while my brother and I sit at the dining table finishing our homework. In the music of Tagore, I feel both safe with my memories and also motivated by his artistic genius.

Shortbus, the soundtrack
I watched the John Cameron Mitchell movie alone in a theatre in 2006. I was just out of undergraduate and living in New York City, depressed like everyone else, and working in a financial ratings company. I didn't know what I wanted from life but I certainly didn't want to be doing what I was doing. The last song, In The End by Justin Bond and The Hungry Marching Band, helped me walk out of the theatre feeling fleetingly happy. I won't go as far as to say that moment, movie, or song changed my life but soon after that I did make a series of very poor choices that I am very grateful for – I quit my job, decided to pursue acting, and eventually left New York City for Mumbai. Like I said, unwise decisions on paper but at least I was no longer walking around New York City alone and depressed in the cold. I now find myself returning to that song and soundtrack to remind myself that I was once afraid and then I stopped being afraid and things worked out okay so how terrifying can the blank page possibly be? The cruel truth, of course, is that the blank page is far more terrifying than an existentialist crisis in your early twenties but this song lets me convince myself that they're comparable and I can fight through the former like I did the latter.

Diksha Basu and The Windfall links:

excerpt from the book

Christian Science Monitor review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review

ELLE profile of the author
The Hindu profile of the author
India Today profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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