November 6th, 2007

Jason sepia

woman : planet :: love : monsters

I am anxiously awaiting Vandana Singh's first collection of short fiction, The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet and other stories, and I want to pester Zubaan Books with emails and Skype calls to get them to release it now, already, dammit. I've been enraptured by her narrative voice since discovering her story "The Room on the Roof" like an unexpected jewel in Polyphony 1. Most of her other publications have been in a variety of anthologies, but I haven't been able to access them all, which is why I'm looking forward to having them all in one place. But the waiting.

However, if I need a fix until the collection is published, Timmi Duchamp has just revealed that Aqueduct Press is releasing a new Singh novella, Of Love and Other Monsters, volume #18 in their Conversation Pieces small paperback series, for just nine US dollars.

Here's an extract:

When I think about him I remember a wave I watched near a beach once, a big, beautiful, smooth wave, perfectly rounded, like molten glass. It came into a narrow channel from the open sea, muscular and purposeful, hardly breaking into surf. I thought it would climb all the way up the end of the channel, wash over me, and carry on, unbroken, till it crossed the entire Deccan peninsula. But it met the sand, rolled over it, little traceries of white disturbing its smooth, translucent aspect. Touched my toes, broke up into little tongues of froth, and dissipated. So I like to think of him—Sankaran, I mean—like a wave that came out of the ocean for a while to fulfill some purpose (whatever that was). Then he was lost to me.

Physicists have a name for that kind of wave. It is very unusual, and it is called a soliton, or solitary wave.

When, as a young man, I met Sankaran for the first time, I thought he was the one I had been searching for all my conscious life. But as the poet Faiz says, there are more sorrows in the world than love. As soon as I had settled into a certain youthful complacency, the world and its attendant sorrows got in the way.

The study of minds, soliton-like or otherwise, is my particular passion. Mind-weaving is the one extraordinary ability I have that makes me different from other people. I like to go into a gaggle of housewives bargaining over turnips or a crowd at a cricket match. I drift about, trying to determine what kind of entity the crowd has the potential to become. I take the embryological possibility of the meta-mind, make a joining here, a parting there; I wave my baton like the conductor of an orchestra and sense a structure, a form, coalesce in the interactions of these knots of persons. The meta-mind I construct has a vague unity of purpose, a jumble of contradictory notions, and even a primitive self-awareness.

Which is why I am so disturbed by solitons. They walk into a meta-mind as though nothing were there, and they walk out, unaffected. They give nothing, nor do they take away.

Such was Sankaran-with-stars-in-his-eyes, Sankaran the astronomer. This is not his story, however—his is just one thread in the tapestry, one voice in the telling. This is my story, and it begins when I was (so I am told) seventeen years old.

Link. Order.