Monday, December 07, 2009

What is Sumanth Prabhaker reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Sumanth Prabhaker, author of A Mere Pittance and the founding editor of Madras Press.

His entry begins:
I just finished Underground, Haruki Murakami’s exploration of the 1995 Tokyo gas attack. It was the only English-language book of his I hadn’t yet read, so I probably came to it with certain expectations; readers familiar with his work know enough to look out for cats and disappearing women and vertical movement and so many other things that seem to occupy his brain. And the event at the heart of the book does hold some things in common with his fiction — a world beneath the surface, the struggle to understand how to behave in the aftermath of a mysterious event. Even the images are comfortable within his library, especially that of the masked cult members releasing their zipper-lock packets of liquid sarin onto the floors of the subway cars, wrapped in newspapers, and poking at them repeatedly with the sharpened tips of umbrellas. But Underground ends up accomplishing something very different than any of Murakami’s other books, in part due to the inclusion of himself as a character in the story. I’m sure he’d hate to hear this, because the focus of the book is very clearly on the victims, survivors, and perpetrators of the attack; my attention, however, was on him, and on parsing his attempt to get to the bottom of why this event took place and what it means and how it has affected the surrounding culture. Possibly even more fascinating than the recollections of the relevant parties are Murakami’s mini-profiles of the interviewees, which he includes before each new section. About one person he says, ‘Just to look at him is to see the very model of a good citizen.’ He describes...[read on]
Sumanth Prabhaker’s A Mere Pittance transcribes a long telephone conversation between a young woman stranded in India and her older boss and partner across the world. As she relates to him the story of a metaphysical experience she endured, trapped beneath a fallen armoire in a strange hotel, their relationship becomes a creature all its own, beyond their control. And as it moves, they speak only to the traveling voice of each other, driven by the possibility of connecting wires, and the melancholy of inhabiting a body.

The Madras Press is a non-profit imprint that publishes individually bound short story- and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a network of charitable organizations selected by its authors.

Writers Read: Sumanth Prabhaker.

--Marshal Zeringue