Wednesday, July 8, 2009

V.V. (Sugi) Ganeshananthan

Vasugi V. Ganeshananthan, a fiction writer and journalist, lives in New York. She is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College. In 2005, she received an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and in 2005-2006, she was the Bennett Fellow and writer-in-residence at Phillips Exeter Academy. In 2007, she graduated from the new MA program at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a Bollinger Fellow specializing in Arts & Culture journalism. She has written and reported for The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sepia Mutiny, and The American Prospect, among others.

Her first novel, Love Marriage, was published in April 2008. Washington Post Book World named the book one of its Best of 2008. It was also longlisted for the Orange Prize.

Not so long ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
It’s never occurred to me before, but I approach reading the same way I do writing in that I like to have several things going at once. If I’m not in the right mood to read something, I put it down and pick up something else. I read non-fiction for both research and pleasure; obviously, I also read fiction, and I have recently returned to poetry.

At the moment I am reading:

Beloved by Toni Morrison—I read this many years ago and picked it up again when I was going through old books. I was thinking about what my former Iowa classmate Nam Le wrote about it on The Millions blog. I’ve been struck anew by how painful and simultaneously lovely this book is. How does one make a reading experience out of pain? How does beauty of style and language balance against raw and powerful content? How do the two work together? These are among the most basic questions we ask about writing—form and content—but it’s useful to think about them again in this framework. And I’m concerned with morality in my fiction, and obviously Beloved tackles that. I’m loving reading it again.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer—I still read children’s literature, young adult literature, and fantasy. I’ll read really anything that grabs my attention. I saw the Twilight movie recently—with good friends and good wine—and found it delightfully bad. There is a particular part in the movie in which vampire Edward tells innocent human Bella how he reads people’s minds, and he describes to her what every person they see is thinking. He gives them one word each, and it’s very funny. (I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.) But anyway, that line is NOT in the book, which is nevertheless also delightfully bad. Definitely reading the rest of them.

like myth and mother: a political autobiography in poetry and prose by Sivamohan Sumathy—I admire Sumathy a great deal. I was on a panel with her at the Galle Literary Festival, which was held in Sri Lanka in January, and I liked a lot of what she said. Her poems are surprising and forceful, unapologetic and subversive. Of course I am particularly interested in writing about Sri Lanka and by Sri Lankans.

Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror by Mahmood Mamdani—I couldn’t tell you if I am reading this book for research or pleasure—I don’t know yet. But I am reading an increasing number of books about politics and ethics.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir and The Giant’s House, both by Elizabeth McCracken—(Full disclosure: Elizabeth was my teacher.) The first book here is her latest, a memoir about losing her baby. I am almost done with it. It is fantastically well written and enormously sad. See: Beloved. As to the second, it seems to me that although I have read the whole book, I am never really finished with The Giant’s House. Rather, I am always carrying it around. There is a passage I like to read when I am stuck. It is at the end of part one, when the heroine talks about deciding to love the hero. It’s one of my favorite passages in anything, ever, and it begins: “Sometimes, when your lover does not step from the woods to save you—because how many of us are rescuable, how many would look at some fool in a pair of tights and a pageboy and say, Of course—sometimes you have to marry your tower, your tiny room.”

Maybe that’s what all writers do: Marry our towers, our tiny rooms.
Read an excerpt from Love Marriage, and learn more about the book and author at V.V. Ganeshananthan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue