Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kamala Nair

Kamala Nair was born in London and grew up in the United States. A graduate of Wellesley College, she studied literature at Oxford University and received an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2005.

Her debut novel, The Girl in the Garden, is now out from Grand Central Publishing.

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

I first fell in love with Banana Yoshimoto’s writing when I read Kitchen and Asleep in college. Her stories had a hypnotic effect on me. I was gripped by overwhelming hunger when I read Kitchen, and nothing I consumed could compare to the foods I was reading about on the page. The day I read Asleep, I found myself neglecting meals and schoolwork, drifting in a dream-like state between reading and sleeping. It was a wonderful surprise when I walked into a bookstore the other day and saw a new work by Yoshimoto called The Lake. I had only planned on stopping in for a quick browse, but I ended up sitting in the cafĂ© for an hour with a cup of tea, reading. I bought the book and continued reading at home. The Lake is a dark tale about the mysterious bond between two emotionally paralyzed young people. I was entranced not only by the way their back-stories and their strange love unfolds, but by the sincerity of Yoshimoto’s prose. I brought the book with me on the subway as I was heading to a dinner, and stood on a street corner straining to read the last pages as the sun set. I was late to dinner, but couldn’t bear to put the book down until I had finished.

Saints & Sinners by Edna O’Brien

Edna O’Brien has also been a favorite of mine since college, when a professor recommended her short story “A Scandalous Woman.” The final line of the story haunted me for weeks: “I thought that ours indeed was a land of shame, a land of murder, a land of strange, throttled, sacrificial women.” I recently attended a reading of O’Brien’s latest collection of short stories in New York, and am now more than halfway through the book. The stories, largely set in Ireland, deal with her oft-explored themes of longing and loneliness, with a diverse cast of characters, from a prudish B&B proprietress to a scorned wife looking for affirmation from a fortune-teller. I have been reading it slowly, savoring each story, lyrical and sensual, and thinking about it for days before moving onto the next. I think I might be dragging out the reading process as much as possible because the thought of finishing the last story and not having anything new by O’Brien left to read makes me sad.
Visit Kamala Nair's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl in the Garden.

--Marshal Zeringue