Sunday, November 6, 2016

Christian Lee Novetzke

Christian Lee Novetzke is professor of religious studies, South Asia studies, and global studies at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of Religion and Public Memory: A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India and coauthor, with William Elison and Andy Rotman, of Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation.

Novetzke's new book is The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Amitav Ghosh is a writer I admire. Ghosh is a trained anthropologist and he taught at Columbia for many years. When I was a graduate student there, I attended a few of his lectures. I love his writing and the linguistic worlds he creates, especially in the Ibis trilogy. Now I’ve been reading The Great Derangement by Ghosh. It’s about the madness of our ecological self-destruction. I’ve only just started the book, but I like what he does in the beginning: he reminds us that the story of the earth around us, of the climate in which our lives transpire, is also the story of our lives. By destroying our environment, we destroy our biography, the context for the story of all lives on earth.

When The Great Derangement gets me down, I pick up my other book, Selection Day, by Aravind Adiga. The book is about boys who hope to become professional cricket players in Mumbai, and Adiga shows us the kind of cricket factory that exists at the nexus of a national fascination with the sport, the intense wealth of Mumbai, and the aspirations of the semi-impoverished in one of the world’s largest cities. It’s hard to say what else the book is about because it is about so much. I read it as a father to two children, and so from my point of view, it is about fatherhood—about how hard it is to help human beings form. I’m also thinking of this theme because I just finished One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez and The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which are very similar books—you can feel Márquez haunt Diaz’s prose. They are both beautiful, disturbing books. Adiga’s book is less disturbing, but no less delightful. All three carry forward the theme of fatherhood, or the absence of fathers, or fatherhood as the cover for violence. Actually, now that I think about it, another book I just finished, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is also about fatherhood in a way. I suppose I’m reading about fatherhood—which is surely its own sort of “great derangement” but of a happier kind.
Learn more about The Quotidian Revolution at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Quotidian Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue