April 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
‘Octet’ is the title of my new story in the spring issue of The Southern Review. It’s an odd one, for sure. I don’t have much memory of writing it. I know I was listening to a track from ‘The Tree of Life’ soundtrack on repeat when I was working on it. I also remember walking up and down Montgomery Street, in Edinburgh, Scotland, when I saw something that made me briefly question the physical laws of our universe. But only for a moment, of course.
It starts like this:
The procedure is always the same. He fills in forms. He waits. After twenty or thirty minutes the first of the books arrives. Usually singly, sometimes on a trolley, until they form a tower. All morning his eyes pull in their words like a stove feeding itself. At one o’clock he goes to the canteen; by quarter past he’s back. He remains in his chair until he hears the voice of a man who is never tired, does not age, who may already be dead. It is a voice he hates. The library will be closing in fifteen minutes, says the man. Please return your books to the desk. With this the tower is destroyed. He must return to the present.
He leaves the library and walks down the hill until he reaches his street. At home he eats then tries to read but usually his eyes hurt. All he can do is walk the several blocks of the street, slowly back and forth. He goes over the day’s reading. He waits for the Thought.
April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m amazed and delighted to have won this year’s Willesden Herald Short Story Prize.
My story, ‘Ward’, is about a young girl who gets very ill and how it changes her.
You can read it and the other nominated stories by buying the anthology which is a bargain at £5.99 (incl. postage)- the best place to buy it is here.
She’d never had so many presents. Flowers, magazines, teddy bears and balloons, a poster of two puppies wedged in a boot. Sandra was the only visitor who didn’t bring a gift. Her presence was confusing, because she and Emily weren’t friends. Emily wondered if Sandra liked her the way she liked her classmate Maxine: quietly, from an awed distance, content to sit two rows behind. After ten minutes she noticed the way Sandra’s eyes returned to the needle in her arm, the IV line, the slowly shrinking bag. She asked if Emily was in pain, if she was going to have an operation. She wanted to tell everyone about her dying classmate.
March 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
Sean Roberts, an associate professor at Georgetown University, offers a careful, considered response to the attacks, and provides excellent context for what has happened.
February 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
My piece on a drug addiction clinic near Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan is now up at VICE.
January 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
If you think that people collect your recycling because they care about the environment, you may find my interview with Adam Minter about his new book Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Global Recycling Trade a bit surprising. Sorry about that.
September 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
In what will probably be my only publication as a literary scholar (i.e. I wrote it ages ago, when I was still doing my PhD) I have a chapter in a beautifully designed book: Thomas Pynchon & the (de)vices of global (post)modernity.
My chapter is ‘You can’t always blame zombies for their condition’: Utopian escapes in Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice‘.
Also see my piece on attending the conference that the book is based on….
August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
Originally posted on the art of life in chinese central asia:
(Part 1 of 2)
As has been well documented in discussions of the cultural situation in Xinjiang, many minority people in Xinjiang feel the future of their language and culture is insecure. Efforts to replace Uyghur-medium education begun in 2004 have intensified as the capillary spread of Chinese capitalism embeds its network and ideology deeper and deeper into southern Xinjiang. Although the first site of conflict was urban Uyghur schools, the extension of the railroad to Hotan has brought with it the “leap-frog development” of brand-new schools staffed by Mandarin-speaking teachers; in some cases the signs which accompany this “opening up of the West” were written in Chinese rather than the legally-required Uyghur script of the Uyghur Autonomous Region. These schools are popping up in the desert towns of Southern Xinjiang as tokens of the “sister-city” relationships established around conference tables in Ürümchi following the trauma of the…
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July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Very insightful look at the tensions within contemporary Uyghur masculinity
Originally posted on the art of life in chinese central asia:
Hezriti Ali’s film short and music video “With Me”
Within the marriage market of the urban Uyghur community it has become almost a cliché to discuss the moral aptitude of young men in terms of their frequency of prayer. When introducing a potential boyfriend, the line given is “he prays five times a day” (Uy: u besh namazni jayida üteydu). Although this description often overlooks other moral failures such as drinking, smoking and general carousing, the overall connotation conveyed is “this guy is a good, responsible guy.” In the short film “With Me,” Hezriti Ali, another self-made migrant actor-muscian from the Southwest edge of the Taklamakan Desert, tackles this problem in an unusually subtle and implicit way.
In the ten minute narrative film which proceeds his performance of the song, Hezriti lays out the context which migrant young men face in the city. Since, as for all Chinese men…
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March 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
I have a review of Sven Lindqvist’s The Myth of Wu Tao Tzu up at the Los Angeles Review of Books
February 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
Great photos from Yamaliq in Urumqi
Originally posted on autonomous region: uyghur notes and journal:
I recently came across this set of images shot in Yamaliq, a hillside neighborhood in western Urumqi right behind the main train station, by Chinese photographer Tian Lin (b.1971), who is a native of Urumqi. As many of you have already known, the neighborhood has been occupied mostly by extremely poor Uyghur migrants from other towns of Xinjiang. The set of black-and-white images presents a powerful story about darkness and hopelessness, accompanied by some well written short texts, stories, and poems about the dispossessed residents of Yamaliq. It seems that some photographs have already been published in the magazine Zhongguo sheyingjia (Chinese photographers) in 2011. The link below is Tian Lin’s page on Artedge.cn, a Chinese visual art website. Go to the bottom of the page to click into each of the ten categories to see the photographs. The picture below is taken from here.
May 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’m very happy to say I’ve been awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship (thank you Creative Scotland) which means I’ll be in the village of Grez Sur Loing in France during June. Though my ostensible purpose is to work on a novel in progress, my real goal is to recreate the atmosphere of RLS’s sojourn in the South Seas. Each morning I will convene a meeting of the elders of the village. We will toast each other with coconut milk. I will marry a snake. I will find a peace I had not thought possible, and change my name to ‘Jacques’. Finally, after weeks that will feel like years to the villagers, I will contract an exotic disease that will make me work feverishly on a manuscript I will not live to complete. For years, and generations after, the good, pure people of Grez Sur Loing will tell stories of ‘the pale one that died’.
There will be no statues.