links for 2008-11-06

06 Nov
  • While these different senses of belongings and beliefs kept Indians clashing with each other as soon as the results of US elections were announced, people in US expressed solidarity with each other and hoped that US will emerge as a stronger and wealthier nation in coming years.
  • As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind. The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it.
  • My fellow Americans, I admire Barack Obama, but in his first 20 minutes as president-elect, he has failed time and time again to deliver the change he promised
  • Barack Obama gave a once in a decade speech in accepting the Presidency. He has an incredible ability to move people with oratory in both his behavior and content – and he took advantage of that when he had his most important audience of perhaps hundreds of millions of people across the world.
  • …above all let there be pleasure. Let there be textural delight, let there be silken words and flinty words and sodden speeches and soaking speeches and crackling utterance and utterance that quivers and wobbles like rennet. Let there be rapid firecracker phrases and language that oozes like a lake of lava. Words are your birthright…So if you’ve got it, use it. Don’t be afraid of it, don’t believe it belongs to anyone else, don’t let anyone bully you into believing that there are rules and secrets of grammar and verbal deployment that you are not privy to…Just let the words fly from your lips and your pen. Give them rhythm and depth and height and silliness. Give them filth and form and noble stupidity. Words are free and all words, light and frothy, firm and sculpted as they may be, bear the history of their passage from lip to lip over thousands of years. How they feel to us now tells us whole stories of our ancestors.
  • The nineteenth-century version stressed the value of compensating for disadvantage. If you wanted to end up on top, the thinking went, it was better to start at the bottom, because it was there that you learned the discipline and motivation essential for success…
    Today, that interpretation has been reversed. Success is seen as a matter of capitalizing on socioeconomic advantage, not compensating for disadvantage. The mechanisms of social mobility—scholarships, affirmative action, housing vouchers, Head Start—all involve attempts to convert the poor from chronic outsiders to insiders, to rescue them from what is assumed to be a hopeless state. Nowadays, we don’t learn from poverty, we escape from poverty…
  • This is at the heart of the book’s bad faith. The first-person narration disguises a cynical anthropology. Because his words are addressed to an outsider, the Chinese Premier, Halwai is at freedom to present anthropological mini-essays on all matters Indian. It is an “India for Dummies” that proves quite adept at finding the vilest impulse in nearly every human being it represents. I do not only mean every member of a corrupt and venal ruling class, but also the victim class itself, portrayed in the novel’s pages as desperate and brazenly cannibalistic. Reviews of the book in mainstream publications, including The Economist, present it as a glimpse into the “real India.” Whose India is real; Adiga’s, or mine?
  • Fiction writers can misuse their freedom through simple incompetence, or by manipulative plotting, or by a failure to imaginatively realise the inner lives of their characters, or by simplified and schematic thinking that waters down the complexity of the world. Aravind Adiga’s novel The White Tiger seems especially instructive in this regard, because it seems to me to be culpable in all the ways mentioned above…
    This scene is reprehensible not because Balram is so despicable, but because of Adiga’s implication that anybody – even parents whose grief is fresh as a wound – can be bought in India as long as the price is right. The other India that The White Tiger purports to investigate is certainly grotesque, but Adiga, no less than Balram, feasts upon and exaggerates its grotesquerie.
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Posted by on November 6, 2008 in Links


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