Tag Archives: lust

365 Stories: Day 20: Lust by Susan Minot

lust-and-other-stories This time it was the title story. Lust is about a sexually charged teenage girl. The story is a set of vignettes describing the girl’s adventures with boys. Susan is not apologetic about it and should not be as well. Neither is her character. The girl lives her life the way she wants to, in the constraint and standards set by the society and yet manage to do what she wants to.

The writing is brave and not feminist. Susan loves and cherishes bodies and that is beautifully depicted through the story. A story that is funny, warm, sad, and tender to the core.

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Interview with Ananth

So after reading, “Play With Me”, I decided to interview Ananth – the man behind the book and here is a quick interview with him. “Play with Me” is a work of erotic fiction. It is bold, hip and right there, set in our times. It is a book which you must read and is most certainly a quick read.

Ananth

1. Why did you take to writing? What prompted this? From selling books to writing one, how was the transition at some point?

I have been toying with writing for a while now. These were primarily blog posts (stripandrebind@wordpress), a very short memoir that I once wrote when my family moved out of Madras to Bangalore and the ‘hometown’ merely became ‘birthplace’, and then a couple of years ago, short fiction (unpublished). So a novel was a pleasant accident, as much as it was a challenge.

The pressure in this transition came from the subject I had chosen to write a novel on; Pleasure. Because as readers and book sellers we do know that it is difficult to get it right.

2. Do you think the Indian audience is ready for more erotic writing?

More than half a million copies of E L James and Sylvia Day have sold here, and yes absolutely. It is a genre, as any other, and there should be lot more books.

3. What does Ananth read?

Many things; books, columns, magazines, newspapers, product labels on bottles, ad copy, the list goes on. More non-fiction, than fiction.

Play With Me by Ananth

4. What are the books as of now at your bedside?

In the iPad; Silkworm, The Fault In Our Stars and so many bought and un-read. Bedside; Happiness Is…(a timeless and charming book that will make you smile) and Play with Me.

5.The protagonist of “Play with Me” is hip, young, ambitious and in most parts confused. What led to the building of this character? Did he have to go through a lot of changes, depending on the kind of people you interacted with?

Sid’s composure is completely derailed by the juggernaut that Cara is and then she disrupts his life and completely changes him, helping him recognize what he wants. So it wasn’t who I interacted with, as opposed Sid’s interactions with the others in the book.

6. Ananth the writer…

Writes when there is a compelling need to say something; when he finds the words to say it; and works best when he is completely distracted; and can’t write in solitary confinement.

7. What is the next book going to be about? Will it be on the similar lines of “Play with Me”?

Think of Me will pick up where Play with Me left off – there are incomplete sentences and unresolved relationships. Yes, that book will also be about pleasure.

8. Do you think people are reading a lot more than they used to? If yes, then will there be a lot of pressure on writers to generate something different all the time?

I think so. We are reading a lot more but are more people beginning to read books – maybe not. So the pressure is not to write something different but to be able to write something that will interest people (we exercise a lot of choice now, because there are so many options to entertain ourselves) and through that grow the number of people who might pick up a book for the first time.

9. Your literary influences…

Many. I consider myself very fortunate – my parents shoved a book in my hand quite early in my life.

I have read “Play with Me” and quite enjoyed it. Reviewed it here. Pick it up. It makes for some interesting reading.

387 Short Stories: Day 43: Story 43: Lust by Susan Minot

Lust and Other Stories Title: Lust
Author: Susan Minot
Taken from the collection: Lust and Other Stories

This time it was the title story. Lust is about a sexually charged teenage girl. The story is a set of vignettes describing the girl’s adventures with boys. Susan is not apologetic about it and should not be as well. Neither is her character. The girl lives her life the way she wants to, in the constraint and standards set by the society and yet manage to do what she wants to.

The writing is brave and not feminist. Susan loves and cherishes bodies and that is beautifully depicted through the story. A story that is funny, warm, sad, and tender to the core.

The Gallow’s Curse by Karen Maitland

Like Karen Maitland’s other two books, Company of Liars and The Owl Killers (both great, by the way), this is a complex, labyrinthine mystery set in medieval England. The Interdict of 1208 forms the background for the plot, which concerns two main characters. The first is Elena, a 15-year-old serving girl who becomes a runaway, and later finds herself tricked into prostitution, after she’s accused of killing her own baby. The second is Raffaelle, a tortured, revenge-hungry lord who is forced out of his manor by the brothers he holds responsible for his own agonies during the Crusades, as well as those of his late best friend and master Gerard. There are twists, turns and deaths galore as Raffaelle and Elena; both separately and together, attempt to outwit the treacherous Osborn and Hugh, making plenty of friends and enemies along the way.

Having enjoyed the author’s previous novels so much, I expected a lot from The Gallows Curse, and it didn’t disappoint. The characters are wonderful. Elena seems to be a bit of a cliché at first (innocent, beautiful young girl who has just about every tragedy possible thrown at her and survives despite the odds) but I found myself warming to her more and more as the story went on. As you see the horror and loneliness of life as a runaway villain and an unwilling whore through Elena’s eyes, you end up rooting for her to make it through and get revenge on her tormentors. In Raffaelle, meanwhile, Maitland has created a fascinating, flawed, contradictory antihero and probably my favourite character of all the books I’ve read recently. He’s simultaneously repulsive and entrancing, hateful and heroic. He does some awful and some great things; he pays dearly for his sins and for attempting to selflessly help others, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that many of his actions are motivated purely by his lust for Elena. Yet I ended up feeling more sympathy for the character than I would have, had he been unbelievably ‘perfect’.


The glimpses into the characters’ pasts and memories are fantastic, and really make the whole story feel fleshed out. The plot has everything – violent deaths, sexual deviance, witchcraft, spying/treason, prophetic dreams, a collection of caged exotic animals, shed-loads of dark secrets and plenty of daring escapes, all against the backdrop of a 13th-century England depicted so vividly you can almost taste it. I love the way Maitland works elements of the supernatural into the plot without fanfare, so seamlessly you can easily believe magical beings and powerful witches really existed as part of everyday life back in medieval times (the story is part-narrated by a mandrake, and one of many subplots involves a pair of cunning women with an ancient grudge). What’s more, the action-packed ending is a knockout. If there are flaws, they’re to do with repetition in the language. The characters utter the same curses over and over again (God’s blood, Satan’s arse etc…), and the words ‘stench’ and ‘stink’ are repeated way too much – we get it, the Middle Ages weren’t particularly fragrant. But overall, such minor flaws didn’t do much to dent my enjoyment of the book overall.

While at first I missed certain elements from Maitland’s other books – the variety of first-person narrators from The Owl Killers, the wide cast of eccentric characters from Company of Liars – I think this new tale may be her best yet. I was riveted throughout the book, and upon finishing it my instinct was to jump right back to the beginning and start all over again. I would recommend Maitland’s novels to anyone interested in historical fiction; as well as being compelling and obviously very well-researched; they’re also darkly funny, full of surprises and undeniably entertaining.

The Gallow’s Curse; Maitland, Karen; Penguin UK; £12.99

Invitation by Shehryar Fazli

So I was excited upon the book’s release and I read the book (courtesy: Tranquebar Press) and yes there were times I was taken aback and then there were times I didn’t know what to do with the emotions surging within me. Why you ask? Well the book is but like this and there is no hiding from its raw and brutal intensity at times.

The plot is fairly simple: The narrator Shahbaz, a young Pakistani returns to his home city after an exile of 19 years from Paris to settle a family dispute. The setting is: 1970 Karachi. Pakistan was in turmoil as Karachi was preparing for Democracy seething and tearing at the seams with corruption, class tension and political fixation. The power balance is at its pinnacle between West Pakistan and the Bengalis of East Pakistan (which would soon convert to Bangladesh). Property dispute eventually pits Shahbaz against his paternal aunt in the eye of the storm – Mona Phuppi, who is not only strong-willed but also conniving.

Shahbaz on the other hand wants his good life back – the days of being a part of Karachi aristocracy and he will stop at nothing to get it back. That is the parallel story that runs throughout. Shahbaz enters the world of the rich and the famous through his father’s friend who runs a popular cabaret and is now a close associate of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The historical references are plenty throughout the book and I liked how the author stayed true to them (of course partly because he couldn’t distort history) and let the characters react to the events and be a part of the bigger picture than tell their own tales.

Shahbaz then goes through his own moral dilemma when he is asked to betray a friend to remain a part of the circle (he further gets acquainted with fundamentalists). Here what struck me was the way scenes were described – in an almost detached manner and maybe that’s why you can relate to it and read it from a third person perspective.

Invitation is a complex book on many levels – from creation of a democratic country to a country that is still stuck in ages gone by. One of the novel’s clear strengths is its evocation of the personalities he gets close to, from Ghulam Hussain, his Bengali chauffeur, to Mona Phuppi, his aunt, to Brigadier Alamgir, an old contact of his father’s who now runs the Agra Hotel, to Malika, a cabaret dancer from Cairo who performs nightly at the Agra. The character of Shahbaz himself is a curious mix: on the one hand, a self-questioning innocent who’s far from worldly-wise, and on the other, one who seeks out drugs and whores with equal avidity.

Invitation is a book full of colour and incidents. The prose is confident, unrestrained and deals with situations in a manner that is sleek – almost like a sleight of hand. The overall narrative of the book makes it a taut debut read – the one that I would recommend to almost everyone.

Invitation; Fazli, Shehryar; Tranquebar Press; Rs. 495