Nine lives, two interviews, one jangle of nerves

In addition to reading, blogging, panicking and spreading the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival word – there’s also the little matter of  The Interview.

The Interview involves equipment which I have only met in an online-dating kind of a way. Here’s hoping we prove to be compatible because I am down to interview William Dalrymple and Lionel Shriver. Be still my beating heart.

Way back in the sixties, you too may have succumbed to the delights of An Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I know I did, so I decided to start with William Dalrymple’s latest book:   Nine Lives: In search of the Sacred in Modern India. As a partially out-of-the-closet Hindu with a love of Indian music, Paisley patterns, Persian miniatures and a good curry this felt like it would be a suitable fit. And it was.

Dalrymple loves India and he has walked the walk to prove it. It has taken twenty five years to collect the nine stories that make up this book. Even if you have scant interest in the history of India, leave the room when reincarnation comes up for discussion, loathe books with clusters of foreign, hard-to-pronounce place names and like your non-fiction to have a smattering of photographs, I still believe that you will find yourself captivated by Nine Lives.

The reasons why are simple. Dalrymple is eminently readable , the characters in the stories are as bizarre as anything you would find in science fiction and you will probably find yourself drawn, possibly against your better judgement, to identify with at least one of them. As in: Were I to follow a sacred path in India, which one of these would it be? Actually, even if you are only following a secular path in a job like mine at  Christchurch City Libraries, there will have been bad days  which turned you briefly into The Lady Twilight in Chapter 8 whose story begins thus:

“Before you drink from a skull,” said Manisha Ma Bhairavi, ” you must first find the right corpse.”

OK, so it’s not in the current library training manual but I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Fascinating as these nine tales are, in the end it is Dalrymple’s  own life that I find myself wanting to know more about – perhaps he will relent and write an autobiography one day.  Any questions anyone would like to have asked in the interview will be received by me with little whimpers of joy and may even earn you good karma.

11 thoughts on “Nine lives, two interviews, one jangle of nerves

  1. helen 6 May 2010 / 4:17 pm

    Makes me want to visit India…Helen

  2. mj 6 May 2010 / 4:36 pm

    I’ll be adding Nine Lives to my holds list – thanks for the recommendation.

    I’d love to hear how you get on with the interviewing equipment – am tempted to ask about how you get to grips with a microphone “in an online-dating kind of way” but have realised that my imagination of it was probably enough!

    I am in awe that you are interviewing Lionel Shriver. Wow. She’s someone that I would love to find out what on earth makes her tick – where the hell does she get her ideas from – but I’d be daunted to talk about the real nitty-gritty of life with anyone who can write “We need to talk about Kevin”. That book was raw in a way that not many are. A brutally honest read. Can’t wait for further updates!

  3. Lisa 7 May 2010 / 10:21 am

    Thanks for the recommendation Roberta ! I too will be placing a reserve for this book.

    Lionel Shriver is still high on my list of remarkable authors, purely based on “We Need To Talk About Kevin”; which still haunts me to this day. Unfortunately, other tomes that I have read from this author have failed to have such an impact.

    Fantastic to have your blog to look forward to. I eagerly await updates 🙂

  4. elizabeth 9 May 2010 / 10:11 am

    Now this author sounds truly fascinating, Roberta. Will you get to interview him as well? I hope so. I went to his website and read small blurbs about several of his books. I noticed that The Financial Times often reviews his books and one book was even named Book of the Year by the FT. I am drawn to India with its exotic culture, plus I am a paisley lover as well, so my interest is piqued.

  5. Allison Broster 9 May 2010 / 10:51 pm

    Well, you turned me around on Lionel Shriver and reading your blog about William Dalrymple makes me want to dash out and buy it. I recently read his “From the Holy Mountain’ and found it astonishingly readable despite the gravity of the subject. But I’d dismissed his latest feeling that I’d had a surfeit of India.
    Wrong again!

  6. Lynne james 10 May 2010 / 11:34 am

    I’m a big fan of Dalrymple, and the boss has just lent me “In Xanadu” which I have somehow not read. “From the holy mountain” should be on a list of classic travel books, along with “City of Djinns”, his book about Delhi.
    Good luck with the recording equipment,and I know you’ll have a great time at the festival.

  7. Marion 10 May 2010 / 11:43 am

    The other Dalrymple treat should be his presentation on The Last Mughal. I just finished this and it was amazing. So much about the “Indian Mutiny” I didn’t know and then the sadness of what happened to Delhi. He writes about what happened with India’s Muslims and how that resonates today with fundamentalism in Pakistan.
    Makes me want to read and hear more.

  8. Sheila Starke 11 May 2010 / 8:32 am

    Nine lives will definitely go on the list in the little book.
    Eagerly look forward to your blog updates.Sounds like you are having fun, in spite of the jangled nerves.

  9. Roberta Smith 11 May 2010 / 10:58 am

    Sheila, great to hear from you – will have loads to tell when I get to Cape Town. Am ready to be in Auckland now, leave on Wednesday morning (the 12th)

  10. margaret 12 May 2010 / 12:58 pm

    You will be up there by now. It will go very well. Look forward to reading about your interview with William Dalrymple. Relax and enjoy!!!!

  11. helen 12 May 2010 / 3:05 pm

    thought of you this morning, have a great trip, looking forward to your updates and “Blogs”

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