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.