Fiction Points: Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil
Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil is a poet, novelist, musician, and editor who currently resides in New Delhi. His debut novel Narcopolis (2011) depicts the lives opium users in 1970s Bombay. The book was awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2013 and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 and the 2013 Hindu Literary Prize. Thayil has also published four collections of poetry – Gemini (1992), Apocalypso (1997), English (2004), and These Errors are Correct (2008), winner of the 2012 Sahitya Akademi Award for English. He wrote the libretto for the opera Babur in London and comprises half of the musical duo Sridhar/Thayil. Thayil holds a Masters of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College.   

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

“God,” I say to the penguin; to the nuns I say, “Boo!”

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

The language.

What led you to write about alcohol and drugs in the first place?

I thought it was a useful way to think about more important things.Read More »

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Silk Road, Part 1: The United States vs. the Internet

Editor’s Note: Points readers have no doubt followed the story of Silk Road with some interest, given its role in establishing a new paradigm in drug distribution. Today guest blogger Depaulo Vincent Bariuan begins a two-part series on Silk Road by explaining the now-defunct website’s relationship to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, suggesting that we look at Silk Road’s fate not only in terms of drug law but also as a key site in the government’s efforts to exert more control over life online. Vincent has a B.A. in Asian Studies from Florida State and an M.A. in Film Studies from Columbia, where his scholarship focused on new media. Since graduating, he’s worked in the video game industry.

On July 12, 2012, the Australian Federal Police raided the home of Melbourne resident Paul Leslie Howard. Tipped off by the 46.9 grams of MDMA and 14.5 grams of cocaine mailed to his residence over the course of 2 months, the police also recovered the following in the bust: marijuana, digital scales, clip seal bags, $2300 in cash, a money counter, and 35 stun guns disguised as mobile phones. But this wasn’t an ordinary drug bust – Howard wasn’t connected to any widespread drug syndicate. Most of his product was sent not from any nefarious location but from various households in the Netherlands. In fact, all of his drugs were acquired on the internet through a website called Silk Road. Taken down by the federal authorities this past October, Silk Road had become known as the internet’s one stop shop for any imaginable recreational drug.

Giving the people what they want.
Giving the people what they want.

Much of what people have learned about Silk Road since its takedown comes from the accounts journalists and bloggers have written about the website.

Read More »

Fiction Points: Michael Parker

michaelparker
Michael Parker

Michael Parker‘s published works include the novels Hello Down There (1993), Towns Without Rivers (2001), Virginia Lovers (2004), If You Want Me to Stay (2005), and The Watery Part of the World (2011) and the short-story collections The Geographical Cure (1994) and Don’t Make Me Stop Now (2007). His sixth novel, Sweet Ridewill hit bookshelves in 2014. Parker teaches in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s MFA Writing Program and the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. He earned his MFA from the University of Virginia. Parker’s writing has been featured in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, The Oxford American, Runner’s World, and The Washington Post. His debut novel was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize, and The Geographical Cure won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. In 2004, he received fellowships from the NEA and the North Carolina Arts Council; in 2006, he was the recipient of a Hobson Award in Art and Letters and the North Carolina Award for Literature Parker’s fiction has also been collected in the Pushcart Prize (2002), New Stories from the South (2003), and O. Henry Prize Stories (2005) anthologies.   

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

I don’t usually hang out in bars where they let in penquins, though I often drink with nuns. I have, over the 20 years during which I have been publishing novels and stories, developed many different answers to this question, none of which are satisfying to me or to the people asking the question. It sounds smug when you say, “Deeply flawed people trying to do the right thing,” but that is mostly what my work is about on the surface. However, if there is a common and less superficial thematic thread, it’s this:  the discrepancy between our inner lives and outer reality and the conflicts that arise when we try to reconcile the two.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

Parker's first novel Hello Down There

My first novel was about a morphine addict in the early part of the 20th century. He gets shipped off to the federal hospital in Lexington, Kentucky (now a white collar prison) where, for years, addicts went to “get cured.” I did some research on this, and on the rather widespread use of morphine pre and post WWII, and some of what I learned was based on my father’s experience working for a drug store in a small southern town, where he delivered to the town’s addicts. Everyone knew they were addicts, but drugs were not yet such a vital part of the culture, and it was seen more as a weakness than a sickness.  So I suppose that might be of interest to anyone studying the shifting attitudes toward drug usage in this country.Read More »

Fiction Points: Anna Loan-Wilsey

Anna Loan-Wilsey
Anna Loan-Wilsey

Anna Loan-Wilsey is currently at work on the third book in her Hattie Davish Mysteries historical fiction series, set in the midst of the 1890s women’s temperance movement with a female detective at its center. The first installment, A Lack of Temperance, was published last fall to positive reviews in Library Journal, Mystery Scene, and Publisher’s Weekly. The series’ second book, Anything But Civil, releases in October 2013. The in-progress third Hattie Davish novel is A Sense of Entitlement. Loan-Wilsey holds a Master’s in Library and Information Science from  McGill University in Montreal and works as a librarian and information specialist in rural IowaHer blog features research and ephemera that may interest Points readers and proves Loan-Wilsey an accomplished historical detective in her own right.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

I would tell them I’m a writer of historical cozy mystery novels set in late 19th century America, where the violence is off-stage, there is little gore, no pets or penguins get hurt, and my main character is Catholic. I think they would like it.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your Hattie Davish Mysteries series, and specifically A Lack of Temperance?

 There is a reason my novels are set in the late 19th century (or Victorian era). I love history myself and consider researching and writing about the era the closest I’ll ever come to inventing a time machine. I would hope then that my stories and settings, real, historically intact towns across America, would appeal to anyone who enjoys history. Specifically, however, I believe the Points audience would appreciate my using the temperance movement as the background setting for the mystery. In fact, I’ve had many reviews that mention the fact that they knew next to nothing about the temperance movement before reading A Lack of Temperance. I’m glad my book has served a purpose beyond mere entertainment.Read More »

Fiction Points: Joshua Mohr

mohrJoshua Mohr lives and writes in San Francisco, where he teaches fiction at The Writing Salon and the University of San Francisco, from which he also received his MFA. He is the author of four novels – Some Things that Meant the World to Me (2009), Termite Parade (2010), Damascus (2011), and Fight Song (2013) – and is already at work on a fifth. O, The Oprah Magazine named Mohr’s debut among its Ten Terrific Reads of 2009, and The New York Times Book Review listed Termite Parade as an Editor’s Choice in 2010. His reviews and writing have been featured in publications including The New York Times and The San Francisco Bay Chronicle.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

This has actually already happened to me, and it’s one of the reasons I got sober. The bottom is never far away when a penguin tugs on your jeans and says, “Hey, mister, are you holding?” Thank god there were no nuns around.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

As a recovering addict/alcoholic, all my books turn over some concentric preoccupations.  Namely, I’m really curious about self destruction. Why do some of us love to hurt ourselves? I’ve been sober four years and I’m fascinated with what led me to treat myself in all those miserable ways. Authors have the capacity to sculpt psychology, really plumb someone’s psyche, and for me, it’s been a cathartic process, forcing myself to analyze toxic rationalizations.Read More »

Fiction Points: Ehud Havazelet

Ehud Havazelet
Ehud Havazelet

Ehud Havazelet is the author of the story collections What is it Then Between Us (1989) and Like Never Before (1998), as well as the novel Bearing the Body (2007). He teaches creative writing at the University of Oregon and holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. What is it Then Between Us won the California Book Award and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award in 1988, and its titular story received a Pushcart Prize in the same year. Havazelet earned his first Oregon Book Award for Like Never Before and his second – the Oregon Book Awards’ Ken Kesey Award for Fiction – for Bearing the Body, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He is a former Stanford University Wallace Stegner Fellow (1985-1989), the recipient of two Oregon Literary Arts Fellowships (1990 and 1994), a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (2000), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2001). In 2011, his story “Gurov in Manhattan” was selected for inclusion in the Best American Short Stories anthology. Havazelet’s work has been translated into seven languages.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

Penguins, mostly, and nuns. Almost always in a bar.

Points is primarily a blog for alcohol and drug historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

Not certain what a “drug and alcohol historian” is.  I wouldn’t say a reader primarily interested in drug use as a topic in itself would be happy with my work.  It’s not revelry like you might claim for Hunter Thompson or Kerouac or Burroughs (not much revelry in the last, I’d say) or, earlier, Huxley.  I use drugs in my work when I think the characters I’m trying to create would use them, usually as a mode of anodyne or escape.Read More »