Michele Morano’s essay collection, Grammar Lessons: Translating a Life in Spain, a book of thirteen essays, is divided into three sections. The first concerns her year of living in Oviedo, teaching English and recovering from a consumptive relationship with a man she left back in the States. In the second section she writes about subsequent trips to Spain, trying to recapture some of the initial spark of travel yet it digs deeper into her first trip. The third section contains post-travel essays.
Morano writes about the fun and frivolities of language as only writers know. She is immersed in language as a student of Spanish and an English teacher.
“I am hungry, we say in English,” she writes in “Having Hunger,” an essay about language, passion, and hunger. “But in Spanish one uses a noun, as if naming a possession, a visitation, a tide of physical yearning. Tengo hambre: I have hunger.”
This essay’s intro showcases Morano’s deft ability to create a subtle double entendre. Yet again it contains those qualities of universality in which we witness our own hunger for routine, people, familiarity, touch, spontaneity, sex, and, food.
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Part anthropological, part historical, Githa Hariharan’s writing takes readers across the globe, through history, and into dense political arenas. Her novels and nonfiction marry experience and intellect in sometimes biting, often lyrical prose. Whether she’s reshaping Shahrzad and The Arabian Nights or shedding light on censorship and fundamentalism, Hariharan’s stories are often led by femme fatales with political prowess. The promise of a bumpy ride continues in her memoir/travelogue, Almost Home: Finding a Place in the World from Kashmir to New York, published earlier this year by Restless Books.
A collection of essays, Almost Home is a wonderland of hybrid techniques. It contains post-colonial insight that goes beyond India and keeps readers coming back for more—more labyrinthine story lines, more social commentary, more pro-woman eroticism. Hariharan’s other popular titles include In Times of Siege, an exploration of religious censorship in literature and education in today’s India; When Dreams Travel, a work of haunting historical fiction with femme fatale protagonists; and Fugitive Histories, in which she explores social issues in modern India without catering to Western expectations.
Having broken a knee and ankle in an accident in Manhattan, she cut short a recent press trip for the U.S. release of Almost Home. We caught up while she was recuperating—and conducting activist duties—from her Delhi bed. Some of the topics up for grabs? Nationalism vs. patriotism, how far behind the US lags in international literature, and the American Presidential campaign.
Read the interview here in Ploughshares.
Trudy Dittmar explains in "Wolf Show, Truman, Ersatz Moon," her essay from Fauna and Flora, Earth and Sky: Brushes with Nature’s Wisdom, a collection of ten essays from University of Iowa Press.
Nature writing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but add some cinema and cultural-political intrigue and you’ve got some evocative reading. Such is the case with Dittmar’s book, a title from the Sightline nonfiction series edited by Patricia Hampl and Carl H. Klaus.
Dittmar uses nature to introduce us to what Dittmar’s thinking, but she swirls in a sort of existential take on a movie to discuss a large, far-reaching issue of today’s society: the uncanny valley. She’s not talking about artificial intelligence or robots or the stuff of sci-fi. She’s talking about how we can hardly tell the difference between reality and what’s on the screens before our zombified faces. The essay weaves two stories about a public event of watching wolves in their “natural” habitat and The Truman Show, a ‘90s movie starring Jim Carey.