I can’t book everyone I want to read at Happy Ending and so, to alleviate my suffering, I am asking those for whom I can’t find a space to participate in One Word Celebrity Interviews. Then, they must draw a picture of the risk they would take were they to take part in Happy Ending. DRAWING OF RISK IS ON THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE….
I asked the author, Akhil Sharma to conduct a One Word Celebrity Interview with Husain Naqvi (author of Home Boy). Granted, Husain cheats a little, stretching out those one words, but we’ll cut him some slack because he’s nice and wrote a good book.
(1) Your book is about the adventures and misadventures of several young Pakistani men. They basically want to drink and get laid and they come into conflict with their elders and also with the US government, both of whom have pre-conceived ideas of what it means to be a young Pakistani male. Did the plot, which has the feel of a picaresque adventure, come about as a result of these young men being shoved by these forces with their preconceived ideas?
(2) You wrote your book at night, sitting at your desk from 11 at night to 5 in the morning. An unusual number of the scenes in the novel occur at night. Partially this must have to do with the simple fact that the various protagonists do their drinking at night. Still, in your opinion, to what extent does the number of scenes set at night have to do with the hours that you wrote your book in?
(3) You write funny. The characters are witty. Your sentences leap and bounce. The misadventures of your characters are delicious. Yet, all around these characters are powerful forces which seem to reject the fundamental nature of these young men. The elders tell the young men, you disappoint us. The government says, we don’t trust you. To what extent is the lively writing a shield that manages the psychic pain of these pressures?
A: Ab ovo usque ad mala.
(4) You were an investment banker as was I. I found that the experience demystified money for me and also made people with money less enigmatic. This had an impact on how I perceived situations and people. I, for one, don’t believe that if I had more money I would be happy or even much happier than I already am. One of your characters used to be an investment banker. Did you find that your experiences as a banker shaped the yearnings of your characters?
A: On the money.
(5) Before you began writing prose, you wrote poetry. To what extent does the stylishness of the writing come from that?
(6) What is the first book you remember reading by yourself?
A: Where the Wild Things Are?
(7) What book have you reread most often?
A: Waiting for the Barbarians.
(8) When was the first time you wrote a piece of fiction?
(9) Your father has also written a novel, though he did not try to publish it. To what extent is talent genetic and to what extent can it be learned?
(10) You have an MFA from Boston University. What was the best part of getting the degree?
A: Ha Jin.
(11) Did you begin writing the novel with the idea that you were writing a novel or was it a short story that got longer and longer?
A: Slam (poem).
(12) You wrote this book in Cambridge, a town of tremendous affluence, while you and wife lived in a single room on very little money. How did you manage to slog through the years that it took to write the book?
A: Pasta, Ativan.
(13) You have now been living in Karachi for a little over a year and expect to be there for another year or so. Your book, in many ways, feels very American, young immigrants rejecting the ways of the “old country”. Has your conception of your book changed since you moved back to Karachi? Have certain colors in the book dimmed to your eyes and others brightened?
(14) You are basically the Martin Amis of Pakistan, a generous dose of potty mouth, a tremendous sense of outrage, and off-the-hook talent. Still, your wife, a scholar of Islamic intellectual history, is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant young historians of ideas around. Partially you moved to Pakistan so that she could be closer to various libraries she needs access to. Do you feel intellectually slow compared to your wife?
(15) Is living in Karachi changing the sorts of things that you are interested in writing about?
(16) What book will you like to read next?
A: Émigré Journeys (by Abdullah Hussain).
(17) You are living through tremendously tumultuous times in Pakistan. Does this effect what you want your writing to do or achieve?
(18) What is the state of contemporary Urdu literature?
A: Hot (and cold).
(19) When you move to Pakistan, what do miss most about the US?
(20) When you move back to the US, what do you expect to miss most about Pakistan?
A: Nihari (and qawwali).