Showing posts with label literary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literary. Show all posts

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Sid Sanford Lives!" by Daniel Ford

Sid Sanford Lives!
by Daniel Ford

Sid Sanford Lives! by Daniel Ford

Sid Sanford Lives! by Daniel Ford is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Riffing on noir and told in a series of vignettes, Sid Sanford Lives! douses humanistic themes - love, loss, and family - in bourbon, shoves them in the barrel of a gun, and shoots. This emotionally-charged debut is sure to keep readers up late into the night to find out who is left standing.
Sid Sanford always follows a path, just not his own. From backyard Wiffle ball games to New York City skyscrapers, Sid finds triumph and pain in equal measure during his uncertain, and at times violent, thrust into manhood.
A colorful, loyal family, a plethora of eccentric friends, and a few star-crossed soul mates highlight his journey, but it’s ultimately up to Sid whether his destiny fulfills his potential or drowns in the bottom of a bottle.

As always, Sid Sanford was following some plan, just not his own.
He debated whether or not to jump the ticket line in Grand Central like a prick. He finally picked up his duffel bag and darted in front of two male tourists who were already sipping out of tall boys disguised in paper bags.
“What the hell, dude?” One of them asked.
“Take me two seconds,” Sid said, already striking the touch screen.
“There’s a line back there,” the other said.
“I see it, I was just there. And now I’m here. The less we talk, the more I can focus on getting out of your way.”
Sid ignored the other comments from the rest of the pissed-off rush hour commuters and eagerly slid his debit card into the black prongs.
Unable to read card, the screen flashed. Please swipe again.
He impatiently obliged and started tapping his foot as if he were trapped in a meeting while in dire need of ridding himself of his morning coffee.
The transaction timed out.
The machine finally read his card. He grabbed his ticket and bolted toward track twenty-six. He sprinted across the station’s opulent waiting area, his worn brown shoes desperately gripping the slick, polished marble floor. He hustled through the gate and could see the train’s conductor signaling the final boarding call to the people on the platform. He slowed and power walked the final few feet. The doors snapped shut as soon as he stepped into the train bound for Waterbury.
Sid took a moment to savor the mundane victory and then found an open aisle seat. He tossed his bag onto the narrow rack above his head after pulling out his laptop and headphones. He put his ticket in the slot on the headrest in front of him and settled into the bruised maroon and dull blue plastic seats. He opened up his computer, found a decent playlist to zone out to, and closed his eyes.
His phone vibrated in his pocket. He looked down to find Constance’s name scrawling across the screen.
“Son of a—” He stopped himself when he caught a glance of the elderly woman sitting next to the window. “Sorry.”
The woman shrugged.
He dug his phone out and took a breath before answering it.
“Make it?” Constance asked.
“Yeah, on the train now.”
“Good. Have a safe trip.”
“Thanks. And thanks for checking up on me.”
“It’s what I’m here for,” she said. “Listen, I know we’ve had our differences lately…and well…since we’ve known each other. But I’m always here if you need anything. I know how you get with things like this. You shut down and won’t let people in. That’s not what you deserve right now.”
“Yeah. Appreciate it. We’re pulling out of the station. I’m going to sleep a bit.”
“Don’t miss your transfer.”
“I won’t.”
“Let me know when you get there. I love you.”
“Okay, bye.”
Sid leaned his head back and tried his best to suppress a memory of Jocelyn. She had moved into an apartment not long ago and had asked for his help. He had gotten assigned a high school track event and couldn’t make it. She assumed he was lying so he could spend time chasing after Constance. She wasn’t completely wrong—he could have easily caught a train out of the city after the meet—but he had fought with her all the same.
He ended up coming home after Constance broke up with him weeks later, armed with champagne and his mother’s whoopie pies. He had another surprise for her—he couldn’t remember what it is now—but instead of just handing it to her and winning back her friendship, he made her negotiate for it.
“Always the asshole,” Sid muttered.

“Give me a hint,” Jocelyn said.
“No,” Sid said.
“Why not?”
“Because any hint I come up with will ruin the surprise.”
“You’re probably right, men suck at giving hints.”
“What if I told you that you couldn’t have anymore?”
She covered the last few bits of his whoopie pie. Any other Sanford might have bitten her hand off, but he remained calm and defiant.
“I’d have to give it up.”
“Are you serious, Sid?”
“You were just having an intimate moment with that thing a minute ago, and now you’d just let it go because you don’t want to give me a little hint about my surprise?”
“Is there anything I can do to change your mind? More food perhaps?”
Yes, actually, he thought. Fall in love with me. Marry me. Tell me not to leave ever again. Just say you love me and I’ll give you anything you want for the rest of my life.
“Nope,” he said instead.
Sid wished he could tell her how much he loved her, how achingly beautiful she was.
But he didn’t.
“I thought I was doing you a favor by procuring you some whoopie pies, and come to find out, you’re lobbying my mother for them the whole time,” Sid said.
“And she said I could come over anytime I wanted, so there,” Jocelyn said. “I really just need her to teach me how to make them.”
“At that point she’d disown me. I would be useless to her. Then she’d adopt you.”
“See! Everybody wins!”
Later, he went to peck her on the cheek, but instead kissed her full on the lips. It lasted a heartbeat, but he poured more passion into it than any other kiss he could remember.
“What was that for?” She asked.
I love you, he didn’t say.
“I’m proud of you,” Sid actually said.
“For what?”
“Just everything. If you ever want company again, just let me know.”
“I will.”
“I’d walk through fire to get back here to you.”

Sid coughed, urging the tears to wait until he landed in the passenger seat of his father’s car. The train pulled out of the underground tunnel and the brick and grime of Harlem appeared in the window.
He put his headphones on and turned on Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand.” He tapped the keyboard for a moment, unwilling to allow his urge to start Jocelyn’s eulogy to overpower him. However, it did in short order so he created a blank document and wrote,
“I met Jocelyn during a backyard Wiffle ball game.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“It’s no wonder that baseball is at the center of this compelling drama. There’s something quintessentially American about Ford’s writing, an understanding of the complex familial love between working-class parents and big-dreaming children. At the heart of Sid, though, is how those bonds shift and ultimately tighten in the face of violence.” ~ Erica Wright, author of The Granite Moth and The Red Chameleon
“In his debut novel, Daniel Ford knocks the stuffing out of Sid Sanford, only to skillfully stitch him back together, presenting a complex, flawed, and compelling character - one who’s bound to break your heart. Sid Sanford Lives! is a wry, touching, and captivating portrait of the highs and lows that make up a life.” ~ W.B. Belcher, author of Lay Down Your Weary Tune
“Sid Sanford loves three things: baseball, his family, and women. Sid has a big heart, and gives it away time and again, usually with disastrous results. Daniel Ford’s fine, sensitive debut novel, Sid Sanford Lives!, follows a young man as he comes of age, matures, and gains both wisdom and a measure of peace.” ~ Anne Leigh Parrish, author of Women Within and What is Found, What is Lost
“Achingly funny and sad. Full of life, loss, and baseball.” ~ Daniel Paisner, author of A Single Happened Thing

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
Sid and Jocelyn have been best friends since they were ten. Through multiple girlfriends and breakups, Jocelyn has always been there for Sid. But when he moves way to college, he meets Constance. He falls in love with her, but his relationship with Jocelyn complicates things. When tragedy strikes, Sid struggles to cope. Between his drunken bouts and multiple casual sexual encounters, the support of his family and friends might be the only thing keeping him alive.
Permeated with images of baseball, the story jumps backwards and forwards in time and is told from multiple points of view. I love the interactions between the characters and the easy-going banter and ribbing, especially between Sid and his brothers. Sid is a rogue, but you just can't help but like him, as well as the whole mixed bag of characters. There is a lot of telling, not showing, but this works in a literary context. It also feels a bit rushed, especially towards the end. I would have enjoyed spending more time with Sid and his family. Editing errors including spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and the incorrect use of homophones.
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes, underage drinking, violence.

Playlist for Sid Sanford Lives!

About the Author
Daniel Ford
Daniel Ford is an author, journalist, and the co-founder/co-host of Writer’s Bone, a literary website and podcast that champions aspiring authors and screenwriters. Sid Sanford Lives! is his debut novel. Ford lives with his fiancée Stephanie in Boston, Massachusetts. He can often be found coaxing words out of a half-empty bourbon glass.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"The Tailor's Needle" by Lakshmi Raj Sharma

The Tailor's Needle
by Lakshmi Raj Sharma

The Tailor's Needle by Lakshmi Raj Sharma

Author Lakshmi Raj Sharma joins me today to share an excerpt from The Tailor's Needle. You can also read my review.
For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Intriguing Women.

Cambridge-educated Sir Saraswati Chandra Ranbakshi is a towering public figure in early twentieth century India. A firm believer in the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, he also has faith in the virtues of the British Raj. As a result, he has to mediate between the Maharaja of a princely state and the Viceroy and strike a fine balance between tradition and modernity. This tussle between old and new values is reflected in his three children, the daredevil Maneka, the timid Sita, and their brother, Yogendra, who turns their father’s world upside down by falling in love with a lower-caste girl.
A comedy of manners laced with intrigue and excitement, The Tailor's Needle explores some of the great moral dilemmas of pre-independent India with wit and sensitivity.

Book Video
Watch a reading from The Tailor's Needle by Lakshmi Raj Sharma.

Lord Mortimer Edmund Griffin-Tiffin, His Excellency, the Viceroy of India, sat in his thickly cushioned chair looking at the mirror, which had a bejewelled frame, and saw in it the reflection of a rather comic face. His barber made every effort to ensure that His Excellency’s excellent skin remained unharmed by the exigencies of an overpowering pair of scissors. His moustaches, his side-whiskers, and his curly wurly hairstyle were examined from 360 angles to make sure that not a lock or curl stood out in rebellion and that every strand around the bald pate surrendered in submission.
“That’s not a bad job at all!” said His Excellency, “Am I free at last?”
“You were always free Sir!” said Mehmud, “It is we peepull who are slaves.”
“You’re getting cheeky, Maymood!  I think my predecessor gave you far too much liberty. Who says India is enslaved? A country in which an ordinary barber can backchat so boisterously with one no less than the Viceroy himself, can hardly be called enslaved. Is it not a proof of the limits of permissiveness to which the British character can stoop?” said the Viceroy winking at his favourite Mehmud, the man who always provided His Excellency with lots of gaiety.
“Lord Sahab, you asking me? I says, there is in fact no limits to which the British character can st . . .”
“All right, all right,” said the Viceroy interrupting him, “Just because I like you, it doesn’t mean you’ll get away with anything that you choose to say. Come on, pull me out of this chair, will you?”
“Yes, Lord Sahab, I will. Just a meenut.”
The Viceroy was pulled out of one chair and put onto another, one that was even glossier and cushier. Four mirrors stood around the chair to facilitate His Excellency’s vision, which for the lack of a better phrase, could be described as “a vision that was focused ubiquitously”. He sat in admiration not only of his own head but also of his dear barber’s craft, which made his bulldoggish expression look more compromised and combed down. He ogled at his visage for long, trying to discover the response it would get from certain quarters. He thought of the males who mattered to him, viewing his face like Alexander the Great would when he dressed for his men. He then thought of what his homeland would make of his kind of a face; his countrymen, he held, were unduly critical. Next he contemplated what his mother would complain of regarding the new look his hairstyle had given him. Finally, he surveyed his face with the approving eyes of his Monarch. Somewhere deep within he could hear his inner voice say, “What a wonderful boy am I!”
His Excellency then turned his eyes on a life-size painting mounted on the wall in which Lord Curzon and the Maharaja of Baroda stood, each with a gun in hand, and two dead tigers (shot by them) at their feet. The painting made the wonderful boy smile further as he began to speak with an air of contentment:
“Maymood, am I not qualitatively different to that Lord in the painting?”
“You is actually quite different Sir!” said Mehmud, making the word sound like “dufferent”. “Lord Curzon Sahab was really great man!”
“You rascal! Don’t try my patience!”
The fifty-five year old wonderful boy then asked for his diary and was given it, instantly. The diary was covered with brocade. He opened the pages one by one and saw therein memories that made him smile. He read, ruminated, and grinned characteristically. He finally turned to December 21, 1917, and began to write his page for that day:

My thoughts a few days before Christmas:
India is a unique land. You can live here almost as if you were living in anonymity. The Indian mind is anything but critical. The Hindoos, particularly, accept you without exercising their judicious faculty. It is such a relief to live in a place where the scrutinising eye is missing. A few rebellious skirmishes here and there are disturbing no doubt, but otherwise you are loved for whatever you do. The man who is quite redundant in the home country suddenly acquires a dimension of greatness amidst this society of admirers. You kill a Hindoo and are loved by a Moslem and you cheat a Moslem and are admired by a Hindoo. How simple the mechanism is for the ruler in this country.
In India one need not be apologetic for remaining a bachelor. You can use your single status as an indication of your spirituality. I love the male world of this place. The more males you endear, the more you rise in peoples’ estimate. It’s a male-lover’s paradise.

Immediate Goals for Me:
(i)     To acquire more territory (through the policy of annexation) from princely rulers that are careless. (Shouldn’t be a v. difficult task.)
(ii)    To try, first of all, to get the state of Kashmere. The Maharaja there is ignorant. But he does have Sir Saraswati Chandra Ranbakshi to help him. That’s the man I should tackle. Ranbakshi’s education in England is likely to draw him towards me.
(iii)    Try to manipulate more money at once. Mother must be waiting for her Indian fortunes.
(iv)    To discover from the locals what some of my predecessors did to remain popular, and also what they did to hide their blemishes. I have to make serious effort to conceal my private life and expose the practical aspects of my sound self.
(v)    To ensure that I don’t start rusting. I should read my Shakespeare and Dickens on a regular basis. Some of Swift might help as well.
(vi)    To do things that would distinguish me from other viceroys who were often merely noblemen who came into power. I should rule over the hearts of Indian men. Going against Indian princes may help do this.

Having written his diary for December 21, the Viceroy signalled to Mehmud.
“Would you know Maymood, why Canister McClout hasn’t appeared before me for the last two days?”
“I don’t know Lord Sahab, but Kanastar has probably catched a heart-fever.”
“Good God! What kind of fever is that?”
“It is a fever in which the heart gets heated, and you feels cheated, when you is not fully greeted, and it refuses to obey the head.”
“Well, that’s poetry! You’re improving Maymood, though you’ve much to learn! The English language cannot be fooled around with. Canister, that awfully sweet idiot, is always up to some mischief or the other.”
“Yes, Lord Sahab, Kanastar is real idiot!”
“Shut up! Should we go in for my bath?”
“Yes, Lord Sahab, we will go in for your bath!” he replied with his imagination running wild as he followed this mighty man into the domains of his privacy.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"The Tailor's Needle perfectly blends a quaint writing style, likeable characters, theme, and plot to create a seamless literary quilt. I enjoyed learning about the interplay between Indian and English culture and history, as well as the interplay between characters with differing ideas on their roles in their families and society. Though a light read, the book touches on important issues." ~ Diane Kelly
"The Tailor's Needle is no ordinary novel. It is probably one of the most complete novels written India in the last few decades. It has something for everyone and a lot for the serious literary student." ~ abhimanyu pandey
"Lakshmi Raj Sharma has crafted his novel very well. Weaving a web of stories through simple prose and rich ideas he manages to retain the reader's interest. The Tailor's Needle is like reading about a past one is unfamiliar with. It navigates spaces between memoirs and old life-stories." ~ Bhanumati Mishra
"The novel is a tailor's needle indeed - passing with grace and ease through the fabric of society both Indian and English, the fabric of several narrative genres and traditions and the fabric of a reader's mind. This mind is quickly drawn into the lively world of the Ranbakshi family, from the privileged life in Kashinagar to farming near Mirzapur, from battles of wit with the Viceroy to the twisted encounter with a spoiled aristocrat in a gothic castle in Amritsar. And into the wide and sweeping picture steps a wonderful cast of characters: a rebellious daughter, a righteous father, a self-serving and yet somehow likeable governess, a deliciously hateable dwarven cousin and a gender-confused dog - to name but a few. The whole is held together by a gently mocking and yet ultimately compassionate narrative voice, which gives the reader a brief and enchanting glimpse into a world now gone, with all its faults - and all that might be loved in it, too." ~ Mr. P. Hoyle
"The Tailor's Needle is a very interesting mingling of realism and magical realism. The reader will never repent going through the pages of this book because it has a wealth of experience to offer." ~ anand singh

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
The story centers on the family of Sir Saraswati Ranbakshi, an Indian nobleman whose English education has caused him to raise his children in an unconventional manner. We follow the family through romances, marriages, deaths, and political upheaval. There’s even a murder mystery! And, always, the thread of the tailor’s needle runs through the narrative. The title refers to Sir Saraswati's idea of what education should do: teach one to "be like the tailor’s needle that passes through every kind of cloth without discriminating." His son adopts this philosophy and treats everyone with equal respect. This culminates in him falling in love with a woman from a lower caste and, ultimately, leads to the family joining India’s fight for freedom.
There are a number of editing errors throughout the text, and you’ll have to wrap your head around a lot of Indian names, as well as Indian politics and history. But it's well worth the effort. Told with dry humor, the complex storyline explores education, feminism, the Indian caste system, and the relationship between the English and the Indians. The book gives us a great insight into Indian traditions, culture, and way of life. I especially enjoyed to descriptions of the weddings.
There is a Glossary of Hindi terms at the end of the book that I didn't discover until I finished reading the book. (I googled the terms while I was reading.) The glossary would work better if the terms were hyperlinked within the text.

About the Author
Lakshmi Raj Sharma
Born in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, in 1954, I have been educated in Allahabad. I have taught English at the University of Allahabad since 1979. I was selected for the Indian Civil Services in 1978 but chose to be a teacher. I married Bandana, my colleague in the English Department in 1982. We have a son, Dhruv, who is an etymologist.
Presently I am a Professor of English at the University of Allahabad. I have taught Literary Theory, Literature and Society, and Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama at the postgraduate level. I was the Head of the English Department for a two year term which was over last year. I have several scholarly books and articles to my credit in Indian and foreign journals. I wrote The T. S. Eliot-Middleton Murry Debate (1994), the very first book on the subject. The second book on this subject was published from Oxford six years after mine.
My first novel, The Tailor’s Needle, first published by Picnic Publishing Limited, UK, has now been published by Penguin Books India in December 2012. This is also an ebook.
My first collection of short stories, Marriages Are Made In India, was published by Writers’ Workshop, Kolkata, in 2001. This collection has now been published by Publerati (USA) in May 2012 as an ebook.
My short story, "Company Garden: A Story of Rebirth" has been published by Sonar 4 Publications, USA, in an international anthology of stories entitled, Whitechapel 13, in September 2011.
My story, "He and She" was published in an American journal called, Gather Kindling published from Washington DC in 2011.
My story, "A Postulant Demimonde Existence", has been published in [Vol. 1] Brooklyn, an American journal, recently.
My article "Charles Dickens and Me" has been published by the Oxford journal, English, in August 2012.
I was invited to the Brasenose College, Oxford, during the J. Middleton Murry Centenary, in 1989.
I have written and directed several plays which have become an annual feature at the Amaranatha Jha Hostel of the University of Allahabad.
Currently, I am writing four literary novels, one of which is a young adult novel.