Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Georgia Straight Profile & Review of Clark Blaise's The Meagre Tarmac

Charles Demers gives us one of the best combined profiles/reviews yet:

In the ’70s and ’80s, when readers were first getting to know the essays, memoirs, and, perhaps most importantly, the short fiction of Clark Blaise, the author’s idiosyncratic biography dovetailed with many of the political preoccupations of the time. Half Québécois, half Anglo-Canadian, and raised mostly in the United States, Blaise wrote stories offering insights for a North America fixated on economic continentalization and the future of Quebec. But from almost the very beginning, along with the cultures of his birth and upbringing, there was also the vivid presence of the culture he married into: India and its diaspora. Since 1963, Blaise has been married to Indo-American author Bharati Mukherjee, with whom he has two grown children.

“India was, initially at least, the great ‘other’ in my life,” Blaise told theGeorgia Straight by telephone from New York. “India is decidedly not anything that was part of my upbringing, or part of my experience, or part of my preparation. I really fell into it the way one should fall into it, you know—through love.”

Over the years, in the course of visits to the country, time spent living there, and immersion in family life, the “other” became an integral part of Blaise’s already hybridized identity.

“Indian standards of artistry, and Indian standards of humanity, and Indian standards of love, and of family, devotion, commitment, stand for me as the standard for how one should behave,” he explained.

In his wonderful new collection of interconnected short stories, The Meagre Tarmac(Biblioasis), Blaise introduces a rich cast of characters divided spiritually, physically, and economically between India and North America.

“I really didn’t feel I had to mould them much at all. They seemed to be precast, as actors waiting for their cue. They were just sort of standing around the wings.…It was almost a matter of just naming them, and then seeing who came out,” Blaise said with a laugh.

For the rest, please go here.

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