An interview with Tania James, on her experience at Jaipur Literary Festival

by Satadisha Saha Bhowmick on January 24, 2013

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When in Jaipur, with books and words…The author of "Aerogrammes: and other stories", Tania James

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Tania James is one of the latest additions to the shining brand of authors who represent the country’s endless prowess in literature. Writing stories that both innovative and heartfelt James creates her own benchmark. She currently teaches creative writing at George Washington University. As she prepares to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival, India Bookstore tried to get a glimpse of it. Excerpts from an interview:

1. Congratulations on the publication of your latest book Aerogrammes: and other stories. The book has been well received as it stands out of the ordinary and sets a wonderful connection with the usage of animals in various stories in a sensitive manner. How did you come up with this? (Find the review of Aerogrammes: and other stories, by Indiabookstore)

Thank you! “What to do with Henry” is the only story that directly takes an animal as its subject, in this case a chimpanzee. Some years ago I was listening to a radio program about a chimpanzee who had been raised with a human family and then, as an adult, was donated to a zoo. Over time, the chimpanzee developed a dual identity, in that he believed himself to be a human, and thus could never quite get along with his zoo mates. He became depressed, prone to violence. It was a devastating story, and quite fascinating, that kind of accursed identity.

2. As a writer, what’s the most exciting part of the "Jaipur Literature Festival" you’re looking forward to?

Meeting readers of course. I don’t get very many opportunities to meet readers, as I spend most of my time behind a computer or book. I especially love meeting students. Young bookworms are near and dear to my heart. 

3. Is there any particular author you’re especially looking forward to meet?

I just took a look at the roster and I can’t even begin to answer this question, there are so many writers I admire on the list. One of my favorite parts of going to Jaipur is discovering an author I haven’t heard of before, so I look forward to another round of discoveries this year.

4. In the larger scheme of things, what kind of role do you think a literary festival, such as the Jaipur one, plays in society?

Reading and writing are such private endeavors. Literary festivals extend the conversation beyond the book, and sometimes even beyond literature to include other fields like politics and development. As our world grows ever more digitized, our conversations shifted to Facebook and Twitter, these sorts of public forums seem ever more important, as is the general spirit of those in attendance, all of whom are there because they share a stake in literature.

5. One parting question – if you had to write a story with the Jaipur Literary Festival as a backdrop, what kind of story would it be?

An espionage novel of course. Among the hundreds of authors, one is a spy. Very John Le Carre. (Hint: It’s the chai wallah.)

Thank you very much, Ms. James for taking time out from your busy schedule for this interview with Indiabookstore. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors. 

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