Warped Love, Doctors, and Terrorism
AUTHOR V.V. GANESHANANTHAN READS ON CAMPUS
“I recently went to an appointment with a terrorist,” so began author and teacher V.V. Ganeshananthan’s Feb. 16 reading. It proved an enthralling evening, despite initial frantic chair rearrangements.
The event was held in the Tivoli and hosted by CU Denver’s own literary journal, the Copper Nickel, in their first reading of the year. Ganeshananthan read from her short story, “K Becomes K”, which is the first part of a long-gestating novel.
The novel will be her second published, after 2008’s Love Marriage, which was long-listed for the Orange Prize and one of Washington Post Book World’s “Best Of 2008.”
“K Becomes K” first published in the Fall 2013 issue of the literary magazine Ploughshares, and later republished in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014, edited by Daniel Handler. Best known for the young adult 13-parter A Series Of Unfortunate Events written under his pseudonym Lemony Snicket, Handler might seem an odd source of recognition, but the incredible scope and eloquence of the story shows why it has received such attention.
There will be significant differences between the story Ganeshananthan read and her novel. “It’ll actually be sort of stretched out over the first part of the novel,” Ganeshananthan said. “It probably won’t be all crammed together like this.”
She began this novel before writing Love Marriage, after 9/11 but before the Sri Lankan civil war, which forms the backdrop of the novel, ended. Love Marriage and her newest novel have a complicated history. “I started it when I was a student,” Ganeshananthan said. “I was kind of going back and forth between the two of them.”
She is hesitant to announce when the work will be done. “I have previously said things like ‘I’m almost done!’ and then I haven’t been,” she said. “So I feel like I’m almost done, but every time I say that it turns out to not be true.”
Still, her long project seems to be nearing its home stretch. “One of the great things about teaching is you get to teach wonderful students, and then you get the summer off,” Ganeshananthan said. “I don’t think it’s impossible that I’ll wrap it up in the next year.”
Ganeshananthan trained as a journalist, which is evident both from the meticulous research that goes into her stories, and from her calm delivery. Even intense scenes during her reading were soothing and eloquent. Calm shouldn’t be taken as humorless, though. When a cough obliged her to interrupt the reading, she remarked “I’m hydrating at a cliffhanger here.”
Ganeshananthan explored the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan militant organization responsible for several assassinations, wars, and the invention of suicide belts. Simultaneously, she kept the information grounded with a complex personal relationship between a doctor and the future terrorist that doctor met when they were both children.
The Sri Lankan backdrop comes from extensive work on Ganeshananthan’s part. “I have spent time in Sri Lanka, and I have met people who worked with the Tigers,” she said. She has done extensive research in libraries, helped by the wealth of anthropological work that has been done in Sri Lanka. “I’ll never be able to spend enough time there to satisfy myself,” she said.
One definite change has come from the relationship between the two main characters. “For lack of a better word, there’s something warped,” Ganeshananthan said.
Above: V. V. Ganeshananthan read from her newest short story “K Becomes K”
photo: Nicole Elizabeth • CU Denver Sentry