Meghan Davidson Ladly


Bina Shah’s A Season for Martyrs


The funeral congregated in Liaquat National Bagh park. Angry clerics denounced the government for allowing the execution to proceed, and an ambulance strewn with flowers carried Mumtaz Qadri’s body slowly through the crowds. When Qadri was executed for the murder of Punjab governor and Benazir Bhutto loyalist Salman Taseer on February 29th, Pakistan’s sharp ideological divisions and complexities...

Gathering Around Books in Karachi: The Sixth Annual Karachi Literature Festival


The 2015 Karachi Literature Festival runs the 6th, 7th and 8th of February. A dedicated group of Pakistanis have set out to prove that security concerns should not trump a love of literature. Next week they will host the sixth annual Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). The festival is reclaiming space for books in a city where, despite a small but vibrant arts scene, cultural dialogues are often...

A Bibliotherapist’s Apothecary: The Novel Cure from A to Z


Reviewed in this essay: The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin (Canongate, 2013) As 2014 commences and with it our lists of things to do and things to do better, here is a self-help book of a different sort. Berthoud and Elderkin have compiled a medical handbook for those who prefer to ease their aches and pains with stories rather than stethoscopes. The authors promise an apothecary...

Bad Sex in Fiction and Many Kinds of Love


Let’s take a minute to talk about bad sex. On Dec. 3, a group of literary men and women gathered at the In & Out Club in the district of St. James, central London, united with this single-minded purpose. They were gathered to announce the winner of the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award. “It is about treating literature as fun and slightly ridiculous,” said senior Literary Review...

Translating Challawa: Pakistani Writing Between Urdu, English, and Lesbian Erotica


A small but vibrant literary scene has emerged in Pakistan over the last decade. After the events of 9/11 pushed their country into the media’s spotlight, many authors wanted to write their own narratives rather than have them transposed from elsewhere. Big names soon garnered global fame. Among multiple other awards and nominations, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist was shortlisted for...

Instruments for the Elevation of the Soul: The Plight of the Book in Twenty-First Century Paris


Paris conjures up many images. Some visualize the Seine and arching footbridges; others see patisseries shaded by plane trees or a five a.m. street crêpe; others still, think of books. Writers and writing infuse the city’s marrow, from contemporary stars like Muriel Barbery to the 1920s icons Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Beach, and James Joyce, and back even earlier to Victor Hugo and Voltaire. Today...

The End of an Institution: Saying Goodbye to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore


After withstanding protests, a bombing and two recessions, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore is one tough broad. But on Oct. 9, it was announced that the store would shut its doors for good after 39 years. At the end of November, Toronto will lose a space that has been precious to many. “Harbord street is very quiet from mid-April to the end of August; all the students are gone,” says storeowner...

Kim Thúy’s Ru


Reviewed in this essay: Ru by Kim Thúy. Random House, 2012 Ru by Kim Thúy is a deceptive book. It is a slim volume, but hardly a light read. What it lacks in pages it more than compensates for in breadth and complexity. This is a big story pared down. Thúy lays her narrative of bones and through them we glimpse shadows of the carcass removed. The novel is based on Thúy’s own life and her...

Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude


Reviewed in this essay: The Last Nude by Ellis Avery. Riverhead Books, 2012. If you didn’t already have a crush on Paris, reading The Last Nude may well convert you. If you’re already a Francophile, this is your bread and honey. Or perhaps, more appropriately, your pain aux chocolate. Avery’s novel retraces a familiar period, transporting the reader back to Paris of the 1920s...