Amitava Kumar in Granta:
What you see below are images from my notebooks, recently posted on my Instagram. Clippings, quotes, sketches. These notebooks represent the many years I have lived with the dream of a book that turned into Immigrant, Montana. When I went to Yaddo on a writing residency one summer, it was the notebooks that I looked through each morning and night – these notebooks are a visual reminder of all the bits and pieces I was thinking about when writing this novel.
What these pictures do not show is a page from a narrow, reporter’s notebook that I used to have when finishing graduate school. Sitting in an Amtrak railcar many years ago, on my way to a Modern Language Association meeting in New York, where I’d be interviewed and eventually be given my first job teaching in an English department, I wrote the following line: ‘The red-bottomed monkeys climbed down the branches of the tamarind tree to peel the oranges left unattended on Lotan Mamaji’s house.’ I was recalling a childhood memory involving a monkey, a gun and my infant cousin still in her crib. This first sentence later turned into a short-story – I workshopped it in a small writing group, my first, which included a twenty-one-year-old Cheryl Strayed – and then, years later, it became the opening episode in my new novel.
The picture on the top left is of Philip Roth. There’s a story there.