The Fifth Lash and Other Stories

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9781936196043: The Fifth Lash and Other Stories
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Fiction. Middle Eastern Studies. Whither the Islamic world? Whither Pakistan? Revolution is on the streets of the Arab/Islamic world, Pakistan is experiencing a remote drone war and violence fomented by mysterious forces, and writing has apparently thrown up its hands at making sense of the chaos.

Ten years after the start of the perpetual war on terror, Pakistan, the country at the fulcrum of it, remains a mystery. All we hear about are lawlessness and violence, without social history or political context to fill out the picture. THE FIFTH LASH AND OTHER STORIES gives us a portrait of Pakistan, and Muslims in general, struggling to reason their way into a better future. Paranoia, self-hatred, delusion, insecurity, serfdom, surveillance, and denial have been some of the prevalent psychological motifs of the last decade; it's important to step outside their journalistic confines and move into the lyrical borderline where responsibility follows a two-way street and causes and consequences become muddled and merged, and this is what the book seeks to do.

The old securities everywhere are gone; identities are switched and tried on and abandoned faster than ever; the media landscape saturates individual consciousness, and makes lies out of centuries of tradition and heroes of plastic idols. THE FIFTH LASH AND OTHER STORIES daringly enters this phantasmagoric cauldron, where appearance and reality have seamlessly blended, to complicate the picture even further, to turn all we think we know about Islam and Pakistan on its head. The "truth" will never set you free, is the ironic signature of the original voice defining this collection.

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About the Author:

Anis Shivani is a poet, fiction writer, and critic in Houston, Texas. His books are Anatolia and Other Stories (Black Lawrence Press, 2009), Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies (Texas Review Press, 2011), MY TRANQUIL WAR AND OTHER POEMS (NYQ Books, 2012), and THE FIFTH LASH AND OTHER STORIES (C&R Press, 2012). He has also finished a novel, Karachi Raj, and is at work on another, Abruzzi, 1936. His work appears in New York Quarterly, Georgia Review, Southwest Review, Boston Review, The Iowa Review, The Threepenny Review, Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Agni, DENVER QUARTERLY, and many other journals. A Pushcart Prize winner, he studied economics at Harvard College. A second poetry book is in progress.

Review:

Each story in Anis Shivani's collection The Fifth Lash contains irrefutable proof that characters from all walks of life with different backgrounds and nationalities travel toward one goal: an existence without extraordinary conflict. Along the inexorable way, though, these characters confront what we dread daily, viz., laughable bureaucracy, unrequited love/lust, bigotry, hard-headed conformity, and existential crises. The Fifth Lash is a fine collection of stories that proves what Kipling said long ago: All the people like us are We, and everyone else is They. --George Singleton, author of The Half-Mammals of Dixie and Work Shirts for Madmen

A beautiful, multi-layered work enriched by absorbing dialogue, a great narrative pace, and an oblique sense of humor that froths in the most unlikely places. Shivani commits to his characters and settings with the soul of a writer, one who lives to observe and who reveals only that which is purely authentic. These are stories of ample lives, explored with empathy, humor, and a gritty sense of reality that makes for taut, inviolable reading. Shivani delivers the complete experience: of a richly-textured world outside and a complex, cerebral one within. His insights come at you like a hard, stinging coastal rain and what you see before you is a panorama of experience, based on a unique sense of understanding of how humanity works. A work so authoritative, you could forget it is fiction. --Murzban Shroff, author of Breathless in Bombay

This collection about the lives of Muslims all over the world many of them practicing and pious is bold, raw, raunchy, and funny. Geographic schizophrenia, ontological dyspepsia, matters of mangled identities, issues of class and gender and yes, sex, are connected with actual, lived Islam in a genuinely entertaining and informed manner. But these stories go further. They ask the reader to consider the possibility that when it comes to contemporary portraits of Muslims, fiction might actually be a much better medium than memoir, than non-fiction, than journalism, and even film. That confidence renders this a most original work. --Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust: A Portrait of a Muslim as a Young Man

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