Lunch With a Bigot

The Writer in the World

Lunch With a Bigot

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: May 2015

Author: Amitava Kumar

Asian Studies > South Asia, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Literature and Literary Studies > Creative Nonfiction

To be a writer, Amitava Kumar says, is to be an observer. The twenty-six essays in Lunch with a Bigot are Kumar's observations of the world put into words. A mix of memoir, reportage, and criticism, the essays include encounters with writers Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, discussions on the craft of writing, and a portrait of the struggles of a Bollywood actor. The title essay is Kumar's account of his visit to a member of an ultra-right Hindu organization who put him on a hit-list. In these and other essays, Kumar tells a broader story of immigration, change, and a shift to a more globalized existence, all the while demonstrating how he practices being a writer in the world.


“Heterogeneous and complex, this book offers insight into Indian culture from a multitude of complex spaces between East and West. An exuberantly inquisitive collection of essays.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[Kumar’s] rhythms and insights beguile, and the trip itself is as rich as the destination. The reader returns with a broader sense of power, religion, oppression, familial love, censorship, and the power of the written word, to name but a few.” — Robert Burke Warren, Chronogram

“Kumar is an artful, frank and clean-cut writer, with a compassionate curious mind and a dry sense of humor. He includes his personal responses in his journalism and maintains his questioning skepticism even in his most emotional essays.”

— Sara Catterall, Shelf Awareness

“A dexterous and entertaining book that mixes personal essay, reportage, and criticism, Lunch With a Bigot never loses sight of its subtitle: each piece, in its own way, is about the writing life, whether it deals with paper as an object of the sacred and profane, the immigrant writer’s experience of ‘being brown in America,’ or the temporal dislocation of returning home.” — Jonathon Sturgeon, Flavorwire

"Taken together, these essays written over the last 15 years of cataclysmic wars, fanaticisms, environmental disasters, and turbo-capitalism, tell the story of what has really been happening while those of us in the West have looked the other way. As the media caters to our fascination with Donald Trump’s hairstyle and his vitriolic one-liners, Syrian refugees have had to find refuge in Dachau. To see how one narrative has obfuscated the other ought to enrage us, and asks us to examine what is absent from our daily conversations. Kumar provokes us with his vulnerability, his observations of our shared flaws, and his impassioned interest in a world he hopes to make more livable. He reminds us what the writer — the writer as rioter — can do. And he reminds us that to be alive demands that we search for new forms of intimacy all the time, in order, as Adrienne Rich insisted, 'to extend the possibilities of truth between us.'"  — Leah Mirakhor, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Lunch with a Bigot is, at its core, a collection of writing that delivers Kumar’s memoir. The ambling essays wander but never strand readers, and together they form something largely autobibliographic—that is to say, a deep, lengthy telling of the author’s reading (and viewing) life. ... Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above." — E. McCourt, Choice

"While Kumar’s well-trained eye roves from subject to subject with intellectual rigor and academic insight, he is able to coalesce these disparate parts into a cohesive whole with his inevitable return to his love of literature.... Kumar proves to be an astute cultural and literary critic, adept at surveying the world around him at all angles—making Lunch with a Bigot an engaging and memorable collection."  — Alex Brubaker, Rain Taxi

"These are the very best sort of essays: the kind in which the pleasure of reading derives from the pleasure of following a writer's mind as it moves from subject to subject, making us see connections we might otherwise have been unaware of. Often a single paragraph contains such a story or detail so arresting that the reader must pause to appreciate it before moving on." — Francine Prose, author of Reading Like a Writer

“Stimulating, wide-ranging, learned and funny—exactly what one wants from a book of essays."
— Geoff Dyer, author of But Beautiful: A Book about Jazz

"Amitava Kumar is a sensitive, probing, erudite writer, always ready to question others and himself. It turns out his ceaseless curiosity and skepticism is the best way to write about India in all its complexity and heterogeneity—his is a fascinating mind turned towards a crucial subject." — Edmund White, author of Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris

"The interconnected world may be a cliche, but we don’t often see its real connections. Amitava Kumar illuminates many of them here with his signature mix of unappeasable curiosity, cool skepticism, and shrewd intelligence."
— Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt against the West and the Remaking of Asia


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Amitava Kumar is Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College. He is the author of A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, and Nobody Does the Right Thing, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Author's Note xi

Part I. Reading

1. Paper 3

2. My Hanif Kureishi Life 14

3. The Map of My Village 29

4. The Poetry of Gujarat Riots 32

5. Conversation with Arundhati Roy 37

6. Salman Rushdie and Me 51

7. Bad News 58

Part II. Writing

8. How to Write a Novel 79

9. Reading Like a Writer 84

10. Writing My Own Satya 97

11. Dead Bastards 106

12. The Writer as a Father 110

13. Ten Rules of Writing 119

Part III. Places

14. Mofussil Junction 127

15. A Collaboration in Kashmir 132

16. At the Jaipur Literature Festival 141

17. Hotel Leeward 146

18. The Mines of Jadugoda 151

19. Upon Arrival in the Past 155

20. Bookstores of New York 162

Part IV. People

21. Lunch with a Bigot 169

22. The Boxer on the Flight 183

23. Amartya's Birth 187

24. The Taxi Drivers of New York 192

25. On Being Brown in America 196

26. Missing Person 201

Index 213
Sales/Territorial Rights: World exc South Asia

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