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Joydeep Roy-Bhattachara's 'The Watch' recasts 'Antigone' in contemporary Afghanistan

This Thursday evening at 7 p.m., Talking Leaves Books presents a reading and book-signing by Indian-born novelist Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, author of “The Gabriel Club” (1998), “The Storyteller of Marrakesh” (2011), and his internationally-heralded new novel “The Watch” published by Hogarth Press--the venerable literary press founded in 1917 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf--that is now an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, part of Random House Inc.   The reading is at Talking Leaves' 3158 Main St. location in Buffalo, and is free and open to the public.

Inspired by the Greek classical myth of Antigone, “The Watch” is the story of Nizam, a young Pashtun Afghan woman crippled in an American drone strike who is mourning the death of her brother, Yusuf, an insurgent killed in battle while trying to overtake an isolated U.S. military base in Kandahar Province.  In order to assure her brother a proper Muslim burial, she approaches the base on an improvised cart to demand the return of his body, but is rebuffed as a possible spy, decoy, enemy combatant, and perhaps even suicide terrorist herself.

The moral stand-off that ensues, which the novel explores from multiple first-person perspectives including that of several sympathetically portrayed American soldiers and officers, recapitulates and re-enacts many of the elements of Sophocles' classical tragedy--especially those which explore the rights of family set against the sovereignty of the state and the role of women in resisting masculine authority.  

If this story of mourning in contemporary Afghanistan--an isolated, essentially tribal society perennially overrun by world-historical occupiers--lends itself to tragedy as a narrative form more readily than it might in other settings, Roy-Bhattacharya is a novelist who seems to understand the competing moral imperatives well enough to not impose his own postmodern, post-colonial interpretations on the human drama.  Born in Jamshedpur, India, and educated in politics and philosophy at Calcutta University and the University of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Rhinebeck, NY.

--R.D. Pohl


Alissa Nutting returns for Starcherone Books Benefit

Alissa Nutting, the debut author of "Unclean Jobs for Women  and Girls" (2010), winner of the 6th annual Starcherone Fiction Prize selected by Ben Markus, returns to Buffalo for the Starcherone Books Summer Solstice Celebration and benefit reading to support the Buffalo-based publisher of innovative fiction from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Indigo Gallery, 74 Allen St. in Buffalo.   Admission is $25, and includes a reception to follow the reading. 

Nutting's story "Model's Assistant," from that prize-winning collection has recently been selected for inclusion in the next Norton Introduction to Literature anthology, to be released in 2013.  A rural Michigan native, who received her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama, and Ph.D. in English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, she is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at John Carroll University and a contributor to the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog. 

In our review of "Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls" in this space two years ago, we noted:

"Each of these surreal tales is a first-person account of a particular woman in extremis, a kind of existential peril that is as much a product of language and the imagination as it is circumstances in some possible world.  Some of the stories are set in a science-fiction evoking future where mother-daughter relations are still as distressingly contentious as in our more earthbound memoirs. Others move along at the pace of a stroll through a carnival sideshow, or a quick peak inside the waiting room of the world's most overbooked occupational therapist's practice. 

While not necessarily fettered by the laws of the physical universe, they cohere in the psychological and emotional sense that fairy tales and fabulist fiction does. Never is the narrative development purely metonymic or governed formalist logic of the New Sentence.

All the stories bear a certain disposition toward the grotesque, but unlike many male authors who've visited the same psychic territory -- Dante, Poe, and Kafka spring readily to mind, though one might consider a postmodern like Mark Leyner as well -- Nutting's greatest talent as a narrative artist appears not to be in making the familiar seem grotesque, but rather in so fully and empathically incorporating the somatic details of the grotesque as to make them seem comfortingly familiar, almost matter-of-fact... 

--R.D. Pohl


Critics' Corner live video chat with Simon, Dabkowski

News Arts Editor Jeff Simon and News Arts Critic Colin Dabkowski answered your questions about books, movies, television, music and more directly into the camera.

Today's Guest Star in Critic's Corner Is.....

Our colleague Jeff Miers is recovering from a recent siege and preparing for an assignment tonight so our colleague Colin Dabkowski has graciously consented to fill in. As always, though, we're ready for your questions on any subject that you want to pursue--and of course any comments on any subject you want to make.
Colin and I will see you all at 1 p.m.
--Jeff Simon

Could Buffalo be the scene of Woody Allen's next movie?

WoodyallenThe great Woody Allen was interviewed over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal, and the interview makes me think we could get him to make a movie here in Buffalo.

I am not sure if the WSJ lets non-subscribers in on its Web site, so I will cut and paste the parts that apply to us here in the Queen City.

How did you decide that you wanted to set your recent films in London, Paris, Rome or wherever?

Well, the Italians call and say, "We want to pay for it." It's strictly economics. It started with "Match Point." I wrote that film, and it was originally going to be about a family in New York, in Long Island and Palm Beach. But it was expensive to do in New York. And they called me from London and said, "Would you like to make a movie here? We'll pay for it." And so I said, "Yes." It was very easy to anglicize it. From then on, other countries call up and invite me to make movies, which is great because they don't invite me in the United States. What happens in Europe, in South America, in China and Russia—all these countries call me and say, "Would you make a movie here if we financed it?"

Do you think maybe Americans are loath to finance your films because you retain so much control over everything?

Yes, that's a big problem for me. Where it starts is that I feel I've been making films for years. They know what they're buying when they buy into me. I usually have a good cast of actors and actresses. They know that over the years, all of my films cost about $17 million or $18 million. They know that none of them are suddenly going to balloon to $25 million. They can rely on a good cast. And they know I'm not going to do like a medieval religious movie or something like that. So they know what they are buying. But I don't let anybody read a script, so that's an immediate deal breaker for 95% of them.

All this makes me pretty hopeful!

Buffalo would not have a problem with his artistic control, would we?

We would let Woody Allen do whatever he wants, as long as he is here! And now I think we could get him here. I had not realized things were that simple. Darn, I once actually got to interview Woody Allen in New York. I did not think to ask him about this, or I could have gotten the wheels turning a long time ago.

Think of what it would mean. You always hear about Woody Allen's movies being "a love letter" to this or that city. His latest, "To Rome With Love," is described as, you guessed it, a love letter to Rome.

His movie here could be a love letter to Buffalo! Surely he would recognize and appreciate the unique nature of our town, not to mention its sheer beauty. Plus, he always has great casts with unusual people. (In the interview he talks about how he wanted to offer parts to such people as Tonya Harding and Princess Diana.)

C'mon, we can raise the money. It's not that much, compared with other things we spend money on. And even if we can't raise it, we can spend it. You know us.

All our various boards and committees should get on this at once.

Make it happen!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


Fiona Apple to perform in Kleinhans

Fiona Apple will perform at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 in Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle.

Tickets are $40-$50 and go on sale at 9 a.m. June 22 through

For more information, call 885-5000 or visit

Edgefest headed to outer harbor Sept. 2

Edgefest 2012 -- to be headlined by Three Days Grace, Evanescence and Chevelle -- will happen on Buffalo's outer harbor on Sept. 2.

Organizers announced late this afternoon that the Sunday, all-ages show will feature more acts, which will be announced later. Doors for the show will open at 4 p.m. 

Edgefest tickets will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m.; they are $38 in advance plus a $2 facility fee. They'll be available online at, as well as through Ticketmaster locations, including Walmart locations. To order by phone, call 800-745-3000.

For more information, visit

A deal to hold shows at the outer harbor location was reached in April.

The show is presented by Edge Rock Radio 103 and produced by Funtime AfterDark.

Morrissey to perform in the Rapids Theatre

Rock icon Morrissey will perform a rare area appearance at 8 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Rapids Theatre, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls. Kristeen Young will open.

Tickets for the show are $45 advance, $50 day of show and go on sale at noon June 23 through the box office, at Record Theater and Terrapin Station; online at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, call 205-8925 or visit

Black Label Society coming to the Falls

Black Label Society, joined by Pop Evil and Heart Set Self Destruct, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 in the Rapids Theatre, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls.

Tickets are $29.50 advance, $35 day of show and go on sale at noon June 23 through the box office, at Record Theater and Terrapin Stationm as well as online at or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, call 205-8925 or visit

Hugh Laurie to perform in the Riviera Theatre

Look for Hugh Laurie in the house -- at the Riv, that is.

The award-winning star of "House" and his Copper Bottom Band will perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 28 in the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda.

Tickets are $32.50 to $39.50 reserved seating and go on sale at 10 a.m. June 22 through the box office or online at

For more information, call 692-2413 or visit

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