Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Who would portray novelist Pasha Malla in the biopic of his life?

The author of Fugue States answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Pasha Malla is the author of the novel Fugue States. (Submitted by Pasha Malla)

Pasha Malla's latest novel, Fugue States, begins with a funeral. Radio host Ash Dhar is dealing with the death of his father, and is surprised to find, among his father's things, an unpublished manuscript. What unfolds is a tale of two men, Ash and his friend Matt, as they journey to India to learn more about Ash's father — and themselves.

Below, Pasha Malla answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Lynn Coady asks, "Is there a poet, philosopher, musician, painter or any other type of artist outside the world of fiction who has inspired your work in a concrete way at some point or another? If so, who?"


2. Sharon Butala asks, "What do you think of the age-old notion that the best writing comes out of a life led outside the bourgeoisie, where so-called 'rules' of normal middle-class life are deliberately broken and impulse is your guide, rather than duty or convention?"

I think the comforts, as much as the duties and conventions of middle-class living, have mostly knocked the wind out of the novel. So, yes, writers probably need to break free from treating fiction as a salve and refuge — as, basically, TV — and breathe some life back into the damn thing.

3. Shyam Selvadurai asks, "Writers often use their own life as a springboard for fiction. Could you relate a real incident in your life and then tell us how it got changed into fiction?"

There are dozens of real incidents from my life in this new book. One example is that I have a dad. In the book the character has a dad, too, except he's dead.

4. Vincent Lam asks, "At some point in the writing of a book, have you ever had a real low point? Can you tell us about that, if you feel comfortable doing so? What did you hold on to to get out of that place?"

Yeah, I often become horrified by whatever I'm writing. This is the only thing that works — not doing the affirmations, just laughing at Al Franken.

5. Peter Robinson asks, "How important is the sense of place in your work?"

This new book is partly set in Kashmir, though it's an imagined version of Kashmir, one that may or may not correlate to the real place. In this book, at least, I was interested less in an accurate representation of place — that place, specifically — than how it exists in the imagination of residents, exiles and outsiders alike, and how those various ideations might speak to or resist one another. For better information about the actual Kashmir, there is some incredible writing being done by far more informed and articulate writers than me; Mirza Waheed, in particular, has recently contributed some excellent pieces to Al Jazeera, the New York Times and the Guardian.

6. Heather O'Neill asks, "If there were to be a biopic made about your life, which actor would you want to play you? Which director would you choose to direct?"

I've been told, bafflingly enough, that I look like Paul Rudd, Jake Gyllenhaal and Toby Maguire (by people in varying degrees of drunkenness/lunacy), so ideally all three of them would play me in a weird sort of mash-up, like Moonlight except at the same time. Harmony Korine would direct. (I especially look forward to the scene where Rudd/Gyllenhaal/Maguire evade a racist mugging by offering their attacker a Wham! record.)

7. Rebecca Rosenblum asks, "Do you have any favourite phrases or kinds of descriptions that are always creeping into your work despite your efforts to edit them out?"

Yeah — "Into the night." It's so pervasive and I hate it so much that it's in my new book as the title of a bad novel that the main character is forced to read.

8. Eden Robinson asks, "How long is your mull time before you write?"

Two months, 11 days, 14 hours, six minutes and 42 seconds. Then: let the carnival of shame begin.