Meet a NYFA Artist: Ranbir Sidhu
NYFA speaks with 2008 Fiction Fellow Fellow Ranbir Sidhu
NYFA: Hello Ranbir! Please tell us what are you working on and what’s coming up for you.
RS: I’m planning a trip next month to the Mojave Desert for a few weeks of backcountry camping. This is partly research for a novel, partly to re-experience the desert, which is a place I love, and finally, to simply see what happens. I’ll be taking my old Yashica twin-reflex camera with me, which I haven’t used in years, in the hope that taking photographs will help structure the days. Otherwise, I’ll just have a notebook and myself.
NYFA: Tell us your most memorable experience relating to your medium growing up.
RS: I started college early, at 15, but dropped out a couple of years later when I realized I didn’t want to be an English major. It was only when I dropped out that I started to read seriously. I saved money from a bookstore job and got a $99 stand-by flight from San Francisco to Europe on People’s Express, which was going out of business at the time. My childhood friends in London signed me up for the dole and for the next several months, I read at least one book a day, sometimes two, always novels. I picked them through a system: I could only read authors I had never heard about before, so mostly I chose books through their covers or particularly crazed author photographs. Nowadays authors tend to present themselves as suave or beautiful, someone you’d like to have dinner with or fantasy fuck, but there is a dying tradition that admired eccentricity. I found several of my favorite writers this way, including Iris Murdoch and Brigid Brophy. In the first book I bought by Brophy, a dog-eared Penguin paperback, she is lunging at the camera and her features are blurred to the point of being unrecognizable.
NYFA: Where is your favorite place on earth?
RS: That always changes, but here are a few. Sitting on the bench in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of Bruegel’s “The Harvesters." Hanging my legs out of the open door of a train in India, knowing it’ll be at least a day before I arrive at where I’m going. Being in a car and driving along one of those beautiful California highways, be it in the desert, the coast, or the uplands in the north of the state.
NYFA: What has encouraged you to keep working as a writer?
RS: Mostly a few rare friendships I’ve made over the years with other serious artists. Self-confidence is a perilous commodity and quite necessary for the artist. The times I’ve lost it, I’ve been able to turn to people close to me and whose work I admire to help restore it.
NYFA: What role has the Fellowship played in your life?
RS: This was a great boost, both psychologically and financially. It gave me the time to return to work on a novel which I am now finishing.
For more information on Ranbir Sidhu, visit his website.