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Your Favorite Book: Always Coming Home with Shruti Swamy

Your Favorite Book: Always Coming Home with Shruti Swamy

Welcome to another installment of a collaboration between the Chicago Review of Books and the Your Favorite Book podcast. Malavika Praseed, frequent CHIRB contributor and podcast host, seeks to talk to readers and writers about the books that light a fire inside them. What’s your favorite book and why?

This week’s guest is Shruti Swamy, author of debut novel The Archer. What does it mean to pursue art as a woman, especially when society imposes rigid goals and obstacles never cease to block the path forward? Shruti Swamy explores this in her detailed character study of a young Kathak dancer. Vidya, who wishes to devote her life to the classical Indian dance, must eke out an honest existence for herself as family, teachers, friends, and many others cast doubt along the way. With rich prose and loving interpretations of pure dance, we are transported to an India of yesterday, distinctly specific in its detail. It boldly declares that art is not only a calling, but one that must be heard.

Shruti, a longtime Ursula Le Guin fan, brings to the table a recent read as a new favorite book. Always Coming Home, considered the culmination of Le Guin’s cultural musings and varied influences, is by no means an easy read. This fictional ethnography of the postapocalyptic Kesh people combines anthropology, poetry, prose, linguistics, and numerous other genres to paint a portrait of this new society. It combines the agrarian with the scientific, bleakness with hope, and is one of the most unique books we’ve covered on this podcast.

Shruti reflects on what makes a novel a novel, what inspires her about Kathak and stories of the Mahabharata, what it means to create a culture and honor existing ones, and so much more. This is a spirited discussion full of recommendations aplenty, and no spoilers.

See Also

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass with Dr. Mark M. Hennelly Your Favorite Book

This week's episode is here to give you a new twist on familiar classics. We take on the Alice books, those weird little Victorian novels that Disney and Tim Burton usurped as their own, with a particularly knowledgeable guest. Dr. Mark M. Hennelly is a retired California State University professor specializing in Romantic, Victorian, Gothic, and Fantasy literature, along numerous other topics. Dr. Hennelly continues to write and has written extensively on the Alice books in recent years. We discuss whether children's literature truly exists, how to make material new year after year, what the Jabberwocky even means, and whether Turkish Delight is worth eating (spoiler, it's not). This is one of those episodes where I let my guest take the lead and I'm just here for the ride. Hope you come along with us! Books discussed: Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein, Phantastes by George MacDonald, A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay Follow the podcast on instagram and twitter @yfbpodcast
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Listen to this episode of Your Favorite Book at the link above, and stay tuned for more episodes with other writers in the weeks to come. If you enjoy this episode, check out other episodes of Your Favorite Book on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other major podcast platforms.

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