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Volume 17

Appetite - Spring 2017

About the Issue

Written by
Torsa Ghosal

Torsa Ghosal is the Associate Editor of Papercuts magazine. She is the author of the novel, Open Couplets (2017), published by Yoda Press in India. Her poems and short stories have appeared in venues such as The Hindu BLink, Aaduna, Poydras Review, Unsplendid, Himal Southasian, and Muse India. She is also a researcher, specializing in narrative theories–-that is, the systematic study of the aesthetic experiences offered by stories across media–-and 20th-/21st- century experimental literary forms. Her critical and scholarly writings can be found in Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies, South Asian Review, Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus, Post Script, and Latinos and Narrative Media. In the past, she has assisted the editors of the journal, Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of post-1945 English literature at California State University, Sacramento.


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Volume 17 Theme and Cover Story


Many of us habitually consume food and stories together. Think of that friend or sibling who brings storybooks or Kindle to the dining table; or, those who need a generous serving of reality shows or dramas on TV alongside daal-roti to satiate their hunger; and, of course, think of the popcorn and soda we polish off in movie theaters. As a child, whenever I refused to eat, my mother recounted the exploits of Gopal Bhand—believed to be a court jester in 18th-century Bengal—and artfully placed morsels in my mouth, which opened wide in response to the round-bellied jester’s incredible feats. I take it that Gopal’s ability to maneuver his way out of sticky situations using his wit, which was powered by pounds of sweet cream, vicariously fueled my appetite and ensured the success of my mother’s trick. Yet, not all stories are conducive to an increased appetite. The climactic feast in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus in which a mother unwittingly devours the baked heads of her sons, akin to the gory banquet scene in Macbeth, prompts the audiences to think twice before indulging their desire for food, sex, or power.

Given the enduring association of stories and storytelling with cravings of different sorts, volume 17 of Papercuts focuses on the theme of “Appetite.” We are grateful to the novelist and playwright Anita Nair, this volume’s guest editor, for her insightful comments and guidance. The fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews in the issue cover the gamut of experiences that the theme calls to mind. They relate the decadence of all-you-can-eat buffets, which is the setting for Anna Orridge’s story, “Charred Chops,” as well as the deprivation that haunts people, as is the case in Shumaila Hashmi’s story, “Hunger.” Meanwhile, Ilona Yusuf’s “Jam Journeys,” Seyyada Anaam Burney’s “Curry Nation,” and Sophia Naz’s poem, “The Gulabi Guavas of Allahabad,” remind us that though food is consumable and hence, ephemeral, its taste lingers and travels with us, across time and space. In addition, Paromita Vohra’s “Ishq and Ice Cream” and Rachel Kramer Bussel’s candid interview lead us to the “déclassé” terrains of corporeal yearnings. Also, for the first time our managing editor, Omer Wahaj, has put together a playlist—”Songs for the Gut“—in keeping with the theme of the issue.

Finding a cover image for a theme as rich and diverse as “Appetite” is no easy task. Perhaps no one image can address the myriad connotations of the term. Yet, when we came across the Lebanon-based photographer Lara Zankoul’s whimsical underwater scene from her series “The Unseen,” we knew this has to be the one. The horse head and the rabbit head on the surface of the water unexpectedly give way to elegantly poised human figures. One of them looks straight at us, as though we have barged in to a drawing room and interrupted their tête-à-tête over tea or hors d’oeuvre. While we tend to compare excessive appetite of human beings with the gluttony of beasts, Zankoul’s image reverses the analogy. Under the surface, the horse and the rabbit heads embody the practiced restraint characteristic of human beings in social situations.

The tension between the eeriness of the gaping animal heads and the composure of the figures beneath them captures the essence of the writings in this issue. Desire for food is not what it seems on the surface and appetite originates in the deeper, and sometimes darker, crevices of the psyche. Now, we hope, you—our reader—will dig in and savor the assorted writings that Papercuts Vol. 17 has put on your table.

The Zoo by Lara Zankoul. Digital image.

The Zoo by Lara Zankoul. Digital image.



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