When I’m not working on my current project (I suspect that “WTF Do Clients Really Do With Scenarios?” won’t make the cut at a peer-reviewed journal, so I need to start thinking of a different name, or a version with less cursing), I’m starting to deal with logistics for the trip to Cambridge. Indeed, I’m beginning to suspect that I’ll need as many months to complete the paperwork as I’ll actually spend doing research. But it’ll be worth it.
I’m also starting to wonder how I should write about the trip. Of course there’s no question that I’ll at least keep the blog going, and maybe try to wring some piece of travel writing out of the trip (something about journeying through high-tech England? scientific England? frankly, it’ll be whatever the assignment editor wants), but I don’t want to sound like a typical American mystified by, but ultimately won over by the cultivated charms and sophistication of Europe; I suppose James Watson’s Double Helix is as good a model as any for writing about doing research in Cambridge… but there are probably other literary stereotypes I want to be aware of and avoid. I was made sensitive about this by a fabulous series of four short essays (inspired by Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa“) about How to Write About Pakistan, of which this one (by Daniyal Mueenuddin) is my favorite:
Lying in my bed at 7.48 a.m., laptop on lap. Too much writing in this position over the years has given me neck-aches. I’d do yoga if it weren’t such a non-Pakistani sounding activity. For a Pakistani writer to do yoga feels like questioning the two-nation theory. So I complain, which brings enormous relief and a sense of oneness with my subject matter.
When it comes to Pakistani writing, I would encourage us all to remember the brand. We are custodians of brand Pakistan. And beneficiaries. The brand slaps an extra zero onto our advances, if not more. Branding can be the difference between a novel about brown people and a best-selling novel about brown people. It is our duty to maintain and build that brand….
It took a lot of writing to get us here, miles of fiction and non-fiction in blood-drenched black and white. Please don’t undo it. Or at least please don’t undo it until I’ve cashed in a couple more times. Apartments abroad are expensive.