Monday, March 9, 2015

The First Line of The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

The Tusk that Did the Damage
Tania James

From the critically acclaimed author of Atlas of Unknowns and Aerogrammes, a tour de force set in South India that plumbs the moral complexities of the ivory trade through the eyes of a poacher, a documentary filmmaker, and, in a feat of audacious imagination, an infamous elephant known as the Gravedigger.

Orphaned by poachers as a calf and sold into a life of labor and exhibition, the Gravedigger breaks free of his chains and begins terrorizing the countryside, earning his name from the humans he kills and then tenderly buries. Manu, the studious younger son of a rice farmer, loses his cousin to the Gravedigger’s violence and is drawn, with his wayward brother Jayan, into the sordid, alluring world of poaching. Emma is a young American working on a documentary with her college best friend, who witnesses the porous boundary between conservation and corruption and finds herself in her own moral gray area: a risky affair with the veterinarian who is the film’s subject. As the novel hurtles toward its tragic climax, these three storylines fuse into a wrenching meditation on love and betrayal, duty and loyalty, and the vexed relationship between man and nature.

With lyricism and suspense, Tania James animates the rural landscapes where Western idealism clashes with local reality; where a farmer’s livelihood can be destroyed by a rampaging elephant; where men are driven to poaching. In James’ arrestingly beautiful prose, The Tusk That Did the Damage blends the mythical and the political to tell a wholly original, utterly contemporary story about the majestic animal, both god and menace, that has mesmerized us for centuries.

The Power of First Lines

Once there was a Hedgehog named Hans.

There: I’ve got your attention. Sadly I can’t say that Hans the Hedgehog is my own invention; for that tale, we have the Brothers Grimm to thank. We also have them to thank for numerous tales of talking animals or humans transformed into animals or humans with animal heads, like, say, a man named Hans with the torso of a hedgehog. Many fables, in their original form, have a disturbing streak of darkness which you won’t find in their Disney adaptations. (“Hans the Hedgehog” has a sordid scene toward the end involving quills and a naked young woman.)

But even in the sanitized versions I read as a child, these myths held a sort of dark allure, the sense that we are in a world where goodness and evil are evenly matched. That’s the sort of world I wanted to suggest from the first line of my novel:
He would come to be called the Gravedigger.

In The Tusk That Did the Damage, an elephant named the Gravedigger is one of three protagonists. The opening lines introduce him to the reader with the distance of a folktale, listing the names he will be called, suggesting how he will be viewed, in future, by humans. But unlike the folktale form, my novel dips into the elephant’s mind, exploring his internal world and the memories, both light and dark, that inform his present self.

But, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t really know what I was thinking when I wrote that first line. I’d like to think that I had all of these things in mind: distance, folklore, dark allure, etc. The truth is, finding your opening line is often a matter of instinct, and when it comes to you, a light goes on in the murk of your mind, and you know it as you know the lyric to an old, half-remembered song. It simply feels right.

About the Author

Tania James was raised in Louisville, Kentucky and lives with her husband and son in Washington DC.

Her debut novel Atlas of Unknowns was published by Knopf in 2009, and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, an Indie Next Notable, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and a Best Book of 2009 for The San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. Her story collection Aerogrammes, also published by Knopf, was a Best Book of 2012 for Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and The San Francisco Chronicle. Her stories have appeared in Boston Review, Granta, Kenyon Review, One Story, and A Public Space. Two stories from Aerogrammes were finalists for Best American Short Stories 2008 and 2013.

Tania is the recipient of fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. From 2011-2012, she was a Fulbright fellow to India living in New Delhi.


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Tusk that Did the Damage—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What is your favorite first line? Be it from a movie, novel, or short story, I'd love to know! If you don't have one, turn to the book you're currently reading (or nearest to you) and tell me the first line from there.
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Tania and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Knopf!
Giveaway ends March 23rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!