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Written from abroad

BY JOSIE JONES | JANUARY 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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Daniyal Mueenuddin enjoys the last line of Robert Lowell’s poem “Dolphin”: “my eyes have seen what my hand did.”

“I think for a writer, you have to live the experience,” Mueenuddin said. “To have the real, minute detail, you need to have seen and done it.”

After spending much of his life in the countryside of Pakistan, he wrote a number of short stories about his experiences, which included living through the decline of one set of powers and the rise of another.

He will read from In Other Rooms, Other Wonders today at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. The free event will begin at 7 p.m.

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders consists of eight short stories, including “Spoiled Man,” “Nawabdin Electrician,” and “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” all of which were published in The New Yorker. Although some of the collection’s stories were published in 2008, the book’s official release date was in early 2009.

The stories that make up Mueenuddin’s début book are about events that he found “dramatically interesting.”

“This should be fun; writing should be fun,” he said. “And one way to make it fun is to write about some things that are fun to write about.”

He does not consider In Other Rooms, Other Wonders to be merely a collection of short stories. The book, he said, is about the individual yet intersecting lives of the characters. And that is why he feels the title fits.

“The image of many rooms is a nice one to describe how they are connected,” he said. “I like the room metaphor.”

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders gained national attention when it was named one of the top-10 books of 2009 by numerous publications, including Time and Entertainment Weekly. It was also a National Book Award finalist. Naturally, Mueenuddin was thrilled.

“This is my lifelong dream,” he said. “I practiced law for a period of time, but writing was always what I wanted to do. So it’s fabulous and so unexpected.”

Prairie Lights co-owner Jan Weissmiller is one of the many who recommend Mueenuddin’s work.

“The stories are just truly beautiful,” she said. “It is beautifully written and really engaging.”

A factor that contributes to the originality of the collection is Mueenuddin’s interesting point of view.

“I look at America through Pakistani eyes, and I look at Pakistan through American eyes, and that’s handy,” he said. “It gives me a place to stand to look at things.”

Weissmiller agrees that his experience of having lived in both the United States and Pakistan makes for a compelling collection.

“[In Other Rooms, Other Wonders] can really tell a story from the inside rather than a made-for-TV sense of what it is like in Pakistan,” she said.


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