Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry, Myra Syal

what I'm reading now:
The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. Hyperverbal, polylinguic. Intensely reminiscent of Carlos Fuentes. Metafiction, multiple historical time periods, interwoven/repeating characters, obsession with cinema.He's a new author for me, and I am entranced. I'll read everything he's ever written (don't disappoint me!) The way to my heart is too much information - woo me with a superfluity of words.
more to come on this book!

Two other writers with Indian themes I've been reading lately -

The most depressing book in the world: A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry. (I chanced on it at Goodwill: again, it was in Oprah's book club, so there were about six copies.) It was very good; I got deeply attached to the people. One of those books that can make you triumph over small achievements - a good meal, a new shirt, a shared glass of tea...I love books that make you entirely enter their world (best example of this, by far, is Solzenitzen's A Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich.) I loved reading about their initial wary tolerance and eventual family of choice between the four strangers and their daily life doing piecework against the clock. The widow Dina Dalal was my favorite. She quietly made her own small space for herself - her uprightness and inflexibility were monstrously frustrating but she was revolutionary and absolutely admirable as well. However, the book had the most completely horrible ending ever. Think of the worst possible ending and multiply it by four. I was so gloomy after this book; the ending was so excruciatingly awful because you could envision in such detail the possibility for a happier one. Sometimes I hate and detest realism. I never knew or learned much about the post-independence government of India. This book was a great primer on the worst of its corruptions. I had to do quite a bit of background reading in encyclopedias to ground myself. I learned about the partition and way too much about corrupt bureaucracies and usurpation of power (I actually snuck this book in last semester, so I read it over a long period rather than in one gluttonous binge) I recommend this book; but don't read it if you are depressed with the state of the world and human nature in general.

A throwaway chick-lit book: Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee, by Meera Syal. Actually set in the Indian community in London. Not bad if you like the genre. Lots of funny parts about relationships and mother-daughter bonds. Pretty bland and almost formulaic - you could insert any culture and write a ready-made book - although that may be unfair. However, still funny and enjoyable even with wildly improbable plot twists. It's well-written and smart, so I recommend it as a bathtub indulgence read for when you're feeling girly.

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