Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Book Meme: Indian Writing

It seems like le plus awesome Neha Vish is feeling a little better these days, so I'm going to follow her good example and continue the "Indian Writing" meme.

I could give you a list of all the Indian novels and plays I've read in the past year, but that would be dull. Though it is a rather estimable list. ^__^

Instead I'll give you a few anecdotes.

One: When I was in high school, I gave my father a copy of The Satanic Verses for a Christmas present. I had never read the book, and had no idea what it was about, but determined that if it was good enough to get Rushdie kicked out of his country, it was good enough for my dad to read.

(I don't believe he ever read it.)

Two: When I was in college, housesitting for a professor who got The New Yorker, I read an excerpt from The Namesake. In fact, I read it three times. It contained two chunks from the book -- the scene with the train accident, and the scene where little Gogol goes to kindergarten. I re-read it three times because of the scene with the train; perhaps because Ashoke was saved from death by reading. At any rate, it fascinated me and I marked the book down as something I wanted to read when it eventually made it to the libraries.

A few years later, I read it. I was completely disappointed.

Three: After The Inheritance of Loss won the Booker, I got my name on a list of people to read it at the university library. I had to wait almost three months between the announcement of the prize and my turn to check the book out.

Near the beginning of the text, Desai gives us a visual picture of Sai (the book's young female character) which I can't quote here for you because I don't have a copy at present. However, it was something along the lines of "she had her hair braided into two sloppy pigtails and was wearing a faded t-shirt."

I, at that very moment, had my hair braided into two sloppy pigtails and was wearing a faded t-shirt. There was a mild burst of excitement. I always like it when sympathetic literary characters look rather like me.

A few pages later, still reading, it suddenly came to me that no, of course Sai wouldn't "look like me," and that I had been naive -- or something else -- to make that assumption.

And later, a bit of a mental debate about which was the stronger qualifier of similarity -- Sai's pigtails, which she chose, or her "ethnicity," which was conferred at birth.

Four: Halfway through A Suitable Boy, suddenly realizing with horror that Seth's epigram

Someone is stabbed in Brahmpur, someone dies
A private shame is viewed by public eyes.
actually meant that one of my beloved characters was going to die. I knew that I could solve this feeling of uncertain dread by peeking to the end of the book to see who it was, but I willed myself not to, and spent the next three hundred pages praying it wasn't Amit.

(Following Neha's example, I'm not going to tag. If you want to play, play. ^__^)

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