On "The Interpreter of Maladies"I have never really found books on the great cross-cultural Indian-American upheaval very good. I think the principal culprit was Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai, whose prose seemed unnatural and disconnected from a possible reality, and books like the puerile The Inscrutable Americans didn't help the cause. Therefore, the reasons I picked up Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize (for Fiction, in 2000) winning collection of short stories were not the mandatory blurbs or the promise of stories from "Bengal to Boston" as the subtitle promised, but merely that it was a slim volume and I only wanted to experience first-hand her much vaunted writing style.
The book of nine stories turned out to be very impressive. Seldom have I read slice-of-life tales that seem "lived" and crumpled with use. Lahiri suffuses the stories with a rare emphathetic tone, establishing a quiet rhythm. Her choice of sentences are simple without being plain, which is what appealed to me the most. Except for one story set completely in Bengal without any tinge of the Western side, all stories keep up the subtitle's promise of intertwining lives and cultures. Quite as a quilt would when it is being woven - with many ends loose and unsure.
A review of a book like this is best kept brief. So I will, but not before noting that the first few stories from the book had the greatest emotional impact. Perhaps one could attempt reading the stories in reverse order?
Written for our Lit Blog