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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Some Terrific Reading

Ok I'll admit it: I'm a bit tired of the "place" based literature. Case in point, books and stories about India. Yes, I know, that fad is over and we're fishing around for a new locus -- Japan is in right now, so isn't Cambodia. Sweden is heading up. It's like a global literary commodity market. I'll speculate. Readers tire of similar words, similar places, similar descriptions. We demand the story and require originality. New locations packed with unseen words help ease our malaise.

That said I'm reading two brilliant books -- yes both based in India, both collections of short stories.

The first is Jaspreet Singh's Seventeen Tomatoes -- The title story alone is worth the money -- a girl seductively slurps tomatoes in a classroom full of boys. It's a bright, image-laden style seamlessly blending dialogue and description. A man brings his daughter to school and the teacher tells him it's a boys school.

"Don't be afraid, girl," said the man. "Go sit anywhere."
Then he marched toward the teacher and loaded his revolver.
"Rules," said Mrs. Nargis, gasping for breath, "cannot be broken."
"There are no girls' school in this area, Madam," he said. "Listen carefully: If you send my child home, I will shoot you."

It's impossible to resist this sort of buildup.

The second is Swimming Lessons by Rohinton Mistry. Again, such clarified distillation of events. I'm always particularly happy when a book becomes a series of movie pictures. And he has a particular knack for throwing in the unexpected. We trundle along, trundle along and boom run across a sentence like "She fumbled with the locks, wishing her cataracts would hurry and ripen for removal." Or suddenly, a description of a ditty the local Dustoor sings, "Ashem Vahoo, See the tits on that chickie-boo...." Whoopsie, what did I just read?

Lastly want to learn how to beat the odds of life? Interested in learning how to calculate your changes of getting a job, or how to maximize chances of getting a short story published? Check out Chance: A Guide to Gambling, Love, the Stock Market, & Just About Everything Else by Amir Aczel. (he is the author who also wrote Fermat's Theorem.) By the way I have a beautiful proof that is the key to writing literature, however it won't fit in the margins of this blog....(thank you if you got the joke.)