Friday, May 4, 2012

Interpreter of Maladies

I've been suffering a little writer's block this week (which, ironically, I may use as a topic for a post soon) so tonight's book recommendation will be short, sweet and to the point:

I started this short story collection many months ago and abandoned it after a few stories, but recently unearthed it from my book pile and finished it. As a rule, I don't read a lot of short story collections. Most of the short stories I read are one-offs, distributed by professors in writing classes or written by my classmates for workshop. I find that collections are usually disappointing, in that there are one or two stories that are really enjoyable, and the rest are just okay. (Case in point- the only collection I have hung onto through the years, written by W. Somerset Maugham, has just one or two stories worth reading, one of which, "The Three Fat Women of Antibes", I blogged about in my post about food writing.)

But Interpreter of Maladies was no such disappointment. I think it's because Jhumpa Lahiri's writing is so innately comfortable, even when she's writing about foreign lands and customs. All of her stories involve either Indians in America (Indian-Indians, not American Indians) or Americans visiting India. Or Indians in India. But though I'm not as familiar with the culture, I still found myself reading easily and sinking happily into the characters and conflicts of each story. I think the story that will stick with me longest was written from the perspective of a twelve-year old American boy who was being watched by a recently immigrated Indian women in the afternoons, witnessing her desperation to cling to some semblance of her country's ways. I also enjoyed the story about the couple, estranged after the death of their child, brought together by three evenings' loss of electricity in their apartment. Each of these stories is simple, but the characters are deftly drawn and the emotion is potent.

Try some of Jhumpa Lahiri's work- you will not be disappointed!

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