#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: P for Postponement is not an option


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: P for Postponement is not an option

Provided by: Jemima Pett, friend, fellow writer, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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#atozchallenge: P for Postponement was not an option

#atozchallenge: P for Postponement was not an option

     I sit on me front porch, thinkin’ Sunday morning thoughts, when they drive up, the two fat coppers.

     Where’s Moses?, the taller of the two hooks his finger on his belt, and don’t waste our time.

     Only Moses I know, I tell them, parted the Red Sea.

      No punchin’ the toadstool around me. Moses he turn me ‘to a fairy if I squeal. Better put out for coppers than Moses.

       My nose bust next second, one long whine in me ears, blood on me mouth, warm ‘n icky. Usual stuff.

       The other copper, sliding behind, he throw me against the porch wall. You wan’  to do them Moses you’self? Where’s you’ gi’lf’iend?

           Why cops look more ‘n more like we these days? This one got a missing front tooth. It make his words come all funny.

            He take Angela, Moses do, I want to tell them, ‘n she go with him.

        Every Sunday Angela she take me to church, Be a good man, Jerry, she say, let the Lord save you. You ne’er took a life, the Lord He forgive you, ask for His mercy.

 

Last night she run, not with a good man, but Moses. Moses of stick-ups ‘n blagging, pimp, cop-killer, Mac daddy that drive around Sunday e’enings high on shrooms, or eatin’ coke, lookin’ for bitches to rape.

         Postpon’ment is not an option, Moses say, his big fancy words, you got one life. Take what you want.

         I wanna tell these coppers all that. But what’s the point? She make me wear the mushroom suit every time I do her, there’s the truth of it. Angela want his big brawny spawn, not mine. I’m puny, she say. Some more, these coppers don’t do their jobs, oughta patted me down before slammin’ me.

         I pull out the nine Moses thrown at me last nite, laughin’ in my face, ‘n I fire, once, twice. I fall back, more whine in me ears. The nine it hit me back, but it drop them sure. Then I sit me down, and watch the red slide outta their mean little heads. Ne’er bust a cap, and now this.

        Moses he got it right. Always a first time, and live only once. I’m havin’ me some different Sunday morning thoughts. With a nine, I’m as tall as Moses.  The Lord can save me no more, Angela. I’m comin’ for you.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? What associations do mushrooms have for you?

Have You Read Any of These Books Born from #blogging #atozchallenge ?


Blogging challenges can be fun, but they can also be surprisingly productive. I co-host the A to Z Challenge, (5 days left, sign up now!)and over the years, it has given rise to quite a few books.Have you read any of them? Given a choice, which ones would you pick? Here’s a short list of the AZ babies I can think of off the top of my head:

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge

  Doris Plaster: Home Sweet Nursing Home: An A to Z Collection of 50-word stories on Aging and Healthcare: Today’s nursing homes are no longer “rest homes,” but rather vibrant places where residents, families and friends gather, interact, and share heartfelt memories and experiences. Through a 50-word-story collection of vivid tales, Doris Plaster, LCSW, recounts the realities of life in a nursing home from her Social Worker perspective, and that of the caregivers and residents in 26 short vignettes, that are both poignant and thought-provoking.

Melanie Lee: Imaginary friends : 26Fables for the Kids in US: Imaginary Friends is a collection or 26 short stories in alphabetical order and is exclusively available as an e-book. Author Melanie Lee and illustrator Sheryl Khor are childhood friends who used to imagine that their stationery and water bottles had names and personalities, and would come up with adventurous plotlines for their “imaginary friends”. Inspired by such fond memories from their childhood, they decided to collaborate in producing this e-book as a legacy for their children. At first glance, Imaginary Friends may look like a typical children’s book. However, upon closer reading, you will find that its sophisticated wit and references to modern culture makes it an enjoyable read for teens and adults who are young at heart.

Pamela D Williams: A to Z Devotions for Writers : A to Z Devotions for Writers will meet the specific spiritual needs of writers. Covering each letter of the alphabet, these devotions offer pertinent scriptures, meditations focused on various aspects of the writing life, relevant prayers and “block” busting writing applications. Written to inspire, encourage, challenge, and motivate writers, A to Z Devotions for Writers will not only drive pen to paper but will apply God’s truths to writing.

Christine Rains: Fearless: Abby White was seven years old when she killed the monster under her bed. Now she slays creatures spawned by the fertile imaginations of children, and the number of these nightmares are on the rise. Neither she nor her guide – a stuffed hippo named Tawa – know why. When she rescues Demetrius from an iron prison, he pledges his life to protect hers until he can return the favor. She doesn’t want the help. And how can she concentrate on her job when the gorgeous wild fae throws himself in front of her during every fight? No matter how tempting, she can’t give in to him. To save the children and all she loves, Abby must be truly Fearless.

Rachel Morgan: A to Z of Creepy Hollow Fae: Violet, a seventeen-year-old faerie, spends every day learning how to protect humans from dangerous magical creatures. Catch a glimpse of 26 of her assignments as she battles elves, ogres, and more.

Cherie Reich: A to Z Flashes of Foxwick: In honor of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, A to Z Flashes of Foxwick​ gives a glimpse to the characters, magical creatures, and lands in the fantasy world of the Kingdom of Foxwick. A young dragon befriends a dragon seer. A phoenix bursts into flames in mid-flight. A man must choose between his simple life and one of fame. A queen will find her heart turned into ice and many more!

Angela Brown: Neverlove : For a girl born of privilege and a young man bred for status, a lack of real love had everything to do with the drastic changes of their lives. Abigail – Abused to the point of defeat, seventeen doesn’t seem a bad age to die. Surviving suicide leads her to a second chance at V’Salicus Academy to become a Cleanser, a protector of lost souls. Basil – Perfection is the key to earning his parents’ love. A slip of the tongue lands him in service to hell as the devil’s newest Harvestor, a collector of lost souls to feed his new master’s constant craving.

D Biswas: A to Z Stories of Life and Death: Twenty-six A to Z stories, based on the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, question our moral compass: How do you judge a teacher toying with the sexuality of her teenaged student? A boy who decides to murder his mother? What thoughts rage inside a pedophile serial killer before he shoots himself? They challenge the concepts of beauty, truth, and morality, by revealing the face of the other side.

That last book is mine, and continues to sell in a trickle, a fact that never ceases to surprise me. This year, like I said in my Theme reveal, I’m planning to write stories again. Not that they will necessarily lead to a book. I wrote stories in 2012 as well, but just let them hang around. We’ll see.

Now back to my question: Have you read any of the above books? Did you write a book based on the A to Z Challenge? Care to tell us about it? Can you add more books to the list..I’m sure there are AZ books I missed out. Have you taken part in the April blogging challenge before? Have you signed up for the challenge this year?

 

 

Where, according to you, are #poetry and #art born?


Hakone Open Air Museum

Where Are Art and Poetry Born?

December five years ago, this blog was almost my private domain. Not many visited, still fewer left comments.

As the festive season draws near, I’m feeling grateful to have all the love I do receive now, and to each of my 10,873 followers, a Thank You.

I went back browsing on Daily (w)rite  and found this post and I find it relevant to my life and writing today as well.

This was the essence of the post, these words by Natsume Sōseki, in the opening lines of his brilliant, and beautiful, Kusamakura:

If you grow by reason, you grow rough-edged; if you choose to dip your oar into sentiment’s stream, it will sweep you away. Demanding your own way only serves to constrain you. However you look at it, the human world is not an easy place to live.

And when its difficulties intensify, you find yourself longing to leave that world and dwell in some easier one–and then, when you understand at last that difficulties will dog you wherever you may live, this is when poetry and art are born.

Do you agree with Natsume Sōseki? Where according to you, are poetry and art born? Are pain and difficulties necessary?

Are You Ready to go on a Space Opera Adventure?


This month has seen a few authors on Daily (w)rite, and I end it with Mary Pax, awesome blog friend and a successful author publisher who writes science fiction and fantasy for her growing and mostly worshipful audience! I give you an excerpt from her book, and encourage you to check out her body of work. Take it away, Mary!

The fulfillment of a dream begins with a sincere wish followed by consistent action. Tenacity is sprinkled in heavily along the way and a will to keep moving forward. Then surround yourself with great individuals with the same dream. Keep an open heart and mind. Learn. Participate. They’ll help your wings grow strong. Thanks to Damyanti for being an integral part of my flight.

Life Beyond the Edge: Excerpt

Lepsi:  Beyond The Edge by Mary Pax

Lepsi: Beyond The Edge by Mary Pax

Lepsi raised his eyelids and watched his companions. Only one other had managed to sit, a Quatten lady as brown as Dactyl. How was Dactyl?

The stray thought did him no good. His shoulder screamed, long, piercing, shrill. It didn’t let up. An eon must have passed.

You’ll think only the thoughts I give you. You know no one, nothing.

Searing pain knocked Lepsi to the ground, tormenting him, driving the commands from his shoulder into the indelible parts of his memory. Long after the initial twinges eased, the agony gripping every muscle continued to keep him on his face,. This world’s idea of sunrise and sunset — the fog darkening then lightening again — passed twice. What had he agreed to?

Mary Pax: Beyond the Edge

Mary Pax: Beyond the Edge

Beyond the Edge: Blurb

Some truths are better left unfound.

For two years Craze’s dear friend, Lepsi, has been missing. The murmurings of a haunted spaceship might be a message and may mean his old pal isn’t dead. The possibility spurs Craze and Captain Talos to travel to uncharted worlds, searching. Out there, in an unfamiliar region of the galaxy beyond the Backworlds, they stumble upon a terrible truth.

Meanwhile, Rainly remains on Pardeep Station as acting planetlord, dealing with the discovery of her lover’s dark and brutal past. Alone and questioning her judgment, her introspection unlocks more than heartache. Latent protocols in her cybernetics activate, forcing her to face a sinister secret of her own.

In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe. This is the fourth book in the science fiction series, The Backworlds. A space opera adventure.

Amazon / AmazonUK / Nook / Smashwords / Kobo / Other Outlets

 

Mary Pax

Mary Pax

M. Pax– Inspiring the words she writes, she spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where she lives with the Husband Unit and two demanding cats. She writes science fiction and fantasy mostly. You can find out more by visiting her at: Website / FB / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest / Wattpad

Do Books and E-books Co-exist in Your Life?


I take books with me wherever I go. Who knows when I would have a few minutes on hand? Earlier these were big fat tomes, and I wouldn’t mind the weight because I was younger, my back was stronger.

But with e-books, I find I like reading on e-devices — I can still carry tomes, even multiple tomes, and my poor back is none the wiser.

E-books and Book Nostalgia

The co-existence of E-books and Paper Books

Since I read a few books in different genres at any given time, I can read paper books from the library at home, and carry the others in my e-devices. The library in Singapore is one of the best in the world, I think, in terms of service, and the stock and availability of the books it carries– so I’ll never stop reading paper books till it carries them. I can’t remember the last time I bought a paper book though.

So paper books from the library, and e-books that I buy– this how they co-exist for me. Do paper books and e-books co-exist for you? If so, how?

Vikas Swarup’s Six Suspects


Random House India sent me a bunch of books quite some time ago, but what with my novel, the A to Z Challenge  and deaths in the family, I haven’t posted many reviews. I read Six Suspects a few months ago, so my memory is a little hazy. I stuck in post-it notes though, which are now helping me remember details as I browse through the book again.

My Declared Bias: I read and write Literary stories and novels — so mysteries are not my favorite genre.

——

 Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup Random House India

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup

The blurb will tell you what the book is about: Seven years ago, Vivek ‘Vicky’ Rai, the playboy son of the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh, murdered Ruby Gill at a trendy restaurant in New Delhi simply because she refused to serve him a drink. Now Vicky Rai is dead, killed at his farmhouse at a party he had thrown to celebrate his acquittal. The police search each and every guest. Six of them are discovered with guns in their possession, each of them steaming with a secret motive.

The novel looks at these suspects in flashback, elaborating these very motives. The resulting chapters make for easy reading, though the writing is somewhat stilted.

This is from one of the suspects, a mobile thief, who has taken a job as a servant:

I too, have taken my revenge on the Bhusiyas. Mr. S. P. Bhusiya, the adulterator, for instance, has no clue that the chicken curry he has been eating at dinner time is also adulterated. I spit in it liberally before laying it on the table.”

The plot held my interest at the beginning because Swarup tells us how each of the suspects is related to the other through strange and (increasingly) implausible circumstances. He also uses the backdrop of real events that made headlines in India. But the sub-plots soon entangle themselves into a tropical jungle thick with liana, and the only way to make sense of things in the end is to hack through it, which Swarup does, without much subtlety. I had the feeling this book could lose a few plotlines, and make better sense as a story.

The characters are told, not shown, and they’re not only cardboard, but also melodramatic. Couldn’t bring myself to care for them, one way or the other.

But Six Suspects does a good job of exposing the corruption which India continues to suffer from at all levels of bureaucracy, politics, media and business. Swarup does boil a vile cauldron of these, which stinks as much and as ‘authentically’ as India’s pandemic of corruption does in reality.

The book would have done better with a good editor, who could have balanced story and plot– as it is, Swarup fails in the project he seems to have taken up: write a mystery while highlighting the problems facing Indian society.

Why you could read it: It is an ‘easy’ read once you make your peace with the quality of the prose, and if you are interested in the new, ‘shining’ India, you could do worse than read this book. Some of the voices are interesting, and a few facets of this country, especially the difference between the appearance and reality of its ‘progress,’ have emerged rather well.

Why you could give it a miss: If you like your mysteries to be plausible in their telling, this book is not for you. The plot is riddled with twists and turns, but some of the coincidences are too convenient, and they happen to stock characters with no layers or complexity.

My crib: The editing. Not only do the book’s plotlines need better handling, but also the voices. The most inauthentic, (unsurprisingly, coming from an Indian author), is the Texan forklift operator who speaks British English instead of American– using words like air hostess instead of flight attendant, and pavement instead of sidewalk.

Bottomline, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you snag it for free someplace and are interested enough in India to want to trawl through it.

What would you like to see any  changes in the  review format? Was this review helpful? Would you read this book?

 

Would You like to Follow Christine’s Odyssey?


Christine's Odyssey

Christine’s Odyssey

Joy L Campbell is launching her latest book, “Christine’s Odyssey.” I hope her book does well, because a good writer and super blog-friend like her deserves all the success she gets. Her main character, Christine, is visiting Daily (w)rite today. Take it away, Christine!

——–

Howdy. I’m glad you’ve stopped in. My name is Christine and although I’m only eleven, I’m what some adults might call precocious. A lot has happened in my life, some of it bad, but like my dad used to say, good things can result from the bad stuff that happens to us.

To help me celebrate overcoming my challenges, a great gang of authors have teamed up and will be giving away copies of their books. Sweet, yes?

Christine's Odyssey Launch

Christine’s Odyssey Launch

For a chance to win a pair of the books listed, you can do anything included on the Rafflecopter or on Facebook on this page. However, for those who’d like to win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Voucher, hop on over to the Jamaican Kid Lit Blog to enter for that.

Anyway, I tend to talk a lot, so before I carried away, here’s my story:

Raised in a hotbed of arguments and fights, eleven-year-old Christine Simms is the victim of her mother’s cruelty. A domestic dispute ends in tragedy, sending the family into a tailspin. 

A shocking discovery sends Christine on a quest to find the stranger who left her behind in Jamaica. Determined to unravel the mystery of her birth, Christine uses every tool at her disposal and treads with courage where no child should. 

Thanks so much for dropping in! I hope you win the novels of your choice. I should tell you that you get to choose books based on how the Rafflecopter does the drawing of the winners. So, if your name comes up first, you get to say which pack you want.

Available in ebook format at AmazonUS.

Joy L Campbell

Joy L Campbell

J.L. Campbell is a proud Jamaican, who is always on the hunt for story-making material. She writes romantic suspense, women’s fiction and young adult novels. She is the also the author of Contraband, Dissolution, Distraction, Don’t Get Mad…Get Even, Giving up the Dream, Retribution and Hardware (written under the pen name Jayda McTyson).

Joy is not only a fantastic writer but also an awesome blog-friend, and I wish her and this book all kinds of success! Please join the giveaway and help Christine’s Odyssey climb the charts.

Manto, and Why Indians and Pakistanis need to read him


I’ve been reading the books sent to me by Random House India, but what with life, and my novel and the A to Z Challenge preparations, I haven’t posted reviews. I read Manto about four months ago, so my memory is a little hazy. I stuck in post-it notes though, which are now helping me remember details as I read some of the stories again.

My Declared Bias: I read and write Literary, and love short stories.

——

It is possible to review some books without a mention of the context in which they were written, but it is impossible to do so with the works of Saadat Hasan Manto, a writer born in undivided India, who died in Pakistan.

Had he lived, he would have turned 100 last year, but he drank himself to death at the age of 43, eight years after the Partition that created India and Pakistan, after a series of trials where his writing was charged with obscenity. This was  one of the best periods of his work, but one of the worst in personal and financial terms.

Manto: Selected Short Stories

Manto: Selected Short Stories

As such, a lot of history and context is  (rightly, or wrongly) read into his work, and one of the simplest ways to understand this in a short span of time would be to read the introduction by Aatish Taseer, Manto’s grandson, who has translated the stories curated into this book.

Taseer has taken great care to retain the rhythm of the original Urdu in his translation, and no reader can deny the resonance of Manto’s voice that comes through. The originals might, I imagine, have a certain colloquial touch to them, like this example from the story, “My Name is Radha“, one of my favorites from this book:

The studio owner Harmzji Framji, a fat, red-cheeked bon vivant of sorts, was madly in love with a middle-aged actress who looked like a transvestite. His favourite pastime was sizing up the breasts of every newly-arrived actress. Another Muslim hooker from Calcutta’s Bow Bazaar carried on affairs simultaneously with her director, sound recordist, and scriptwriter. The point of these affairs, of course, was to ensure that all three remained in love with her.”

While this reads clunky in English, I can hear it spoken in Urdu (a language I don’t speak, and understand very little of,  but admire nevertheless) with a sort of cheekiness and a common touch, which is, imho, fairly impossible to translate.

Manto was writing at a time when a preachy morality was important in the entire sub-continent, and frank sexuality was frowned upon. So it is quite obvious why the author’s matter-of-fact emphasis on the body was interpreted by his contemporary society as lewdness.

Of course a few of his stories can strike us as sentimental, especially those playing heavily on the drama of the Partition of India (and Pakistan), because our sensibilities are used to the spareness of modern fiction.

But the irony of a stray dog in “The Dog of Tithwal” that befriends both enemy camps (Indian and Pakistani) at a border post and is subsequently shot, is not lost on the reader, nor is the pathos of a madman’s refusal (and subsequent death) in “Toba Tek Singh” when an attempt is made to ‘return’ him to his native town, which, after the Partition, no longer lay in Pakistan, but instead in India. In stories like these, Manto questions the very definitions of ‘country’, ‘borders’ and ‘sanity.’

Why you could read it: It is an easy read, and if you are interested in the Indian sub-continent and its history, you could do worse than read this book.

Why you could give it a miss: If you like your fiction to be spare and unsentimental, this book is not for you. As with most translated fiction, the beauty of the original does not fully translate into English, despite the sincerity of the translator.

My crib:

The typos strewn through the book bothered me (e.g. Pg 28- ‘smoth’  instead of ‘smooth’). The book has some instances of repeated words ( e.g. Pg. 20 “fed fed up”) and other proofreading howlers. If they come up with another edition, they need a better proofreader who would do justice to such an important writer of the Indian sub-continent.

—–

Saadat Hasan Manto

Saadat Hasan Manto

I enjoyed this book, and if you happen to pick it up, the least you should do is read the introduction, which is a modern piece of extremely educational writing, and no less poignant for it. You would not be disappointed, I promise you that.

After I read up on Manto, I realized that he has been marginalized in India, to the extent that I had never heard of him growing up, or even as an adult, and had not read him before this book.

All Indian and Pakistani readers deserve to read more of this writer, because the issues that informed Manto’s work continue to be relevant in the society and politics of both these countries.

It is a shame that this author is not better known in India, and kudos to Random House in attempting to change that.

Only, the next time, I wish they would hire a proofreader worth their time.

What would you like to see any  changes in the  review format? Was this review helpful? Would you read this book?

 

Desperate in Dubai


Desperate in Dubai

Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati

I’ve been reading the books sent to me by Random House India (Desperate in Dubai being one of them), but what with the December hiatus and things that kept me worked up and worked out in January, I haven’t posted reviews.

I read Desperate in Dubai about two months ago, so my memory is a little hazy. I stuck in post-it notes though, which are now helping me remember details. You can read an excerpt here.

My Declared Bias: I read and write Literary, and only occasionally read Chick Lit. Since Desperate in Dubai is a sort of cross between chick lit and women’s contemporary writing, that might influence my view of it a little.

——

This is the story of four women and their somewhat interconnected lives. Lady Luxe, a Dubai heiress; Leila, an opportunistic social climber; Nadia, a betrayed wife, and Sugar, a victim of tragic circumstances.

Of these, the most interesting is definitely Lady Luxe, who leads a double life, one as burkha-clad traditional daughter of the family; and the other as a hedonist, no stranger to alcohol, men, and high jinks. Her voice is also the most powerful.

The slightly grey character of Leila is also well-sketched with the right amount of details:

Fully aware that a designer ensemble compared to an ordinary outfit is like the difference between Nobu and a filet-o-fish burger at McDonald’s, she unconsciously tugs at her Top-Shop leopard print boob tube dress and runs her fingers through her big blonde hair.

Though, imho, the writing could be better. Does the author mean ‘self-consciously’? Do we need that adverb at all? The author is already showing Leila’s state of mind through the action: ‘tugs at her Top-Shop leopard print boob tube dress and runs her fingers through her big blonde hair.’

In the very next para the author moves into Lady Luxe’s head, which leads to a series of head-hopping passages that could be avoided. Either stick to 3rd person, or omniscient point-of-view, can’t have both. It confuses readers and make them dizzy. (Hope it wasn’t just me.)

Sugar and Nadia, despite their tragic situations, failed to elicit any empathy,  perhaps because of their tired story-lines (which the author has tried to enliven through interconnection). It could also be because I’m a major fan of ‘voice’ and both of these ladies lacked luster.

Why you could read it: It is an easy read, and if you’re fascinated by the Middle East and its culture, the nuances of contemporary life, and the status of women, this might be a fascinating read. This may not be representative of the entire Arab world, but it is a good glimpse.

Why you could give it a miss: I imagine women finding this book interesting, but most men I know steer clear of contemporary women’s writing. And Chick lit. Just saying.

My cribs:

1. The head-hopping annoyed me. The whole book could easily have been edited to avoid this.

2. I didn’t like the use of pseudonyms for Lady Luxe and Sugar, seemed like a deliberate ploy to maintain surprises/ twists. Unnecessary.

3. For a book with feminist undertones/ overtones — the ending disappointed me. Without giving any spoilers, all I can say is that the ending for each character’s story is where I found a conflict between a chick-lit and women’s contemporary writing. The genre-blending did not work at this point.

To sum it up, this book is good as an in-flight read, or if you’re in the mood for light reading. I enjoyed the glimpses into Dubai society, and duly hated all the men as I was meant to — excellent portrait of a patriarchal setup. The only truly sympathetic man in the whole book is Lady Luxe’s step-brother.

Overall, this is an auspicious debut, with excellent premise. I only hope the author finds herself a better editor for her next book.

———-

My second review here is just as unvarnished as the first, but I realized I was also reading like a writer, and not merely a reader.  As a result, I’m not sure the review format worked.

What would you like to see changed in the format? Was this review helpful?

  Inspired by the fascinating lives of the women who dominated the glamorous city, Ameera Al Hakawati put pen to paper and created Desperate in Dubai, a blog that soon became an internet sensation among the expatriate community in Dubai. Desperate in Dubai is Ameera’s first novel published by Random House India. You can buy the book here.

Lion and Panther in London


Aerogrammes by Tania James
Source: Random House India

In recent weeks, I’ve been talking about books sent to me by Random House India, for review on Daily (w)rite.

Today, I’ll talk about  Aerogrammes and Other Stories, by Tania James. As I said in my earlier posts, this would be my entirely subjective take.

My Declared Bias: I read and write Literary, and I love short stories.

——

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you I didn’t read this collection at a go. Not because I couldn’t make the time, but because of two things:

1. The stories are all set in different (real) worlds, and each so transports you to its setting, you don’t immediately feel like entering another one.

2. The stories are rather sad (poignantly so), and I could only take so much of it each time.

The first story, a retelling of the history of India’s Gama pehelwan was so steeped in a kind of honor and strength and courage that we don’t see any more, that it made me tear up at times. The second one, a story set in Sierra Leone and the US, of how a chimpanzee completes a human family, had me thinking about Bruno Littlemore. I wish this one were a book of its own, because it felt like a novel cramped in the body of a short story.

My absolute favorite was “The Gulf”, told from the point-of-view of a little girl, not just for subtext between a child and adult world (something James does very well in the other stories like “Ethnic Ken”, a story of a girl’s love for the Ken from Barbie dolls, and how she outgrows it) but also because of the writing:

“After my mother leaves, my father puts his elbows on his knees and leans forward, his eyes closed. I wonder if he is dozing off. The song in the radio softens and slows, at which point my father takes an imaginary violin in his left arm, pointing it downward, and tilts his chin against it. He draws his invisible bow along with the single, smooth note from the radio’s violin, his face perfectly still, as if listening for his own pulse. The slipper with the exposed toe begins to tap against the orange carpet. The melody gathers force, and he dives into his performance, elbowing the air, rocking back and forth as he inscribes the space between us with song. The music climbs inside his body, takes possession of him like a long charge of electricity.”

James, like Jhumpa Lahiri, talks of the immigrant experience, but her assessment is less clinical, more given to emotion, in stories like “Light and Luminous” where a talented, middle-aged Indian dance teacher falls prey to the very thing she’s fought all her life, the temptation to bleach her dark skin, or a delusional old man who thinks his grand-daughter is his wife reincarnated, and wonders “Why am I here?”

I smiled at James’ tart commentary on contemporary life (in America):

“The most popular magazines at Foodfest are the ones that offer help. The experts grin from every corner, beaming with the relief that anyone can drop fifty pounds or build their own patio or achieve a positive outlook.”

Why you could read it: If you like literary stories, by the likes of Jhumpa Lahiri or Yiyun Li, you’ll love it. If you read more genre than literary, this book could be a good bridge: some of the stories have an other-worldly quality to them, and unlike most literary stories, satisfy the reader who wants to know ‘what happened in the end’.

Why you might avoid it: This isn’t light reading, so pick it up if you want to be entertained, but be prepared to be moved to sadness at the same time.

My cribs: My only crib was the the juxtaposition of the stories: “Girl Marries Ghost” felt like the weakest , added in as an afterthought at the end. It did not come across as subtle and spare as the rest of them. Personally, I liked “Lion and Panther in London” better than “Aerogrammes”, for its combination of humor, irony and pathos, and thought it might have made a better title story.

Over all, I enjoyed the book, and though I took my time reading this collection, it felt like time well-spent.

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I played this first review by ear, giving you my unvarnished thoughts as a reader, and letting the format emerge on its own . What would you like to see changed in the format? Was this review helpful?