Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Namesake - a few comments

Just finished Jhumpa Lahiri's Namesake, the story of a child of Indian immigrants in the US, who is named after the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. Gogol goes through his childhood embarassed at having an anamolous name that no one can relate to, except for a literary type in school. But delving deeper into the context, the author examines the issue of parsing identity within a name, an individual's struggle to fit in, to grow comfortable with the Indianism of his parents, and the Americanism outside. Later in life, he meets another of his own clan, who knows and relates to his childhood yearnings and who, he falls in love with.
But the plot aside, its the words that fall in, one by one, as Lahiri constructs complex sentences, observing and feeling the characters, as well as moving the story along. Dialogue in the book is sparse, a mere focusing in on one scene, as if with a microscope, and when done, going back to her story-teller's voice. And it is this narrative voice of this author that stands out.
While Monica Ali in A Brick Lane is methodical in her language and choice of words, precise and faultless in her narration; And Mohsin Hamid takes a complete minimalist approach to prose in MothSmoke; Jhumpa's writing seems woven, into intricate patterns that color the mood and set the pace at the same time.
If you haven't figured it out by now, the book is a big big recommendation to everyone. Meanwhile, I am taking a break from fiction this week to go through two books, The Essential Rumi, 2004 Edition by Coleman Barks(thats for the bedside), and The Cancer stage of Capitalism by John McMurtry (for the subway ride and the rest). Although the later seems to have a very cliche title, the author does a fine work of introducing us to the current stage of political science, physication of economics and followership of the market(s) as the all encompassing paradigm of the world since the 70s- and all this in just the first chapter. Should be fun!

PS: My amazon.com links don't come out right, so you have to go to amazon or do a search to see other reviews of the books I mention. I hope I can sort it out with a favorite-books type plug-in for blogs. I have come across one, and will try to see if it works. Any suggestions?