Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Well the first “pick my book” event is finally over now that I’ve finished the book and am reviewing it. Overall, there are some things I would’ve done differently: make the voting easier (with a poll instead of in the comments) and maybe picking books that were better known. But oh well. It was fun having complete strangers pick my next book and I’m sure I’ll do this again soon.
And now on to the review:
It’s very simple: she’s a very good writer. She knows what she’s doing and you can tell she put a lot of work (or just straight talent) into these stories. The interesting thing is that, whenever a writer keeps writing about the same thing over and over again (like Lahiri does with India and the immigrant experience of Indians), I get very annoyed. I typically say, “OK, I get it. You can write about that, but why not show us you can write about something else? Change it up.”
And yet I never felt that way about these stories. Especially “A Temporary Matter,” “Interpreter of Maladies,” and “The Third and Final Continent” —my favorite stories. She has the whole ambiguity/mystery part of writing down pat. She never tells us too much and she doesn’t leave us hanging—it’s a delicate balance and she does it well.
One of my favorite things about these stories is how true they feel and how real their voices are. These are real characters with real feelings and real ideas. They aren’t clichés or shallow. She has really fleshed them out and I would love to hear the process behind her writing to see how long it took her to get them this well developed.
Anyway, I could go on and on about this book. If you pop into a book store, just pick it up and read “A Temporary Matter,” you’ll probably end up walking out with it afterwards.
I’m also excited because I recently found out she released another short-story book in April called Unaccustomed Earth, which is also made up of stories. So I’m definitely going to check that out.
For those of you that are curious, I’m currently reading the O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 and the reason I’m going through so many short stories is to follow my own advice. After every story I finish I find out where it first came out in (what literary journal or magazine) and jot down some quick notes about what I liked and what kind of vibe I got from it. This way, in time, I’ll end up with a personalized little database of publications and I’ll be able to tell if a story I’ve written is a good fit or not. Kind of like this but much more personalized, which is great.
Stay tuned for the next “Make me read” segment!