Saturday, June 12, 2010

Redux #30 - "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri

It has been an awfully long time since I last finished a book. Interpreter of Maladies (1999) by Jhumpa Lahiri has taken me weeks and weeks to finish, even though it's a pretty quick read. I am enjoying my new EMT-Basic class very much, but between working full-time and trying to keep up with that class, I'm barely finding enough time to sleep and work out, so unfortunately reading for pleasure has fallen by the wayside.

I've seen The Namesake--the movie--based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. I've also read Lahiri's other book of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, which I enjoyed so much I knew I'd have to read Interpreter of Maladies as well. Interpreter of Maladies consists of nine short stories, all of them dealing with the intersection between American and Indian lives and culture.

I often have trouble connecting with the storyline or characters in short stories because there's not enough time to really get to know and empathize with the characters before the story ends. I do not have that problem with Jhumpa Lahiri's works. I don't know how she does it, but she is an amazing writer. I start reading, and I understand and feel strongly for her characters almost immediately. This might sound weird, but the power of her writing reminds me of Cormac McCarthy. She writes clear, concise sentences with no melodrama, yet I find myself so emotionally drawn in that these stories instill their melancholies and sadness inside me before I even realize what's happening. Cormac McCarthy often has the same effect on me, although the content of his stories are drastically different, taking place in worlds of violence that I will never know. Lahiri, on the other hand, keeps to more quiet, intimate stories of relationships and family tragedies that we can all relate to. Her themes of isolation, displacement, and loneliness are strong and weave through each of her stories.

I still have a lot of reading to do for class, so I need to keep this short, but I also feel like there isn't much more to say. Jhumpa Lahiri is an amazing and affecting writer. I look forward to reading the next book she publishes.
I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination. (198)

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