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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
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Jun 25, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: short-stories
Read from June 23 to 30, 2010 , read count: 1

Much, much better than Unaccustomed Earth. But, she just can't write! I was relieved that these stories aren't as bloated (but by no means compact), and that they seem to go somewhere. Still, I had to take a lot of breaks and found my mind wandering often.

These stories, unlike those of Unaccustomed Earth, mostly have shape, and plot (except "A Temporary Matter," "The Third and Final Continent," and "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine.").

But it's the prose--the prose I hear so much about!--that sucks. "She was continuously distracted." (p. 120) Is that even possible? Don't you have to be focused first in order to be distracted? Maybe she was continually distracted, but not continuously.

p. 161: "Her soliloquies mawkish, her sentiments maudlin, malaise dripped like a fever from her pores." That sentence would get crossed out in red pen in Freshman English. Also p. 161: "Our children clung to the banisters and witnessed her paroxysm; our servants were sent to summon her cousin." Are you noticing a pattern? Trying to sound smart and failing (like a Freshman in English).

These are the kind of Stephenie Meyer-like stupidities than fill Lahiri's body of work--not fully knowing what words mean, using commas when semicolons are needed, etc. Very frustrating.

Also, I find, as someone related to an epileptic, "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar" extremely offensive. The cure for epilepsy is not, as my friend Paul would put it, "Vitamin D." Is this story supposed to be funny?

I've been looking for negative reviews of her books, and I have yet to find one. All of them rave. This book won the Pulitzer Prize. I just don't get it. It seems there is quite a market for "I'm so Ethnic" writing--it's no coincidence that Amy Tan is the first quote on the back of the book. There's a whole industry of "quirky non-WASP" writers--Junot Diaz, Maxine Hong Kingston, Edwidge Danticat, Margaret Walker, and so on. You just have to "have a unique view of America" and you're a good writer. But, sorry, Lahiri says nothing to me about my life. You can usually tell who these writers are when, in interviews, the questions are usually about their parents' "struggle," and so on. Their great theme is "ambivalence" about being American. Is it any coincidence that all of these writers are associated with the political Left?

And Lahiri is the most annoying of them because, rather than Diaz's or Danticat's misery-porn, she writes about what my friend Jane calls "white problems." Remember the character in Unaccustomed Earth "restless on the board of Harvard Medical?" Lahiri has her cake and eats it too. Fuck you.

I will say, though, that she is the best looking writer I've ever seen.
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