Oceana2602's Reviews > A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta

A Dead Hand by Paul Theroux
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Sep 24, 12

bookshelves: 2012, crime, english, male-writers
Read from September 16 to 22, 2012

AKA "A Dead Hand: Paul Theroux does Ayurveda"


Oh, I missed Paul Theroux. And here he is writing about India again, writing about a writer again, and wham, my completely inappropriate HUGE crush on Theroux is back.

I never ever had that feeling about another writer. Seriously. Reading this book felt like meeting with an old friend. Not an old lover (I wish), because you realized too late that this was someone you could love, so you never actually tried. So now, whenever you meet, you get that pleasant buzz of meeting someone who you would have had an affair with under different circumstances (okay, in this case it's more a case of someone who you'd havy happily married and had tons of little writer kids with to watch grow up, hoping that none of them would end up writing graphic novels, and well, you know, true love and everything.)

But stop, that's not what happens. What happens is that nothing ever happened, and you meet from time to time and you get excited, happy, this completely gleeful happiness that comes from deep down in your belly, when you notice after the first few pages that indeed, the author you are reading is still as brillant as you remember him and also so very much Paul Theroux, and OMG DID I MENTION THAT I LOVE PAUL THEROUX?

At this point, you must have gotten the impression that "A Dead Hand" is the most brillant book ever. Sadly, it isn't. I mean, it's good (and I will tell you about this later), but I think what I loved most about it is that feeling I was trying to describe above - this feeling of recognition. It's just so...Paul Theroux. He is the only writer who I recognize by his writing style. And recognizing that I did made me feel all giddy with anticipation for the book I was reading.

Which doesn't even start all that exciting. It starts with a letter (classic, but certainly not new), a letter send by an American woman living in India to a writer who happens to be in Calcutta with nothing else to do than to meet with her and to listen to her story about a dead body which suddenly appeared in a hotel room, wrapped in a carpet. The writer gets caught up in the story and in the woman (here's where the Ayurveda comes in), and the way he is drawn into that world, the feelings, the taste, the chaos and the people - you can almost taste India in Theroux's writing.

Yet again Theroux uses a writer as his protagonist. This time though, he makes it very clear that this writer is not him, by having his protagonist meet himself, meet Paul Theroux.

That scene is noticeable not only because of its very metaness, even for Theroux, but also because it is such a noticeable break in the story - which I almost wouldn't have noticed if it wasn't for the repetition of [a word that I would happily look up if I had the copy of the book here, but trust me, there was repetition].

Which makes me wonder all kind of things: Did he do that on purpose? Did he want us to notice? Also, is my head going to break if I think anymore about what it says about Theroux that he describes himself the way he does through the eyes of a character he writes knowing that we will wonder what it says about himself therefore being able to change his description accordingly which of course he cannot do because it's still Paul Theroux writing about Paul Theroux and yes, I think my head is breaking.

Quite possibly I wasn't meant to wonder about this as much as I did.

Anyway, there's a meeting, and it's a turning point in the story, intentional or not, because after the meeting (albeit without any help from Paul Theroux), our protagonist's feelings about the Amercian woman slowly being to change and the story about the dead hand slowly begins to unfold.

I won't give away the ending, but it's good. It's not unexpected, far from it, I predicted something like that almost immediately. But then, this is not a crime story. It's a story about a crime in Calcutta. And it's probably my favourite book this year - for purely personal reasons (as shown at length and in incoherency above).

Read and enjoy, my fellow Theroux-fans! (who are out there somewhere. I think.)


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message 1: by Lori (new)

Lori Calderone funny. Wham, I too have a huge crush on Paul Theroux. Love everything he writes and his self-aware efforts to understand himself as a writer. Love Paul Theroux and can never wait to get back to reading him (but we must read others....)...


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