Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

East of the Tolly Club, after Deshapran Sashmal Road splits in two, there is a small mosque.

Setting. As sweet as this sounds, it's not much more than travel agent copy cranked out for commercials. The only thing it has going for it, is that it sets the mood, but as important as that it, this sentence needs to reveal more.

A turn leads to a quiet enclave. A warren of narrow lanes and modest middle-class homes. 

Mood and setting. It really does sound like this writer used to write travel guides. What follows is weather and the general tribulation it causes for the unseen expandable masses that one assumes populate the novel. Thus, we have a description of the lowland. Some characters are introduced living the best they can, and the story transforms from a travel guide excerpt into a National Geographic documentary.

Oh, and my copy of the book has no quotation marks to separate dialogue. I find this annoying. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but it looks pretentious, like work from those limp poets who used to write "i" instead of "I". Or are they just cutting back on ink to save a few sperm whales?

So, in the final analysis, this reeks of artsy-fartsy - a vocab tease. A moody celebration of quaint imagery; a prerequisite to any prestigious book award nomination. Therefore for this literary genre and the readers who enjoy it, this opening is effective.If there's no swearing in this, it might end up in school curriculum, turning yet another future generation of young teenagers off of reading, forcing them to take refuge in computer games and TV reality shows.

What else is there to say...

Verdict: Fail. 

Rudy Globird

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