So maybe three weeks ago, I finished George Eliot’s Middlemarch and then last week I finished the third in Mary Stewart’s Merlin/King Arthur series, The Last Enchantment. They have now been moved from my page “Reading Present” to their rightful place on “Reading Past.” It’s hard to describe the little bit of closure I get when I move books from “Present” to “Past.” It makes me feel like I’m actually making some sort of progress with my reading. So I got that going for me, which is nice (obscure Caddyshack reference).
I also finished up Jhumpa Lahiri’s follow-up collection to her first Pulitzer prize-winning one, Unaccustomed Earth, which means I’ve now read everything by her. I can’t say that about any other writer.
It’s broken up into two parts, the second part containing three linked stories. I’d read almost all of the first part a month or so ago and over the last few days, quickly read through the linked stories. Separately, they were good stories, mostly exposition (as were most of her stories), which is still surprising since in workshop, a mostly expositional story would get mostly torched. But it wasn’t until I finished the third one, that their greatness hit me, hard. It was like I had just a read novel of these characters lives because I felt so in touch with their situation as it had progressed over the years. And yet, in most other ways it didn’t feel like a novel. Though I wonder if what I felt is what other people feel after reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (yet another book I need to read).
So I heartily recommend Lahiri’s collection, though I still don’t think it’s as good as her first collection, Interpreter of Maladies.
The stories resonated deeply with me, and in my opinion, the first story, “A Temporary Matter,” might be one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. That collection follows the lives of vastly different people, while this latest collection seemed unable to leave children of Indian immigrants who grew up and/or were born in the Boston area and who pursued a PhD and either earned it or dropped out just before earning it. In her first collection, she followed not only the well-educated immigrant children but also an older taxi cab drivers in Bengal and a woman who works a non-descript desk job, and a destitute, seemingly disturbed woman and others who didn’t fit in almost-the-same mold. Although I suppose with Unaccustomed Earth, she thoroughly investigates people of this socio-economic class and heritage. I just wonder if she can away with more PhD’s in future collections.
I do, however, still admire her ability to write from the male perspective. To be able to inhabit both sexes equally well is a gift. With that, back to my writing.