Interpreter of Maladies: Finished

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Interpreter of Maladies: Finished

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1reading_fox
mar 8, 2017, 6:56am

9 stories, quickly read. Nothing happens to anybody. Pretty writing, but there's no point to it. No action, no drama, no relevance. Full review here which I'm happy to discuss if anyone has questions.

2Rascalstar
mar 8, 2017, 12:42pm

I also finished it and thoroughly enjoyed the stories. They are about everyday life. I loved The Treatment of Bibi Haldar. It's memorable.

3mstrust
mar 8, 2017, 2:11pm

I've finished and liked this collection, giving it four stars. I see the themes of loss, isolation, the feeling that you don't really know the person you're closest to. I enjoyed the writing. It would have been nice to have had a little humor here and there, but each story quickly engaged me.

4reading_fox
mar 9, 2017, 4:22am

>2 Rascalstar: "They are about everyday life."

as it might have been in the author's imagination 50 years ago.

I enjoy stories about everyday life, there are always things you can learn/appreciate from them, even if it's just how different other people's lives are. But I already know my life is unlike anything from 50 years ago, so I didn't get anything from this.

5cindydavid4
mar 15, 2017, 12:59pm

I don't understand - these stories weren't happening 50 years ago, they were happening today.....but ok, ymmv

6lorannen
mar 15, 2017, 1:07pm

>5 cindydavid4: Some of them get even more specific than that, and are close to 50 years ago. I believe Interpreter of Maladies (the titular story) was set in the 1970s. The book was published in 1999, though, and most if not all of the rest do seem to be set at that time.

7pbirch01
mar 15, 2017, 7:59pm

I wrote a recommendation for this but I recently finished The Refugees which has very similar themes but focuses on Vietnamese immigrating to Southern California where I feel this focuses mostly on the Boston area. I enjoyed both and they both offer a good perspective of life as an immigrant and the issues they face that are both similar and different to the issues faced by non-immigrants.

8reading_fox
mar 16, 2017, 5:52am

Wiki - 1971 for the creation of Bangladesh. The only theme consistent throughout the stories is the impact that this has had on people's lives. Sometimes directly at that time, and a few a little bit later - unclear how much later, but probably not 25 years everybody in the book had been alive at that time. So at best the stories are all 20 years out of date for "everyday matters".

9pbirch01
mar 18, 2017, 1:25pm

I recently listened to an interview with her and Tyler Cowen, professor and co-author of the blog Marginal Revolution, which covered many of the themes of translation and interpretation mentioned in the book: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/01/conversation-jhumpa-lah...

10jennybhatt
mar 20, 2017, 12:24am

I shared this quote (on another thread) from Lahiri from the time when this book came out: "When I first started writing, I was not conscious that my subject was the Indian-American experience. What drew me to my craft was the desire to force the two worlds I occupied to mingle on the page as I was not brave enough, or mature enough, to allow in life."

Of all the Indian-American writing out there, I rarely ever recommend Lahiri to other readers. I think she's a writer's writer with her techniques and writing style. And, yes, her stories here did not explore any groundbreaking themes. But, as a writer, she went deeper into some of her themes than many others do.

For me, she straddles the first wave of Indian-American women writers (Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, et al) and the second wave (Nina McConigley, Jade Sharma, et al). She came along when readers were getting a bit tired of the first wave writers for simply writing about the same things: arranged marriages, immigration, assimilation, etc. So there was a gap and she fit that somehow at the time for those of us who needed to read about people like us.

This second wave, though, is writing about other issues. They're not so fixated on arranged marriages and immigrant assimilation. They're writing about somewhat more universal themes like: personal agency, sexual identity, religion, etc. It's not that the first wave writers ignored these issues, it's just that they did not put them front and center like these second wave writers are doing. And it's also not as if the second wave writers are ignoring the issues of marriage and assimilation but they're not making them the main themes or, if they are, they're exploring them differently.

So, to me, that's the major difference. It's not about stories that were valid 50 years ago and are not now. For me, the stories haven't changed that much. The lens/perspectives through which they are being explored, and the language that is being used to do so -- these have definitely evolved. As, of course, they should.

11lorannen
mar 22, 2017, 12:00pm

If you've been reading along on-schedule, you should be all finished by today! What are your thoughts on finishing the book? Did it make you eager to read more of Lahiri's work?

12jennybhatt
mar 23, 2017, 7:33am

When I read this book shortly after it came out, I was drawn because of all the hype. I'm not saying I was entirely disappointed because, at the time, Lahiri's writing style and her particular stories were very new within the Indian-American literary experience. I did go on to buy and read almost all her fictional work (except for The Namesake). And I have enjoyed the books. But, looking back, I have found rather a sameness to them all. And I am discovering other Indian-American writers who are more interesting because they're tackling larger or different themes. Their literary idols are not so much Alice Munro or William Trevor (both of whom I love, by the way) but Junot Diaz and Zadie Smith (both of whom I also love) and slam poetry and Bollywood music.

So, I think that what Lahiri has done, first of all, is bring a greater/wider readership and awareness of the Indian-American experience through her writing. As I wrote in an earlier comment, she filled a gap that had begun to develop after that first wave of Indian-American writers. I am hoping that those who have enjoyed her work will try some of the other Indian-American writers too. There are so many different stories being told in so many new, exciting ways.