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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sharma's story in current New Yorker - or is it, I hope, the start of a novel?

Not sure what to say about Akhil Sharma's story, A Life of Adventure and Delight, in current NYer except to say that I hoe it's a selection from a longer work because it ends with no resolution, with uncertainty and puzzlement, a bitter aftertaste. Sharma - who, if memory serves, debuted his fine first novel, FAmily Life,with a NYer story that captured the dramatic highlight (diving accident) of the narrative - this time sketches in the life of his central character, an NYU chem grad student from India but without a central, pivotal dramatic moment. We meet the protag as he is arrested and hauled away in a police van - of course I was thinking terrorism? narcotics? - but it turns out to be a bust of men hiring prostitutes from various websites. The protag is ashamed and embarrassed, completes his brief public service, resolves to no longer hire prostitutes - it's worth noting that he's mean and thoughtless to these women, insulting their looks to bargain down the price, sometimes calling to "order" services and then disappearing. Nice guy, huh? He determines to meet an eligible Indian woman and settles on a sweet young colleague, goes through a long courtship, things seem to be going well, although he feels awkward - being in love, becoming engaged, requires a lot of commitment and mental energy, and he seems not up to it - then when he tells his family in India of the engagement, they get really angry - it's a dowry issue, they could have negotiated a good price with the bride's parents but he's ruined everything by taking this on himself. It looks, maybe, as if we're heading toward Lahiri-land, educated Indians breaking with their relatives back home as the adjust to the American way of life and marriage - but then for some weird reason the protag hires another prostitute, and this one - unlike all of his previous encounters - he finds to be attractive and compliant. Story ends with him happily caressing her breasts as she, on his request, jumps up and down. I have no idea what to make of this man; I don't like him at all - but despite that or because of that I hope Sharma, a fine writer, there's no question about that, gives him a chance at redemption.

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