Tag Archives: Literary Ficiton

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Title: Interior Chinatown
Author: Charles Yu
Publisher: Pantheon
ISBN: 978-0307907196
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I thought the book was exhausting when I first began to read it, till I reached about forty pages and started enjoying it thoroughly. This is somewhat my relationship with the other two books written by Yu as well. The start is rocky, till I make some headway, and before I know it, I am in love with what he has to say about the world he builds, and connects it with the world we live in.

Interior Chinatown is a deeply emotional book about race, identity, pop culture, and what roles we are forced to play in society, because of where we come from. Willis Wu is not the protagonist of his own life. He is always, even to himself, the Generic Asian Man. He is an actor. Sometimes he gets to play the Background Oriental Making a Weird Face, and sometimes just an Asian guy, but never the protagonist. Never the Kung Fu Guy which he longs to be. Willis lives in a Chinatown SRO (Standing Room Only) and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where a cop show titled Black and White (how apt and ironic as well) is perpetually in production. He is a sidekick or an extra in that show and just wants to do more. We only see his mother who has long separated from his father, being the only one who believes in him.

Charles Yu’s story is for our times, and also set in our times. Yet it somehow seems like it also has elements of the fantastical – of the novel being written like one big script (which works wonderfully for the book), and also of the show being in constant production took me some time to get a hang of the novel, but every minute of turning the page was worth it.

Yu speaks from a place of knowing. Every sentence is in place because of that, which most instantly connects with the reader. The stereotypes are so on-point that as a reader I was screaming with anger and yet understood where the writer and the characters were coming from. Interior Chinatown is a book that needs to be read and understood by everyone. It speaks of such a great need to fit in, to be someone bigger than what the world thinks you were meant to be, and above all of an aspiration and desire to humanize oneself all over again.

The Book of Destruction by Anand

Title: The Book of Destruction
Author: Anand
Translated from the Malayalam by Chetana Sachidanandan
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0143068464
Genre: Literary fiction, Translated fiction
Pages: 242
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

“The Book of Destruction” by Anand isn’t an easy book to read. I am forewarning you because it is the truth. At the same time, you must read this book according to me, even if it means slaving through the first couple of pages (actually it is a slave-through after the first couple of pages) but do persist and then you will know why you will fall in love with this piece of work.

Anand’s book is about thugs and hashashins (assassins as called in Persian), it is about destruction and murder – right from the medieval times to the world we live in. The book is a three-story episodic narrative – all of them centered on one narrator and a man named Seshadri, with whom it all begins. In one, the narrator knows of the book of destruction and also the fact that he has been selected to kill – in the second a discotheque is bombed and in the third there is a staged orgy to which the narrator is led.

“The Book of Destruction” is essentially on the nature of murder and what drives a human being to kill (very little as a matter of fact). At the same time, I also thought the book was rambling endlessly and out of hand at sometimes, which could’ve easily been cut out. Having said that, Anand’s research is point on and only makes you want to know more about people who exist in the shadows.

Chetana’s translation is spot on and makes you wonder what the original would have read like. I think it happened to me more in case of this book because of its density and detailing. I absolutely enjoyed “The Book of Destruction” and if you are remotely interested in violence in literature, then this is the book for you.

Book Review: The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom

Title: The Paperbark Shoe
Author: Goldie Goldbloom
Publisher: Picador Books
ISBN: 978-0312674502
Genre: Literary Fiction
PP: 384 pages
Price: $15.00
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Set in Australia during World War II, “The Paperbark Shoe” is ostensibly the story of Gin Boyle Toad, an Albino woman, who has married beneath her social class in order to escape being institutionalized for life. Although a trained classical pianist and a member of the moneyed class, Gin is an outsider because of her pigmentation. Her husband, Mr. Adolphus Toad, is a crude farmer of short stature who has some unusual proclivities; his size and oddities place him outside conventional society. Antonio and John, two Italian prisoners-of-war, are participants in a worker program designed to aid Australian farmers. Outsiders because of their nationality and because they are the enemy, the two integrate their lives into those of the Boyle household. Yet, they are never fully accepted as part of the family unit and remain aware of their outsider status. As outside observers, the two surviving Boyle children, Mudsey and Alf, are affected by and comment on the adults’ interactions.

Goldbloom’s command of language is extraordinary. In relating his story, she is able to make the reader empathize with even the despicable Toad. Goldbloom’s description of the things Gin has learned since coming to Wyalkatchem, page 35 in the ARC, is a powerful testament to the strength required to survive in the harsh Australian ranchlands. One can feel the pride Gin takes in her accomplishments, though that pride is tinged with despair. Even as Toad and John, and Gin and Antonio establish relationships, they remain outside the conventions of polite society. Goldbloom draws the reader into those relationships, their joys and their sorrows.

This novel flows smoothly from beginning until it reaches its final chapter. Only there do the scenario and plot seem to become disjointed from that of the main text. It is almost as if the chapter had been written at another time and tacked onto the book’s end. While it is a powerful text, in and of itself, I do not think the book would have suffered without the inclusion of that final chapter. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful novel and richly deserves a five-star rating. If you are looking for an interesting, character driven book which will keep your attention from beginning to end, I urge you to read Goldie Goldbloom’s “The Paperbark Shoe.”