11 June 2009

The Middleman and Other Stories, by Bharati Mukherjee

I've been wanting to read something of Mukherjee's ever since I read Days and Nights in Calcutta, a book she and her husband wrote together about a year they spent living in Calcutta. it was an interesting book - while I found a lot of his portion obnoxious, albeit with some interesting observations, I really enjoyed her writing and wanted to find some of her fiction. So when I saw this collection on sale for $5 at a book fair, I figured the time had come. As with many short story collections, it's a mixed bag - some of the stories are really wonderful, some are so-so, and a couple are disappointing. 

The book's schtick, if you will, is that all of the stories are about immigrants. I suppose one could find this mildly problematic or objectionable, but it's a fact of fiction that authors make people up, and there's really no reason why they can't imagine the inner world of people from different countries. So relax. At the same time, the fact is, some of the portrayals are just a lot more convincing than others. Mukherjee is best at describing women who are - from what I know of her, based on her other book - rather more similar to herself. When she tries to write from a male perspective, for instance, it's noticeably less realistic. Though there was one really lovely story that featured an American guy, called Fighting for the Rebound, that I quite liked. Actually, it was probably the best of the bunch. 

So overall, yeah, it's not an amazing book. But I have faith that she could potentially write something really phenomenal, so I'll probably read another book of hers someday. She's written several, so if anyone can recommend the best one to check out, please, leave a comment.


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