Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Interpreter of Maladies

            Have I harped on the beauty of a good short story collection enough? When I read Tenth of December, I thought I’d found *the one*. When I stumbled upon the brilliant Best American Short Stories 2013, I started having an affair with the series. Ever since, I’ve been like
            For real, well-written short stories are great for the soul. The good ones strike the perfect pace-- drawing readers in to efficiently evoke emotion. Every word counts, because space is limited. Plus, it’s a very practical form; short stories are there for you when you don’t have much time and they’re ideal book bait for self-proclaimed non-readers. 

            Interpreter of Maladies* is a short story collection written by Jhumpa Lahiri that won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It consists of nine stories that all involve Indians or Indian Americans. More often than not, characters cope with displacement. The characters must navigate the cultural ramifications of existing outside of a familiar space. They explore their identities through their relationships with others as well as their connections to their homeland.

            Considering the fact that the general subject matter remains the same for all, each piece has an impressively distinctive voice. The tone is usually somber, but instead of overwhelming readers with the sadness of the plot, Lahiri reminds us of the human being behind the experiences. Even if things don’t go their way, characters find a way to endure the pain. Thus, Lahiri has created more than just a geographical understanding of Indian immigration. She has drawn an emotional map of how to steer through traumatic terrain and reconcile your roots with newness.

            I enjoyed some stories in the collection more than others, but every piece interested me in its own right. The Pulitzer Prize peeps got it right this time (see these older reviews of Pulitzer-winning works, some of which are phenomenal while others disappoint): All the Light We Cannot See, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Middlesex, Beloved, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Old Man and the Sea. Additionally: Your Movie Sucks, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, not Fiction, duh). Interpreter of Maladies receives 4 out of 5 camel humps.

*Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. Print.

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