Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Suitable Heavyweight

The New York Times carried a story the other day about Paul Anderson's debut novel Hunger's Brides. They say it is "certain to be one of the biggest books of the fall". And in more ways than one.
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The book is 1,360 pages long and weighs 4 pounds 9 ounces. (Please can someone else convert that to kilos because I've failed every maths exam that life has ever thrown at me!) Anyway, about as much as a six-pack of beer or a chihuhua dog.

But what really made me smile was this comment on Khitabkhana's entry about the book:
It is an incredibly sad moment for the 25-year old history of Indian Literature. Our reigning champion, our soap-operatic gift to humanity, our Suitable Boy, has been beaten by bloody eleven pages. This evidently is a colonial conspiracy.
Vikram Seth urges his readers in his A Word of Thanks poem at the beginning of the book:
Buy me before good sense insists
You'll strain your purse and strain your wrists.

If I was ever told that I was going to be marooned on a desert island and could only take then books with me, for sure this would be one. Even if it weighed more than everything else in my luggage combined.

I read the book in a week when I had shingles and I was so totally engrossed that I couldn't bear to come back to the "real world".

Of course, the question that keeps the pages turning is who will Lata marry in the end? Will her head or her heart govern her choice? I'm a romantic and wanted the former, my colleagues all argued that it should be the latter because Lata is Asian, and therefore pragmatic, after all. Of course Seth (the rascal!), keeps us guessing right to the end.

And I was open-mouthed in awe at the way that Seth juggles a cast of characters larger than I'd ever have thought possible (there's someone new on almost every page!) embracing a huge sweep of society. I felt as if I had been in India for that week.

The book is way too short. Perhaps that sequel is called for!

9 comments:

Zafar Anjum said...

Interesting entry Sharon. I have seen people either loving or hating Vikram's doorstopper of a novel. Obviously, you fall in the first category.

Chet said...

It's 2.1 kg.

The Visitor said...

u ain't seen a heavy book until u seen the book written by my friend, Mr Selva, a huge volume, hardcover, on the movie Ben-Hur.

i have a copy. cant even put it on my lap to read.

Jane Sunshine said...

Ah yes, one of my all time favourites. But Lata is so boring. I always liked Malati Trivedi the best friend much better.

bibliobibuli said...

Zafar - yeah, put me down for "love it". But you wily old fence-sitter, you didn't what you thought about it! Are you going to the Singapore Writer's festival this weekend? If so please please blog it.

Chet - Ta!

Visitor - Goodness, that's one I won't be reading then.

Jane Sunshine - welcome! Yes, I feel like shaking Lata sometimes.

BTW enjoyed your blog Jane especially the book reviews and the entry you wrote about reading on the tube!

Jane Sunshine said...

Thanks again! I find your blog informative and thought-provoking. Will drop by again.

Zafar Anjum said...

Hi, didn't finish the novel to give a fair comment.

Yes, have attended a few of the singapore writers festival. Check out my blog!

Paul said...

You know, I had no idea I might be provoking a diplomatic incident, pitting one of the pink countries against another -- India against Canada.

Had I known, I'm sure I could have found 11 pages of cuts.

Perhaps I might make amends with a novel written in, say, 13-line sonnets?

Paul Anderson
author, Hunger's Brides
www.hungersbrides.com

bibliobibuli said...

Hi Paul,

Now you've visited me I am going to have to buy your book now, you know! (If I can carry it home from the bookshop.) Please fly over to this pink bit to autograph it a.s.a.p.

The novel in sonnet form sounds interesting. (I bet Vikram Seth would never think of a trick like that.)

I really hope the book does well in whatever bits (pink and otherwise)of the world it ends up in.