An aspiring author confronts the literary demons of the world and sets off in search of an agent.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hopefully a respectful parody

In this post I am offering up a parody of Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. For the record, I admire her ability to capture the emotional essentials of a person's situation with an economy of words. Oh heck, I'll just come out and say it: I'm jealous of her talent! Now cut me some slack. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. By the way, I used the original cover of the book as the basis for the parody.


This collection of short stories marks a wonderful debut by Zoompa LaHeiri and portends good things to come.

This reviewer enjoyed all the stories was especially intrigued by titles such as, When Mr. Piranha Came to Dine, A Temporal Matter, The Third and Final Lincoln Continental and A Really Smelly Durian. One stands in awe at her assured deftness, her subtle use of lush juxtapositions that, almost ironically, are nearly bereft of metaphors. Perhaps it is her acute eye for pronouns, but one can never really be sure.

The featured story is Maladies of Interpreters in which Ms. La Heiri successfully navigates the hyperkinetic turbulence that inevitably results when a myriad of maudlin characters are thrust in the maelstrom of an unmitigated disaster. The setting is the annual conference for the Global Association of International Translators (GAIT), a normally staid event held each September at the Secaucus Embassy Suites Hotel.

Things quickly go awry when a mysterious illness afflicts conference attendees with symptoms that are a cross between hemorrhagic fever and the heartbreak of psoriasis. Oddly, it is only translators who fall prey. Hotel staff and other guests are totally unaffected.

The translators must be quarantined. It is at this point that the main protagonist, Lila Quincy Jordan Lolita, a world renowned epidemiologist, is introduced. Dr. Lolita, it turns out, is a deaf mute who communicates only via sign language. Ironically, among the two thousand translators trapped in the hotel, not one is fluent in sign language.

LaHeiri deftly avoids most of the tired old cliché involving deaf mutes and translators, using wit and tension in all the right places along with the well timed death scene. She also does a remarkable job of injecting gallows humor in a way that seems totally apropos. For example, the scene where some of the translators recreate the old Firesign Theatre skit, “Beat the Reaper” can only be described as inspired lunacy. Most remarkably, this literary device comes off as natural part of the narrative landscape rather than a mutated or gene altered artifice.

This reviewer is so impressed by Ms. LaHeiri’s writing that he and his wife will likely name their next child, if it is a girl, after her. It should be a lovely namesake and, one suspects, a fascinating story in of itself.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is it possible for one hundred words to the job of ten thousand?

I've been contemplating this question since reading a wonderful short story, Bog Rhubard Shoots, by Yamashiro Tomoe (it's from the book, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows). It tells the tale of Mitsuko, a young Japanese woman, who, in the 1940s, was sent to prison for her involvement in the left-wing political movement (as was her husband, who was assigned to different prison).

Under the terms of her conviction, Mitsuko "could write only one letter of postcard length each month. Even though the frequency and length of the letters were limited, they still had to be checked over by four persons: the guard, the chief guard, the chaplain, and the supervisor of the guards. Under these circumstances, one hundred words had to do the job of ten thousand in the letters that Mitsuko and her husband exchanged. If a letter written under restricted conditions failed to pass the censors and was stamped 'To be handed over upon release,' the letter itself would probably shed tears."


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Magical Baptism

I’m reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami and this is a joy, in part, because it features a young woman who is struggling to become a writer. She pours out her frustrations to a friend,  “Images, scenes, snatches of words…in my mind they’re all glowing, all alive. Write! they shout at me. A great new story is about to be born – I can feel it. It’ll transport me to some brand-new place. Problem is, once I sit at my desk and put all these down on paper, I realized something vital is missing. It doesn’t crystallize – no crystals, just pebbles. And I’m not transported anywhere.”

In response, the friend offers the following, “A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.”

A story is not something of this world?

Magical baptism?

Does this mean I need to become a dimension-hopping, holy thaumaturge? Was that in the job description?

Monday, January 4, 2010