1

2

 

1

7

 

0

9

 

 

L

I

T

E

R

A

T

U

R

E

 

 

1

2

 

1

7

 

0

9

 

 

F

O

O

D

 

 

 

 

 

   

                 
       

holiday reading

 
 

tHE sHORT lIST

   

 

2 debut collections of short stories to linger over during the holidays from the dream-like and delicately limned on an imaginary island to the gritty and futile in Pakistan’s feudal society.

 

Paul Yoon’s Once the Shore is painted in the colors of earth and nature: granite, wood, glass, ivory.  A restrained, delicate palette.  And even though the stories span five decades on a fictional island, Solla, in South Korea, there is a certain timelessness to the book.  One steps into it knowing that here, in the winter, the sun is 'the color of ivory.'  That the night comes through the window 'in the shape of a wing.'  And even planes have 'wings like glass, contrails like veins.'  Yoon says the imaginary location freed him and it seems appropriate that only the caves, the sea, the landscape, Tamra Mountain, are the geography in this book which has the quality of dream and cobweb.  Everything is held back - colors, emotions, actions - as he tells us about a blue dress that disappears and reappears, war and its stories, an AWOL Yankee, sea women….  We wished at times that he would let go of all that beautiful reserve for just a passionate second….but then, there is also much power in such restraint. 

 

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is harsher in contrast; Pakistani-American Daniyal Mueenuddin is always yoked to the reality of his territory, the land, the old feudal ways.   Mueenuddin’s book, which was nominated for a National Book Award, is all story.  Style holds no sway, one searches in vain for a glimpse of fleeting beauty, there is no flash of finely-turned ankle beneath these soiled skirts.  Sentences are casual, thrown away carelessly, the walls of this house are rather rough-hewn as he takes us from the glittering drawing rooms of the wealthy to the seedy quarters of the poor.  His characters are schemers, always calculating, but his own words are picked out without much thought.  Mueenuddin is no Flaubert searching for le mot juste – in Lily he begins with heedless words: 'Lily had been to parties all month, week, endlessly, drinking, rarely having dinner.'  And there’s always despair and futility in his Pakistan, love is never quite love, corruption is the way of all things.  He could break a poet’s heart without even trying.  Mueenuddin is a jaded observer; this house is a world without hope, yet, and yet, what sparkles are the human lives within, the eternal fascination of the tale is what draws us in, keeps us eagerly turning the page for the next story.  And this is the book’s charm: this Yale-educated lawyer has all the power of the village storyteller squatting under the banyan tree.  And we want to gather around for more.  Daniyal says that when he was a child on his father’s farm in Pakistan, he was allowed to play with the children of the villages and the servant folk and this is probably where he picked up all that marvelous insight into other lives, the ability to write about servants and industrialists, farm workers and society girls.

 

So a collection that is rarefied and refined, and another that is rough and yet ever so readable - 2 wonderful  books to luxuriate in over the holidays.... 

  

 

Read: Once the Shore, Paul Yoon

 

Read: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Daniyal Mueenuddin

 

Tags:  pakistan

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this article on facebook:   

Share:                 

 

Permalink    

 

 

 

     

Subscribe About Us Editorial Policy Privacy Policy Contact Us Unsubscribe  

Press Archives Search  

 

 

©2009 eCognoscente  

.