What is Suprose?

Welcome to Suprose.

Why Su-prose? "Su" in Sanskrit is a prefix for "good". This is a place where we will discuss and analyze prose (with a South Asian Connection) - that which is good, awesome, excellent, and maybe rant about prose that could be better.

Whether you love prose, are a prose expert, or want to learn more about prose, or to put it simply want to have anything to do with prose, this blog is for you.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

“The form the novel, with the narrator and his audience both acting as characters, allowed me to mirror the mutual suspicion with which America and Pakistan (or the Muslim world) look at one another’” says Mohsin Hamid.
Hamid is author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a novel which is written as a monologue, a very challenging style since the author has to guarantee credibility while safeguarding against tedium. It’s stimulating, unsettling prose and surprise ending are thought provoking and evocative.
Hamid’s second novel draws upon the author’s own experiences in America and is the story of Changez who is living an immigrant’s dream of America. He is at the top of his class in Princeton and is snapped up by the elite evaluation firm of Underwood Samson. What drive him are the energy of New York City and the budding romance with a rich classmate, the elegant and beautiful Erica whom he gets close to during a summer vacation in Greece. With Erica, Changez has the promise of entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.
In the wake of September 11, Changez’s world is turned upside down. Tables are turned on him. His position in his adopted city is abruptly reversed. His relationship with Erica is eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. Changez starts questioning his own identity. Ethnic profiling and external influences unearth allegiances more fundamental than money, power and maybe even love.
A few years later, Changez eloquently relates his American experiences to an American man he meets at a café in Lahore. The American mans visit to Pakistan could very well do with recent Anti-American activities. Is this a conversation between a terrorist and a spy? Changez, from a successful, slick and well settled professional in New York to the bearded, traditionally dressed, vaguely menacing stranger in Lahore accompanies the unnamed American man to the latter’s hotel, building the climax with skilled suspense and trepidation.
Hamid elucidates, “The Pakistani narrator wonders: is this just a normal guy or is he a killer out to get me? The American man who is his audience wonders the same. And this allows the novel to inhabit an interior emotional world much like the exterior political world in which it will be read. The form of the novel is an invitation, which if the reader accepts, will in turn implicate the reader, because the reader will be called upon to judge the novel’s outcome and shape it’s ending.”

Reviewed by Visi Tilak

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Karma and Other Short Stories

Karma, chance, fate, destiny, providence, are the muses of the stories skillfully crafted by Rishi Reddi in her debut collection of short stories. Set mostly in the Boston area, the stories vividly portray the interconnected lives of members of the Indian American community who struggle to balance the demands of a traditional Indian culture with the charm of a modern Western life.
The title story “Karma,” deftly crafted, is about two brothers Shankar and Prakash who live together with their families. About a year after helping him immigrate to America, the younger and the wealthier one Prakash, asks Shankar the older one, an unemployed colonial history professor to leave his house, because Shankar lost his job as a convenience store clerk. Shankar moves out with his family and tries to find a job, any job, and while trying to file a claim at the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment, he inadvertently becomes a rescuer of birds in downtown Boston.
In “Justice Shiva Ram Murthy, “ which appeared in the Best American Short Stories 2005, an irascible retired judge reconnects with a childhood friend while trying to adjust to a very different way of life after moving in with his daughter and her husband. In “Lord Krishna,” a teenager is frustrated and offended when his evangelical history teacher likens the Hindu deity to Satan, but forgives him against his father’s wishes in the end.
A widow decides to return to her native village in India to flee her sons off-putting ways in “Bangles.” In “Devadasi,” a young girl visits Hyderabad to learn dancing from a famous Bharatnatyam dancer, right around the time of the Babri Masjid riots. On her way to the dance studio during the unrest, her Muslim driver saves her from becoming a victim of the riots .
Even though the stories are very well written and reach out to some thoughtful realms, one oddity is the use of unusual spellings and pronunciations for some common terms, such as chalwar kameez for the more commonly known Salwar Kameez and Sonnayi for Shehnai.
The social themes of the stories are very relevant in today’s world. “Many of the themes “Karma” addresses grew out of my family’s own experience as immigrants in America. Writing it was a way for me to understand my parents’ story, and thereby understand my own story,” says author Rishi Reddi.