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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Friday, September 21, 2007

Divisadero – Of Intersecting Lives, Divides and Links

“Gotraskhalana, is a term in Sanskrit poetics for calling a loved one by a wrong name, and means literally, ‘stumbling on the name.’ It’s a familiar occurrence in the Restoration-like fables of marital life and love affairs collected by the scholar Wendy Doniger. What these verbal accidents do is aim a flashlight into the brain, reveal it’s vast museum of facts and desires.”

Michael Ondaatje, is not compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Faulkner for nothing. He has been called a thinker, an explorer and a seeker of truth. What sets him apart for me is his fabulous use of language and ability to concoct intricate plots yet narrate them simply and effortlessly like a beautifully woven tapestry, these are his strengths.

While some accuse Ondaatje’s work of being too poetic, that’s what brings music and melody to Divisadero. Like jazz music, the narrative in Divisadero traverses back and forth in time and place. Each character finds some foothold in a present born of their entrenched past.

Anna, the protagonist narrates this story, which is set in 1970’s Northern California. A father and his teenage daughters Anna and Claire work their farm with the help of Coop, short for Cooper. Their life is torn apart and sets fire to the rest of their lives. Subsequently, Coop’s life as a poker player, Claire’s attempt to rebuild her life as a public defender’s legal researcher and Anna’s pursuit of an academic career at Berkley, form the latter half of the novel.

In parallel, Anna’s interest in French literature takes her to the French countryside and to the home of the late author Lucien Segura. As she delves into research and slowly reconstructs Segura’s life she finds that Segura’s life is connected episode by episode and image by image to the story of her own family. Love, loss and reminiscence play soulful melodies through this lyrical narrative, laying upon it the Ondaatje brand.

Divisadero is a word that Ondaatje says he fell in love with many, many years ago. A word that has two meanings at least, - it is a street in San Francisco from the Spanish word for “divide,” but it also means “gaze from afar” in Spanish. “I just loved that name: it had first of all, more vowels than my own name, which is rare! And it was the sound – a great word,” says Ondaatje.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The New World, New Experiences, New Challenges

The Hindi Bindi Club,the title of a novel by Monica Pradhan, is also the nickname given by her three characters, Kiran, Preity, and Rani to their mothers who left India to start life anew. They have remained close for decades, sharing treasured recipes, honored customs and the challenges of adjusting to a new world.

Theis novel is anout the three girls who are once again coming home, to a suburb of Washington D.C. for the holidays, to food, family, gossip and reflections.

Meenal Deshpande’s daughter Kiran returns home after a failed marriage that occurred despite her father’s disapproval. This will be her first trip home in five years. She arrives home craving tradition, wanting a family of her own, and wondering if a semi-arranged marriage is the answer.

Saroj Chawla’s daughter Preity is happily married with two delightful children. Most would describe it as the perfect life. What Preity is haunted by, however, is not the present. A past encounter with her soulmate is keeping her up at night, remembering and wondering.

Uma Basu McGuiness’s daughter Rani, is a rocket scientist-turned-artist, a career move which, while painful for her parents, has proven successful. Instead of celebrating her success with an opening night exhibition on the horizon, she is drowning in depression, her creative juices run dry.

For Kiran, Preity and Rani, adulthood bears the indelible stamp of their upbringing, from the way they tweak their mothers cooking to suit their western lifestyles to the ways they reject their mothers’ most fervent beliefs. Now they are inexorably drawn back home to confront the disappointment and successes of their chosen paths and to question whether they have the courage to hold on to their dreams and create new ones.

Most of all, what stands out about this novel is the use of proverbs or sayings to initiate the reader to each chapter. For instance, the chapter titled “Rani McGuiness Tomashot Reincarnation” is introduced with the renowned saint Kabir’s “doha” or saying “A diamond was laying in the street covered with dirt. Someone who knew diamonds picked it up.” This is a wonderful way of enlightening readers by presenting them with the profound thoughts of spiritual gurus while associating a story or an anecdote to it, to motivate them to reflect on the idea.

Similar to Like Water for Chocolate and the Joy Luck Club, this novel attempts to talk about two or more generations of a culture influenced by immigration and westernization. Peppered with recipes to enthuse the reader, this debut novel from a financial manager turned writer, is a pleasant light read which reflects themes of family, women, culture and the influence of love on life and the soul.

Reviewed by Visi Tilak