Monday, December 31, 2007

The New Yorker: "Year's End" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Is there any doubt why I waited until today (the last day of the year) to comment on this story? It’s also not online, apparently, but if aren’t a subscriber I don’t think you’ve missed much. I did enjoy it, and I think it’s a well-structured story. I just don’t think it’s particularly well written – it feels rushed to me, all the way through, and I never felt that the author had settled into a comfortable narrative pace. The story is told by Kaushik, a college student at Swarthmore who is the son of Bengali immigrants who have settled in a northern suburb of Boston. Although his mother has been dead for more than three years, Kaushik still feels the pain of her loss (and yet, he tells us, neither he nor his father have cried for her). So it is naturally a shock when his father telephones to say that he has been visiting India and brought back a new wife along with her two daughters. Great premise! Fantastic conflict! And we see all of that conflict – between the son and the stepmother, the son and the girls, the son and the father. Ultimately it is about a son who has not only lost his mother but has also lost his father and it is quite naturally painful for him, doubly so. I wonder if anyone agrees with me about the pace of this piece? I would like to have seen a much longer story, I think, one that lets the narrator take his time with his relationship with his girlfriend, with his father and mother and grandparents, and then lets us also feel the presence of the stepmother and her daughters. Although it isn’t a great story, it is a fine story with which to end the year.

December 24 & 31, 2007: “Year’s End” by Jhumpa Lahiri

3 comments:

RAC said...

Happy 2008, Clifford Garstang!

Samyam Wagle said...

Jhumpa Lahiri is the greatest simplistic writer. TIMES Magazine wrote recently so fantastically about her wondering she has no humor, suspence, violance in her writing. They wonder if she even has Exclamation mark in her laptop's keyboard...i loved this...Jhumpa Lahiri is insipiring for us who writer similar to her experience of Bengali family moving to west and difficulty in adopting due to culture and beliefs. keep it on...

Samyam Wagle

Anonymous said...

Actually, this story is one of the stories in her collection Unaccustomed Earth, and when read in relation to the other stories in that collection, is perfectly paced.

I love Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories. They are transporting and affecting. I am waiting impatiently for her next collection.