Apr 052014

Funny boyI picked this book to replace Swimming in the Monsoon Sea on a course reading list and expected the difference to be minimal. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The prose here is crystalline and understated, yet the novel’s structure is meaningful and carefully controlled. And the characters breath real air.

Looking back from the final pages, it’s clear that nearly all of the central issues of the book are introduced obliquely or in outline in the first chapter. The rest of the novel’s wandering, casual episodes glide back and forth across that same terrain, filling it in, marking out contrasts, in layer after narrative layer. (It’s a bit like those 19th-century oil portraits that build up their subject in layers of wash that hide the individual brush stokes but bring the complete work alive across depths.)

On a personal note, I had a chance to pick Selvadurai up from the airport earlier this year, but at the last minute, I got a call letting me know the whole thing had to be called off. If I get the chance to meet him again, I’ll be pushier. Because I’m now officially a fan.

May 272012

Swimming_in_the_Monsoon_Sea_selvaduraiA book we read in one of my classes. A well-done young adult novel that went over well but sent the message, “This class is a blow-off.” Basic teaching double-bind: make it challenging and students won’t do anything; make it easy and they won’t do anything. The choice is really between complaints or contempt.

This novel is good enough to stand up to a tougher analysis than I required. So it’s worth another shot perhaps.