Monday, May 25, 2015

As Fun As A Stranger's Family Photo Album

The NamesakeThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought of a better title! An Indian Family Moves To America And Proceeds To Live. One of these days a publishing house is going to snatch me up and make me Head of Titlings!

The Namesake is an expertly crafted, boring slideshow. It reads as if you were listening to someone do a documentary-style narration over stills...


A young Indian couple came from Calcutta to America.


They started a family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Et cetera


Things happen and more things happen, and some of it's interesting, but none of it's captivating. The story lacks purpose, drive and offers up the tiniest morsel of tension. Certainly life-changing moments occur for the Ganguli family, but the reader is never given that certain something needed to give an honest shit.

I really thought I was going to love this. It's got the epic immigrant story, I like learning about other cultures, much of it is set in Boston and it name-drops some of my favorite locales (hello Brattle Theater!), but it's about as interesting as flipping through a stranger's photo album.

I'm sure some asshole will come along and tell me I'm a provincial-minded lout who doesn't understand some archaic Bengali literary tradition from which The Namesake has been stylized, but I don't care. This kind of book doesn't move me. Me, that's the operative word there.

For all that, I still enjoyed reading this. I mean literally, I enjoyed how Lahiri put one word after another. They were nicely arranged! She's clearly a talented writer. Her scenes and characters are so well-crafted they feel reach-out-and-touch-them real! In many instances through out the book I became entranced by the imagery, lost in the luxuriously decorated background, but then I'd notice the principle players at center stage speaking their lines so eloquently, yet without purpose. I felt like I was watching people walk through life and that annoyed me. When I read a book, watch a play or a movie I expect to see something more than everyday life. I can get plenty of that at home!

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