on the words of others

here are some books i’ve read recently and what i think of them:

I really, really, really wanted to like this book. And, in some ways, I really did. In fact, though I had been trudging through its 500 pages for days and days, when I finally finished it late last night, I found myself feeling melancholy that it was actually over. It was a bittersweet farewell–almost like breaking up with someone you were like, sooooo totally into initally, but who quickly (as soon as the rush of pink to your cheeks wore away) began to bore you with all their incessant monologuing. When you finally call it quits, you feel that pang of sentimentality, thinking, “Huh, maybe it wasn’t so bad afterall,” or maybe, “Oh, now I remember what I saw in you to begin with, and I’m actually kind of going to miss the way you don’t ever wear shoes and scrunch up your nose when you’re thinking really hard.”

So that’s how I’m feeling now; I’m going to miss Dimple a little, and her parents and Kavita extra, but probably not Gwyn or Karsh or Radha or anyone else, because they were pretty lackluster. And I’m going to miss reading a book about South Asian characters, but I’m not going to miss all the labored and clumsy explanations of all-things-South-Asian. And I don’t believe that I was annoyed by Hidier’s lengthy explications (in pseudo-flowering prose) about the texture of jalebi and the origins of bhangra, etc. because I already know what these things are, but because I feel that Hidier is perhaps trying a bit too hard to make these things completely known to every single reader–she over-explains and over-describes and I find my eyes wandering and my mind lost in the paragraph-long, multi-claused sentence about the texture of jalebi, and then the taste of gulab jamaan, and then the aroma of kheer. (And yes, I do realize the length of that last sentence.) It feels a bit too heavy handed. And that’s not to say I don’t appreciate the enormity of the task that Hidier had before her, with BC being posited as the “first South Asian coming of age novel written in English,” but just that it didn’t have to take it upon itself to sooooo self-conciously enlighten its readers.

So, not a messy, drawn-out, desperate break-up, but a vaguely sad one; one that leaves you looking for scrunched-up-noses on people you see for the next few days, and wondering why everyone is wearing shoes.

This book wasn’t phenomenal, nor life-changing, nor radical in any way. Its themes weren’t novel, and its characters weren’t the most likable I’ve ever encountered. Not even close. But there was something about Rosoff’s prose–something effortless, something that made me feel as though I was swimming, floating, in it–but that she could drown me at any moment, as well. (Perhaps owing to the fact that I read most of the book in the pool in my mother’s backyard, or to the fact that water plays such a prominent role in the book itself..?)

I’ve been finding it difficult to articulate the way this book made me feel; left me feeling. I still don’t know exactly how to describe it (if you can’t tell yet). I felt like a child again, actually–able to buy into the book without really trying; not really wondering about craft, or process, or any of the things I often think about while I read. I didn’t have to suspend myself to read this book. I just had to read it. As I said, it was effortless.
That’s not to say I was a passive reader, though, because it has stayed with me enough in the last few days to be considering how much we can ever really know another person, how much we can ever really know ourselves, and how much we can’t admit. And also about hindsight. About how much time we spend thinking about the past, and how quickly that squanders our futures.


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