Masterful Indian tales showcasing slick, expressive writing.



This debut collection of short stories examines the complexity of human connections in urban India.  

The Indian metropolis depicted in these 16 tales is a place of opposing forces. Amid the chaotic swirl of urban life, strangers are thrown together by chance while others are dramatically and surprisingly riven apart. The collection opens with a story titled “Receding Shoreline,” which describes an engineer and his wife awaiting the arrival of a dinner guest at an upscale restaurant. When the guest appears, what was first perceived as an innocuous dinner date suddenly becomes a pivotal moment in the couple’s marriage. The theme of unexpected encounters is pervasive throughout the volume. In the title story, the narrator makes eye contact with a young woman while battling rush-hour traffic in Bangalore. He then seeks out her red compact daily to enjoy a silent exchange. Other tales, such as “No Time for a Joke,” about riding in a Kolkata taxi, and “Everyone Needs Closure,” which features a college student returning home to Bengal, also focus on peculiar meetings but have chilling paranormal twists. Dasgupta introduces an admirable range of characters, from codebreakers to corporate climbers, all of whom have distinct voices and personalities. His attention to detail is epitomized by his tender portrayal of Nayna sitting in rush-hour gridlock in the title story: “Nayna’s hair was tied in a loose bun and carelessly clipped at the back. Unruly locks hung on her nape, and another caressed her cheek….The tail lights from the cars threw a red hue on her and brought a pang of inexplicable warmth in my heart.” The author is skilled at creating such serene moments of intimacy in scenes of chaos as well as equally unanticipated jolts that spring violently from quietude. His book bears the marks of a perceptive writer, although his preoccupation with the machinations of corporate life may not be for everyone, and his prose appears to burn most brightly when evoking the hubbub of Indian traffic and street life. Still, this is a delightfully idiosyncratic portrait of urban India riddled with sophisticated and unpredictable twists.

Masterful Indian tales showcasing slick, expressive writing.  

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5437-0383-2

Page Count: 146

Publisher: PartridgeIndia

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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