Graphic designer and illustrator Shopsin (C’est le Pied II, 2009, etc.) delivers a terse account of a visit to India and her work as a freelance artist, with asides on her marriage, novelties business and family’s restaurant.
As a traveler abroad, the author is a bit frail—always tired, always sick, often scared. Many readers may find her incessant whining and timidity irritating, until the discovery of what might have induced her frequent bouts of nausea and unsteadiness of foot: a brain tumor. But apart from the impulse to wish her a full recovery and admiration for her genuine courage during the ordeal, this has no bearing, after the fact, on the writing. Even if the disjointed narrative is meant to reflect the effects of the tumor on her state of mind, readers will still note the book’s many shortcomings. The memoir is rambling and unfocused, offering 132 pages on her experiences in India yet no concrete take on the country or culture save for impressions of chaos. Readers may enjoy the story to the extent that they favor the author’s odd marriage of clipped sentences and stream-of-consciousness style (with too many meandering eddies), yet it suggests that Shopsin simply wrote down whatever popped into her head. The book is freighted with trivialities and pointless digressions, and if there is the occasional arresting observation or fleck of wit, it’s buried beneath an avalanche of irrelevancies. Punctuated with photographs that barely qualify as snapshots, it’s a 288-page book with half as much content, given the curious “open” typography and page breaks. Some will find the approach whimsical, others superficial and undisciplined.
A brisk but slapdash, unrewarding journey.