A novelty that occasionally succeeds as literature.

THE GOLD OF THE SUNBEAMS

AND OTHER STORIES

Meditations and stories of contemporary India as reflected through the eyes of a 17-year-old autistic youth.

Mukhopadhyay is widely known for his memoir of autism, The Mind Tree (2003), begun when he was eight. In the introduction here, his mother describes how she trained the young writer from the age of three. The 12 pieces collected here evince his determination to communicate through the written word. The first story, “The Showers,” is perhaps the strongest. Vignettes vividly evoke village life in the aftermath of a cyclone: Rival politicians argue; a young boy who hates buffalos is stuck with the task of caring for the stubborn beasts in an impromptu communal grazing area; a teenage girl disappears after she is raped. “Just a Smile” pays tribute to an act that is difficult for Mukhopadhyay. Several other pieces, including “Impressive People,” “Grey, Apple Green, and White” and “The Broken Mirror,” also elaborate on single concepts, illuminating strange turns of mind. Mukhopadhyay explores these concepts in abstract, repetitive prose that is at times mesmerizing, at times tedious. Stories focusing on character are more effective. “Little Grains of Dust,” for example, follows a tea-seller and sometime thief who has adopted a gypsy disregard for place and sees fixed identities as a form of bondage. Likewise, the title story takes an empathetic look at the adjustment an adolescent boy must make when his father goes to jail for gambling, leaving him to be the sole support of his grandmother and younger brother. “The Calendar” and “Man at the Bus Stop” riff humorously on office life. Mukhopadhyay’s explanatory notes preface each piece. Imagining the days “when Mother won’t be around to take care of me anymore” proved the inspiration for “The Field,” a story that awkwardly takes as its unifying motif a nebulous presence named Emma. The final entry, “The Climb,” chronicles a New Age-y pilgrim’s progress with pallid symbolism that never engages.

A novelty that occasionally succeeds as literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2005

ISBN: 1-55970-777-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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The book is pure fun, although slender. Another volume of Maud’s misdeeds would be most welcome.

AN ELDERLY LADY IS UP TO NO GOOD

Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady.

Maud has a good thing going. At age 88, she’s lived in a large apartment rent-free for 70 years because of a clause in an old contract. Never married, she loves to travel alone and to be alone. In the first story, "An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems," a rare event happens: Her doorbell rings. Jasmin Schimmerhof, a 40-year-old avant-garde artist who lives in the building, stops by to say hello. The daughter of celebrities, her past includes drugs, multiple divorces, and tragedy. Her current art project strives to “unmask the domineering tactics of the patriarchy,” meaning that her small apartment is filled with phalluses—some even hanging from the ceiling. She is delightfully overbearing as she constantly tries to weasel her way into Maud’s good graces. But Maud isn’t stupid or senile, and she knows Jasmin is up to something. Once Maud figures out what it is, her solution is drastic, funny, and final. Maud is a seasoned world traveler who once, at age 18, had been engaged to Lt. Gustaf Adelsiöö. He’d emphatically broken off their engagement on learning her family wasn’t rich. Now, in “An Elderly Lady on Her Travels,” she reads in the newspaper that he is a wealthy 90-year-old widower about to marry the 55-year-old Zazza, whom ex-teacher Maud knows as her long-ago student, a schemer and a failed soft-core porn actress. When Maud arranges to get near her at a spa and then overhears Zazza’s plans to take control of Gustaf’s estate, Maud devises an emphatic countermeasure. And then in “An Elderly Lady Seeks Peace at Christmastime,” she deals with “The Problem” in the apartment above her. Maud’s murders always have plausible motives, and she is a sympathetic character as long as one keeps a safe distance. Each story takes its sweet time to develop and concludes with a juicy dose of senior justice.

The book is pure fun, although slender. Another volume of Maud’s misdeeds would be most welcome.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64129-011-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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