Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What I'm Reading: Jhumpa Lahiri

I was hot, but not in a sexy way. I was tired, and also grumpy. I wanted a milkshake. Instead of luxuriating in the burger joint across the way, however, I found myself stomping up and down the aisle ways of The Strand. Poor mortal, I am, alas, but human, and in the great battle between appetite and intellect too often the gut wins.

The Strand: that great New York monument to cheap books, a reader's paradise, the book glutton's delight. And all I wanted was a chocolate milkshake.

Instead, I discovered Jhumpa Lahiri.

I had first heard of her while interning at Mars Hill Audio three summers ago, but her name languished in a dark file titled "Books to Read" which I never open on principle; the sheer number of titles and authors is more depressing than impressive and I'm afraid of being too intimidated to ever flip open a title page again.

But as I looked over copies of Aristotle's Ethics, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (more on Marquez some other night), and dozens of other cheery covers stacked in intelligent little piles on the browsing tables, this book caught my eye:

In a fit of impulsiveness, I tossed it in my $1 red Strand totebag and marched up to the counter. 

I started reading it last night and I finished it today. Perhaps the highest praise I can give Lahiri's enchanting collection of stories is that it's the first book I've read in two sittings in a long time. 

Published in 1999, Interpreter of Maladies was Jhumpa Lahiri's first book and won her a Pulitzer. The back cover tells me that Lahiri "was born in 1967 in London, England and raised in Rhode Island." Most of her stories unravel the mundane and colorful difficulties of life as an Indian ex-pat, usually from a domestic point of view. While her prose style isn't exactly the brightest I've stumbled across, her characters and their little dilemmas are engrossing. It's a quick book; the plots are sparse and snappy, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, but always thought-provoking. 

I give Interpreter of Maladies 4 stars out of 5 as a great summer read. If you're looking for something to read on the subway or beach this July, check out Jhumpa Lahiri and tell me what you think. 


  1. It's funny you posted this, because I literally had this book on my shelf until approx. 6 mos. ago when I decided I probably wasn't ever going to read it, and gave it away to a used bookstore (I think). Bummerrr.

  2. I probably bought the one you gave away. :)

  3. Perfect. I expect some good used bookstore karma.