This was one of the most difficult books to read and review. Difficult because this is not an idyllic read, I tried reading it on the go, like my other reads, sometimes multitasking while listening to the radio but losing it once in a while, that’s when I realized my mind was wandering and also that this needed a lot more of time.
What I loved about the book is the language. Lucid, easy flowing and just so beautiful that I could actually picturize Bombay back in time. Literary fiction is my favourite genre and it is hard to come by a book which is so well written. Makes me think why an Indian writer of this calibre is not celebrated as much as they should. Jeet Thayil surely has set the standard so high and has become aspirational to all Indian authors. It is really shocking that this is the same author who was almost written off for his earlier outing.
To be honest this has not been an easy read, I had to read and reread portions and found my attention wavering but it is the writing that kept me coming back. I have not read (my shortcoming) about the modern poets of the 70s and 80s and it took some background reading to get the context at first but then it grew on me.
Lengthy commentary, this is a book about modern poets their struggle to be interpreted or seek relevance took commentary to a whole new level where one wonders where the lines between fact and fiction is blurred. For example there are mentions of Moraes, Dhasal and Kolatkar who are mentioned with their real names. On the other hand one keeps wondering if the character Dismas Bambai resembles the author himself. Maybe the author wanted to draw references to real people to ensure that the reader has some reference point.
This is never going to be an easy read. But if you are looking for a good read which challenges you in more ways than one, then surely pick this up. What a delightful read it was! More than anything it lead me to actually read up and gather a background, which opened newer avenues and I ended up knowing about these modern day poets much which I would have otherwise missed out.
Review is for Aleph Book Company but views are personal.