Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Interpreter of Maladies

I'm in an Asian-American literature course this term, and one of our selections is Jhumpa Lahiri's short story anthology, Interpreter of Maladies. I really appreciate short stories; they're the perfect length for when you're a busy person who also likes to occasionally sleep, and there is so much attention to detail that goes into a carefully constructed short story. Short story anthologies are one of my favorite things to read, especially during the term.
"Sexy" was probably my favorite story that we read out of this anthology, although "A Temporary Matter" was also fantastic, as were all of the stories. "Sexy" is about Miranda, who participates in an affair with Dev, a married man. While this is happening, Miranda's friend, Laxmi, continues to talk about her cousin and her cousin's young son, Rohin. Laxmi's cousin is distraught after her husband gets on an airplane, sits next to a woman, and gets off the plane with the woman instead of continuing to fly home to his wife and son. Miranda is excited by the attention that Dev gives her, and enjoys that he calls her "sexy"-- a word that no other man has used to describe her. Miranda ends up watching Rohin for an afternoon as a favor to Laxmi, and Rohin defines "sexy" for her: it means "loving someone you don't know." After this revelation, Miranda breaks off the affair with Dev. The entire story is less than thirty pages.
This summary of events does not do the story justice. It is Lahiri's telling of the story that makes it uniquely memorable; the scene where Dev whispers to Miranda (while standing thirty feet away from her), the recurring role of maps and geography throughout the story, and Miranda's plans to impress Dev. Each scene is detailed, and each detail is meaningful, in a circularity that is satisfying to the reader.
Of course, the collection also includes eight other brilliant short stories; precise episodes in the lives of Lahiri's characters that are nonetheless haunting.