Wednesday, June 28, 2006

At arm's length

Being a mother to three for the last few weeks threw a bigger wrench into my world than I had thought it would, but I finally finished The Namesake. While I was in Montana and still only part of the way through our novel, I was able to meet up with AMQ. Not only was it a serious kick to visit in person with someone from the group, but I also got to feel better about snailing my way through this book when she agreed that it was a little slow reading now and again. Like Ann, I found it interesting to compare the expatriate experiences of Ashima and Ashoke to Eddie's insofar as I know them. Reading it in that way made me aware of how often I'm a Max, assimilating with complete abandon and forgetting that he may or may not want to be assimilated at any given moment.

Using the novel as though it were a case study of sorts is also why I no longer have it. Just as I was finishing it, I got into a conversation with my friend who has a young Bengali new mom as her new neighbor. My friend expressed some frustration trying to relate and how hard acknowledging that frustration had been because she is an ESL teacher by vocation and bridging cultural gaps is supposed to be her "thing." Of course it's just a novel, but I gave her my copy to see if it would contain any particular insight to the situation.

The up shot is that I'm not able to get very specific about the book but will happily generalize a bit more. My main impression was the style in which it was written. When I talked to AMQ about it, I called it "genderless," but that's not exactly it. By the time I was finished, I felt like I had read a novel written as though it were a short story. Was anyone else conscious of the lack of dialogue in the novel? I'm not used to being kept at such a distance from the story...it reminded my of Hemingway's short stories or Susan Sontag's Volcano Lover--a novel that purposely keeps its readers at a distance .