These are some summer reads which left an impression; now my stack and library card are humming and wriggling, with all the CanLit prizelist reading – including my new Shadow Jury reading responsibilities towards the 2018 Giller Prize – but these books insist on a sliver of the spotlight.
Anosh Irani’s The Cripple and His Talismans (2004)
When I hear somebody describe a book as a love letter to a place, most of the time I feel as though it’s simply a shorthand for indicating how important the setting is to the author. Perhaps this is less common than it once was, for the setting to be a standout feature of a story, now that many marketing departments in larger media establishments are more interested in appealing to as many people as possible rather than specifically rooting a story in one place. As though, this story could take place anywhere, so please imagine it taking place where you are, if that pleases you.
But Anosh Irani’s debut feels exactly like what I have imagined a novel that is a love letter to a place would be like. His depiction of life in Bombay is strange and outlandish, and in some ways ordinary and visceral (really, how different IS love from one instance to the next, isn’t it only the personalities that are different?). There are, for instance, body parts in excess of bodies (but, also, bodies missing some parts), which contributes to a pervasive sense of longing throughout the story. The act of severance and reconnection: doesn’t that seem more like love than you thought at first?