Botched Book Club

May 1, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 6 Comments

My book group met on Wednesday.  Normally we do Thursday nights.  I was sick last time, so I was a bit out of the loop, and I wasn’t totally prepared.  I sat up to finish the book late Tuesday night.  I realized Wednesday morning, when I went to cross the title off my list, that

I read the wrong book!

[cue theme music from Psycho]

We chose The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri, which won the Pulitzer prize.  What I actually read was The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai, which won the Booker Prize.  They were adjacent in my Reading List spreadsheet.  Is it just me, or was this a fairly reasonable mistake?

The sad part is, The Interpreter of Maladies is not only about 50% shorter, but it’s also a collection of short stories.  I knew this, and as I was reading The Inheritance of Loss I kept wondering why it wasn’t considered a novel.  You’d think something would have tipped me off sooner.

There’s a darker undercurrent here, though, than having to go to book group after having read only a couple of short stories over lunch.  That is, evidently in my mind I tagged these two terrific books as “India books.”  There seems to be a tendency to shop for multicultural books to make a well-rounded reading experience.  To me there’s an element of, I don’t know, trivialization or commodification here or something.  Like if I wrote a memoir, it would be “another one of those ‘triumph over adversity’ things.”  It’s certainly not that I think my book group does this – I’m just worried that I did.

So anyway.  I can heartily recommend both books.  I can also recommend actually writing things down rather than trying to memorize them.

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