Monday, October 27, 2008

A Soft Change

I just finished reading Anjali Banerjee's Invisible Lives, which is a tale of a woman with the ability to see people's hidden desires and her own search for love and marriage while staying true to herself. (Check out Banerjee's blog! It might look familiar.) It is so very different from anything I've read recently--different from anything on my bookcases since college. Centralized around Indian culture and characters but maintaining traditional Western plot arcs, I found reading it a bit like watching a Bollywood film. Everything familiar was exotic, sometimes confusing, and in many ways softer than an American book exploring the same themes.

In reading it, I've found a strange peace, a tranquility. Though my thoughts have been idly toying with dark fantasies and creepy scenes for a yet undecided book, I still enjoyed Invisible Lives. It was like it soothed my conscious and gave it a safe place to explore the scary thoughts from.

Banerjee's prose is beautiful, too. It reminds me of reading a short story, where imagery is tightly monitored under the constraints of strict word/page counts. Her descriptions were so image-invoking, so perfect, and what she left unsaid told the story as much as what she wrote, which is a unique gift in itself.

I might not have noticed her subtle ability to tell parts of the story with unsaid words had it not so recently, blatantly, been referenced in Sunshine (Robin McKinley), the book I finished just before this soft-spoken romantic comedy. As Sunshine (the main character) is in the middle of vampires and learning that she has a special ability to kill them using her knife, McKinley writes:

Reading scary books is weirdly reassuring, most of the time: it means at least one other person--the author--has imagined things as awful as you have. What's bad is when the author comes up with stuff you hadn't thought of yet.

I'd thought it was bad when I was just reading stuff I hadn't thought of.

And even then I'd known that sometimes it's worse when the author leaves it to your imagination.

I stopped using my knife. I found I didn't have to. I found out I could do it with my hands.

And that's all McKinley says about how Sunshine kills the rest of the vampires in that scene. Brilliant.

1 comment:

Anjali said...

Thank you for this lovely review. I look forward to reading your other blog entries!