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May 22, 1999
Lahiri's First Book Gets Raves
R R Shankar
For several years, Jhumpa Lahiri toiled writing short stories for little read but respected small publications. And then after she attended a writers' workshop in Provincetown in Massachusetts, she had a story accepted in The New Yorker. A Temporary Matter narrates the story of a young Indian-American couple facing the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout.
Three of her stories have been published in The New Yorker in just one year, something of a record.
Now, nine stories by the New York-based writer are found in Interpreter of Maladies, to be released by Houghton Mifflin in a few weeks.
The book has already received raves from Lahiri's peers, including Amy Tan and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni -- and from a slew of magazines.
Tan, best-selling author of such books as The Joy Luck Club, says Lahiri is habit forming -- her book cannot be put down. "She is a dazzling storyteller with a distinctive voice," Tan said. "She is one of the finest short story writers I've read."
Chitra Divakaruni, author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices says: "Filled with quiet astonishments, Jhumpa Lahiri's stories pull us sharply, wrenchingly, into the core of immigrant experience. Here is a brave new voice, laced with elegance and compassion."
In an indication of more raves to come, Book List noted: 'The past few years have seen a number of fine writers springing from India -- some living on the subcontinent and others, like the author of this collection of stories, who live elsewhere but whose work is still imbued with Indian culture and sensibilities. In varying degrees, Lahiri explores "Indianness" in all her stories, wherever they are set. Some, such as A Real Durwan, take place in urban settings in or near Calcutta. Others deal with immigrants at different stages on the road to assimilation. One of Lahiri's gifts is the ability to use different eyes and voices.'
'India is an inescapable presence in this strong first collection's nine polished and resonant tales,' Kirkus Review said. 'Richly detailed portrayals of young marriages dominate tales like that of an Indian emigrant's oddly fulfilling relationship with his landlady...'
Kirkus also said the stories were 'moving and authoritative pictures of culture shock and displaced identity.'
The reviewer in Publishers Weekly found Lahiri's touch 'delicate.'
'But her observations remain damningly accurate, and her bittersweet stories are unhampered by nostalgia,' the review added.
Lahiri will travel to many cities soon to promote her book. She will be in Nantucket on June 23 and Boston on July 7.
R R Shankar is a Houston-based writer.
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