In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, is a collection of short stories set in Pakistan during the 1970s through the present.  The stories are tangentially related; the main character of one story may be mentioned in passing in the next story.  The result is that each story can stand on its own, but gradually a larger picture is formed.

The primary focus of the complete story is the disparity within the Pakistani feudal system and how it has both changed in recent times, but doggedly retained its grip on the country’s society despite a slow modernist transition.  Also addressed is the simultaneous power and impotence of the Pakistani female.  Because the book is broken into separate tales, the author is able to offer points of view from various members of society, from powerful landlords to poor serving girls and even introduces an American character later on in the book which offers a remarkable contrast and familiarity for western readers.

The book is beautifully written.  It is poetic and lyrical without being cumbersome.  There is a simple truthfulness in the style that made me immediately feel as if I were reading a fable; something old and filled with truthful wisdom.  His descriptions are elegant, but restrained, and portray a country and its people with quiet, beautiful realism.  Although the majority of these stories do not have typical happy endings, they are still a pleasure to read.  The author has a real knack for creating immediately sympathetic and believable characters.

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders won the 2009 National Book Award.  This is Daniyal Mueenuddin’s first book, though his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope and The Best American Short Stories 2008.

Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Collected Short Stories by Jeffrey Archer

jeffrey-archer-short-stories

The Collected Short Stories of Jeffrey Archer is the compilation of his three acclaimed collections of short fiction:  A Quiver Full of Arrows, A Twist in the Tale and Twelve Red Herrings.  Though he’s a bestselling, prolific writer, this was the first I’d read of Jeffrey Archer, and though I enjoyed the book I doubt I’ll be reading anything else of his.  Maybe it’s because short stories overexpose a reader to an author’s methods of story and character development that I feel like I’ve gotten my fill of what he has to offer.
 
I appreciated Archer’s attention to creating individuals in each story.  He always spent time on the main characters’ backgrounds before launching into the heart of the various narratives.  It was easy to keep the protagonists separate from one another as each had his or her (mostly his) own eccentricities.  Nearly all of the stories take place in England in the 1990s and involve the likes of duplistic socialites, saavy businessmen, ruthless killers, jilted lovers and Oxford men.  In flavor, they are all VERY British and a smidge sexist.  (Are all English men really such philanderers?  It was a recurring theme.)  One story was written almost entirely in the language of cricket and I have to admit I didn’t follow that one very well.  It also seems that Archer is of the opinion that a story isn’t any good unless it has a surprising twist at the end.  Because it came to be expected, the “surprise” endings sometimes fell flat.  The ones that still managed to surprise me ended up being my favorites.
 
Short stories are great for vacations…car trips, plane rides, lying on the beach…you can finish a quick story and then go do something else.  Archer is a good storyteller so I’d recommend this collection if you’re going to be somewhere that may call for a quick fiction fix without commitment.  It’s pretty pulpy-feeling so don’t expect great intrinsic value, just to be disctracted and entertained.
 
Jeffrey Archer’s novels include Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, Shall We Tell the President?, Sons of Fortune, Kane & Abel, The Prodigal Daughter, First Among Equals, A Matter of Honor, As the Crow Flies, Honor Among Thieves, The Fourth Estate and The Eleventh Commandment.

Published in: on April 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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