Monday, March 13, 2006

Imaginary Storyline

I finished reading Anjali Banerjee's Imaginary Men yesterday. Interesting genre - 50% Mills and Boons 25% Chick Lit and 25% Expat Desi Lit. Part One of the book should have been titled "Totally Clueless In and About Kolkata".

Being a local, the cringe quotient is so much higher for me. Hopefully the non-Bongs among us desis would have felt half way better. She totally does not get it and does not have anyone on her editorial/review/research team that does either.

Coming from an MM Kaye in Far Pavilions many trespasses are forgivable. You figure she does not know better. Allowing Banerjee similar latitude is hard because she is a local at least in part. Maybe a case of misplaced expectations here. Take-away from Part One is that Banerjee is very seriously fixated by the geckos on the walls of Kolkata homes. They pepper her sentences like sev on bhelpuri.

Once back in the SF Bay, Banerjee is more in her element. She talks like a normal person in a language and idiom that is comprehensible to even a desi such as myself. I learn the phrase cross-mojonation and am much edified in the knowledge thanks to the protagonist’s younger sister who has the improbable name Kali. Bongs of the class Banerjee is writing about would choose a more uncommon of Durga's hundred and eight names. Kali is way declasse.

Other than Kali’s funny Austin Powers-speak there is not much else going on with the story that would be of interest. The hero Raja Prasad is very much Mills and Boons standard issue (no surprsies or deviations there) except that I am no teen and don’t suspect a lot of her target audience is either.

The one redeeming factor about Banerjee’s book is its length. Unlike Hari Kunzru's Impressionist, she does not belabor her non-existent case past page 236. Thank God for the small mercies !

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