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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finished Flamingos

It was a brutal book. Just completely brutal. I kind of do not know what to think. It caught me off guard because it was so different than everything else I have read from India recently. It was fairly explicit sexually. Sort of, I guess. I mean it was not like romance novel stuff, but it went into some detail. The end of the book though. My goodness. One of the character dies and the book gets a little depressing because it deals with government corruption. And then it seems like every chapter for the last third is just a new super depressing revelation. Someone dies, someone turns out to be a sucky person, a marriage ends, someone is beaten. It is not a horror novel, but after a while I was almost afraid to read the next chapter because I wasn't sure what would happen. The end of the book is so difficult. I mean. I want to not like it, but I have to admit it was a powerful end to the book. I have the author's other book and now I am not sure I want to read it. I have to though, since it was one of the top selling novels in India in recent memory. I just hope it is not so brutal as The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay was. My goodness. I think the author is gay. I mean, I don't know for sure, but watching interviews he was sort of effeminate. Although for an Indian that actually does not necessarily mean anything. But reading the book the men were all described very well and the women, not at all. I think the most he ever described a woman beyond just saying something like she was drop dead gorgeous was saying that one of them had perfect small round breasts or something. Also two of the characters were gay and they lived on and off in San Francisco and he described the gay scene in the city a lot. I can't really say if it was accurate or not, but he spent quite a bit of time on it. Maybe he is just a good writer? Whether or not he is gay does not matter to me in particular, except for how it pertains to what he wrote, how people received it, etc. India is still very closed minded to that sort of thing, yet the author of Flamingoes is one of the best selling in recent memory and has generally received positive reviews from critics. It could be just because only the more westernized elite members of society buy books like his. Maybe people do not pick up on it? It will be interesting to find out.

Currently I am working through The Empire Writes Back. It is interesting. I disagree with about a third of what they say, but so far it has been very informative. It is much more dense reading and I should probably look a few words up in the dictionary. However, it is really making me think, which I like. I have not got very far into it, but I am beginning to feel more and more that having post-colonial studies is essentially racist. The authors keep talking about how much they hope their work is changing the way things are, but I feel like trying to extend or maintain post-colonial studies as the central body for studying the literature of these countries will only hold them back. The core ideas in this book are a couple decades old now, so that may be part of it. Maybe post-colonial studies are not where they used to be. There is a chapter at the end of the book about how the field is changing. I have not read it yet, obviously, but maybe it will shed some light on the situation. Especially where India is concerned I just feel more and more like restricting Indian writing to post-colonialism is stupid. Of all the colonies, I think India emerged with its original culture most intact. There was an obvious impact, but none of the languages, at least the major ones were ever in danger of going extinct. Writing, religion, and culture in those languages never stopped. English only ever existed on the surface. It is the language of the elite and all that, but the heart of the country never stopped speaking their languages. There were too many people and they were never important enough for the British to force into something else. Plus I do not think it is productive to look at India from the perspective of a colony compared to other colonies. Erm, what I mean is, so much of Indian culture is tied to the language and the religion. How can you study what Indians really mean with their writing without taking into account the other languages? For a quick example, Urdu literature was experiencing one of its greatest renaissances during the British occupation and only ended at the very end of that colonization. The British kind of wiped it out at the end there, but for a long time, the most significant literature written in India was not in English, but in Urdu. This is only one part of the country. And I understand that this is another language, not English and that English would obviously be much more colonially focused, but even so, I think it would be much more productive to place Indian English literature in the context of everything else they have been writing, not in the context of what everyone else was writing. At least do not make post-colonial the main category for Indian Literature in English. Anyhow, I feel like I am beating a dead horse at this point, I have already talked about this. Although these thoughts were inspired from my reading. I guess I will update more as I read more of The Empire. Maybe they will succeed in changing my mind.

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