A pink taxi

A pink taxi

January 23, 2011

Lahiri and Franzen: Two American Writers who Live Worlds Apart right in the USA

I am what some people might call an "Indian giver" as I have reclaimed "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri. I had originally gifted the novel to my father who left it by his bedside unread. After my literary escapade with Jonathan Franzen, I needed a diversion, and thus selected an author I have enjoyed in the past.  Lahiri, despite being of Indian heritage, is also considered to be an American writer. Her writing dwells on the personal intricacies of Indian emigrants in the US, and the familiar tug of war between trying to maintain links to the homeland and assimilating into American society. The Namesake takes place in Boston, the city I dwelled in for many years during my college and post college years.

When I started The Namesake, I couldn't help compare it to Franzen's s work, given that I lived and breathed Franzen for at least 3 months. I read the first pages. Like Franzen, Lahiri's style overrides the narrative, a sign of talented writing. Her writing happens to be as beautiful as she is herself. I had seen the film a few years ago, but I have forgotten the details and the ending, and the read still remains intriguing and pleasant.

Despite them both being very gifted writers, Franzen and Lahiri are different. I noted to my sister, a Lahiri fan and a Franzen convert: "If I had to attribute a color to Lahiri it would be light blue whereas Franzen is alsmost midnight blue". I appended with "and Salman Rushdie would be purple." In attributing colors to each of those writers, I was attempting to convey the respective density of their styles, the richness of their vocabularies.If I had to compare them to food, Lahiri's writing would taste like milk chocolate, Franzen like dark chocolate and Rushdie would be a rich truffle. My sister then added: "Lahiri is like Badoit water (very lightly sparkling), Franzen would be a Coke (not Diet), and Rushdie, a wiskey on the rocks!".

Light blue, milk chocolate and Badoit are what I am in the mood for at the moment. I take true pleasure in reading Lahiri. She is applied and talented at conveying portraits of Indian emmigrants and the clash they experience with their own Americanized offspring, a clash of generations, not unlike Franzen's intergenerational conflicts in The Corrections, but in completely different worlds, both set in  such different American atmospheres . Lahiri's chapters are each a framed painting,  as she is a short story writer at heart. It is almost like each chapter stands alone.

PS: I was touched to find boarding passes tucked into the pages of the book, perhaps conveying my father's attempt to read this novel on his travels. I am honored that my gift went that far.

1 comment:

  1. The Namesake is a beautiful book about what it means to find your own place in the world. Gogul is born in America from parents who immigrated from India. This book is about the struggles of Gogul's parents in trying to be part of America while hanging on to their cultural roots. It's about Gogul's struggles growing up a little different than other kids.