Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Short Stories Seem To Be Back

I read somewhere that short stories are no longer a preferred medium of writing and that the whole culture of writing them is dying out. After that, I found it to be true as I could only find really old stuff like RK Narayan and Ruskin Bond on the shelves of my library. I am happy to announce that in the recent past, I have found two books (published recently) comprising short stories which were very enjoyable.

The first one was by John Grisham called Ford County. Now, I was a bit sceptical of picking this one up because the last few books by JG were quite sad. The thing with best-selling authors is that you just can't resist picking up the book as one tends to think "This one might be better than the last one and if it is not, how bad can it get"? Luckily, this one turned out to be one of the good ones. Ford County is a small town somewhere in the US and has a very small population. The stories revolve around people from here, who lead a slightly simpler life than the typical city folks. Simple and direct, in tune with the settings, they are quite fast paced and that keeps your interest. There are no elaborate plots and twists (unlike your typical Jeffrey Archer) and the stories take you to an uncomplicated end. Most of them have happy endings or not so sad endings and thats a plus.

The other one I read was by William Dalrymple called Nine Lives. This guy has all my respect. I am one of the last people who would read a travelogue or a quasi-history book but from the minute I come to know that WD has released a book, I just have to get it. His books remind me of P G Wodehouses creations cause you can read them effortlessly. As written by the author in the preface, Nine Lives captures stories that he encountered during his travels which he could not weave into a whole book. Even with all the modernisation around us, the people showcased in these stories are connected to the spirituality that existed in the old days. Be it an idol maker, a jailer or a so called mad woman, all of them lead simple lives which are dedicated to finding and serving God in any of his forms. Superb variety, lots of information neatly encapsulated and easy reading make this a pleasure. I also realised the amount of travel and research WD does and how much rich material he comes across and leaves out. Its not like he just does Delhi and the Mughals, he has travelled across the whole country - Kerala, Rajasthan, Bengal and Dharamshala. Although I feel envious, I don't think I would like to spend too much time with tantrics and sufi saints. Reading it from a safe distance is thrilling enough. I hope he comes out with some more of these stories soon.

p.s. - I'm now reading R K Narayans Gods, Demons and Others. For a crash course in Hindu mythology, this seems to cover all the important stories...

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