Saturday, June 24, 2017

Anklet and Other Stories by Shome Dasgupta

When well done, fiction and travel share the ability to move you beyond your comfort zone, challenge the steadfastness of your boundaries, and give you a new lens for interpreting yourself and that which you take for granted. In Anklet and Other Stories (Golden Antelope Press, 2017), author Shome Dasgupta transports us to Kolkata, India, and invites us, in ways at once tangibly real and magically surreal, to unsettle ourselves in the most fundamental of ways.

The edges we confront in these taut and memorable stories are always organic to the setting - a mystical and fable-like cautionary tale of a boatman on a holy river, a tense altercation in Kolkata's impossibly snarled traffic, or, as in the lovely "Tagore's Kiss," the collective tension in a cafe when a cultural norm is transgressed - but they also powerfully transcend place to more universal experiences. In "Samosa," the narrator stops to witness a homeless man upon the street and pities him, but then, despite his vehement protests, becomes the object of pity and scorn himself. The shift is profound, and visceral. Another favorite, "This is my Head," is a nuanced and beautifully written portrait of a young person's first real encounter with age, illness and death. The disruptions also often have magical elements - blackbirds dropping from the sky, marking our foreheads with their beaks, a young man who is unable to keep himself being thrown backwards across a room - which both engage our imaginations and accentuate our discomfort in the most wonderful of ways.

I highly recommend the collection for literary short fiction fans, and also call the reader's attention to the gorgeous sketches by Indira Kalyan Dutta in the body of the collection which perfectly complement the stories. It is always a special pleasure to welcome an author back to the blog - my thanks to Shome Dasgupta for a complimentary review copy of Anklet and Other Stories. Learn more about his personal story and the background of the collection in "A Story Behind the Stories" at Deep South Magazine.

Happy reading!

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