Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Kuzhali Manickavel, Eating Sugar Telling Lies (2011); Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some Of Them Have Wings (2008)
A small proof that there are models that work for helping e-books reach readers; I bought Manickavel’s bitter-smart ‘Eating Sugar Telling Lies’ for the 86p Amazon minimum (Amazon really should lower that minimum). I liked it so much—a punchy, gritty little fable about the relationships between masters and servants, and more to the point between servants and servants, in a crumbling old Indian house (a sort of seedier Gormenghast that comes much more directly to its point)—that I went back and bought her 2008 short-story collection, the excellently-titled Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some Of Them Have Wings. The stories here are gnarled, off-kilter, sometimes beautiful but more often striking; and the writing excels at the creation of a kind of mood rather than the conventional satisfactions of narrative and character. Character is not lacking, here, certainly; but what makes Manickavel stand out from the teeming hordes of other short fiction writers is her ability to put interesting kinks into the form. Her typical tale is short, like the cigarettes Jean-Paul Belmondo never quite get to the end of smoking in A Bout De Souffle, lighting each new one from the previous. Very much recommended.