Saturday, January 24, 2009

Could We Talk About Books for a Minute--I Have a Doozy of a Short Story Collection by Daniyal Mueenuddin to Tell You About

Ever since I read this new collection of stories called In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, I have been wanting to write about it. I told a fellow bookseller that in most cases, it is best to wait until the book is available before writing it. I'm trying to practice what I preach. And at least as of posting day, we've got stock at all shops, no matter what our web site says.

If the book isn't out yet, you readers seem to think it is better to preorder it on that other web site. May I just say right here and now that every bookstore worth it's salt can hold a book for you, and that our Schwartz web site, as well as the soon-to-be web site I'll have at my next place, will let you hold a book by email. From there you can pick it up or we'll send it out.

And here's a point that some customers seem to not get--we get the books at the same time the other place does. But I digress. As always.

Daniyal Mueenuddin had one of the standout stories, "Nawabdin Electrician" in the new Best American Short Stories 2008, guest edited by Salman Rushdie. Feedback on this year's collection was stupendous, by the way.

The other hint I had that this collection was great was my Norton rep Johanna assuring me was the star book on their winter list. I don't know who I trust more, the great Salman Rushdie or my sales rep Johanna (it's Johanna), but the answer does not matter because the results are the same.

These are tales of Pakistan, centered around the estate of K. K. Harouni and his friends, relatives, servants. There is inordinate wealth and extreme poverty; the middle classes are only an aside, failed wealthy folk. There's graft, abuse, scheming, addictions. Men use power, women use sex.

"Saleema" is the story of a woman who works her way up the ladder currying favors from favored servants. "Our Lady of Paris" finds a wealthy Pakistanti introducing his American girlfriend to his parents in Paris, where Mom tries to talk her out of marriage. It's interesting how the stories that center on the servants tend to have an old-fashioned flavor about them while the wealthy folks' tales have more of a modern nuance.

It's a great read, written by a man who fits the formula of several of the characters, as he was educated in the U.S. (Dartmouth, no I don't know him) and then returned to the family farm, which I'm assuming is more than a chicken coop. I'm not promising a novel in stories, but there's a cohesiveness about the collection that gives you that satisfied feeling you get with a longer narrative.

This one's a keeper, worth being published in hardcover. It's just one of three new pieces of fiction I am over the moon about. And this isn't even my top pick.
Fact to know about Schwartz--we are doing special orders from our Ingram and Baker and Taylor warehouses through February. If we don't have what you want, we can get it in very quickly, or drop ship it to you.

1 comment:

StacieMichelle said...

The writing is solid, the stories straightforward, the images wondrous without being sentimental...I like what I've read out of this collection so far...