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Pass The Rice Gruel
Perhaps the book was intended to be subversive and heretical but the prose style renders the narrative as a Malayalam TV sitcom.
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Phosphorus And Stone
PHOSPHORUS AND STONE
BY
SUSAN VISVANATHAN

ZUBAAN (PENGUIN ORIGINAL)
PAGES: 139; RS: 195

The protagonist of Visvanathan's new novella is Mary Magdalene, 17 years old when we meet her. Her mother died two years ago, and her globe-trotting father has left her with her maternal aunt in their ancestral home on the Malabar coast. Magda's best friend is a rich moneylender's son, Yesu. His parents' names are Mariam and Yusuf.

Sounds familiar? The Christ-family references are intentional of course, but here, Yesu marries Magda, they move to Bangalore, have a baby and live middle-classily ever after. Perhaps the book was intended to be subversive and heretical but the prose style renders the narrative as a Malayalam TV sitcom. All the cliches are alive: noble fisherfolk, tragic death-at-sea, vile capitalist trawlers and the inevitable bowls of "rice-gruel".

The entire rigmarole feels like a pretext for launching a quasi-mystical passage in which it is suggested that herbal remedies are an explanation for The Resurrection. Alas, the tone of the book is much too banal to support such a weighty theme. I'll be amazed if anyone takes it seriously (But you never know! Today's fundamentalists might make it a smash hit). And finally, the proofing errors: averaging one a page, from gross: "seeemed" (pg 09) to minor: "me., But" (pg 135), they are simply inexcusable.

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