The Middleman and Other Stories

Bharati Mukherjee

directly after reading an alice munro book and the fantastic murakami collection, a moderately good group of short stories unfortunately suffers from comparative disappointment. this book had been recommended to me, and i just read and enjoyed jasmine a few weeks ago, but most of the stories here have a painful lack of development. the stories tend to rest too much on “comic” interactions between characters, which lack the necessary depth to feel like the stories go anywhere rather than sounding natural and lighthearted. everything ends up feeling very stagnant from start to finish. Mukherjee has wonderful insight on the lives in immigrants in the US, but sometimes this focus seems forced so that in the end her characters and narrative don’t breathe. also the book was published in 1988 and has a little too much of a pop culture feel as most of the stories sound dated in a brittle manner.

the last story,”the management of grief,” is almost an exception. from the viewpoint of a woman who has just lost her husband and two sons in a plane crash that appears to have been caused by a bomb, it follows her slow easing out of the shock of losing her family and, in many ways, her future. there’s this great part about her drug-induced calm:

I wonder if pills alone explain this calm. Not peace, just a deadening quiet. I was always controlled, but never repressed. Sound can reach me, but my body is tensed, ready to scream.

maybe i’ve overdone it with reading so many short stories at once, but i believe it’s time to get into a nice, thick novel.

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