Aerogrammes by Tania James – Book Review
Aerogrammes is a collection of nine short stories by an author whose hallmark seems to tenderness.
Most of the stories are about Malayalees living in America. Not sure if the author Tania is also one. It is about people planting themselves in an adopted place. All of them get bound to the new place to a different degree. But somewhere the loneliness and some cracked relationships become a part of them.
I loved the fact that the protagonists in stories are vastly different from each other. Yet somewhere all of them are dealing with some strange relationships. The author displays her versatility in various subjects when she moves from wrestlers in yesteryears to classical dancer to a graphologist to a retired widower to a chimpanzee to a writer. By placing her characters in different professions, and describing them in detail for the reader, she is also trying to explore our relationship with work. How it comes to define us. Especially in the moments when we have no other relationships. And how sometimes it can become an obsession.
I loved the first story where a hard working wrestler feels defeated after he wins his dream bout as he realizes that his win is attributable to factors other than his talent. I also liked The Scriptological Review, where the protagonist is obsessed with handwriting analysis. And the story is his last editorial for the journal he runs as he runs out of resources to run it. And is pushed into mundane jobs that the world expects him to do. A similar sentiment is found in another story when a brother lets go of his dream for nursing his brother after an accident. In Light and Luminous she brings out the face of change when a dancer rooted in her own ways decides to change in response to outside change. But is unable to cope with it.
What stands out in all the stories is the storyteller. Her simple treatment of the story and its characters, her very uncluttered flow of story including the twists. And her tender treatment of what her characters are going through. Her nuances include certain words or gestures that contain the whole emotion of the scene. While you hear what she is saying there is a lot of silence in the stories. Resonating the inner silence of the characters. And you can feel the vacuum that they are experiencing. There are no side stories. No sub plots and not much of past baggage.
Most stories are about dealing with the moment. The moment you have to change your course of life, the moment a truth or a reality dawns on you, the moment that changes your needs and wants. Tenderness stands out the most. As you can see that in telling these stories there is a very careful attempt in not placing any judgment on anyone. In not interpreting anything that is happening. And treating everyone and every situation as it occurs in a soft and tender way. That leaves a lot of room for the author in a complex story. But in simple stories like these ones, it keeps the story plain and simple.
Read Aerogrammes for these very well written short stories that softly whisper to you.