Ok, so I finished Londonstani, by Gautam Malkani, last week, and I've been dying to write about it. In contrast to the review in the Independent, I did not find the book contrived - or, rather, yes, it was a little contrived, but it was good. Enjoyable, but not dumb.
I'm kind of having a hard time talking about the book because there is a twist at the end that I can't give away. Suffice it to say that Malkani talks about race and masculinity in a totally sophisticated way - a way that I think Zadie Smith failed miserably to do in On Beauty. (Don't even get me started on On Beauty. I know Zadie Smith is great and all, and I teach White Teeth, but I thought she got academia wrong - or if not wrong, just a "this is how it was at Harvard when I was a visiting writer there and so it must be how it is at all colleges" right - I thought she got American slang/dialect wrong, and I thought she got what it is to be an adolescent male wrong. I don't care if she was nominated for the Booker Prize for the book - and I do see why she was - I found the book irritating and not particularly exceptional, as books go.)
But back to Londonstani. The thing about it is that it is at turns violent (exceptionally so) and immature (the narrator is a 20 year old) and funny and surprising. It's a good story. In the way that books you read when you're a kid are good stories. But it's not just that, because there is some depth to the book, and the way that Malkani interweaves different dialects and pop culture references and religious traditions is complicated and interesting. And so what if it's pretentious or contrived feeling at times? Aren't most books that people pay attention to?
2 years ago