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East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi
     

East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi

by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
 

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This collection features short fiction from Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a brilliant writer whose work is compared with that of Chekhov, James, and Austen. Written over the past 20 years, these engrossing stories are domestic tapestries, threaded with the emotional lives and complex psychologies of intense lovers, quarreling married couples, weary elders, and their restless

Overview

This collection features short fiction from Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a brilliant writer whose work is compared with that of Chekhov, James, and Austen. Written over the past 20 years, these engrossing stories are domestic tapestries, threaded with the emotional lives and complex psychologies of intense lovers, quarreling married couples, weary elders, and their restless adult children.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author is too modest. Written over a span of 20 years, the 13 stories gathered here (five of which have appeared in the New Yorker) are not "plain" at all. Rather, they're rich in character, observation and insight. The "Upper East" of the title refers to the Manhattan neighborhood; the title itself may echo Kipling's Plain Tales from the Hills. Novelist (Out of India) and screenwriter (A Room with a View) Jhabvala depicts characters struggling to reconcile dependency and accommodation in their relationships. Enmeshed by financial and emotional need, her upper class Indians and New Yorkers go to extremes to oblige companions, families and lovers. In the opening story, "Expiation," a New Delhi man reflects guiltily on his responsibility toward his youngest brother, executed for murder. In one powerful New York story, "A Summer by the Sea," a woman with inherited wealth supports her husband's family while tolerating his infidelity with young men. The New York real estate agent in "Great Expectations" allows a family of strangers to take over her life, and the wife in "Fidelity" would rather die than let her unfaithful and criminally conniving husband return to jail. Acute as the New York narratives are, the New Delhi stories are both broader and deeper, perhaps because they are set against, and in part describe, the dramatic changes that have occurred in India over the last 60 years. Jhabvala deftly captures the dilemmas of people who straddle cultural divides: occidental and oriental, colonized and "free," traditional fealties and market capitalism. Her stories are "plain" finally because they are never flashy or postmodern. Instead, they study the wellsprings of character and the pressures of society that make people behave in often self-destructive or hurtful ways. (Sept.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Jhabvala, best known for her Merchant-Ivory screenplays and her Booker Prize- winning novel, Heat and Dust (1983), here presents 14 short stories. Written over a 20-year period, they are set in locales as diverse as New Delhi and New York. Jhabvala characters, drawn through expert observation and unique insight, experience universal struggles and triumphs, whether they're in a crowded bazaar in an Indian city or a Manhattan apartment. Jhabvala conveys most effectively the psychology of the family, including the fragile and emotionally charged relationships between mothers and sons and between fathers and daughters. Her collection offers a skillful blend of East and West and a profound understanding of the collective trials of the human experience. Highly recommended.--Dianna Moeller, WLN, Lacey, WA
Deborah Mason
Each story reveals Jhabvala's mastery of the form: the sleek economy of words, free of heavy symbolism of easy judgments, that allows her to home in on small, telling details. -- The New York Times Book Review
Joanna Slater
...[H]er portraits of the compromises people make and the obligations they carry rarely miss their mark....You won't find a storybook ending in any of Jhabvala's tales, but neither will you find the certitude of the cynic. Most of all, Jhabvala is an observer. As readers, we are thankful for her unique perspective and measured gaze, which, though it may sadden and challenge us, never fails to enlighten.
Far Eastern Economic Review
Kirkus Reviews
From Booker-winner Jhabvala (Shards of Memory) comes 14 compressed stories (five published previously), mostly set in New Delhi or New York, in which themes of rivalry, family discord, and loyalty at odds with convention are explored with consummate grace and skill. For the six tales from India, the ministerial level of civil service in the generations living after Indian independence (1947) offers a frequent point of departure: In one story ('Independence'), a woman lends her expertise to arranging proper social functions for less sophisticated members of the new Indian ruling class, thereby rousing the scorn of her drunken poet husband, and finds a sweet but fitful solace in the arms of a general being groomed as Minister of Defense; in another, a college boy, expected by his mother to follow in the footsteps of her illustrious family, falters when his girlfriend's father, prominent in government, is forced from office in a bribery scandal (`A New Delhi Romance'). As for the seven New York pieces, a curious picture of life on the Upper East Side emerges as sex looms large to skew normal relations: A young wife watches as her husband pursues various men from their beach house, then has to put up with her mother falling head over heels for one of his conquests ('A Summer by the Sea'). Elsewhere, a daughter's preference for carpentry and the willowy clerk in a cheese shop is not what her frosty, chauffeur-driven mama had in mind ('Broken Promises'). The gem here, though, is set in London, where an emigre writer's struggle to balance a need for both his wife and his mistress is observed by his young granddaughter ('Two Muses'). Each piece of Jhabvala's worldly mosaicoffers precise, subtle views of people who are trying to make the best of their lives: their essential humanity remains compelling, even if their circumstances sometimes seem too much alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582430348
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
02/28/2000
Edition description:
1 PBK ED
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.42(h) x 0.78(d)

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