LibOn propone l’articolo originale
Nikesh Shukla. Wednesday 22 December 2010
1. Hanif Kureishi – The Black Album (Faber)
While The Buddha of Suburbia is a masterfully comic tale of rise and fall that loves its characters, there’s something a lot more sinister about The Black Album, making it the oddball in his output. It seems to foreshadow works like Four Lions, City of Tiny Lights and even the forthcoming Ours Are the Streets by decades, and is written with the energy and exuberance of Kureishi’s early work, embodied by the raw funk of Prince’s eponymous album, and the dizzying chemical overload of the ectasy that fills the rave scenes. It charts clean-cut Shahid’s trip into hedonism and flirtations with fundamentalism with eerie prescience, and its take on the classic Anglo-Asian identity crisis tale throws a cleancut, sheltered lad in at the deep end of a naked rave party.
2. Hari Kunzru – My Revolutions (Penguin)
Hari Kunzru takes a break from technology-obsessed India and colonial India to deliver a bittersweet tale of the realities that befall an activist commune, and the secrets and regrets that haunt them well into their dotage. The slow-burn reveal of how all the empassioned polemics and free love fell out is beautifully explored, from the impetuousness of their adolescent smugness into the 20-20 hindsight of guilt and regret. Refreshingly un-brown, which is a rare allowance by a publisher for an “ethnic” author.
3. Sarfraz Manzoor – Greetings from Bury Park (Bloomsbury)
The way this book deals with how a song, a band, a movement can transend race and religion, colour and creed is one close to my heart, and reading about Manzoor‘s tribal bond with first Bruce Springsteen and then rock’n’roll reminds me of how hip-hop helped me to belong to a club where I knew little of the other members. His descriptions of being British and Muslim and being unsure of how to reconcile the two is wonderfully honest, painful, brutal and triumphant, and damn, he’s been one of my must-read journalists for years. It pretty much says everything I want to say about dual heritage and about music but better and makes me … well, feel like I should have given up and he should be writing this list not me.
4. Sathnam Sanghera – The Boy with the Topknot (Penguin)
When successful journalist and materialist Sathnam Sanghera was 24 he discovered his father and sister were both suffering from a severe mental illness he hadn’t been aware of. As he researched their conditions and how they had come to be hidden (through ignorance of schizophrenia and guilty family secrets) he started to piece together his history and that of his parents. Each family member is memorable, from his silent father obsessed with BBC Parliament despite his lack of English; his mother, neurotic and obsessed with finding him a wife of equal caste, holding the family together; his brother with his growing obsessions with fashion icons of the times and his two sisters, funny and nasty by turns. The book closes with a letter to his mother, explaining the choices he has made and the secret life of dating white girls and the amount of panic and depression it causes him. But its also warm and funny – especially where he has his hair cut for the first time, a big Sikh no-no.
5. Helen Walsh – Once Upon a Time In England (Canongate)
A story of one moment that changes everything, and leaves a couple desperately in love spending a lifetime passively battling each other for release. Here, it is a brutal act of racism against working man’s club singer Robbie’s beautiful Tamil wife, Susheela. Set in the north, and featuring plenty of small-town suffocation, dreams fade and hope dims, lives collide and their children grow up in that inbetween world, never quite sure of who they’re meant to be and who their parents wish they were. A bittersweet joy to read.
6. Niven Govinden – Graffiti My Soul (Canongate)
The ultimate coming-of-age novel, tenderly exploring the suffocation of suburbia, in small-town Surrey where Verapen, a half-Tamil, half-Jewish running obsessive reminisces about the girl he has just buried, his love Moon Suzuki. He ascribes rules to what he can handle in his life (not much beyond the running), which is difficult given that his parents, in the midst of their own crises, aren’t following the rules set out for him. Govinden‘s charm, warmth and ability to wring a heart-wrenching tale out of teenage life make this less a retread of culture-clash concerns and more about the perils and pitfalls of being a teenager in the grand tradition of JD Salinger.
7. Anjali Joseph – Saraswati Park (Fourth Estate)
The beauty of the whole diaspora writing thing is seeing how Anglo-Asians write about living here and there, back in the “desh”. Another debut of note from this year was Anjali Joseph who manages to write about a startlingly modern India, with slackers and movers and shakers and lovers familiar from contemporary London. It captures the middle classes of Mumbai with still, quiet clarity and tells a tragicomic and tale about modern family life.
8. Gautam Malkani – Londonstani (Fourth Estate)
Grossly mismarketed as highbrow literary fiction, Londonstani works best as a YA novel aimed at showing teenagers how easily they descend into warring tribes. It’s a Lord of the Flies for our time, set in a west London tense with Muslim/Hindu/Sikh tensions, wicked mobile phones and the purest of friendships poisoned by the lure of money. As the characters try and escape their urban-suburban existences, external forces seek to use them against others. A poignant and gritty book about the difference between friendship and tribalism.
9. Rajeev Balasubramanyam – In Beautiful Disguises (Bloomsbury)
Balasubramanyam‘s only book released in the UK has moments of frivolity and fantasy that exploit Bollywood tropes with such imagination and wonder that you can’t help but be spirited away. The narrator, burdened with a bullying dad, obedient sister and mute mother, is moments away from the obligatory arranged marriage scenario. Her only escape is the pictures, where she learns to ape Holly Golightly and the other starlets. Escaping to the big bad city she learns that … well… I’m sure you can guess. But this is a beautifully energetic book that captures the spirit of escapism and its collision with reality superbly.
10. William Sutcliffe – Are You Experienced? (Penguin)
Ahh levity, my old friend – welcome back, after the heart-wrenching emotiveness of some of the books above, sometimes you just want to read about backpackers trying to find “the real India” – all toilet disasters and sexy gurus and scam artists ahoy as Sutcliffe leads us from Delhi to Goa via recreational sex and drugs, and boy, is it fun. And surprising that the funniest book on this Anglo-Asian list was written by someone more Anglo than Asian.