Subcontinental Drift

WALTER KIRN in The New York Times:

Kirn190 Theroux’s new book of three novellas, “The Elephanta Suite,” is his attempt — brought off with mixed results but distinguished by worthy intentions and sturdy tradecraft — to display and explain contemporary India in all its swarming, seductive, anachronistic, disorienting dynamism. India’s contradictions seem to interest him most, especially its peculiar combination of ancient ascetic spirituality and information-age commercialism. Over here an ashram or a temple devoted to the quest for inner enlightenment or the veneration of Hindu gods, across the way a modern call center that fields complaints from Home Depot customers. Theroux hints in the book that India’s native novelists — or at least those who’ve won wide acceptance in America — have failed in some way to convey their country’s complexities, perhaps by emphasizing its picturesque folkways and exotic domestic customs as a way of enchanting Western readers. Theroux presumes to correct this situation by stripping some romance from the place.

More here.