Skip to main content

Review of 'Magical Women'

I bought Magical Women by Hachette India on Kindle a few days back. It had been on my TBR for a long time. However, I hadn’t read up on what kind of a collection of stories the book would contain. People who like weird stories, horror, dystopia and sci-fi might enjoy this collection, which has been edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan. It was published in 2019.

 

The editor’s note states, “Each story in this collection is unique in its representation of what it means to be magical.”

 

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The book is well written, but some of the themes are a bit disturbing. The first story “ Gul” by Shreya Ila Anasuya has themes of lesbianism. The second story “ Gandaberunda” by S.V. Sujatha is violent and macabre. When I read the third story, ‘Rulebook for Creating a Universe’ by Tashan Mehta, I felt that although I was reading English, I was seeing Greek and Latin. It went totally above my head.

 

I really enjoyed the fourth story ‘The Demon Hunter’s Dilemma’ by Samhita Arni. It was almost like a fairy tale or mythological fiction with an underlying message of how some people don’t appreciate anything different from them and how true love overcomes all and changes your perspective.

 

The fifth story ‘Earth and Evolution Walk into a Bar’ by Sejal Mehta talks of the “rape of the natural world” and how humans have become monsters and the world has to be reset.

 

The sixth story, ‘Tridevi Turbulence’ by Trisha Das is a conversation between Ganga, Parvati, Lakshmi, Saraswati and the male Gods dominating their lives; only it is set in the modern day.



 

The seventh story ‘Stone Cold’ by Kiran Manral is a kind of a sci-fi, dystopian tale with a lesbian theme. It was high on storytelling.


The eighth story “The Gatekeeper’s Intern” by Ruchika Roy is about a protagonist who is clinically dead after a freak bolt of lightning strikes her car. The story discusses people with positive and negative charges and how they came to be. The author’s version of how the band ‘The Doors’ was created is inserted as a tiny nugget. The story touches on the supernatural and the line between life and death.

 

The ninth story ‘Grandma Garam’s Kitty Party’ by Shweta Taneja is about chudails who eat cats in kitty parties! One chudail is summoned by The Fetish Man who would like to tickle their feet. The chudail is struggling with her chudail legacy and wants to go “straight” and “work in an intellectual capacity, have a career, which doesn’t involve attracting men and scaring them witless and then unjuicing them”. She wants to be “normal”.

 

The tenth story ‘ The Carnival at the Edge of the Worlds’ by Shveta Thakrar is a highly descriptive story. It’s about a puppet, which plays Damayanti, ( of Nala and Damayanti fame)  that comes to life( much like Pinocchio). The protagonist goes from a puppeteer pulling her strings to her pulling her own strings. She is faced with a challenge — of facing her identity. She comes to life and finds out that being alive means constant agony and that everything comes at a price. If one wishes to know oneself, one must be ready to endure pain.

 

The tenth story ‘ The Rakshasi’s Rose Garden’ by Sukanya Venkatraghavan is one about a rakshasi who was gang-raped. She finds out that “rage was her magic” and that “she was all women”.  The secret behind her rose garden and missing memories is revealed at the end. This story reminded me of one of Neil D Silva’s stories that I read a few days back. (I don’t recall which one).

 

In the twelfth story ‘Bahameen’ by Asma Kazi, the protagonist time-jumps through her temporal lobe.  As she puts it, for a “time hopper, everywhere is home and nowhere is.”What caught my eye was the author sharing a recipe of ‘Nalli-nihari’ made of ingredients like “a pinch of existential angst to cancel all angst from Rastafariana”, “one heartbreak, your own”, among others. Although the bits about baby killers was macabre, I liked the time-hopping bits.

 

The thirteenth story called ‘The Girl who Haunted Death” by Nikita Deshpande was my favourite of the collection. It is about a woman’s relationship with Death (personified) after her husband passes away. It is the legend of Savitri retold.

 

The fourteenth and final story in this collection was “Apocalyptica” by Krishna Udayasankar. It was a story of gods and mortals. I found there was too much shoptalk about security codes when the author was discussing Vidya, and I lost the thread of the story there. Later on in the story, Parvati addresses Lord Shiva and includes the story of Ganesha.

 

On the whole, it is a unique collection, although one must have the palate for such stories.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Love in the time of quarantine by Siddhartha Gigoo

I’d won a coupon to buy this book from Amazon in a contest conducted by @NewAsianWriting on Twitter. @NewAsianWriting also requested me to review the book.   The author Siddhartha Gigoo wrote the short novella of 58 pages in 21 days. It is a poetic description of two lovers who are separated during the lockdown. Their musings are interspersed with the story of a homeless family and the confusion that the children of that family face at some of the events that take place.   The structure and format of the book is a little confusing since it switches from the point of view of the lovers to the perspective of the homeless family. The lovers’ musings are recorded once in the morning and once at night through a stanza for every one of the thirty days.  In between, the homeless family’s confusion is described, too. One has to read it more than once to grasp the story.   The author highlights how the lovers are privileged to be able to think of their love and separation rather than worry abou

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang - A Book Review

  This book has been on my TBR since the time it was featured in The New Yorker in 2019.  I bought the Kindle edition recently and read it over 2-3 days. The author Esmé Weijun Wang is an American writer who has written the novel, The Border of Paradise (2016) and The Collected Schizophrenias (2019). She has received the Whiting Award and was named a Best Young American Novelist by Granta magazine.   Wang has been diagnosed with a slew of health issues: schizoaffective disorder— bipolar type, idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia, complex PTSD, dysautonomia/POTS, chronic Lyme disease, and the extremely rare cotard’s delusion and capgras syndrome.   Wang calls her book “the collected schizophrenias” to include all the diseases that go into this basket, including schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and schizotypal personality disorder. Since she was into psychological research herself, her awareness about these matters was above average. The author says she even suggested

Normal People

I must say I loved this book from the very beginning. I liked the sparse writing style and how the author minimizes the use of quoted speech. I cared about the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them. Marianne shows us how an intelligent girl can go down a strange path due to family problems, which by the way, remains a shadowy backstory. Only her troubled relationship with her brother and mom is outlined. The relationship she had with her dad is up for conjecture, but the reader understands it was rather abnormal.  Some readers might be put off by the kinky sex scenes in the book, but I looked upon it as a part of the story of a troubled character with self-esteem issues. It also highlights the lengths to which a person would go for love. Even as Marianne degrades herself in her own eyes, the reader doesn't judge her but only wants her to redeem herself and do better. Connor comes across as a decent human being after he finds himself. On the whole, the story