Monday, January 19, 2009

Short Story Mondays: Jhumpa Lahiri's A Temporary Matter

Seeing as I signed up to read 100 short stories, I've decided to try a weekly short story review, inspired by John Mutford's feature of that name and using my own version of Rob's (Rob Around Books) format.

Source: Interpreter of Maladies (1999) by Jhumpa Lahiri
Date Read: January, 2009
Briefly: A couple's relationship is affected when the electric company shuts down the electricity for an hour every evening for a week, to perform extensive repairs without inconveniencing the neighborhood.
Afterthoughts: I loved the premise. Shoba and Shukumar have been through a stillbirth and never managed to reconnect after that tragedy, having gotten into a routine of retreating into their own worlds within their shared house: he to his computer, she to her work or television. The lack of electricity shakes up that routine and forces them to eat together by candlelight and pass the time without the distractions of electronic media. It had the potential to be a memorable statement about the impact of our current cultural norm--plugging ourselves in--on a relationship. I'm not sure what Lahiri was going for, though, because in the last three pages she veered off into another direction. I finished this story feeling let down. A little darkness doesn't normally put me off, but in this case it left me wondering whether I wanted to read any more of this author.
Notable Quote:
She used to put her coat on a hanger, her sneakers in the closet, and she paid bills as soon as they came. But now she treated the house as if it were a hotel. The fact that the yellow chintz armchair in the living room clashed with the blue-and-maroon Turkish carpet no longer bothered her. On the enclosed porch at the back of the house, a crisp white bag still sat on the wicker chaise, filled with lace she had once planned to turn into curtains.
(To visit this week's other reviews, click on the Short Story Monday clock)


  1. Aww, I'm sorry to hear you were let down. This is actually my favourite of her stories, but it did leave me feeling depressed. Most of her stories tend to be sad, but I'd say this is probably the "worse" of them all.

  2. You'll be happy to know that I didn't stop reading after this story. Next Monday I'll talk about my favorite story in the book.

  3. Sounds like it had potential to be a great story about the fragility or resiliency of relationships. Too bad it didn't pan out.

  4. I actually really liked this story and thought about it for days afterward. Liked the others in the book, too, so looking forward to your next posts on it!

  5. Like Nymeth, this is my favourite of her stories! I'm curious to know what your favourite is. :)

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