Quietly Devastating

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Author: David Martin
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 889 words

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[(review date 8 September 2008) In the following laudatory review, Martin enumerates the strengths of the stories collected in Unaccustomed Earth, asserting that the volume "contains some of the best, most beautiful fiction written this decade--the kind that will be read 50 years from now."]

There are very few fiction writers who seem, wonderfully, to transcend the problem of how to write, or of "literary style". Their prose sounds, we feel, utterly natural, transparent, as the world would sound if it could narrate itself to us. Naturally, the paradox is that it takes supreme artistry to achieve that feeling of artlessness, of presenting life "as it is". Tolstoy and Chekhov are the dual masters; these days critics deservedly cite the Canadian short story writer Alice Munro. Jhumpa Lahiri grazes the same heights in her new collection, Unaccustomed Earth.

That, however, is not the only surprise about this book, the third from its feted, 40-year-old American-Bengali author, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1999 debut, Interpreter of Maladies. The new collection is an unexpected popular sensation in her native United States, entering the New York Times bestseller list at number one in April after a healthy dose of pre-publication hype. Lahiri's US publishers, Knopf, clearly guessed there was something eminently saleable about these finely observed stories of loss and love set...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100096960