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Friday, 16 May 2014
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
Review by JJ Marsh
What We Thought:
Not quite Bombay's Trainspotting, but close.
Thayil has Welsh's ear for dialect and idiolect but makes poetry with his eye for beautiful juxtaposition. More Bolaño than Begbie.
He also has a sly line in dark humour, ensuring the underbelly of drug addiction and slum life, the constant draw of hit and hypnotism, all work their magic on the reader.
Characterisation is a real strength, so that we hope Dimple is happy and care about Rashid. But most of all, we will our narrator to chase another kind of dragon.
This is a story of escape and redemption, but the strongest chord in this fabulously populated, gorgeously written novel, is one of regret.
Read it for the joy of language and sensory heady prose.
After that incredible one-sentence first chapter, you'll be hooked.
You'll like this if you enjoy: Hunter S Thompson, William Burroughs, Dennis Johnson, soaring poetic writing.
Avoid if you dislike: details of addiction, ambiguous sexuality, realities of Indian city life, no easy answers.
Ideal accompaniments: Lassi laced with absinthe, freshly peeled lychees with rose petals and an album by Tavlin Singh & Niladri Kumar
Genre: Literary fiction, contemporary