Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hold That Tiger

Sometimes you get in a grove and everything you do seems somehow related. I found this to be the case after I finished Aravind Adiga’s novel “The White Tiger” about an ambitious entrepreneur from the lowest Indian caste. Now, I’m not saying I know where the protagonist, Balram, is coming from, but the more I get involved in my own book’s marketing platform I can’t help but think I’m getting a little more of that entrepreneurial spirit.

Set in India, the book provides a wonderful texture, a brilliant balance of anecdote, poetry, and interwoven backstories. Balram narrates in an epistolary-style trying to coax the Emperor of China to meet him, and become his benefactor. Balram goes by many names and alludes to himself with self-deprecation as the White Tiger. Indeed, he is a rare an elusive animal.

Our hero is also an escaped murderer who feels compelled to prove to the Chinese Emperor he is a worthy man, a parvenu rising above his blighted birthright. Adiga’s writing style approximates spoken voice, and yet he avoids the lazy tics that infect dialect-inspired fiction.

There is plenty of poetry in the imagery he creates, ribbons of colors and a myriad of wafting scents. He has a lighthearted way of describing the gross inequities of being set in an Indian caste system.

Adiga employs flashbacks to show scenes where the young Balram grows aware of his unmitigated destiny. He is sensitive to the fact that his father was a rickshaw puller though he has determination and a bit of chutzpah to climb from his feeble past.

Adiga sets an energized pace when describing his potential, but when Balram reflects upon his family’s hardships he slows the pace down demonstrating rumination and introspection. His mood doesn’t slide into melancholy he welcomes the bustling spirit of a city where monkeys roam streets with fruit vendors, rickshaws, and cricket players. In one instance, he meditates on the grave sorrow of his mother’s death and then shortly afterwards is filled with wonder peering at the soggy head of a water buffalo rising from the river.

Balram switches between playfulness and earnestness. He has so many great ideas he should be giving panel discussions. I am passing the word onto Mediabistro.

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