The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Buy it at Amazon.com

Buy it at Amazon.com

The 150-word Review: With Slumdog Millionaire’s explosion into the world’s zeitgeist, modern-day India with its unrestrained energy and its arresting pastiche of colors, textures, and sounds has become a microcosm of globalization.  It’s a bridge between the old world and the new.  Much like Slumdog, Booker-winning The White Tiger captures this same dynamic, but through the idiosyncratic mind of one unforgettable character.

In a series of letters to Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Balram Halwai describes his life’s journey from a peasant lost in the Darkness of rural India to a chauffeur in Delhi to a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore.  In a remarkably unrepentant voice (reminiscent of Meursault from Camus’ The Stranger), Balram pontificates on the indignities of the caste system, the shackles of the traditional Indian family, and the chasm between the Haves and the Have-nots–and the horrific means he’s taken to control his own destiny.

You will like this book if you’re a fan of: Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, outsourcing, a Honda City, chandeliers, Murder Weekly, political corruption, and moral ambiguity.

Cliff Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Aravind Adiga was formerly a journalist for the Financial Times and TIME magazine.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Buy it at Amazon.com

The 150-word Review: When I think of magic realism, I think of one book:  Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. This book is a conjuring – a cacophonous explosion of sounds, flavors, colors, and textures – and a chronicle of India during its nascent independence.  All of which could only be accurately described with magic realism.

Saleem Sinai is the first of the one-thousand-and-one “midnight children,” born at the stroke of midnight during the first hour of India’s independence, with a gargantuan nose and a unique gift.  Saleem is a telepath.  He can communicate with all of the midnight children, each who have magical abilities of their own.  Saleem appreciates the significance (and the burden) of his birth and sets to tell his life’s story to his wife.  Thus Saleem becomes Rushdie’s Scheherazade, weaving together the miraculous tales of the midnight children and serving as witness to the tumultuous events that envelop the sub-continent during his life.

You will enjoy this book if you are a fan of: a polyglot of languages and local dialects, the crystal blue skies of Kashmir, cheroot and betlenut, historical fiction and allegory, old Bombay, chutney, One Thousand and One Nights, and following one’s nose.

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, Midnight’s Children has twice been recognized as the “Booker of Bookers.”