Saturday, August 15, 2020

A House is a Body

  A House is a Body
Author:  Shruti Swamy
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2020. 208 pages.
ISBN:  1616209895 / 978-1616209896

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Sudha and Vinod had a modest wedding."

Favorite Quote:  "Sometimes, when you lose - when people die - it is very hard to make tears. You feel like you want to make tears but something inside you stops them and they press your chest. Like something sitting on it."

***** Blog Tour *****


"The house is a body, a body houses souls." I love books where the author defines the book or references the concept important enough to be the title. I love the cover of this book - the fire and the heat it portrays. It invites you to find out more. This debut collection of stories is set in the United States and in India. It picks up on many Indian cultural concepts. Representation in books matters.

The book contains twelve short stories:  Blindness. Mourners. My Brother at the Station. The Siege. Earthly Pleasures. Wedding Season. The Neighbors. A Simple Composition. The Laughter Artist. Didi. A House is a Body. Night Garden.

As with any collection of short stories, every reader will find some more appealing than others. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, I was not the reader for this book and these stories. 

Starting with the first story, the book contains graphic sexual descriptions. I am not the reader for graphic descriptions. In addition, the book descriptions reads, "Dreams collide with reality, modernity with antiquity, and myth with identity." To then find mundane, physical descriptions interlaced with stories that are more philosophical and poetic in nature highlights the descriptions even more so, making them a jarring interruption to the story.

The book description also "these stories are written with the edge and precision of a knife blade." The biggest issue I have with the book is that I don't feel like I understood the stories. Perhaps, for me, the story needed greater grounding to explain the situation or the concept. The stories seem to depict a moment - in the middle of a relationship. There is no context before and no resolution after. This is the nature of short stories, but a little context would help in the understanding.

Interestingly, I don't find that a fault  of the book. Rather, I take responsibility as a reader. There seems to be something I am missing that I don't really get the stories. I see glimmers of moments in the story that become real but the rest seems just beyond my grasp.

If not for the graphic nature of the book, I could see it being discussed in a literature class to discern the meaning and intention behind each story. I as a a casual, solo reader just did not get there. I am left with the sense of sadness that seems to permeate each story.

About the Author

The winner of two O. Henry Awards, Shruti Swamy's work has appeared in The Paris Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College's 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook.

She is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a 2017 – 2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her story collection A House Is a Body is forthcoming in August from Algonquin Books.

About the Book

Dreams collide with reality, modernity with antiquity, and myth with identity in the twelve arresting stories of A House Is a Body. In “Earthly Pleasures,” a young painter living alone in San Francisco begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities, and desire and ego are laid bare. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s professional crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy. And in the title story, an exhausted mother watches, hypnotized by fear, as a California wildfire approaches her home. Immersive and assured, provocative and probing, these are stories written with the edge and precision of a knife blade. Set in the United States and India, they reveal small but intense moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Social Link

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment