The Alchemy of Desire

Tarun J. Tejpal, Author
Tarun J. Tejpal, Author , Ecco $25.95 (518p) ISBN 978-0-06-088856-5
Reviewed on: 09/18/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-06-088858-9
Hardcover - 520 pages - 978-1-4472-1958-3
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Sexual attraction between a nameless narrator and his wife, Fizz, provides the through line of this sweeping epic by journalist and editor Tejpal. The young, poor couple travel from a quiet town to New Delhi, then to a remote corner of the Himalayas, in pursuit of art and sex. The oft-distracted narrator is trying, with minimal success, to write the Great Indian Novel, and his search for inspiration (other than that offered by the luscious Fizz) is the impetus for decamping to the city and the Himalayas. Little actually happens in these places, however; the narrator's obsession with writing and sex rivals that of Henry Miller's, and Fizz, the muse and sexual dynamo, is a contemporary Mona (though less of a nag). Once set up in the mountain cabin, the narrator finds a long-abandoned stack of diaries and becomes absorbed by them, so much so that their content, about a Chicago woman's journey to India, takes over the book. The opening several hundred pages, though sprinkled liberally with titillating passages, feel like an endurance test. Heavy with ambition, Tejpal's debut will please readers looking for an Indian Rosy Crucifixion. (Dec.)

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