The Five Dollar Smile: And Other Stories

Shashi Tharoor, Author Arcade Publishing $18.95 (175p) ISBN 978-1-55970-225-6
Although Tharoor wrote most of these 15 precocious tales in his teens and early 20s, they display the gift for sparkling social satire and sharp observation of life in India that he brought to The Great Indian Novel and Show Business. Several of them are perfect. Whether depicting a self-important police inspector who bungles a homicide investigation (``The Political Murder''), an orphan who feels manipulated by a child relief agency (``The Five-Dollar Smile''), or a college student who survives a scooter crash in which his friend dies (``The Pyre''), Tharoor has a fine eye for caste and class consciousness. He mocks India's ``mod sophisticates,'' ad executives and bureaucrats. Irreverent tales of college life mingle with intense family dramas: a 17-year-old carries on a brief, torrid affair with his married ``Auntie Rita'' and ``The Professor's Daughter'' is brutally beaten by her old father because of her presumed flirtations. Tharoor, who now lives in New York, sets his funniest tale in the U.S. Fittingly, ``The Solitude of the Short Story Writer'' shows the protagonist scandalizing his friends by writing acerbic, revelatory stories about them. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1993
Release date: 06/01/1993
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