Diamond Dust: Stories

Anita Desai, Author Mariner Books $12 (224p) ISBN 978-0-618-04213-5
The nine stories in this collection from Desai (Fasting, Feasting) are served up with characteristic perspicuity, subtle humor and attention to the little hypocrisies of the middle class. Diverse settings and domestic dramas frame universal themes, often involving the complex relationship between an individual and her/his family and culture. In ""Winterscape,"" Rakesh's ""two mothers"" fly to Canada from India to attend the birth of his first child. Rakesh, now ""a husband, a Canadian"" and fairly alienated from his past, has trouble explaining to his wife, Beth, the love and sympathy with which his mother gave him to her childless sister. ""Tepoztlan Tomorrow"" offers a familiar Desai scenario of ""aging daughters taking care of their aged parents,"" and features a young man, studying in the States, back to visit his family in Mexico; Louis finds himself groundless, unable to regain footing in his past and unwilling to accept the encroaching future as exhibited in his rapidly transforming hometown. Especially vivid and rewarding are the stories set in India, illuminating the ways familial ties and various aspects of Indian culture can nourish or suffocate. In the title story, Diamond, a huge black dog, terrorizes the conservative suburb of Bharti Nagar, but is cherished by his owner, the ""reputable government servant"" Mr. Das, who lives vicariously through the spirited, unruly beast. Moyna, in ""The Rooftop Dwellers,"" lives in a New Delhi ""barsati"" (a small room built atop a flat-roofed house), seeking independence from her family and traditional roles; amid a community of struggling young adults, she finds support in resisting the common social attitude of ""fear and loathing for the single working woman."" As always, Desai explores her subject with sensitivity while maintaining the perfect authorial distance, achieving a compassionate and subtle irony. 3-city author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/22/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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