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Book of the Week: The Artist of Disappearance
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, the dreamy and thought-provoking novella collection:
The Artist of Disappearance
by Anita Desai
We're all looking for the one moment of greatness in our lives. Sometimes we may even fantasize about it: we rush in front of the bus and save the toddler, we come through (impossibly) with the two million dollars needed to save the school for orphans. In Anita Desai's collection of three novellas, each character is presented with an opportunity to save something much more realistic, and paradoxically, much more magical. A bored young bureaucrat stumbles upon a forgotten museum in a rural Indian village, filled with exotic treasures from the Far East including a live elephant; a meek, lonely school teacher discovers a novel written in a dialect that's never been translated into English; three very urban-minded Bombay filmmakers find a mysterious, artistic garden hidden in the wilds of the mountains. In each case, the treasure under consideration is described with lavish, joyous detail. The museum, for example, is housed in a decrepit old mansion, with room after room of masks, porcelains, carpets and "jewel-like illustrations of floral and avian life, tiny figures mounted on curvaceous horses in pursuit of lions and gazelle, or kneeling before bearded saints in mountain cave." The question in all three cases is not just how saving (or ignoring) the object in danger will (or will not) transform each character's life as a whole, but how this decision reflects the direction of Indian society as it modernizes and Westernizes so rapidly. What does it mean to a culture when an object of great history and beauty disappears without have been discovered in the first place? You'll find yourself whipping through pages to find out what will happen to these endangered rarities—stopping only to drool over their descriptions, which is the real treasure of this book, sentences as wondrous as the wonders they bring to life.
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