Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book Review: Alchemy (edited by Sheba Karim)

Most of us have read the occasional love story. Some even swear by the genre. And yet not many an average reader, more so of my age, has read a full-blown erotic story or novel. Admittedly, not even I had, till about a week ago. It isn't a commonplace genre of literature in the Indian society as yet. You see, sexual awakening is a total hush-hush process in our country. Most of it stems from visual aids and information available on the internet. Literature in the form of an aid in sex education or sexual awakening is not well known to the Indian society as far as I know.

But now I can boast of having actually read an erotic anthology. A collection of 13 short stories, Alchemy - The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories II - has been put together and edited by Sheba Karim, with sex as the central theme of each one of them. The contributors are accomplished writers from different platforms and geographical regions and the stories range from the oh-so-moving to the out and out disgusting.

I am, too obviously, a novice in this genre of reading, so reviewing such a book is a rather tough one for me. How does one review an erotic piece of writing? Do I recount how it made me feel while reading? Well, let's do it then.

Some of the stories - Clay, A Foreigner, The Monk, and Next Year at The Taj - are really touching. In the metaphorical sense, of course. Sex is a part of them, and yet there's much more to them than that. They highlight the deep sadness, longing, frustration, fear and lack of sensitivity that prevails in people's hearts. Some of these emotions erupt during the act of lovemaking, while some are given birth to because of it. In any case, lovemaking is an act of passion and is an amalgamation of a whole lot of emotions and feelings that one might not be able to express otherwise. The stories, in a lucid way, highlight just that part of the psyches of a number of different individuals in different situations.

The other lot of stories - The Farmer's Daughter, Abandon, The Matinee, The Marrying Kind, The Periscope - they're the more interesting ones. The gripping, intriguing kind that lays more stress on the events leading up to the end of the story rather than the lovemaking alone. And the stories are good. Like really good, with intriguing plots.

But then there was also the kind of stories that really grossed me out. Sanskrit, Mouth - the ones that could easilly gross out any average reader. They sure did that to me. Extra vivid, extra imaginative, futuristic and only meant for the bold hearted. Or maybe it's just me. One will have to read it to judge for oneself. As for the other two, one of them was about gay sex, so it served as a much-needed eye opener for me.

In hindsight, it was a one-of-a-kind experience reading this book. A 3 on 5 I's give it. How I came down to actually reading it is a funny tale, but a tad out of context here. Bottomline: If the book interests you, go grab a copy and read it, take my word for it - you won't regret it. And if you find it gross, grow up, maybe?

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books yourself.


Nisha said...

I've never read an erotic love story. This sounds interesting. Will grab a copy when I'm in India.

Ghata said...

haha...we are quite in sync on the review here...!!!!

Arun Prakash said...

When romantic and erotic novels like 50 Shades of Grey and Mills & Boon books' sales soar solely because of female readership, women esp., Indian women shy away from writing or commenting about them. Kudos to you for opening them up!

I can't endure to read a few pages of a plotless book which I believe most of erotic novels are. I would better spend 2 hours watching a moving romantic film (not Twilight!) or erotica with an interesting story than read those. I'm amazed how women sustain hours of reading all those brainless 400+ pages!

You are lucky that there are few stories in this book emphasising the story...

Mahima said...

@Nisha - Sure, you must!

@Ghata - So we are!! :)

Mahima said...

@Arun - I haven't read any more of these books, but I can understand how utterly mundane and similarly plotted they must be, the focus being only on the erotica.

This book, however, is a completely different cup of tea. Most of the stories have no romance associated with them at all! It's more like, let's say, an art film like Chandni Bar, if general erotic novels are considered mainstream romantic cinema a la SRK flicks. If you know what I mean.

Thank you for the appreciation. :)

Arun Prakash said...

mhm... So, it can be given a try...

Speaking of which, I have Chandni Bar in my watchlist for several months! As you reminded me, got to watch it soon. :)