David M. Brown's Blog

December 23, 2013

Vikram Seth’s Words of Thanks

Filed under: Literature — davidmbrowndotcom @ 7:43 pm
Tags: ,

I bring you one of the more charming “thank you” notes ever to preface a big book. Since printing the poem here will in a minor way promote A Suitable Boy (a hefty novel of life in India in the 1950s), I don’t think the author will mind that I quote all of this thanks:

To these I owe a debt past telling:
My several muses, harsh and kind;
My folks, who stood my sulks and yelling,
And (in the long run) did not mind;
Dead legislators, whose orations
I’ve filched to mix my own potations;
Indeed, all those whose brains I’ve pressed,
Unmerciful, because obsessed;
My own dumb soul, which on a pittance
Survived to weave this fictive spell;
And, gentle reader, you as well,
The fountainhead of all remittance.
Buy me before good sense insists
You’ll strain your purse and sprain your wrists.

Still no Kindle edition of this book, so one half of the last line holds. But as I write, the best used-copy deal from Amazon enables you to obtain the book for 44 cents plus the usual $3.99 shipping price.

All I can tell you about this novel, aside from the fact that many readers are enthusiastic (no guarantee of quality), is that the setup is immediate. “You too will marry a boy I choose,” says the mother, who then takes issue with her daughter’s skeptical “Hmm.” (“I know what your hmms mean, young lady, and I will tell you that I will not stand for hmms in this matter.”) If you want a story that will last a while, here is one. It’s 1349 pages.

I heard about the novel because Christopher Priest mentions it in an incarnation of his little book on Harlan Ellison’s (still) projected anthology of original writing, The Last Dangerous Visions, a volume once supposed to have been published in the early 70s, shortly after Again, Dangerous Visions saw print. The point being that the Last anthology eventually assumed a (projected) length comparable to or even greater than that of such sprawling tomes as A Suitable Boy (which, having been published in 1993, could not have been mentioned in the earliest versions of Priest’s polemic).

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