Book Review: The Patna Manual of Style
A collection of stories may not be as respected as a novel, but no one can deny that short stories have their own charm. If you ask me it is heartening to read so many stories in one volume. That is the reason why short stories collection never goes out of vogue. The Patna Manual of Style is indeed a very different collection of stories. It comprises of nine different stories which revolve around the same characters. Hriday an upcoming writer is the protagonist of most of the stories. Some of the stories are written in first person, some in the voice of Hriday’s wife, female friends and some in third person. (Fun fact: though named Patna manual the stories are set in Delhi. 🙂 )
In the first story The importer of Blondes there are too many things stuffed up. There is blonde, friendship, love, betrayal, change of heart. Though undoubtedly this is the story of Hriday’s friend, the details of Hriday are unnecessary and mar the flow of the story. Changing of guards is the story of a would be writer who has found the love of his life but not a job to make a living. Then comes Autobiography which is minus the Hriday babu and written in third person. Yes an autobiography written in third person with insipid details which will not interest the reader.
Damsel in Distress is about a girl who wants to elope with a boy who is caught having fun in a public park. The Patna Manual of Style is in the voice of a woman who has penned a controversial story. Goat Getting is one of the filthiest stories I have ever read. Lines like “I walk into the bathroom wearing only my rhinestone Alice band, squat on the toilet bowl with my knees drawn up for show and piss like a horse. Rinsing done, I ask him to lick my bottom” and “Gives me as much pleasure as tracing finger from Hriday’s pubis up the trail of drowny hair to his navel, that is his line of beauty” are bad in taste.
Sophia Loren deals with the past and present of our married man Hriday. The story Tipple cake articulates the sadness of a childless couple very well. The last story in the book Death of a proof reader, again mixes up many things and tells about the life and times of a proof reader who is no longer alive.
The characters are Hriday’s friends or relatives or even random acquaintances. They have their own pasts. Every single story dwindles back and forth so many times that too with reference to more than one character. As a result it leaves the reader confused and hence bored. To conclude The Patna Manual of Style is no masterpiece though it pretends to be of an exotic breed.
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