Friday, March 26, 2010

Orbiting by Bharati Mukherjee

This short story was strange to me simply because it wasn't really about much anything in particular. It was sort of like a description of a day in the narrator's life, and all the little tangents and added trains of thought that come along with different circumstances. Its about a rather awkward Thanksgiving Day and dinner with the narrator's family, and her Afghanistani boyfriend named Ro. Everything that happens makes her go off on a tangent where she reveals some sort of background information about her Italian heritage, or her relationship with an ex-boyfriend, or experiences with her family growing up, or Ro's past. The story had a lot of dialogue in it and a nice amount of humor, as well as some deeper parts, particularly in the last few pages. Some of the most interesting parts to me were when the narrator mentioned things that had not happened yet when the story was written. Comparing those things to what I know has already happened was fun and ironic in some cases. Bharati Mukherjee seems to be a bit of a profit in her own right with all the things she writes about before they come true, starting with the Twin Towers quote from the other story.

Ro is very proper, and seems to be very intelligent. He reminded me of a foreign friend of mine who grew up overseas and moved here a few years ago. My friend is fluent in English, but he says things in a very proper way sometimes just as Ro did in the story. It's pretty funny to hear someone talk like that in everyday conversation. The best example of this dialogue that I saw was at the bottom of page 71 when they are talking about basketball, and Ro says, "You are undoubtedly correct Brent. I am deferring to your judgement because currently I have not familiarized myself with these practices." Who talks like that? It catches you off guard to hear it in normal conversation.

Anyway, she talks a lot about her ex-boyfriend Vic. She doesn't really seem to want him back, and even acknowledges some of his shortcomings, but she still seems to miss him. So she doesn't seem to want him back, or think it would work between them, but she thinks about him all the time. She mentions that she would marry Ro a few times too, which makes me think she has passed up on Vic forever. I thought it was funny that there were a ton of references to places in Afghanistan and the country itself, but nobody ever knew what they were. This was ironic to me because I recognized most or all of them immediately because of the whole war on terrorism. That's a bit of the profit in Mukherjee coming out, as I was referring to earlier. I also thought the part about Abdul was funny because the narrator was thinking the same thing I was when I read it. I had a picture in my head of Karim Abdul Jabhar in his goggles playing basketball. The references to Patrick Ewing, Larry Byrd, and Bill Russell (I assume) were entertaining too, since all those player's legendary careers in the NBA have come and gone.

On a more serious note, its funny how we assume that because we have never experienced foreign things, or because it is not the same type of experience, the foreigner is never immediately accepted. It's like we don't give those experiences much thought or credit when it's convenient for us, and yet they are some of the biggest reasons the foreigners remain foreign to us. I am referring to the top of page 72 here. The narrator too is guilty of similar stereotypes, albeit they are reversed in the middle of page 74 and page 75. She says Ro has real scars in his life, and acts as if we Americans don't have real scars. We only like to think they are real because we haven't experienced any real hardship in our lives like someone like Ro has. While this could very well be true, like most stereotypes I don't believe they apply to much of the population they are aimed at. These assumptions lead her to say Ro is the only man in the room because of his experiences. He had some bad experiences, no doubt, that left him physically scarred. But there are worse things.

Anyway, this was an interesting and somewhat entertaining story, but I didn't like it because nothing really happened. The story was long and there was a lot to it, but the only thing that really happened was the Thanksgiving dinner, and a little bit of the day leading up to it. The rest was just background and somewhat random interjections. I thought a little about the title of the story, but I couldn't quite figure out what she was going for there. It obviously has deeper meaning because it normally wouldn't have much of anything to do with this story. I remember reading the word somewhere in the middle of the story, but I could not find it when I went looking for it. I did, however, like Mukherjee's writing style for this story. She made everything seem so real. The dialogue was just right. It was somewhat abundant as I was saying before, but it was simple enough and very believable. The random interjections of thought were well placed, and reminded me of exactly the types of things your brain would stray to given the situations. The believable perception of reality made the story flow really well. It was like I was reading a documentary on Mukherjee's Thanksgiving day from Mukherjee's point of view, although the story was not about her at all, and seemed to be fiction. Overall not too bad.

1 comment:

  1. hai mathew i am wodering if why is it entitled orbiting and how is the title relevant to the story