Despite fiction-lovers' preferred destination for stay- or vacation, they will not regret acquiring a copy of Ven Begamudré's latest, Vishnu Dreams, a first-rate flight into a world seductive, exotic and strangely familiar by turns. It scales heights and trolls depths of electric prose, featuring finely articulated characters in ways both utterly original and, in a slyly provocative sense, respectful of the tradition in which all great writing takes up permanent residence.
An extraordinarily condensed novella presented in gorgeous wrappers from Gaspereau's cut-above designers, Vishnu Dreams nimbly recounts the story of a 1960s immigrant Indian family, specifically from the point of view of the children, Subhu and Durga. At the centre of a narrative interwoven with Hindu history are revelations surrounding an emotionally horrifying father, an indifferent mother and, not surprisingly, their disintegrating union in Bethlehem, PA. The two siblings, on the cusp of coming of age, are realistically rendered in taut and seamless prose.
- Vishnu Dreams, by Ven Begamudré, Gaspereau Press, 160 pages, $24.95
Ultimately, the parents separate for one reason, the siblings for an unfortunate other. Misunderstandings of destiny drive the latter half of the work. Durga moves to Canada with Mother and finds fulfilment with the military; Subhu remains in the United States with Father, pumping gas and dealing with what he mistakenly considers a betrayal on his sister's part.
"But Durga, oh, Durga, how could you let him split us like this? Break my heart, break us apart. How could you? Let him touch you? Let him - Dirt is right. Dirty. Worse than a whore. Glad you're going. Come tomorrow, gone. Won't speak to you again - I won't - just you watch. Never in a million years. Never, ever. Slut."
Begamudré makes magic in Vishnu Dreams, creates a world too vivid to forget, too close to home to believe, but too mesmerizing to easily leave; it's one in which mythology and the demythologized struggle for the dominant arc in an expansive and evocative literary landscape brought into sharp focus and even sharper relief.
Award-winning poet, cultural critic and literary journalist Judith Fitzgerald is writing Points Elsewhere, a new collection of poetry to be published next year. She covers poetry for The Globe and Mail's books blog, In Other Words.