The Namesake: A Novel

The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri OK, just when did the present tense take over literary fiction? Because I want to know--it seems omnipresent these days. It's a cheap way, I guess, of imbuing a narrative with lyricism, but truly, it's wearing out its welcome with me--and is all the more noticeable and annoying when a book doesn't have much going for it. It's not that I can complain of the writing exactly. It doesn't stand out as bad---but neither does it stand out as particularly good. Too much in the first half drags, consists of too much of nothing. I can imagine someone enamored of the book retorting it's full of "nothing" but life. This begins with a young Indian couple in America. Their little boy is born in 1968 and because a letter from the mother's grandmother naming the child is mislaid, they have to come up with a name themselves. He's named Gogol after the Russian author. That's the namesake of the title, who we follow through his first 30 years. And I suppose The Namesake is not bad at capturing the immigrant and first generation American experience--the assumptions, disappointments, adaptations, clashes, but it got less interesting to me as Gogol grew up and he (and his name angst) became more the focus. It didn't help I found Gogol a toe-rag of a character. This just never rose above routine for me before I gave up on it about half way through. I have read several good books lately--including some in, yes, the present tense. I think this suffered in comparison. Although I should note that more than one person whose literary tastes I respect loved this book. Oh well.