Friday, March 02, 2018

Review of Vitasta Raina's Novella: Writer’s Block

Vitasta Raina, urban planner and architect, lives and works in Mumbai, India, where she composed her novella, Writer's Block. The pun on block as "impediment" and block as "city unit" is intentional, and writers living in the block might or might not experience writer's block. Some do, some don't, but for the most part, the writers living there seem sufficiently ruly and productive.

But the city Chalet and its residents, the so-called charlatans, are about to undergo a crisis.

However, I don't want to reveal many plot spoilers. I will therefore offer a few thoughts. The story covers about 64 pages and focuses on the lives of eight writers, who are called "CAST," and distributes them across eight chapters (8x8=64), the last of which is titled, "While the Credits Roll," as if the novella were a motion picture. The first seven chapters are identified as "epiphanies," which would make them divinely inspired insights, and the subtitles read like a continuous poem of free verse style with occasional rhyme, as here on the first page:
I am if I choose to be
But I have no choice
In these million years of evolution
I have finally lost my voice (page 1)
The chapters are prose of native speaker quality, the sentences often of complex length, but nevertheless concise and clear. For example, here is a sentence describing a model of the city:
"Representing a city that in the last decadal cycle of the City Census estimated almost sixty percent of the inhabitants as parasite slum dwellers, the model displayed high rise residential estates, office complexes, shopping arcades, golf courses and a meandering network of transit corridors, flyovers and flyunders connecting the ends, the edges, the fringes and the cores of Chalet." (page 9)
The model is of an idealized Chalet, and mickle are the ways this city could be represented, extremes of poverty and riches, of asceticism and gluttony, of good and bad, of weak and strong, a list that could go on and on.

But the electricity abruptly stops working, and so does everything else, most significantly, the elevators. At that severe inconvenience, Chalet is turned upside down, literally, as the rich pour into the streets and the poor ricochet up to the penthouses. Still, life goes on, for most of the writers, who are stuck in the middle, neither rich nor poor, and Chalet goes on as well. This is all along expected as one reads this slender volume, but the details make for the difference, and for the unexpected.

Five Stars out of Five!

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