April 1, 2011

Of what we are and what we've let ourselves become

I loved reading Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms Other Wonders, which got rave reviews when it was published in 2009 but equally appealing was these lines by Junot Diaz about Mueenuddin's short story, 'A Spoiled Man', chosen in The Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories, 2010. (emphasis mine)
Cetaceans, I read recently, have muscles that allow them to shape the lenses of their eyes so they can see equally well above water as below. They can, in other words, see in two worlds. We humans are not so biologically fortunate. It is only art that can shape our eyes to see all our various worlds, only art that reminds us at times gently, at times forcefully, of what we are and what we've let ourselves become. Stories like "A Spoiled Man" are the subtle knife that cuts open the membranes that hold the worlds apart and allows us not only to see into our other worlds but for a moment to reside there as well. What more could we ask from art? From a short story? From a writer?
 It is a subtle knife indeed... which not everyone can yield well. But those that do, be it Alice Munro or Mueenuddin or Junot Diaz himself, leave us speechless, in awe in the amazing things they can do with words!

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