April 25, 2013
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Amit Majmudar's novel The Abundance is an unflinching yet compassionate look at one Indian family in the American Midwest across generations.
Booklist wrote of the book:
"Majmudar, author of the highly regarded Partitions, displays an understated flair for imagery and language, communicating the significance of the ties that bind without ever resorting to mawkish sentimentality. Delectable and convincing literary fiction that subtly shines the spotlight on some basic universal truths."
There are two songs that dovetail with The Abundance, both mentioned in the book itself.
The first is the Charlie Brown Christmas Song.
Personally I find this the most haunting, mysteriously wistful melody in the whole Christmas music repertoire, and it fascinates me the same way as the unutterably sinister "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." It's the simultaneity of the negative or dark emotion and the festive mood.
In the Christmas celebration with which the book opens, the narrator, the mother and grandmother of a family, intends to conceal her illness from the gathering. This carol plays in the background during the meal, and comes up specifically in their dinner conversation—the exact background music for the conflicting moods in her.
The second relates to a passage in which the narrator, who came to America as a young woman in the 1970's, imagines what it would have been like if she could have brought her own elderly mother from India to the United States, imagining their life together—and eventually her death amid family. The last paragraph of the passage reads:
Years more, ten years, maybe fifteen years more she might have lived. She might have retired to her room at seven like always and passed from half-sleep to nothing, propped on two down pillows, earbuds in her ears and the white cord vanishing beneath the blanket, blissful, the lamp still on at her elbow, Track 04 still playing, some spiralling alaap of Pandit Jasraj that could follow her soul through the chimney and into the slate-gray Ohio sky and out. But she never agreed to come. I want my own house, I want my own place, she explained. And besides, she went on, a parent mustn't live in a daughter's house.
The Pandit Jasraj track, at least the one that plays in my mind, is the sustained riff on the sound "Om" that he does in the following track: One syllable, infinitely modulated, deathless.
Amit Majmudar and The Abundance links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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