“Insects are just like you and me except some of them have wings”.

“Insects are just like you and me except some of them have wings”. With a title like that, one can expect the book to be quirky. And quirky it is. Also original, strange, funny, imaginative, and sometimes just bizarre!

But this book by Kuzhali Manickavel actually reminded me of the work of the very talented Woody Allen and Roald Dahl.

There are 35 short stories and by short, I mean that some of them are just a page long. There might not strictly be a beginning, middle, and end to every story. In fact, most of them do not conform to that structure. But what you will find is a convergence of poetry and prose.

Writer Miranda July has endorsed the book on a blurb saying “Not merely lyrical and strange, but also deadpan funny. I can’t shake the feeling that I know this woman, personally – like we hung out at a party or something. But I don’t, and we didn’t. She’s just that good.”

While I might not have hung out with the author, I have seen her around in college since we both went to the same college and were in the same batch, although different majors. In fact, the curiosity factor prompted me to read this book. And I’ve not been disappointed. At all!

In the opening paragraph of one of her short stories, “A Bottle of Wings and Other Things.”, a spider dies, “There was no extravagance in its death; just a gentle curl, a folding which no one had seen or heard.”

Kuzhali Manickavel is highly skilled at figurative language, so nothing just falls into the road. Instead “postcards fell from the window in soft jagged pieces, scattering onto the road like flowers on a dirty river.” And pieces of paper fly, “fluttering onto the hot, sticky tar like a flock of dying birds.” She doesn’t seem to be flaunting her unique way of describing things just because she can. They often serve to communicate emotional states effectively.

The numerous diagrams of insects that are featured in the book add another unique touch and tie the stories together with the insect theme.

Here’s one complete story from this volume available at: http://www.percontra.net/9manickavel.htm

Happy reading!


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