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May 20, 2011

Book review - 30 : Mice in Men

Author: Anirban Bose
Publisher: Harper Collins India

Mice in Men is a collection of 10 short stories, some of them written against the medical background. The presence of medical jargon is a little too much at times in the narrative and is quite unsettling. However, it suffers from the basic problem most anthologies face - there are only a few stories which make a mark. Rest of them are plain boring.

'The New Job' recounts the story of Rizwan Sheikh who has to come out of retirement to find a job so that he can manage expenses for his back operation. He contemplates giving up everything, but discovers love while witnessing an extramarital affair of his boss. Touching, but simplistic. 'The magic of medicine' is about a doctor who after suffering a lifetime of prejudice and humiliation is finally able to confront his own prejudices while attending to a man in the throes of a stroke. 'Neologisms' and 'The Balloonwala' are quirky, but linear screenplay makes them predictable. 'Mice in Men', the titular story is the second best tale in the book. Can the simple act of saving a mouse teach an insecure, ordinary man to rise above his affliction and his love? Even though quite implausible in the real life, it still provides a hefty mix of loneliness and lust.

'Stockholm Syndrome' is the best short story i have read this year, forget just this book. I will even stick my neck out and say, it is better than any of the short story in other anthologies of this year, Urban Shots, Turtle Dove or even Delhi Noir. Is love a neurosis that the famous psychiatrist unwillingly falls victim to? - that is the basic premise of the story. Dwindling between the past and the present, it delves into the mind of the protagonist who is trying to play with the minds of the interrogating officer, who himself has a past as he attempts to solve a murder. It is quite fascinating to read their interaction, how they literally bludgeoned each other with verbal overdose and finally how one of them wins the battle.

'Temptation of Fate' is an interesting take on astrology and fate, but two pages into the story and you can pretty much guess the end.'The Right way to eat Mango' has an interesting premise but couldn't really live up to the expectation because there is hardly any dramatic conflict in the narrative. 'The Faithfulness of traits' and 'The world's greatest Oiban' are just there to make up pages.

I am going with 2/5 for Anirban Basu, Mice in Men. It may be a controversial thing to say on a public platform, but the best way to enjoy this book is to go to any bookstore with a coffee shop attached...Pick the book from the shelf, order a coffee and read it... specially the stupendous story 'Stockholm Syndrome'. It will save the agony of going through other below par stories. I have read more entertaining anthologies this year, this one doesn't quite match up to those standards. A let down for me after the author's competent debut novel, Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls

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