Not so long ago, New York-based Indian writer Siddhartha Deb reviewed a novel by Hari Kunzru. “Globalization,” Deb began, “the most pressing issues of our time … has usually proved a poor subject for fiction. Far too many of the Anglo-American novels referring to globalization are full of what the critic James Wood has called ‘irrelevant intensity,’ exhibiting an endless fascination for pop-culture trivia, post-structuralist meta-theories and self-referential irony.” Deb found Kunzru's Transmission an exception, partly because it betrays the irrelevant intensity after the 30th page or so “when it finds its course with something as simple as a man walking down a highway. … Kunzru seems genuinely interested in ideas and social problems, such as the predicament of the disenfranchised.”
Deb’s own book, The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of New India, comes after two highly acclaimed novels (The Point of Return and Surface), and focuses on something as simple as five characters. Although categorized by the publisher as “Social Science – Business Affairs,” it reads more like a nonfiction novel, that all-encompassing fuzzy genre.
“Everywhere there seemed to be construction and ruin, hard to distinguish from each other.”