Here are the first three paragraphs to a new book. Would these captivate you?

May 24, 2014 § 2 Comments

I just started reading Porochista Khakpour’s recently-released second novel (and one based on Persian legend), The Last Illusion, when I read these first three paragraphs:

Exactly once upon a time in a small village in northern Iran, a child of the wrong color was born. 

Khanoom (the Persian word for “lady,” what everyone knew his mother as) was forty-seven when she gave birth to the boy.  He was the last child of eight, his closest sibling nineteen years older and all grown.  He had been a mistake from the beginning – sex being Khanoom’s least visited whim – a cursed gift from her husband as he lay on his deathbed. 

Nobody imagined a dying man could produce the seed of another child, and yet.  But a child like that, sure – there should have been a cautionary tale about it, a proverb at the very least.  When Khanoom had him, months after her husband was dead, she looked at that sick yellow-white thing in her arms, and the only thing that made sense was to blame the child’s problems on the diseased seed.  This tiny silently crying baby – his crying made no sound, which made her suspect he was mute – was clearly not well, having come from a half most unwell.  His hair and skin were the color of – no use to sugarcoat it, Khanoom would snap – piss.  He was something so unlike them, unlike all of nature.  It made her miss her dead husband less, the memory of that final hard explosive orgasm she recalled – an ejaculation that she imagined like a hot toxic pus, a poison that would have spawned an even more unthinkable demon, had it not been for Khanoom’s own khanoomly egg.  It gave Khanoom nightmares to hold the boy even, no matter what the cousins and neighbors who visited said, trying their best to make the best of it.

Knowing beforehand that this is a modern take on a millennia-old Persian poem on a legendary fighter, what struck me was Khakpour’s use of digressions to stretch out the “problem” of her newborn son, as it made me more curious about the events leading up to his untimely birth than I otherwise would have been if she had written this in a more straightforward fashion.

Way too early to tell if The Last Illusion will live up to the promise of its blurb (I had singled this out for future purchase back in January due to a brief description on The Millions), but it certainly is off to a promising start.  But what about you?  Would this sort of writing appeal to you or would it leave you feeling indifferent or even disinclined to read it?


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