“Hunger” is the first story I’ve encountered here that strikes me as showing a modernist, rather than a postmodernist, sensibility. Which is a pretty rare thing on the speculative side of the publishing aisle, though I get the impression it is still much-touted over in New Yorkerland. And despite the fact that “Hunger” is also the only story so far to show even the slightest Science Fiction leanings, I’m also struck by its realism. This is a story that shows me an utterly worldly, mundane series of events, striving to hold my attention only by its prose and attention to character. And it succeeds.
“Sometimes he would tell her stories of his bygone days, and she would nod at intervals although she hardly understood any of it, except a word here or there, like bicycle, or river, or tomato chutney, which, put together, made no sense at all.”
Which I think sets this story in a class apart from all the others in the Interfictions anthology. This isn’t prose that strives for flights of imagistic hyperbole, prose that succeeds by wielding the imagination as a crutch. (Which is the kind of prose I write.) Instead the writing is ambitious in an entirely other sense: it invites me to look right through the words and be immersed in the people, their experiences and thoughts. And on top of that, or perhaps as a result of it, this story makes me aware that Ms. Singh has some real, profound wisdoms to impart about the natures of humanity and story. And publishing.
“Slowly the understanding came to her that these stories were trying to tell her a great truth in a very convoluted way, that they were all in some kind of code, designed to deceive the literary snob and waylay the careless reader.”
I think that may just work as a rallying cry for us all.