The Yellow Dress: A Review
Imtiyala Jamir | EMN
In sixteen short stories, Inakali Assumi gathers lost innocence, altered lives, and harsh memories—sometimes with bald realism, and sometimes with hyperbole and candid imagery.
While not much happens and most of the characters aren’t provided the redemption they deserve, ‘The Yellow Dress’ shimmers with startling glimpses of people at the margins who confront their limitations.
That being said, the book feels like one extended non sequitur, and having read it, I’m a little frazzled as to what should follow next. It has some wonderful set-ups, that leave the ordinary behind – it is just what comes after, or doesn’t, that’s the problem.
An ambitious lad builds a school, a middle-aged unmarried woman metamorphs into an eagle; a young boy convinces a minister to build a road and another touches on folklore about afterlife in ‘The return of Azhali.’ The last is definitely worth mentioning for the heinous way it posits a more than decent scenario, but manages to do so little with it.
Finally, I would defy anyone to fall in love with the story ‘The English husband’. Statements like “he spoke divine” though “his grammar was poor” provides a risible platitude that is supposed to justify the underlying plot of the story.
On occasion, the narrator relishes in details, such as a bright yellow “shimmery” dress, and voices are amplified by emotional bruises and shocks. The book’s standout, “Age and death,” is a fragmented story that alternates between a young narrator’s tryst with orality to the death of her father. It is a thoughtful look on fables and their inter-relationship with the tangible and the real.
Short stories have their place, but I read novels almost exclusively. I like novels because they allow for a broader canvas, a broader range of human experience and a more sweeping plot. Some writers are very good at condensing all of that experience and story into a smaller illustration, but it is a rarer talent. I think a lot of the challenge is in picking a broad enough topic to be interesting and a small enough topic to fit the piece. Alternately, some good short stories read like scenes of a broader piece with the rest of the story being provided by the readers’ imaginations instead of the writer’s, but these scenes have to have an arc, have to have an end and have to have enough of a beginning so as to not throw the reader too jarringly into action.
These are thoughts of mine. I am no expert on short stories.