I am an Executioner: Love stories by Rajesh Parameswaran

"Darkly funny" is right up our alley.

Book description:

"An explosive, funny, wildly original fiction debut: nine stories about the power of love and the love of power, two urgent human desires that inevitably, and sometimes calamitously, intertwine. In I Am an Executioner, Rajesh Parameswaran introduces us to a cast of heroes—and antiheroes—who spring from his riotous, singular imagination. From the lovesick tiger who narrates the unforgettable opener, “The Infamous Bengal Ming” (he mauls his zookeeper out of affection), to the ex-CompUSA employee who masquerades as a doctor; from a railroad manager in a turn-of-the-century Indian village, to an elephant writing her autobiography; from a woman whose Thanksgiving preparations put her husband to eternal rest, to the newlywed executioner of the title, these characters inhabit a marvelous region between desire and death, playfulness and violence. At once glittering and savage, daring and elegant, here are wholly unforgettable tales where reality loops in Borgesian twists and shines with cinematic exuberance, by an author who promises to dazzle the universe of American fiction."


“Delectable . . . Enchanting, engaging . . . Parameswaran’s debut short story collection takes tried and true themes like identity and heritage and weaves them into a spectacular new tapestry. . . . No matter the subject, all are written with consistently smooth and elegant prose. [His] writing remains inviting and yet causally informative for anyone unfamiliar with minute details about Indian-American culture. Thankfully, the end result is not sappy, unnecessarily historical or frustratingly pedantic. The stories have the merit of keeping the reader’s attention. . . . [A] worthy addition to your summer reading list [and] a book that cements Parameswaran’s place as a writer to watch.” —Ryan Strong, New York Daily News 
“Bold and fiercely imaginative, captivating and surprising . . . Parameswaran has put together a selection of love stories that are anything but typical. His stories range from the thoughts of a fugitive tiger on an unintentional killing spree, to a geriatric love triangle played out in film, to interspecies relations on an alien planet where killing your mate is the norm. Each story speaks of love in its own way: violent, tender, thoughtless, fleeting, strong, empty, natural, romantic, enduring. How is love expressed? And what does that expression lead to? Love is ubiquitous, but it’s also incredibly diverse, as the characters in I Am an Executioner show. . . . Each story draws you in and keeps you there, enthralled, to the end. . . . Dark and intense, quiet and strong, a fascinating study of love in all its forms.”—Leah Sims, Portland Book Review 
I Am an Executioner has the power to change your definition of love. Imaginative and rich in their prose, yet darkly humorous and at times stomach-turning, each story is unique in its concept and process. In fact, the title describes the author well—he is a superb executioner of short fiction. This powerful collection is not for the faint of heart.” —Vivienne Finche, Sacramento News & Review 
“When you read [the stories in I Am an Executioner] in succession, noting the subtle ways in which they play off each other, what emerges is a distinct sensibility and storytelling flair. [It] bears the subtitle ‘Love Stories,’ but this is not the stuff of conventional romance: layers of doubt and betrayal run through these stories, even the ones that are about genuinely caring relationships. At least four of the pieces involve people hiding significant things from their spouses, but one never gets a sense of repetition; instead, it’s as if the angle of a mirror has been slightly altered to give us a new perspective on love and its possibilities. . . . This is a difficult book to categorise. It could be said that it is about passionate and duplicitous lovers, about narrators who are unreliable and deeply perceptive in turn, about animals and extraterrestrials who are strangers to people, and about people who are strangers to each other. But ultimately, a clinical listing of ‘abouts’ is an inadequate way to describe such a varied yet organically linked collection. This is among the most stimulating story collections I’ve read in a long while, and a reminder of the possibilities that still exist for short fiction in a jaded, post-post-modern world.” —Jai Arjun Singh, The Sunday Guardian 
“Don’t be misled by the subtitle of this offbeat debut collection: for Parameswaran, ‘love’ bespeaks deadly passion. These tales, with their grotesque imagery and bathetic reversals in tone, [contain] flashes of brilliance. Parameswaran shows a mastery of perspective and voice that hints at greater things to come.” —David Evans, Financial Times (May 26, 2012)
“The aphorism says a ‘thin line’ divides love and hate, but in fact they operate more like two circles in a Venn diagram with a thin sliver of overlap. All of the stories in I Am an Executioner live in that borderland where love and hate intersect. His stories spring from an incredibly diverse group of characters. . . . Phenomenal.” —Catie Disabato, Full Stop 
“This smorgasbord of stories explores love’s dark underbelly with a remarkably broad purview. . . .The title story is deeply affecting, at times devastating. Parameswaran has a sharp sense of what makes a story work, his stories reveal their mysteries gradually, and very cleverly zero in on the heart of the matter. . . . Unsettling but highly inventive.” —Nauman Khalid, Huffington Post UK 
“Love in Parameswaran’s debut takes a darker, less expected form. In nine tales, [he] presents the world through the eyes of the misunderstood, the murderous, the megalomaniacs, and the mad. In these tales, tenderness blends in disturbing seamlessness with bloodthirst, and violence is carried out with quiet intimacy. Yet these stories, as the collection’s cover suggests, are not without a certain strange humor. They are not bleak, nor are they sadistic . . . Parameswaran creates a tone all his own, something like an even blend of Roald Dahl as he wrote for children and Roald Dahl as he wrote for adults. Even as his stories twist and turn, mounting in horror, I can imagine them paired with the whimsical illustrations of Quentin Blake. . . . The author’s ability as a sculptor of the written word is dazzling. . . . [His] blend of horror, tenderness, and humor works as it does because beneath its violence and wit lies compassion for even the most deeply disturbed among us. Despite their eccentric appearances, these are but stories of universal human experience, twisted slightly. . . . Triumphant.” —Mia Nakaji Monnier, Hyphen Magazine

“Dangerous, misunderstood creatures—a man-eating tiger, a wild elephant, and the title executioner, to name just a few—populate Parameswaran’s debut collection of stories, [which] offers a fiercely creative vision of what it takes to stay alive. As the title suggests, where there is love, death is near, [but] these stories are more than well-executed variations on a theme. In some of these stories’ finest moments, Parameswaran patiently teases out the most tender, human impulses of his characters—from the classified agent who struggles with her urge to simply to tell her husband about her day to the quack doctor [who] derives a real glimmer of joy from believing he has ‘helped, not harmed’ a fellow being. Death may be inescapable, but life is still a tender thing to be savored. . . . These stories are without fail brightly original, and despite his dark themes, there’s a real levity in Parameswaran’s writing. This is a world of many fools, but few villains—a world where tragedy and farce are plentiful but evil is debatable: for every death or disappearance in this collection, there’s a wink.” — Mythili Rao, The Daily Beast 
“A compulsive and infectious narrative restlessness marks Parameswaran’s first collection. And although tagged with the subtitle ‘Love Stories,’ Parameswaran’s work demonstrates about the same relationship to traditional literary debuts as the insects in his strange and beautiful story ‘On the Banks of Table River [Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319]’ do to the earthlings who have colonized their planet. His storytellers are wedded to a 21st-century experimentalism, continually uncaging themselves from realist fiction. From tigers and elephants [to] a man in a yellowing photograph [and] a fiercely committed spy, they form an unpredictable and often charming cavalcade, revealing both the particularity of what they perceive and the extent of what they misunderstand, or simply miss. Raptly attentive to their own narratives, they gradually paint us into corners; we must peer around and above them. . . . Parameswaran’s characters, humans and animals both, find themselves puzzled by love and power, devotion and detachment. [His] stories combine narrative brio, ringing voices and beguilingly looped plots. . . . Realist revelation and postmodern speculation proceed in parallel. . . .These are very much stories that make us ‘wonder the universe.’” —Chandrahas Choudhury, The New York Times Book Review 

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  • Pat

    Nice to see some new faces and hear some differing perspectives--thanks, all.

    April 29, 2014

  • Mike

    Fun discussion with a friendly and interesting group. I really liked hearing the range of reactions to the stories. The different perspectives made for great discussion and people brought up lots of great points I hadn't thought about. I also learned a new word, which I'm looking forward to impressing friends and associates with as soon as possible.

    April 29, 2014

  • Jennifer

    Random House has put up discussion questions and I'm going to use those. http://www.randomhouse.com/book/209660/i-am-an-executioner-by-rajesh-parameswaran#discussionquestions

    April 28, 2014

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