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I Am an Executioner: Love Stories [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Rajesh Parameswaran
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 10, 2012
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.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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 
 
“Parameswaran’s prose has the tender-savage texture of a rare steak veined with blood.”—Nina Martyris, The Millions 
 
“Compelling. . . . In Parameswaran’s universe, some of the people and places may seem familiar; others are quite obviously figments of an imagination that freewheels in style. Each story is distinct and intricately crafted, with characters come to life with his storytelling, which is a wonderfully balanced potpourri of morbidity, humour and sensitivity. There are no loose ends, no repeated voices. It’s almost as though Parameswaran, who was born in India but raised in America since he was a baby, set himself a new challenge with each story. . . . All those who had resigned themselves to fictional Indian immigrants being predictable, boring and flat, pour yourselves a drink and raise a toast to Parameswaran. Desis haven’t been this much fun in the pages of a book in years. . . . [A] very impressive debut.” —Deepanjana Pal, Mumbai Boss 
 
“Strange, magical love stories . . . Worlds of unrestrained creativity . . . Very dark and yet very funny.” —Tarra Gaines, Culture Map Houston

“In spite of its title, death, not love, is the subject of Rajesh Parameswaran’s debut collection. His tales play with mortality so frequently that doom and destruction merely become props in a series of dark, comedic circumstances. . . . The author expertl...

About the Author

Rajesh Parameswaran’s stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Fiction. “The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan” was one of three stories for which McSweeney’s earned a National Magazine Award in 2007, and it was reprinted in The Best American Magazine Writing. He lives in New York City.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (April 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307595928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307595928
  • ASIN: 0307595927
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The author is a fine executor! April 12, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is seriously good. It knows what it's doing and does it with finesse. The author is also a fine executioner, just like the character who provides the title of the book. This author can do a lot with 30 or so pages. The stories reminded me of Roald Dahl's adult short stories...morbid and witty, always with a hint at the sinister and unsettling, and usually with a twist at the end. You can also see that a huge inspiration for this book has been Vladimir Nabokov, as all the stories display some form of unreliable narrator ala Charles Kinbote from Nabokov's 'Pale Fire' (who even gets a mention near the end of the book!) I enjoyed every story (there are nine of them) and each was different and surprising. I will go through each story and describe what really struck me about them, or, in a couple what didn't really work for me.

1. The Infamous Bengal Ming

The Story: This story is told by the tiger of the cover, who resides in captivity- a life he was born into. His main concerns are his mating partner's aloofness and his intimidation by the alpha male of the cage. Oh, and his unconditional love for the zookeeper who feeds him.

My Thoughts: I found the narrative voice of the tiger really effective. It sounds strange to say that a tiger could pull off a believable character you care about, but it works. The story is simple and heartbreaking and there are moments when the tiger's reckless actions take your breath away and really kick-start your maternal instincts! There is an innocence and naivety about the tiger, who loves his captor unquestioningly and everything he does, although disastrous consequences ensue, was done for the right reasons and out of care or love or fear.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOUR DE FORCE May 31, 2012
Format:Hardcover
What an amazing set of stories Parameswaran has written. As a writer myself, these are exactly the kinds of tales I try to tell. He just does it better--a source of inspiration and, yes, a bit of envy. The Indian literary genre is full of identity crises, arranged marriages, interracial dating (gasp!), and other challenges of East meets West or just living in the East. I AM AN EXECUTIONER dispenses with all that to chart new and shadowed and much more interesting territory, whether a hapless immigrant impersonating a doctor (with mixed results), a conflicted woman spending Thanksgiving with her husband's corpse on the living-room floor (not a spoiler: the story's first line reveals this), or the title character's struggles to deal with the two very different females (one has been sentenced to death) on center stage in his life. Parameswaran's stories may be over the top in concept, but his execution (pun after the fact) is sure and even lovely. His characters, as freakish as they sound--even the alien one in a hauntingly beautiful tale near the end--are human in every sense, including the basest. In these pages are stories that may not be for everyone (probably not for exclusive readers of chick-lit, for example), but they illuminate dimensions we all have, in highly entertaining ways. My proverbial hat is off to the author for his originality, courage, and beyond-keen eye.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious! April 26, 2012
By Sylvia
Format:Hardcover
What an amazing new talent. These stories are so imaginative and each one leaves you wanting more. I cannot wait until this author publishes a full-blown book. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As I've mentioned a number of times before, I avoided reading short stories and short story collections for years because I didn't enjoy getting attached to a character or getting drawn into a plot, only to have it end fairly quickly. But then I realized how a good writer can often give their stories so much depth that you feel as if you've actually read a novel. I'm glad I finally opened my mind in this way, because I've had the opportunity to read some exceptional short stories over the years.

Rajesh Parameswaran's debut collection, I Am an Executioner: Love Stories, introduced me to a writer with some terrific promise. A number of the nine stories in this collection started with fascinating ideas and memorable characters, and left me thinking about them even as I moved on to the next story. While a few of the more experimental stories fell flat for me, there are definitely some stories to savor, including the opening story, "The Infamous Bengal Ming," narrated by a tiger who realizes he has fallen in love with his trainer at the zoo; "The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan," which tells of a former CompUSA employee so drawn to becoming a doctor that he actually masquerades as one; "Demons," in which a woman's wish for a moment's peace from her husband's nagging leads to disastrous results during Thanksgiving; and "Bibhutibhushan Mallik's Final Storyboard," narrated by the art director of a famous Indian movie director who wants to break away from his boss and old friend to make his own movies and start his own life anew. I'm not much of a fan of the more free-form story styles, a category into which two of the stories I liked the least fell, because I felt they distracted me from the heart of the characters and the narrative.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
I loved this book. I have to admit, I had to read some of the stories more than once to understand them. But I'm not an avid reader and I'm easily distracted. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Print rep
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly imaginative
Unusual points of view and characters make this collection memorable. I especially enjoyed the title story for its inventive use of language and the final story for its bizarre... Read more
Published 18 months ago by DebK
4.0 out of 5 stars I Am An Executioner
There is a good mix of stories with some outstanding and others less so. It is always of interest to see the insights from another culture. I would read more from this author.
Published 20 months ago by mary lou
1.0 out of 5 stars Gruesome and disturbing
I regret having bought and read this book. It contains numerous violent acts. I am surprised that so many people on Amazon recommmended it.
Published 20 months ago by Book Fan
4.0 out of 5 stars Original, unusual, unnerving, creative and dark
The title is unusual ("I am an Executioner: Love Stories" ?) - that should have rung some warning bells. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Cubicle Warrior
3.0 out of 5 stars Some fab some over my head
I don't usually pick up books of short stories, but since I like to be a somewhat well-rounded reader, this Barnes and Nobles Discover New Writers summer 2012 pick appealed to me. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Love at First Book
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and troubling
I am an Executioner is an interesting read. The stories are short and compelling, but some are rather disturbing. Read more
Published 23 months ago by JillyDab
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating collection
This is a review of the book I am an Executioner, by Rajesh Parameswaran, a series of short stories purporting to be about love. Read more
Published on August 15, 2012 by emily wheeler
5.0 out of 5 stars great
I could not put this book down. I read it through in 72 hours, turned around and read it through again. you could spend days and days unpacking each character.

Loved it
Published on August 1, 2012 by Tasia Hanmer
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual perspectives
As a hunt-and-peck kind of reader, who reads almost anything but with no logic or system, it's always nice to stumble on a good read in an unexpected place. Read more
Published on June 8, 2012 by Garth
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