I’ve been slacking a little on my reading as I get more involved in my reporting for the Bay State Banner. But this recommendation is worth the wait. I Am an Executioner by Rajesh Parameswaran is a meticulously crafted book. The piece is organized into a collection of 9 short stories mainly centered on the themes of death and love. It’s a comedy, but a dark, thoughtful one.
In one story, a Bengal tiger kills several people in a desperate attempt to prove his affection for humans. In another, a woman celebrates Thanksgiving with her husband’s corpse. And of course, an executioner operating in a mentally stunted world attempts to navigate love and sex despite his grotesque line of work and sheep-like personality.
Death fascinates me, and Parameswaran writes about it in a way that is both humorous and horrifying. There are a lot of “stop and think” lines. At the end of the Begal story, as the tiger, who is also the narrator, rips into the flesh of a homeless woman, he thinks, “It took me just two bites to crunch and pop and slurp and swallow the whole thing, and I was crying as I did so. I had never felt so much love in all my life.” First off, the viscerality of this description is striking. We can hear and feel each bite that he takes, the cold, salt water tears running down his face. Then there’s the second level content, that this tiger finds love and renewal in death.
This is literature, not just a story. Although it’s linguistically easy to read, the content is complex. I wouldn’t recommend this for a casual beach read, but for those who enjoy dark humor, it’s a must.