Category Archives: Shyam Selvadurai

16th Discussion: Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy (20 Jan 2011)

In general, we all like this book but sometimes we pretended to hate it. It is a very Asian book, which all of us can identify with.

1. Sexuality/family/ riots – Raj argues that because of the riots, Arjie’s sexuality is ignored and given space to grow. Aaron disagrees because the family doesn’t really know about Arjie’s queerness, and Arjie chooses to keep his sexuality a secret: “I now inhabited a world,” Arjie narrates, “my family don’t understand into which they couldn’t follow me.” Raj suggests that the family’s acknowledgment is tacit.

2. Role Models – Raj thinks that Arjie learns from the women while Timmy reminds us not to forget Jegan, a virile young man, whom Isaac adores. Besides Jegan’s hotness, Isaac likes Jegan because he is the only one who sticks to his principles in the novel.

3. Lesbianism – Raj implies that, through the female tomboyish cousin, people are kinder to lesbian. However Aaron points out that that’s because the cousin hasn’t exhibited any outward signs–unlike Arjie who dons on dresses and puts on makeup–and girls can be sporty too.

4. Family – Aaron thinks that the Appa is the villain, breaking up the love-relationship between his wife and Daryl and ignoring the family’s welfare, although both Timmy and Raj point out that it is an Asian family where the man works and the wife takes care of family affairs.

5. Gender – Timmy admires Radha Aunty because she has all the positive traits of a woman, strong and independent like Destiny’s Child. Yes, Aaron agrees, but for all those traits, she doesn’t change things and acquiesces to an arranged marriage, instead of marrying the man she loves. This non-change is important to Aaron and Isaac because it implies that nothing changes… which will have repercussions on Arjie’s sexuality.

6. Love/Marriage: (1) Aaron thinks it is strange to fall in love with someone without even talking much to him (Rahda-Anil) while Raj says that it is a step-up from arranged marriages. (2) Aaron notes there are no happy marriages in this novel (3) One character in the book reminds Radha that marrying the man she loves would be estrangement from her family, and between family and love, Radha chooses family, depicting love doesn’t conquer all. To Aaron, this would mean that Arjie could not use love to justify his sexuality; family is more important and that means having children.

8. Determinism/ Powerless: Isaac brings up an A+ point, that is, the book is very deterministic, that nothing changes in the end, people are powerless against society and culture and norms, everyone lets Arjie down.

7. “Best School of All”: is Raj’s favorite story because it shows the empowerment of Arjie but Timmy thinks that Arjie abuses this power and is highly irresponsible for this is an issue that concerns many people, but Arjie is just selfishly thinking for himself and his beau. There is a great postcolonial possibility in this story that we forgot to discuss.

8. Style: Aaron thinks that the novel is a good cultural document and not a good literary novel while Isaac argues it is both. Aaron supports his statement by invoking the Chekhov’s gun rule, saying it is a series of short stories (and shouldn’t be marketed as a novel), with no development of many of its characters; while Isaac argues that it is just a postmodern style. Isaac thinks that the making sense of the world and the themes make it a novel, while Aaron says it’s more autobiographical as it doesn’t depict well-rounded characters.

It was a good discussion.

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