The Lovely, Uncomfortable Intimacy of Rajesh Parameswaran’s I Am An Executioner
Dark, funny, compassionate, and grotesque are the words to describe what is filtered out of Rajesh Parameswaran's imagination in his first collection of short stories, I Am An Executioner: Love Stories. Dropped into complex situations, these tragic and strangely loveable characters are deeply confused about the choices they are making. You'll want to reach out to each of them, grab them by the shoulder and say, "Friend, please, take a second to look at what you’re doing here." But I assure you they won't listen.
In The Infamous Bengal Ming, the young tiger, Ming, is happy with his life in the zoo. His keeper, Kitch, keeps him well fed and his only concern is what to do about his desire for the lovely Saskia. But life changes in an instant when one poor decision leads to another and Ming finds himself outside of his cage and experiencing the freedom of a real wild animal for the first time.
In The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan, Gopi finds himself in a precarious situation with his wife when he is fired from his job at CompUSA. Desperately needing to keep her happy, he decides to open his own medical practice despite his lack of experience. With a few medical books from the library and a converted veterinary office, Gopi (aka "Dr." Raju) is open for business. How hard can it be?
In the title story, a seasoned executioner turns to the comfort and safety of his job on death row in order to escape the new challenges of his recent marriage. Generally optimistic by nature, he doesn't understand why everyone finds him and what he does so repulsive. When a young girl is brought into the prison, he's left to reevaluate what is important in life.
In the end, these are all truly love stories, as it's love that drives the conflicted to be less than clear in what they do. Parameswaran's stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Fiction. He writes with a fun, unique voice that gives his characters and their surroundings a closeness that is perhaps too intimate. You'll be left cringing, but still peering through your fingers, from one story to the next.