Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review: Skid Marks of Logic by Divya Diana Dias

 "Some people stop themselves from doing what they want because of what their friends would think about them. . . Some people regret their silly reasons, wondering why they did not succumb to their desires at the time. . . But now they want to change. They want to shatter the chains that the society has bound them with and win the war that rages within them, once and for all. Will they succeed?"
Divya Diana Dias thus posits the purpose of her Skid Marks of Logic in the book's blurb. Do the three stories of Payal, Danielle, and Janvi justify the books stated purpose? It depends.

Divya's Skid Marks of Logic has three female protagonists acting on their desires in different ways in their respective stories. Payal, a "Timid Mouse" cons Xerxus into kissing her. Danielle, who has never been kissed, takes up her best friend, Satya's, offer to satisfy this void. Janvi lets her pharmaceutical company be taken over by the "Mr. High and Mighty" Rhys Callahan in order to save it and then finds, much to her chagrin, that she has fallen for the devil himself.

As long as you read the stories purely as the protagonists fulfilling their desires, they work  — with a very generous glug of romantic fantasy (in the tradition of racy Mills and Boons offerings) added to the tales. Read and viewed simply as straightforward romantic fantasies the stories are not bad, they are actually quite well-written (and correct in grammar and language — a big relief from the amount of crap the gets published as mass-market writing these days). Divya shows a flair for characterization and conversations. The characters, though largely stereotypical (both the female protagonists and the male characters against whom they play off), are acceptable if you view them as staying true to the type in the romantic fantasy genre. And while every now and then something corny does find its way to the book's pages, there’s also the occasional dash of humor or an (albeit rare) attempt at wordplay.

It is however when you try reading the author's intent and ambition in the stories that Skid Marks of Logic fails to reach the mark. While the three protagonists do decide to act on their desires, the act doesn't ever feel like they wanted to "to shatter the chains that the society has bound them with." Divya does try to bring in the society, but its chains are hardly ever evident or they come across as so weak that it doesn't really take any of the characters much effort to shatter them. Payal easily manages to gull and "seduce" Xerxus. Danielle makes some appropriate noises about girls and sex and society and even mentions Raja Ramohan Roy and Sati in one breath. But all of that remains at the level of a throwaway sentence or two. Usually, we read a feminist story and say, "There's a truckload of feminism in this, but where's the story?" In Skid Marks of Logic, we wonder where is the assertion of women's voice and rights. Whatever little is there is steam rolled by the romantic (and often, semi-erotic) fantasy. The characters and protagonists never "struggle.” Any snapping of the society's chains hence fails to make an impression.

Divya's Skid Marks of Logic is felled by its own ambition. Looked upon as straightforward romantic fantasy, it is not a bad book. If, however, the words on the book's back cover are a declaration of intent, then Skid Marks of Logic needs to be more forceful and assertive to claim itself as a narrative that indeed shows women shattering the chains of society.

Divya responded to the review via an e-mail: 

"One chance that I was taking with writing it this way was that I wanted to bring across the breaking of chains in a more 'sex and the city-ish' kind of way, but I guess now that I think of it there were loads more ways in which I could have made the chains stronger without making it feminist heavy. There could have been more fun incidents and getting into trouble and narrowly escaping things. I loved the characters but I guess that they and the story could have been pushed a lot more."
Note: Thanks to Divya Diana Dias for a review copy of Skid Marks of Logic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have read the book and partly agree with your review: I find the social comment the author is trying to make falls completely flat. She should have just pegged it as a teeny-bopper romance novel... cause to me it lacks depth and makes no feminist statement whatsoever.
I say partly agree because I thought the writing was tedious and trite. I'm not one to stop a book halfway through, and this was one time I regretted that I did not stop after Timid Mouse and her almost raped boyfriend.