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Devanshu Mishra's picture

Junkyard Blues

By Devanshu Mishra in Arrest Us

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This story is rooted in the city of Delhi in general, and the trans-Yamuna region in particular - the latter being a four-decade-old appendix to a city that has had its own culture for at least as many centuries. As with any expanding metropolis, land is the most precious resource here; and as with any precious resource, it attracts a fair share of marauders.

Please take a moment to tell me why it worked for you or didn't. 

Thank you for your time.


Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 6, 2014 - 8:27pm

Hello Devanshu,

(This review contains SPOILERS.  Please go read the story first.  It's worth it.)

Wow.  I think that about encapulates it for me.  This story shows a world that is cramped and wide-open, new and old, hideous and beautiful all at the same time.  Your prose is fluid and never superfluous.


I’d always found this part of the journey slightly depressing – the boundaries of my freedom once extended solely to the gates of our colony, and it disappointed me to come down the road now and see how little I’d been missing so acutely."

For some reason this line really hit home for me.  It reminds me very much of Campell's Monomyth.  We are trained by all the stories in our life that beyond the thresholds of our little worlds, adventure is waiting.  But sometimes in real life, the other side of the fence isn't so different.  It amazes me you were able to pack so much conceptually into just one sentence.

I usually hate meta-fiction because I think it pulls the reader out of the story being told, but the section marked A-One, A-Two was incredibly interesting to me.  Scecifically, the idea that this story is one piece of a larger whole.  I'm assuming this story is/was Chapter Thirteen that the narrator left in the Safari's front seat, because the chapter titles mentioned in section A-One, A-Two all refer to objects used to kill the dream-version of the narrator.

Another reason I like the style of the piece is that the meta-fiction aspects help reinforce the story instead of poking fun of or detracting from it.  The "manuscript" is presented as photojournalism and gives the reader more background on the narrator and why he's writing this piece.

Honestly, due to the modern style of this story, I don't have much in the way of critique (I'm pretty traditional).  There are a few moments in the prose - specifically in parenthetical statements - where I think some improvement could be made.  But other than that, I was floored by this composition.  I still don't know completely what to make of it.

Keep this stuff coming.

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb July 11, 2014 - 12:19pm

Hi Devanshu,

This didn't work for me. After a promising start, where you did a good job of putting me in a location I've never been do (India) and setting the scene and getting me interested in some of the background, came a story that I just can't make head or tail of. I followed it all the way through the two people talking about Bhat and his criminal past and the history of the Junkyard, there's suddenly a news article that I only get an excerpt of and then a copy of a letter to an editor about a manuscript which put me completely out of joint from what had come before it. Then comes a section that reads like it's a dream but I'm not sure if it's supposed to be or not, then a conclusion in which I as the reader could conclude nothing.

I get the feeling this is one of those stories where a lot is left open to interpretation, or me puzzling out what's really behind the manuscript and the 'dream,' but to be honest I didn't feel like doing either, and couldn't solve any puzzles after my second go with this. I don't really go for this sort of fiction in general, and definitely not in a crime story. This is really a matter of personal preference, but that's what I'm voting with here.

In terms of how well written this is, you're gramatically pretty clean and you have a journalistic style that will probably go down well with some other readers (for me it all feels a little too caught up in report form and this takes the tension out of the story.) Stories about crime and the darker side of India do have an appeal to me (it reminds me of reading The White Tiger by Arvind Ardiga actually) but your particular take on it just didn't float my boat.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 14, 2014 - 7:17am

I’m afraid I have to agree with Chacron almost word for word here.

It started off very promising. There is a tangible sense of place, and you introduce a really interesting location. The mixture of old and new is fascinating, with slums right next to office blocks. I like the narrator’s natural curiosity, and his decision to explore the fake office and surroundings feels natural. A-Two is all exposition, though you do introduce some promising areas to explore.

The letter about the manuscript completely threw me. Is this something the character has written, or is this from you? It feels misplaced entirely. This is further compacted by the move into what appears to be a dream sequence. It left me groping for a story to cling on to, and I just couldn’t find one here. It may be open to interpretation, but my interpretation is that as it is, there is too little story here, with underdeveloped characters.

I’m not sure if it feels incomplete, or just a vignette from a larger work, as suggested by the manuscript letter. If it’s going to work as a short story, I’d strongly suggest working out the exact story you want to tell, and take out anything extraneous. There is real promise here, especially in that early section, but right now I have to say it doesn’t work for me at all.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 16, 2014 - 7:56am

The opening two sections kep my attention nicely. Your prose was clean, and your style of writing came across as very Indian, and in keeping with similar literature I have read. The dialogue worked, based upon the setting, and the descriptions were spot on.

Then the article and letter cropped up, and threw me out completely. It felt like you were handing over 150 pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, in a heap, and asking me what the picture was. The dream sequence then felt out of place as well, like it was from a different story, although it was well written and visceral.

I loved the first half, but the second section was too vague in how it linked together. I get what you're going for, but I don't think you have enough for it to work.