GOST Helped Me Rediscover My Love of Writing

I used to love to write fiction. When I was little, writing scary stories or a silly poem could captivate me for hours. However, I learned to hate writing as soon as it became an assignment and teachers gave me a strict template to follow.

I found that the writing of The God of Small Things is different. Roy writes with no constraints on her sentence structure, her timeline, and the point of views she uses, and yet she is praised for her amazing writing. This boundless writing is exemplified in the passage below,

“Steelshrill police whistles pierced holes in the Noise Umbrella. Through the jagged umbrella holes Rahel could see pieces of red sky. And in the red sky, hot red kites wheeled, looking for rats. In their hooded yellow eyes there was a road and redflags marching. And a white shirt over a black boy with a birthmark. Marching (76). “

In this passage, two of the sentences are incomplete, two begin with “and”, and one is in passive voice. These structural issues would be something I would get points off for, that I would be deemed a sloppy writer for, but Roy is celebrated for it. It works.

The passage above also shows Roy’s tendency to over-describe, to ramble on sentences, adding extra clauses, to shove in extra details. I liked this style of writing, so I began to write my own story without bounds, just like Roy did. I experimented with perspective, detail, and incomplete sentences, and I found joy in doing so.

Thank you Roy for helping me make this quarantine a little less boring.

3 thoughts on “GOST Helped Me Rediscover My Love of Writing

  1. Uh, you know the problem with this post, Simone. We are all going to come begging for at least an excerpt from your own story. Maybe just a first paragraph tease? No, seriously, it would be fun to see, but if it’s not shareable, totally get it.

    But back to the passage you quoted. It’s a testimony to the richness this book that in the 15+ of teaching it/re-reading it, I have never dwelled on that paragraph. In addition to the syntactic complexity you aptly point out, it is also employing a metaphor of a “Noise Umbrella” — combining sound and sight in mind-bending ways — and it also uses perspective of the rats, which I think symbolize or just represent metaphorically the police and possibly the undercover agents infiltrating and undermining the Communist activists. And that rat image reveals the perspective of the novel pretty clearly …

    One thing I would say is, despite the freedom from traditional grammatical and storytelling rules that Roy employs, I never feel like her words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs are out of control. They are actually meticulously structured — both in the sense that they flow just fine and are very readable, despite the fragments and run-ons, etc, and in the sense they everything is tied together.

    Doing a quick bit of research, I discovered a well-written piece of literary criticism that focuses on the color symbolism in GOST (see link in citation below for the full article). The excerpt below connects the passage we are discussing with other intersections of redness and Rahel’s perspective:

    “Rahel is a silent prophetess, predicting the future in her “yellow-rimmed red plastic sunglasses [which] made the world look red” (37), and it is no wonder that “Ammu said that they were bad for her eyes and had advised her to wear them as seldom as possible” (37). The “red sunglasses” (301; 311) seem to help Rahel see things that others overlook. That is why “on that skyblue December day, it was him [Velutha] that she [Rahel] saw through the sunglasses, marching with a red flag at the level crossing outside Cochin” (79). Trough her red glasses she also becomes instinctively aware of the danger, and instead of what has until now been a “skyblue” sky, she “could see pieces of red sky. And in the red sky, hot red kites wheeled, looking for rats. In their hooded yellow eyes there was a road and red flags marching” (79). No one else appears to have seen Velutha marching with a red flag. In Ammu’s case, she does not want anyone to see him. She is angry and tells Rahel to shut up when she insists she saw him (71).”

    “Colour Play in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 39.3 (2008): 73-84. Republished in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. Roman Critical Contexts Series. Ed. Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal. London: Roman Books, 2012. 89-103. Full article accessible here: https://mla.hcommons.org/deposits/item/mla:429/

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  2. Pingback: GOST Helped Me Rediscover My Love of Writing (part 2) – Story Power

  3. Olivia K

    This book fueled my writing too. While I tend to write strictly sci-fi, I have definitely found something in her writing that inspires my way of storytelling as well. The way that she effortlessly shifts POVs and timelessly jumps from generation to generation is a very useful skill to have in world building. While my story takes place on 15 moons in a completely different universe than ours, Roy’s writing still manages to teach me ways of putting it all out on paper that I would not have learned otherwise.

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