Creating Memories in Meatless Days

Will Goodman '05, English 171, Sages, Satirists, and New Journalists Brown University, 2003

In Meatless Days, Sara Suleri weaves her narrative with the threads of memory, darting through images, feelings, and conversations of the past. As opposed to a chronological straight-line story, Suleri's narrative meanders and bends, jumps and circles back around, much akin to the chaotic digressions and daydreams of a reminiscing mind. But, unlike a random, free-association of thoughts, Suleri is constantly aware of the structure and order in which she presents her stories. In the following passage, she openly adresses the construction of her text, allowing the reader to glimpse the voice behind the narrative — the woman behind the curtain, so to speak.

What then are my options? I suppose I could recall that I first met Mustakori in college, at Kinnaird, but then what a Jonah my voice feels to the whale of that context. It makes mind and body boggle: Kinnaird College! for Women! on Jail Road! in Lahore! A place to imprint on unsuspecting faces looks of indelible surprise! The college was indeed on Jail Road, as was the jail, and the racecourse, and the lunatic asylum, too: daily we found it hard to believe ourselves, but it was true. [46]

Questions for Discussion

What kind of reading experience does Suleri create with her way of acknowledging her own text? Is Suleri's technique similar to past authors like Ruskin, or is her text-consciousness a truly postmodern development?

In "The White Album," Joan Didion describes her life in the late sixties as a "cutting-room experience." How do Didion's and Suleri's narrations of memory compare?

"There is Mustakor," Suleri writes, "hodi-ing at the edge of my memory, trying to get into Pakistan. Hodi the African greeting ('Is anyone at home? Can I come in?'), constitutes a major portion of my friend Mustakor's Swahili vocabulary" (53). Why is Mustakor such an important character for Suleri? What does Mustakor represent?

Main Screen Pakistan Sara Suleri Meatless Days Leading Questions

Last modified 11 May 2005