A Ved Mehta Reader Analysis
by Ved Mehta

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A Ved Mehta Reader

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ved Mehta has published twenty-one books over forty years, and during that time has established himself as one of the finest prose writers in the English language. Many of his essays originally appeared in THE NEW YORKER magazine, and were later collected as chapters of books. Mehta’s forte is the personal essay, but the personal essay of ideas, and many of the pieces in A VED MEHTA READER—on modern philosophy, Gandhi, Calcutta, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—record his experiences wrestling with some of the more complex spiritual and political issues of modern life.

In the course of these eight essays, readers will also be able to piece together the fascinating and multinational history of Ved Mehta himself. Born and raised in India, he was sent to a boarding school in Arkansas at the age of fifteen, graduated from Pomona College a few years later, and then went on to Oxford University in England for postgraduate study. He returned to India at several points in subsequent years, but eventually settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1977.

Mehta brings several clear gifts to his craft, in addition to his enormous writing talent. He has lived and worked in very different cultures, and his rich background has helped him to grasp ideas from the broadest possible perspective. A VED MEHTA READER: THE CRAFT OF THE ESSAY succeeds as Mehta intended the collection, by giving readers a sampling of his writing, and by showing younger writers how it is done. But on a higher level, the collection is a reminder of the importance of what writing at its best can do, by combining intellectual and personal pursuits to give meaning to human life. This collection is a powerful reminder of why someone would aspire to write, of what an art writing can be, and what can be accomplished in the writing life.

Sources for Further Study

Library Journal. CXXIII, November 1, 1998, p. 81.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, September 6, 1998, p. 17.

A Ved Mehta Reader

(Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Ved Mehta has published twenty-one books over forty years, and during that time he has established himself as one of the finest prose writers in English. Many of his essays originally appeared in The New Yorker magazine and were later collected as chapters of books. (Of the essays included here, only “Naturalized Citizen No. 984-5165” has not seen previous book publication.) Mehta’s forte is the personal essay, but the personal essay of ideas, and nearly all the pieces in The Ved Mehta Reader record his experiences wrestling with some of the more complex philosophical and political issues of modern life. At the same time, these essays are valuable models of writing that can show students of the form how such fine literary journalism is put together.

In the course of these eight essays, readers will also be able to piece together the fascinating and multinational history of Ved Mehta himself. Born and reared in India, he was sent to a boarding school in Arkansas at the age of fifteen (the only school in the United States that would take a student with such limited knowledge of English, he claims), was graduated from Pomona College a few years later, and then went on to Oxford University in England for postgraduate study. He returned to India at several points in subsequent years but eventually settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1977. Meanwhile, Mehta had been writing for The New Yorker since 1960, under the legendary editorship of William Shawn, and all the essays here appeared in that magazine between 1961 and 1993. (Mehta has recently published a memoir about Shawn and the magazine, Remembering Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker: The Invisible Art of Editing, 1998).

Mehta then brings several clear gifts to his craft, in addition to his enormous writing talent. He has lived and worked in very different cultures and has been a truly multiethnic resident of the world, and this rich background has helped him to grasp ideas from the broadest possible perspective. At the heart of this life,...

(The entire section is 2,269 words.)