On “Surrounded by Sleep” by Akhil Sharma (Page-125, the Practice of Creative Writing)
A story so beautiful I could hardly describe it to you with words other than “read it”. Surrounded by sleep is that kind of story that understand something. It is one thing to read a story that understands you and that is nice, but that is not the edge of value for understanding. A book makes itself on how well it understands people.
Whether your reading a book that makes you think, “This book understands homeless people” or “this book understands colored people” it is a certain kind of magic when a book understands someone and in so reading it; you do to. This piece, understands the insides of a religious boy. Beautifully depicting the inwards conversations he might have with himself and god.
My favorite line by far is when the boy in thought of his brother who has entered into a coma holds his breath for just a bit longer then he thinks he can then he tells god to give the spare breaths to his brother. This, I think; might be the most beautiful thing I heard in quite a while. And more so, it beautifully depicts the boys relationship with god. How he expects his will and effort to make a difference in his gods mind, or even perhaps more interestingly how a child as to a parent to his god might hold his breath in rebellion to get what he wants.
Surrounded by sleep is a must read.
Link to “Surrounded by Sleep” by Akhil Sharma in The New Yorker, December 10th, 2001, Issue.