Despite its lackluster title, Salman Rushdie’s In the South ends up being a satisfying little exercise with enough frills to keep me interested. The story centers around two senescent Indian neighbors who have little to do except wait around for the end together, having outlasted most of their immediate family members. Their sobriquets are Junior and Senior because they share the same last name, and while their relationship isn’t overtly affectionate they’ve come to rely upon each other as relevant signposts on the final leg of their journey. The language isn’t quite as lyrical as his best stuff from East, West (one of my favorites), but there’s some good metaphor dealing with shadows and a well-drawn scene with the two men guiding each other to the post office to collect their pension checks.

True to form, Rushdie is quick to poke fun at himself before coming across too purple or enamored of himself, and so one character’s interesting conceit of a “mortal soul” is immediately dismissed by the other as pure tommyrot. Yeah, I just found that word by thesaurusing “rubbish.” And yeah, I just used thesaurus as a verb. What are you gonna do about it?

You can check out the story for yourself here.