It’s as though Lalitha’s trans-global cache gives an ethnic figleaf to Franzen’s white American satire, allowing him to steer clear of any talk of America’s dominant minorities, namely blacks and Latinos. In the only scene in the novel when racial difference becomes an issue, Walter and Lalitha end up at a commercial steakhouse in small-town West Virginia: “He felt … glaringly urban, sitting with a girl of a different race amid the two varieties of rural West Virginians, the overweight kind and the real skinny kind.”
(Springtime drinking illustration by Alex Citrin)
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