Sunday, September 27, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Boy's Tale Is Exotic, Accessible

Special To The Seattle Times

------------------------------- "Beach Roy" by Ardashir Vakil Scribner, $22 -------------------------------

There's a sentence halfway through Beach Boy, the memoir-like first novel of Ardashir Vakil, that captures the essence of his 8-year-old protagonist, Cyrus Readymoney.

Cyrus has just interrupted a game of cricket with his Bombay friends to queue up for the spicy delights of the local bhaiyar, a vendor cum chef, who cuts onions and chilies in the palm of his hand. As Cyrus salivates in anticipation, he observes, "Flies buzzed around the food, my eye was caught by the large bosom of a girl in a blue frock."

That's Cyrus in a nutshell. He's such a budding hedonist his mind doesn't allow so much as a conjunction between one pleasure and another.

In 1970s India, Cyrus flits from pleasure to pleasure, neighbor to neighbor, vignette to vignette. He reads Archie comics, listens to rock 'n' roll, and watches the latest Bombay movies. He spends so little time at home we're more than a hundred pages in before we realize he has siblings. It's the fracturing of this home-life, however, that leads to his eventual moral and psychological grounding.

The exotic details in "Beach Boy" are almost as pungent as the Indian foods Cyrus is forever describing. That, and its accessibility (author Vakil, who now lives in London, wrote the book in English), should make it a popular, if not particularly weighty,


Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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