The eight stories in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s debut collection, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, capture a Pakistani aristocracy in decline: “It’s a little dying world,” thinks a modern-day party girl seeing her father-in-law’s shabby mansion for the first time. The culture’s slow erosion has little to do with politics or religion, as most headlines about Pakistan might suggest. For Mueenuddin, the land’s genteel squalor comes thanks to a corroded culture of servitude. The help fare poorly throughout the book: The title character of “Saleema” makes a noble effort to escape her speed-addicted husband only to be batted down. Outsiders don’t fare much better: The American woman in “Our Lady of Paris” receives more than a few subtle clues why she needn’t bother marrying into her fiance’s closed-off family. Mueenuddin voices little outrage about such injustices, and he doesn’t have to: His cool tone reflects an assurance that this callow, sexist ruling class will do itself in soon enough.
MUEENUDDIN DISCUSSES AND SIGNS COPIES OF HIS WORK AT 7 P.M. AT POLITICS AND PROSE, 5015 CONNECTICUT AVE. NW. FREE. (202) 364-1919.