Friday, December 7, 2012

Overwhelming. Underwhelming.

When the life being described is so extraordinary, the words that describe them seem too mundane for comfort.

Or maybe...just maybe...I have come to expect too much from Jerry Pinto. Too much, too often.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There is a Sunil Ganguly-shaped hole in my heart currently. And I don't even want to talk about or discuss him or do anything else really...because every such session brings with it such absolute absolute heartbreak.

However, even magical authors tend to go muggle-like sometimes. And in the history of magic, this book is a Petunia Dursley.

Would've been great, really, if I hadn't read a Professor Shonku with an annoyingly similar premise. (Without the entire fantasmagoria and other creatures and the resolution, of coure.)

Bangla sahityo has ruined me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My relationship with Harry Potter has been an obsessive one. I have pored over pages. I've trawled the internet for every spare nugget of information on the series. I've memorized lines of dialogues. I've watched all the movies. I've cried at the end of the last book. I've fallen in love with more than one character.

               Hogwarts has helped heal heartbreak, ease bereavement, and provide a sanctuary for a bewildered youngster like no one else. Therefore, 'The Casual Vacancy' would have to do very VERY hard work if it had to live up to the previous stalwarts.

And it did, internet, IT DID! It is a beautiful book. It's not suckerpunch-let-me-suck-you-into-my-world like Harry Potter, of course. I don't think anyone is capable of replicating that. Not even Rowling herself. (Also, to give credit to her, Rowling actually went out and wrote something completely different and put herself out there to be criticized and dissected when she ALREADY HAS ELEVENTY TRILLION POUNDS AND HAS WRITTEN HARRY POTTER. If it were me, I would just lounge the rest of my life away. Writing Potter would have guaranteed that much.)

'The Casual Vacancy' was well-written, well-plotted, and some of the scenes are masterfully Rowling. My heart, it kind of broke in the end. The effort of creating a world as far away from Hogwarts as possible is evident. And Rowling, thank god, proves to be deft storyteller even when she restricts herself to one small parish populated by the non-wand people.

The book is not Harry. But it's definitely, at least, a Neville Longbottom. And who can resist his underdog charm?


Monday, October 1, 2012

This is a lovely book. A quaint book. A book extremely readable.

The problem, as I see it, lies in the fact that I demand more from my reads. I want them to evoke other words.

Words like 'overwhelming'. Or 'eccentric'. Even, for lack of others, 'unpredictable'. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Jeebon ta boddo pnechalo jinish, dadabhai. Ei goto du hoptay ekebare haarey haarey ter peyechhi seta. Notun chakri peye, purono chakri chhere, boss er songe jhogra kore...sob miliye ekebare jachchetai byapar. Nawa-khawar somoy chhilo na, boi porar somoy ar thakbe ki kore?

Kintu ta bole ki boi porbo na? Nishchoi porbo. Pnechalo jeebonta niye deerghoshwas phelte phelte majhraatey ghume dhule asha chokh duto ke tene dhore chot kore ektu bhoot, dakat, shonda daroga der khoborakhobor niye ashbo.

Ei boi khana bhai boddo bhalo. Thik chhottobelar anandamelar moto, sheeter sokale roddure pith diye komolalebu khawar moto, half-yearly porikkhar shesh porikkha ta diye bari pherar pothe pujor prothom gondho pawar moto bhalo. Ei pora Dilli te, seta ki ekta kom kotha?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

“They didn't know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be.”

Really? Alzheimer's? You had to choose this guy? 

Translations bother me. I keep thinking that I must be missing out on so much because I'm not reading this in its original version...and then I end up feeling vaguely dissatisfied throughout the reading process.

In fact, translations of works closer home bother me even more. Because then, I know for certain that I'm missing out on a lot.
Don't get me wrong. I loved the stories. And the woman stuns me. And now I want to learn Urdu and read Sadat Hussain Manto.

But then, suddenly, as I am reading, in one curious turn of phrase, in one halting sentence, the inadequacy of English strikes me once again.

And I finish the book with a slight sense of discontent.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

One day, when I was throwing a tantrum at J and K's place, demanding books to borrow so that I could read during my impending 28-hour train journey, K handed me this book. I was assured that I would enjoy it. is not that I didn't.

I've never read any Argentinian author before, and so this was completely uncharted territory. Also, De Santis did amuse by all the tongue-in-cheek references to ALL the genres of detective fiction. But I demand a surprise at the end of my whodunits, and I could see this resolution coming from miles away.

I guess my philistine detective story-loving mind is forever expecting the unexpected.
Agatha Christie has ruined me.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pattanaik never disappoints, does he? He might not always exhilarate, but he never does the opposite either.

This book is nowhere close to 'Jaya' in it's scope, efficiency, and language. What it is, is a delightful read with one of the best endings I've seen in recent times.

Recommended, pretty much.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First up, I have no idea why the images are all going berserk on this page right now. My beloved Argentinian whodunit on the sidebar has assumed humongous proportions, while Rushdie's bird-fairytale assumes a tiny form. Oh, the drawbacks of being a tech retard.

Anyways, so I took a much-needed week long vacation to the Western coast of India. The sea soothed my soul and filled my belly with a large number of fish fries, and I fell asleep on the beach more than once. (Waking up to the sea in front of you is something one should definitely do once in a lifetime.) However, taking a vacation includes much ingestion of questionable substances, and reading had taken a backseat. Therefore, all of this is to tell people that I finished 'Grimus' last week, taking almost fourteen days more than it deserved.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with Salman Rushdie, but this book kind of tilted the odds in favour of 'love'.This is definitely not my favourite Rushdie. But even a mediocre Rushdie can sometimes blow your mind.

 I read somewhere that Rushdie himself had spoken ill of this first, nascent attempt at magic realism. I will just assume that he was suffering from addlebrain syndrome from dabbling with so much awesomeness.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I cannot read in moving vehicles. This is a bit of a damp squib, because ideally, I would've loved to read wherever. Whenever. Whichever. Whatever. (Yeah, get the drift...)

So, in response to my woozy motion sick brain, which makes me feel nauseous for such ridiculous things as sitting in a vehicle moving backwards (let alone reading in it) I have deviced something called the busread. This is inspired from the fact that I have a 30 minute bus ride to my office everyday, which is where I do most of my mobile reading. The hitch?  I get to read only when the bus has stopped at a red light or is stuck in a jam or is in anyway not moving. My busread at any particular point of time goes with me wherever I go: doctor's offices, beauty parlours, airports, workplace... The idea is, I should always have something to read in an emergency situation and I will be damned if I let some pansy motion sickness deny me that.

So. Anyways. I've just finished reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, which was my last busread. This was partly brought on by the fact that I was a little ashamed that my Master's in English literature was achieved without reading any Lawrence. I was also, for a large part, extremely interested in what the brouhaha was all about.

And now that I've finished it, I have no qualms admitting that the book is, for want of better words, odd. The plot is very signature Lawrence and his theories of individual regeneration. But deep down, it's a love story and the sudden, strange, awkward sex scenes leave you a little bewildered. I understand the important role it played in the history of censorship in England, but personally, I think the book would have worked just fine without the sex bits. Lawrence's language carries enough punch to make sure that one reads, even if one finds the content strange. I mean...really...I couldn't, for the life of me, take the book seriously once Lady Chatterley had bent down and braided her lover's pubic hair with some forget-me-nots, in a, to quote the author "curiously tender gesture".

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Normally, I am deeply suspicious of anything the American media goes gaga over. Cough...Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, Vikram Yoga...cough.

However, a the corporate world makes one do a lot of things, and one fine day, when I could not bring myself to stare at the bright white lights and Excel sheets of my steel and glass office any longer, I went ahead and downloaded the first book on my computer. (Yes, illegally. Yes, so shoot me.) And decided that I had to go ahead and read the rest of the books.

So, that's what I did. Downloading the next two installments surreptitiously. Reading them during lunch breaks. Reading them during boring days when the head felt like exploding. And Mockingjay, the last of the trilogy that I finished a while ago, was worth every bit of stolen office time.

It is strange how Collins steals up on you, unawares. The first book, you like. The second book, you aren't so sure, but you can see what she is getting at. The third book, quite literally, stops you in your tracks.

 There is no redemption in the dystopic, Orwellian plot. No neat resolution of all issues concerned. No happily ever afters with a neat little bow at the top. The numbing violence that started at the first book goes on...and on...and on. And even though you want it to end at one point, you know the author won't take the easy way out, that she won't play to the audience. Because violence, once it is unleashed, is uncontrollable. A faceless, nameless beast that devours everyone in its path and isn't satisfied still.

I wish Collins would write more books, especially for young adults. Teenagers need more words like these in their lives.

So, I finished this last night. And now I want to know what happens next, buggerit.

It is surprising, really, how fast fantasy can win me over. Throw in a few realistic spells, some interesting dragons and boggarts and wizards, and I am sold.

Here, especially, I can see the plot twists from far away. The language is no great guns. And there are far superior YA novels in the market. But still...but still...I go over to Flipkart, wondering if I should buy the next book in the series.


p.s. Or maybe I should just look up the Wikipedia page.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The brain, it is generally not itself when confronted with 102 F body temperatures. Not the brain's fault, really, because my limbs, my head, and even my throat had given up on me last week. The maid had not turned up for four days, both my flatmates were out cold with similar ailments, and as I lay in a virus infested house, with a searing headache and a kitchen full of dirty dishes, my tired eyes refused to register the words of the book I was reading: Salman Rushdie's fascinating 'Grimus'. So I relented, listened to my sore limbs and head and throat, and picked this up from the bedside bookshelf.

And whaddaya know? I enjoyed it too. The big fonts and the simple, linear storyline made sure that my fever-addled brain could process the information. Who knew that dragons and witches are good for the lonely, sick, longing-for-home soul?

So, now I'm reading 'Physik', which is the third book of this series. My body needs to get rid of a little more virus until it's ready to delve into Rushdie's magic realism again.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I will be upfront and admit that I decided to buy this because of Emma Stone. I knew she was in the movie that they made out of this, and I knew that it was widely, wildly praised. Thank GOD for Hollywood, I say. If not for them, I would never have ventured into these pages, and my life would have been a little bit sadder.

I sat still for a long time after finishing this, staring out of the window at nighttime India (I was reading this aboard the Delhi-Kolkata Rajdhani) and breathing deeply to calm the racing heart, the lump in the throat. Remember 'To Kill a Mockingbird'? If I didn't know better, I would've thought it to be written by Harper Lee herself, a sequel to that monumental work of American literature.

Read it, even if it's the only thing you read this year. 

If there is one book of an Indian author that you should read this year, I pray that it is this. There is magic in these pages.

Oh god, the sheer, soul-crushing boredom of this book. The sheer, soul-crushing sense of history that asks, nay demands that I enjoy these pages, because if I don't, what sort of a post-colonial, liberal soul am I? But I couldn't. I tried hard, harder than I thought was possible, and at the end, could not bring myself to like this.

I wonder what happened to the Amitav Ghosh I love. The Ghosh I used to idolize. The one who wrote 'Shadow Lines' and 'Glass Palace' and 'Calcutta Chromosome' and took my breath away with his words and his sparkling, razor sharp wit.

Somewhere down the road on his quest to become a literary figure, Ghosh seems to have lost the sense of fun that stories, simply told, can bring.

Bolstered by 'Kartography', I went looking for more Kamila Shamsies, and ended up buying this one. The language, frankly speaking, floored me again. I read each page twice, and wished, wished fervently to be able to write like this at least once in my lifetime.
However, if I am honest, this is certainly not Shamsie's best work and halfway through the book, I wanted to slap the protagonist. Hard. It does say something about the nature of her words though, that even her second-best managed to sporadically bring me to my knees.

S is a superwoman. She cooks, cleans, decorates with equal elan. This, apart from being a star employee of Pearson, gathering corporate awards like N D Tiwari gathers illegitimate sons. So, I respect her, and for a lot of things, look upto her as well. Reading is her passion, and when she is not working on her laptop, while simultaneously cooking a four course meal and doing intricate flower arrangements, she can be spotted in a corner of the room, her nose immersed in a book.

It was S who recommended this book to me, and it is, hands down, one of the best books I have read this year. The language, in places, almost made me choke up - so beautiful was it, and so vividly it reminded me of the reasons why I had opted to study English literature. This, this transcendental, almost healing beauty of words is why literature, at times, still makes me go weak in my knees.

I've always had a problem with this man's politics. Right wing worldviews wrapped in a garb of liberal words never fail to disconcert me. Keeping that in mind, and the severe disappointment that the first book was, I had decided, quite early on, not to read this. Westland books are not known for making good literature anyways.

But then AM insisted, and I generally end up agreeing with his bibliographic opinions. So, I relented. And I finished it in two days, straight. The book is...interesting. I'll give it that. It is also a little disturbing, and you can't help but wonder about the inner workings of Arnab Ray's mind. Currently, I have lent it to a friend, a non-reader whose literary skills are limited to Chetan Bhagat. And everyday, when he comes over, he spends five minutes discussing how good the book is and how much he is enjoying reading it.

The question, however, is whether one should take that as a compliment.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I've just walked in after an evening show of 'Dark Knight Returns'...and the word that I used most for that movie is the one I am tempted to use for this book too.


The book is fine, really. All wizards, boggarts, witches, dragons, and the compulsory menacing (more comic than menacing here) villain DomDaniel. It's also a surprisingly fast and easy read, and technically, I enjoyed the process of reading the book.  But...then...meh.

Of course, I hadn't finished the book before I ordered the next two in the series. So I suppose they will arrive, and I shall read them willingly enough. But I wouldn't, for the life of me, recommend them to a first time fantasy reader, or even a second time one. Because mediocrity is perhaps a worse trait than being just bad.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Incredible. Overwhelming. Sucker-punching. Goosebumps inducing. Highly highly recommended, even though I've never been to that city.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

J and K's house is filled with shelves upon shelves of graphic novels and incredible, rare whodunits. K collects the latter, and has a collection that should, legitimately, take people's breaths away. Sometimes, when K is in a good mood, he will lend me a random book. This was one such. I was whining about a good detective novel to read, and as he usually looks down upon my philistine Agatha Christie reading ways, I was rather surprised when he dusted off this volume and advised me to read it.
I wasn't disappointed. Recommended, totally, if only for the superb research about medieval England that has gone into the book.

Fast read. Surprisingly nice read, in fact. Even if the mehendi clad hands on the cover of the book gave me the initial doubtful heebie jeebies. A cord was struck, I don't know how. Probably because books set in Delhi give me a sense of familiarity these days. I kept sneaking into the bedroom to read a few pages during one of our usual, insane, substance abusing weekend parties. That was how I knew that I would probably recommend it to people. Not an overwhelming read by any margin, but happy making nonetheless. Recommended, if you aren't too snooty a reader.

Because a palette cleanser was needed after the wringer of the previous book I'd read. This was finished in a little more than a day. It is basically Mills n Boons, with a generous dollop of good old cornstarchy America. Predictable. Same old, same old. Not recommended, unless you are a sucker for weepy romance.