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.