The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curios...more Yo, Claudio
The review I really have in mind will be attempted for this book only after I finish reading Claudius the God (to quench the burning curiosity of how this ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius’, a man, who in the first shock of being made emperor had this outrageous thought come rushing to his mind - "So, I'm Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people read my books now.”, will conduct himself as a God-Emperor), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, so that I can apply the same criteria for reviewing any work of history, as suggested by Claudius (original source for much of Pliny's work) himself, through Livius and Pollio (all works unfortunately lost).
Meanwhile, have a short and enjoyable snapshot sampling of the book by going through the-easy-to-follow family tree given below. Ah, the tales that can be told while tracing those lines…
Another review has been put up here. That one is equally bad and confused, you might as well just skim this:
Still dazed by the stupor of melancholy an...moreAnother review has been put up here. That one is equally bad and confused, you might as well just skim this:
Still dazed by the stupor of melancholy and perversion that Humbert Humbert has exposed my poor brain to. Still trying to make sense of the monster/poet/victim and of Lolita, the symbol of our age. Who exploited whom, who were the villains and who were to be punished, these thoughts are still swirling in my head; desperately trying to ascribe meaning beyond the mere acts of the novel, to read into the disparities between nature and actions. A see-saw of poetry and debauchery. I also wonder how much I missed out on due to my handicap of not knowing french.
The primary effect of this beauty and poetry is that we keep geting charmed by this old-world, aristocratic protagonist who can talk in such a poetic way and then he gently turns around and reminds us of what he is contemplating doing to that young girl and we draw back in revulsion again, only to be ensnared in his honeyed prose a few lines later. And so it goes, tiring you out and enchanting you.
So, a review will come as soon as I can reconcile the beauty of the novel with its deep, dark underbelly and some meaning that is not merely moral emerges.
That might take many readings and I am not sure that is something I am willing to put myself through. But a review, however small, helps clarify the book in my head and, for that I will try.
Another thing I want to make sense of is this - Nabokov’s account of the old newspaper story that inspired him to start a work such as Lolita presented in the novel’s afterword "On a Book Entitled Lolita" - The story was about “an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who after months of coaxing by the scientists, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: the sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage." - Isn't that just surreal? The connection with Humbert is right there at the edge of my imagination, in his own prison maybe and maybe in the prison that was his life's lust. I don't now, but what pleasure to ponder.
One thing I can confidently say even with my shock at the rest of the novel is that the opening paragraph is perhaps the most beautiful and alluring one I have ever read - It draws you into this perverse universe where every dark secret thought is open to scrutiny like some succubi, a beautiful mermaid or Lamia who lures you only to crucify you. The mind thrills and the eyes laze over the paragraph and you are aglow in the ecstasy the rest of the book seems to promise, thinking of the beauty that is waiting for you in those pages, the plays of language, the thrill of appreciating such wonder and you are happy that this book, Lolita, that you have heard so much about is going to be a delight. But of course, the book is just like a nymph as described in it, it tantalizes with ethereal beauty only to expose our world to the harsh reality of man's nature - at least I think so. The book is the real Lolita not any character in it.(less)
I started this in high spirits as my updates show: "fifth re-read, how thrilling it is to plumb new depths in old wells of wisd...moreThe wolves will come...
I started this in high spirits as my updates show: "fifth re-read, how thrilling it is to plumb new depths in old wells of wisdom..."
But, as I read on towards the last few pages, I couldn't shake the feeling that this is Moby Dick set in an alternate universe.
In this alternate universe:
The Giant Leviathan is a noble, unseen fish - steady and without malice. Captain Ahab is transformed into a gentle, wise old zen master. Santiago - a humble fisherman with no legendary crew to command and only his frail body instead of a Pequod to do his bidding. Ishmael is a young boy, who instead of being a "end is nigh" Nostradamus is a loving, weeping young boy who cares deeply about the world. Queequeg is probably the dolphin which was the old man's only hope against his foe, his brother.
Now Moby Dick for me was the grand struggle of an obsessed genius with his destiny (in fact, about the creative struggle) - it proves that life is a tragedy and in the grand conclusion, you go down with a mighty confrontation and your ambitions take you down to the depths of the sea - no trace left of either you or your grand dreams except a mist of madness propagated as a half-heard story.
This was profound and it moved me to tears - but it was still grand, was it not? The great struggle, the titanic battle and the heroic capitulation! It was operatic and it was uplifting - even amidst the tragedy, the mighty bellow of man's cry in the face of the unconquerable; that gave me goosebumps.
But Hemingway and his Old Man has turned the story in its head.
It takes you beyond the happily-ever-after of Moby Dick (!) and as always those unchartered waters are beyond description. This alternate universe is much more cruel and much more real. There is no grand confrontation that ends in an inspirational tragedy.
It turns it into a battle of attrition - you are inevitably defeated even in success and life will wear you down and leave no trace of your ambitions.
It makes you battle to the last breaking point of every nerve and sinew and lets you win a hollow victory that you cannot celebrate as life has worn you out too much in your pursuit of your goals and the destiny, the destiny too now seems more and more unreal and you ask yourself if you were even worthy enough to start the battle.
And as you turn back after that jaded victory, then comes the sharks, inevitably, inexorably. And then begins the real battle, not the grand epic, but a doomed, unenthusiastic battle against reality - with the knowledge that no grand ambition can ever succeed.
And the old man tells it for you - "I never should have gone out that far!"
The alternate universe is depressing and it is Zen at the same time, I do not know how. I probably have to read this many more times before any hope, any secret light in it comes to illuminate me - for today, for this reading, Hemingway has depressed me beyond belief and I cannot remember how I always thought of this as an inspirational fable!
The scene in which the restaurant lady sees the bones of the once great fish sums it up for me - In the end you give up hope of success and only wish that at the very least you might be able to bring back a ghost of the fish so that people can see how great your target really was - but all they see is the almost vanished skeleton of your idea; your grand dreams are just so much garbage now and who will have the imagination to see the grandeur it had at its conception?
“They beat me, Manolin,” he said. “They truly beat me.”
Jared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of evolution of all societies. W...moreJared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of evolution of all societies. What makes the book great is of course the intimate hands-on experience that Jared has on the wide variety of fields required to attempt a book like this.
The last four or five chapters start to get very repetitive, but except for that Diamond has taken a stunningly large scale view of history that keeps you enthralled throughout the 13,000 years we cover in this book. (less)
The last book for the year. The soothing, gentle, unimposing yet wise voice of Rilke - what better way to fold up one more chapter in life and open an...moreThe last book for the year. The soothing, gentle, unimposing yet wise voice of Rilke - what better way to fold up one more chapter in life and open another, with hope for more suffering and joys in apt measure. This little book has been my companion for four years now, always half-finished, and it feels strange to finally remove the bookmark and to keep it aside.
Read it with a forgiving bend. Keep in mind that Rilke never wrote them with an intention to publish, it was mostly an attempt to convey a few truths to a fellow poet. Read it in that spirit - If you read with critical intent, the magic of the book will be lost on you.
My only complaint with the book is that it presents only one half of the conversation. It would have been a wonderful piece if both the young poet's and Rilke's letters had been printed in succession. I wonder if such an edition is available somewhere...(less)
What a wonderful wonderful novel. No, not a novel, or a novella; it was a poem, with rhythm, repetition, and cadence, looping back on itself. Yes, it...moreWhat a wonderful wonderful novel. No, not a novel, or a novella; it was a poem, with rhythm, repetition, and cadence, looping back on itself. Yes, it can only be called a poem - a poem about time, about forgotten time, long gone cold.
Having laid off from new Booker winners after a traumatic experience with Adiga, I started on this book with a lot of trepidation. But I was drawn in from the first paragraph and the amazing childhood anecdotes seemed to be promising a night of unbroken reading! I went through it loving every line and anguishing over how I could never write like this - A patchy memory of life laid out in scattered pieces, excruciating in what is left unsaid and what is perhaps falsely remembered.
I finished the book in a day and promised this - 'Full review to follow.' I am thinking about this again today but maybe I'll fulfill this promise tomorrow? The book touched me on many personal levels and I want to do justice to it, maybe even read it once again before attempting an extensive review.(less)
Irawati Karve strips the great epic of its embellishments and additions to lay out before us this stark, thought-provoking. character study. This pict...moreIrawati Karve strips the great epic of its embellishments and additions to lay out before us this stark, thought-provoking. character study. This picture forces us to expand our views on the epic and the people tossed about in it. Full review to follow.(less)
Never expected to find this much enjoyment reading a biography. Isaacson has truly done a wonderful job with this book.
For those who are too busy to...moreNever expected to find this much enjoyment reading a biography. Isaacson has truly done a wonderful job with this book.
For those who are too busy to read the entire book, please try to grab a quick read of the last two chapters of the book at a book store or airport or someplace - These chapters are a concise summary of the entire book as well as the thesis Isaacson builds up to throughout the book. Besides, it will probably make you buy and read the whole thing anyway.
To call this man a "Great Marketer" is probably a great disservice to him and Steve would probably have had a fit about that. I used to think of him as an epitome of modern marketing as well, but he would probably classify marketing as 'evil' in his radar. He hated the idea of any company focusing on marketing and emphatically states that is the whole problem with most companies today. This is probably a difficult idea to get to grips with, but is essential too.
I hope every Management Guru and CEO is studying this book and drawing the right lessons. We could truly be in a better world if they do. Just to clarify, I am not a fanboy of all apple products though I am sure the Mac is the best tech device till date but I do I fall on the android side of the fence.
But, Jobs' philosophy on running companies and driving innovation is the best in the modern age and should be copied shamelessly, if not their product features (I am looking at you Samsung).(less)
This was a long postponed book as I always thought it would be a long and trudging read, hard to comprehend and harder to remember afterwards. But Dur...moreThis was a long postponed book as I always thought it would be a long and trudging read, hard to comprehend and harder to remember afterwards. But Durant's treatment of the philosophers and their ideas as organic evolutions of their character and their times was what made the book a joy to read.
The ideas and the long dead philosophers come alive magnificently in these pages and Durant even manages to fill one with the thirst to go ahead and read all these works that are compressed and presented here.
This is one of those books which takes a long time to read not because they are long and arduous but because you end up spending more time thinking about each section than in the reading. The best part of the book was the fact that wherever possible the ideas are put forth in the philosopher's own words without commentary or interpretation marring the expostulation.
With the right mix of history, biography and philosophy, Durant has achieved a wonderful synthesis and summary of the evolution of thought. It leaves one with a tantalizing glimpse of great minds and a partial open door through which is too filled with riches to be left unexplored.(less)
I decided to start my mission to read all 38 of The Complete Plays of Shakespeare with Othello. It turned out to be a good decision to start with the...moreI decided to start my mission to read all 38 of The Complete Plays of Shakespeare with Othello. It turned out to be a good decision to start with the New Cambridge edition.
I was considering this reading as an academic reading of the bard and it generally took me almost 3 hours of constant reading to get through one average sized (10-15 pages) scene! Even after reading every scene three times - once aloud and twice normally - I still never felt I had enough of it, and moved on to the next only due to the suspense. What genius, what lovely wordplays and what sense of drama and malice. I can't believe I never had this joy in shakespeare till now.
All in all, it took much longer than originally planned... But then that is the drawback of reading annotated works - had to read every scene three times... But these New Cambridge Editions are gold mines of information, will stick with them for the other plays also. I hope my mission will not take years to complete at this rate...
One closing statement: Iago is my favorite literary character after Don Quixote.(less)
I must say that I am very thankful to this book for getting me back into the habit of running and giving me a ready made excuse to spend 45 minutes of...moreI must say that I am very thankful to this book for getting me back into the habit of running and giving me a ready made excuse to spend 45 minutes of my time thus.(less)