Is it possible to dislike the characters in a book but like the book immensely? And then, by the time the book is read, develop a sort of sympathy towIs it possible to dislike the characters in a book but like the book immensely? And then, by the time the book is read, develop a sort of sympathy towards characters you disliked earlier, thereby making you like the book a little bit more?
This is what I felt as I journeyed through this book along with Sal Paradise, the aspiring writer searching for experiences, and Dean Moriarty, the insane, restless creature whom Sal Paradise seems to worship. The duo travels across America, as far down to Mexico, and we learn of their adventures through Kerouac's manic, breathless style of writing, which is quite a pleasure to read.
I can't say that I liked Sal Paradise too much. His yearnings to be on the road somehow never seemed as genuine as Dean Moriarty's mad wanderlust. Despite his love of the beat life, I couldn't really forget the fact that he was a college educated person of moderate privilege, with an aunt who could bail him out financially in case he ever ran too low on funds during his adventures. In some way, this made him seem like a bit of a fraud, someone putting on a bit of an act.
Dean Moriarty on the other hand, repulsive and selfish and destructive though he may be, is a much more genuine character. The madness that drives him from one place to another searching for 'kicks' is a very real, unhinged, crazy lunacy that makes you feel sorry for him. Rather than seeing him as a mystic, as Sal seems to, I saw him as a lost soul, unable to find peace anywhere, searching for some kind of answers in the people he meets, the women he loves, the books he reads. In a way, I felt that his search for Old Dean Moriarty was a metaphorical quest, one destined to remain unfulfilled.
The duo leave a trail of destruction wherever they go, taking advantage of people and generally being selfish louts, and I didn't quite enjoy the unhinged road trips that they took across America from coast to coast. I enjoyed reading about them, but I probably wouldn't have wanted to go along with them on those trips. The one trip that I really enjoyed though, was the final one to Mexico. It seemed somehow more surreal and spiritual in a sense, and was a strangely satisfying read.
On the whole I quite liked the book. The frenzied writing was enjoyable, and the depictions of the madcap adventures and hijinks were quite fascinating to read about. I want to know more about the beat generation after reading this, and specially I want to know what influence this book had on Bob Dylan's music, as it says on the back cover.
I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read about travel, America, or counterculture....more
If I was asked to rate only this particular anthology of Wodehouse's works, I would probably rate it a 4, but my 5 rating is indicative of my love forIf I was asked to rate only this particular anthology of Wodehouse's works, I would probably rate it a 4, but my 5 rating is indicative of my love for Wodehouse's works in general, rather than this particular volume.
Nonetheless, this is one of the finest collections of Wodehouse's characters and stories, and it introduced me to a few of the characters I am less acquainted with, such as Ukridge and Mr. Mulliner.
I would have greatly enjoyed it if some of Wodehouse's early school stories were included in this collection as well, works such as 'The Pothunters' or 'A Prefect's Uncle'.
All in all superb, though. Plum is brilliant, and what can I, a mere mortal add to the oceans of praise that have already been heaped upon him. ...more
Attempting to decipher the hidden layers of true meaning behind the mundane happenings of daily life is a lofty goal indeed. Roland Barthes' MythologiAttempting to decipher the hidden layers of true meaning behind the mundane happenings of daily life is a lofty goal indeed. Roland Barthes' Mythologies attempts to do just that, using semiotics as a structural discipline to unravel the 'myths' that we see around us. The mythologies referred to in the book are not the ones we usually mean, such as Norse mythology or Greek mythology. Rather they refer to the innate significance or symbolism behind everyday objects and occurrences.
Through a series of essays on topics as varied as wrestling, or the difference between wine and milk, Barthes throws a new light on age old topics. In one particularly wonderful essay, he explains that the reason we like foamy soap and associate it with luxury, is because we see it as the generation of abundance (foam) from seemingly nothing (a small bar of soap). Something akin to Cornucopia, in other words.
A couple of challenges in reading this book are that firstly, some of the topics and events covered are either dated, or are so particularly French in nature that it it difficult to understand them. In some other cases, the writing style tends toward being too academic, which makes the ideas difficult to grasp.
This is most evident in the final essay wherein Barthes attempts to explain the theory of Semiotics. While probably a very erudite essay, it makes for very difficult reading for someone who is not a student of Semiotics or cultural theory.
All in all this is a very good read. It serves to expand one's horizons by positing a certain way of thinking about the things we see around us which is refreshing and unique....more
Philosophy is one of those topics which I have always been curious about, but I have never had the opportunity or the inclination to pick up the serioPhilosophy is one of those topics which I have always been curious about, but I have never had the opportunity or the inclination to pick up the serious and heavy tomes that are considered to be the pillars of the discipline.
I have tried reading about Philosophy online, and have not been too successful in finding anything that succinctly describes the key concepts. Everything I have read tends to dissolve into heavy, pedantic prose.
Taken in that light, this book is a wonderful read. It's table of contents reads like a veritable philosophy course, and the way the book links philosophy with humor is ingenious. Jokes that we may have heard a million times before are suddenly transformed into shining beacons that highlight concepts like existentialism or the philosophy of religion.
This is in fact a uniquely entertaining compendium that anyone can refer to in case they ever run into a serious, loaded term that seems important enough to decipher.
For the more serious minded folks out there, don't be fooled into thinking that the relationship between philosophy and jokes is flippant. The description of philosophical terms is spot on and well described. Understanding the connection between the concept and the illustrative joke requires a significant exercise of one's brain cells, specially in the case of the more profound concepts. ...more
The premise of this book is not earth shatteringly new. The idea of living your life over and over again until you finally get it right and finally reThe premise of this book is not earth shatteringly new. The idea of living your life over and over again until you finally get it right and finally realize your true self, is one that has been explored in various mediums, perhaps none as well known as Groundhog's Day.
The story is about a girl, Ursula Todd, born on a snowy night in 1910, and the book chronicles several of her lives, as she learns and grows through each life lived, making better decisions in the next. The book starts with her in her 20s, literally changing the course of history, and by doing so, presumably realizing her destiny. The rest of the book chronicles the many lives she had to live through, in order to place herself at that point in history.
I wasn't truly satisfied with the book however, because the changes that Ursula made to her life needed to be more profound, the connections between lives deeper than what they were in the book. What the book does is merely tell us that in Life number 1, Ursula did this, so that bad thing happened. In Life number 2, she didn't, so that bad thing didn't happen. I would have been more interested in understanding how Ursula changed as a person so that she made a particular decision differently in the first place.
The other thing was, that the book hints that Ursula seems to be gaining some kind of realization that she is living out her lives again and again, and thereby gaining some control of her life. However, this theme was not fully explored. Though this would have taken the book into the realm of the paranormal, it could have made for an interesting take. Instead, we are given glimpses of unexplained dread that Ursula experiences sometimes, and a persistent sense of deja vu that seems to plague here. A story about an Ursula who 'discovers' her powers would have been fascinating as well.
The Time Traveler's Wife, in my opinion, did this sort of thing beautifully. It took a concept that was born in the realm of science fiction, and explored it through the lens of human emotion, thus creating a brilliant narrative. This is the opportunity that Life after Life fails to take.
There is a sequence in the book that is set amidst the London Blitz. Most people have praised those scenes, for they are well written and stand out on their own. However, for me, they seemed to take me away from the narrative, and didn't really answer too many more questions about Ursula and her incredible life experience.
I think that for me, the central disappointment of the book was that at the end of the day, in each of her lives, Ursula was essentially the same person. Her mannerisms, her outlook on life, it was all the same. Her relationship with here family members was the same, her family members themselves were the same people, in each of the lives that Ursula lived. Only the circumstances of their lives changed.
The book misses a wonderful chance to explore the concept of nature vs. nurture by keeping the characters essentially the same. Ursula, for instance, was a kind girl, but perhaps in one of her lives, a tiny incident from her childhood might have put her on the path of being a cruel person, someone like her brother Maurice. Such an exploration of character would then have us looking inwards, at the tiny things that we do or don't do in our lives that shape the people that we become. That would have been a strong message for us to live out our lives more mindfully.
All in all, a good story, an interesting read, but it doesn't really leave an impact after the last page is turned, and I don't think I would remember the characters or the story after some time has passed.
The only reason I picked up this book in the first place is because so many people seemed to have found it hilarious. The reviews I read had instancesThe only reason I picked up this book in the first place is because so many people seemed to have found it hilarious. The reviews I read had instances of people laughing heartily in public places, choking back tears of joy and what not.
Contrary to my expectations therefore, I could not see the humor. I barely cracked a smile through my entire reading of this book. Though disguised as a 'funny' book, A confederacy of dunces is in fact highly depressing. The characters may seem quirky, but the circumstances of their existence are uniquely bleak, almost Dickensian in their hopelessness.
The book is about Ignatius J Reilly, a highly educated misfit who struggles to function in modern society, stumbling from one calamity to the next, surrounded by a set of equally dysfunctional characters.
At the very core, Ignatius is an unlikeable character. I kept searching for some redeeming quality or act that would make me warm toward him, but there was none. Eventually, this realization made me lose interest in him and I found the book a dull slog.
The only good thing that I can say about this book, is that the supporting characters are colorfully painted and highly memorable. The hapless patrolman Mancuso (I kept picturing Steve Buscemi in this role) and the comically insightful Burma Jones are specially interesting. I would have loved to see more about them....more
Every time I watch England go down to a rival in the knockout stages of a tournament, I throw my hands up in despair and ask why. This book finally anEvery time I watch England go down to a rival in the knockout stages of a tournament, I throw my hands up in despair and ask why. This book finally answers that question, and the answer is...well...strangely satisfying.
This is an interesting book. It uses a blend of economic and statistical concepts (Game Theory, Zipf's Law, multiple regression) to answer questions that football fans regularly ask, but have never been able to answer, such as whether transfers bring footballing success, and how to best approach a penalty shootout. Among the most interesting parts of the book is an analysis of the key macroeconomic/demographic factors that influence performance in football, and how countries have been performing relative to how they should have been performing, given the resources at their disposal. (Admittedly, I need to return to this section of the book again to understand the methodology better)
The authors have shared snippets of the data and the results of the analyses they have used in order to draw their conclusions. This lends an air of credibility to the work, and even if you do not agree with the insights drawn by the authors, at least there is no denying that the data seems to point to the insights drawn. Data sources have been listed out as well for the scientifically oriented who may be reading this book.
The work is peppered throughout with anecdotes that sometimes provide a unique insight into the inner workings of football, which is a delight for a fan to read.
In short, this is a wonderful read for anyone who loves football and would like to gain a deeper understanding of its ebbs and flows. For a non football fan, this book would probably be a bit of a slog.
Blink is an interesting book, not in the concept that it presents i.e. intuition, but rather in the stories that it tells. I did not find the first haBlink is an interesting book, not in the concept that it presents i.e. intuition, but rather in the stories that it tells. I did not find the first half of the book quite so interesting as the second half however, and my rating of four stars is largely due to the fact that I really enjoyed the second half of this book.
The author succeeds primarily because he avoids presenting material that is too dense, and limits himself to the cases and stories that he wants to discuss. In doing so, he holds the readers attention and slowly develops his ideas deeper. This could have been an unnecessarily pedantic book if it chose to delve into details of neurophysiology and psychology, but Blink certainly avoids that trap and keeps the reader engaged.
I was not sure whether I wanted to give this book four stars though. A three and a half would have been an ideal score. However, I finally decided to give it a four because of late, whenever I have picked up a non fiction book on interesting ideas, the delivery has been so pedantic that I have felt let down. A I mentioned before, this is not the case with Blink, and hence the four points....more
First and foremost, when a book is written and goes through the publishing process, I expect it to be proofread. This book is not. I can understand thFirst and foremost, when a book is written and goes through the publishing process, I expect it to be proofread. This book is not. I can understand the occasional misspelling or grammatical error, but when the book seems to be written entirely in incorrect English, it begins to gnaw on my nerves. For example, stuck and struck are two different words. Please do not confuse the two. If one of the characters is trapped behind a chariot, he is 'stuck' behind it, and not 'struck' behind it. This particular error itself has been made at least three times in the book, not to mention innumerable grammatical errors on every second page.
Secondly, the characters. Oh, the shallow, one dimensional characters. You have the characters from one of the greatest epics ever written to work with, and all you do is turn them into self pitying, whiny, one dimensional husks of humanity. You create the character of Bhadra, who is supposed to be shrewd and brave, and is supposed to provide insight and perspective. Instead, all he seems to do is get kicked into ditches. I literally mean to say that almost every significant event in his life seems to end up with his lying in a ditch. Again and again. And still more self pity. After a while, it begins to get sickening.
Thirdly, sometimes writers use great stories and epics from the past to cast a light on modern times. In theory, this is usually a great idea, but much depends on its execution. When the analogy is rich and layered and reveals itself slowly, it is a delight to behold. In this book however, the analogies and references to modern India are so tacky and transparent, they end up looking ridiculous and childish.
I was so full of hope when I bought this book, and for the first few chapters I enjoyed it. I specially liked how cleverly the author explained or accounted for the magical elements of the original story. It was fun, and the characters seemed to be maturing and coming into their own. After a while, however, things simply began to come apart, until by the end of it, I regretted my decision to pick up this book in the first place.
Having said all of this, I still want to say that writing this book was a grand and commendable effort on the author's part. The book is clearly well researched, and the author certainly comes across as very knowledgeable about Indian mythology. His insights and perspectives are very relevant and well thought out, but could have been presented in a better manner. I am sure that given the right kind of support from the publishers, the author's next effort would be much more improved.
Finally, I want to say that if I have been so critical, it is only because I expected a lot from this book, whereas I was disappointed when I actually read it. Nonetheless, it stands far far higher that the other factory manufactured drivel that seems to be churning out at a frenzied place from other authors, cluttering up the best seller lists and bookshelves at chain bookstores.
PS: Saying that a book is ranked 4th on Flipkart in the book description doesn't mean a thing! Seriously!...more