I don't see Western readers discovering a common pulsewith the ultra-conservative family, whose masculine side is largely hypocritical around the themI don't see Western readers discovering a common pulsewith the ultra-conservative family, whose masculine side is largely hypocritical around the theme of sex, that forms the basis of the story.
Should a writer of Toni's calibre restrict herself with a not-so-grand ambition?
Toni is a master at managing conversations and a writer who reveals hShould a writer of Toni's calibre restrict herself with a not-so-grand ambition?
Toni is a master at managing conversations and a writer who reveals her characters more through these, and occasional interior monologues, than actions. In 'Tar Baby', her characters talk out everything, either with themselves or with others; each conflict inside their hearts is mightily verbalized. And all that is fine. So very fine. Because the conflicts are of import: conflicts around the true culture of white-folk and black-folk; and how these two have mingled with each other through time; and how these two should evolve with time -- whether they should confuse their historical roles to the point of exchanging them, or stay comfortable in the faint trails of the master-slave equation. Amidst all these is a love story that is, Tony seems to propose, flawed in its conception -- a black woman white at heart with a black man truly black. In the denouement, the all-so-predictable failure of this love story coincides with the transmutation of every white-black relationship; and Toni leaves things at that.
Could the novel have been written better? Yes. The prose-poetic content of chapter introductions is a deviation; it becomes an expected frustration the reader faces every time he moves on: a case of the rush of closing a chapter being mitigated by the abstruse verbosity in the beginning of the next. The poetic expression is convoluted and lengthy; its incongruous property being revealed here even more, since ‘Tar Baby’ is primarily a novel of conversation not descriptive prose; and although Toni does exceptionally well in linking the poetry with the plot and the characters (she employs interior monologues and omniscient narrator consciousness descriptions to achieve that), the urge to skip all of that and have the characters 'really talking' is overbearing at times.
Add to that the fact that the main character - Son - the black man roiled in blackness - and understatedly portrayed as a kind of an ideal - is colossally underdeveloped, and quite inapproachable at times. You love him when he is brusque and speaks his mindm, but incomprehensible whenever he acts or talks nice to anyone else. The reader gets a lengthy description of his history; Toni even takes you to his hometown Eloe in North Florida; but you never ever get to know the guy adequately. Hows that!?
And thirdly, what does this novel achieve? Does it bare the cultural divides adequately? The answer can be arrived at through another question. Are the characters really important in the context of the conflicts to be explored?: a rich white man living in Queen of France after retirement; his wife, forced into living there while her heart lies with her son in the US; their servants, a black couple; the servants' neice, our heroine, educated with the white man's money; and the black man, our hero, who somehow swims across the ocean to bump into this melee. Do these characters really encapsulate the symbolisms they are purported to. Actually, no. Why? Because the loose definition of the last (and also the main) character ensures that all the other characters fail to consistently portray their symbolic positions - making the whole cast a little lest purposeful, a little less important.
Tar Baby works, but not throughout—because, actually, it doesn’t try hard enough. And for this Toni has to be blamed—partly in her execution, and partly for not starting out with an ambition and an idea befitting her stature. ...more
Orhan Pamuk is a self-confessed structure lover. In his interview with 'The Paris Review', he revealed two important things about his writing method tOrhan Pamuk is a self-confessed structure lover. In his interview with 'The Paris Review', he revealed two important things about his writing method that an insightful reader will corroborate in any of his work: first, that he maps an entire novel-all its chapters, by their main content, before he begins writing them; and second, that he creates events within each chapter to make his characters do things that he wants them to do, to explore the questions that he wants explored. The supreme culmination of this technique is 'My Name is Red', which, according to this reviewer, seems to be the masterpiece that Orhan will find impossible to surpass.
There are commonalities between 'My Name is Red' and 'Snow' that are too obvious to miss -- the hero, again, returns after 12 years of exile in search of an old love still resides in his heart, despite his having had numerous sexual experiences; the heroine, again, has had a previous husband and is unsure of her capacity to really love a new man; and the chief conflict, again, dribbles from Turkey's position as the bridge between Asia and Europe, between various religions, between conservatism and radicalism: components that get along perfectly at one time and are in an endless, solution-less ideological battle the very next. But these similarities do not really strike as something repetitive; instead, they warm one to the prospect of opening one's heart to another great book, putting one's trust even more in the virtuosity of the writer. That is a feat for which Orhan should pat his back.
In the first third, the novel promises so much -- laying bare, through the visit of Ka, a poet cum journalist returning from exile, the struggles of a contemporary Turkish society from the remote (close to Armenia), snowy town of Kars, and swerving questioningly along the axes of extreme and modern, Western and Eastern, religious and political -- that the farcical 'drama' that actually engenders the plot, appears nothing more than a chaotic thrust that the reader finds himself ill at ease with. This ill-managed, forced farce -- which repeats itself occasionally throughout the novel -- is perhaps the kind of experiment a writer in supreme confidence may be expected to undertake. If so, Pamuk failed here, setting a smoke throughout his laboratory; and I say this despite the fact that most of the novel is excellent, and I recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone interested in Pamuk's literary journey and/or Turkey's identity crisis. ...more
Exceptional in the originality that it manifests in each sentence. Marquez's multi-colored imagination is splashed, a bit too inconsiderately at timesExceptional in the originality that it manifests in each sentence. Marquez's multi-colored imagination is splashed, a bit too inconsiderately at times, but the overall effect is that of enchantment, not disillusion. There are many junctures where the reader may feel frustation, but carrying on is always more rewarding than putting down.
Does not rank as the 20 best of all time in my list, but will be a memory nevetheless....more
Central Idea: A man does not do a saintly act, nor does he commit sin; a man just does what he has to do.
Plot: Two students, keen to understand the trCentral Idea: A man does not do a saintly act, nor does he commit sin; a man just does what he has to do.
Plot: Two students, keen to understand the true nature of 'sin', are commissioned on a project by their Guru. One is sent to a rich young man enjoying all the pleasures of life, while the other is sent to a Yogi, who has abnegated all that is worldly for the spiritual. The students are required to serve these masters for one year and then revert with an answer to their question.
Pathetic Novel! But this terrible novel does one good thing: it reveals the truism that stylization, restraint and contextual relevance are necessary components of all fiction, even one -- in fact especially one -- whose purported aim is philosophy. With this thought, 'Chitralekha' may not even be regarded a novel, for it is a brutal failure on all these aspects. Its characters -- or rather types -- are so deplorably tied to the inescapable, shrill voice of the author, that it reads not as a subtle display of his intelligence -- as it could have -- but as a loud, over-the-top honking of it. Verma grossly marginalizes texture, concentrating unceasingly on ill-conceiving events to enable him to engage his characters in debates on philosophical issues. The fake characters exist solely for the delivery of the author's point and counterpoint, and nothing else. A Dostoyevsky reference may be made here, but any comparison is impossible; Verma is too verbose and straightforward to come anywhere close to the Russian (who, incidentally, is not a big hit with me). So pathetic is Verma's desire for control, that at no single page is he able to distance himself from the work and let it flow.
All in all, the plot and the central idea are simplistic yet strong, but their translation into fiction is poor. 'Chitralekha' is paragraph after paragraph of logical conversation (the logic by the way, if it really matters, is solid at times) delivered by characters who are clueless of what they will do next, other than talking, that is. 'Chitralekha' is hurried, as if it was written by a writer restless to provide his soul some deliverance from his own cumbersome intelligence.
But now I'm wondering. Should I deliver the final insult? I think I should: Chitralekha, ostensibly a masterpiece of Hindi literature would have never EVER found a decent publisher if it was written in English (Is that the reason why there are no translations in print?) You may call me biased. I am, but not too much. I have read one more book by Bhagwaticharan Verma -- 'Veh Phir Nahi Aayi' -- and it had the same problems as Chitralekha (the stentorian philosophizing was absent, which made it passable). I have not yet read 'Bhoole Bisre Chitr', supposedly Verma's best book, and so I will abstain from making an unqualified comment about his writing -- or about Hindi-Urdu-literature-that-is-not-social-realism. But after reading some examples 20th century Hindi novel, I have decided to be a bit skeptical of its claim of being as good as its Western counterpart. ...more