Not the best of the Wallander series by any measure - plot, narration or theme. I understand that Mankell had written this as a supplement free book tNot the best of the Wallander series by any measure - plot, narration or theme. I understand that Mankell had written this as a supplement free book to promote reading in Holland quite a while back but has lost track.
Lack of interest in the plot shows through in narration. At pages it almost feels like a Georges Simenonish novella. So expect no intense contemporary themes, and pace to be bit more easier than the usual Wallander. Overall easy read as we are all so well acquainted with the Ystad settings by now and the numerous characters in the series and their traits.
A book, to be read a tick box exercise for the sake of comprehensiveness for a dedicated Wallander fan. There is a wonderful and treasurable Henning Mankell Afterword on Wallander, where he sheds light on the creation of Wallander,the development and eventual decision to stop writing more Wallander books. That's easily the highlight of the book. ...more
If you set aside the superlative beauty that is the Swedish television series, the three main reasons I love Wallander are:
1. First off, I can't thinkIf you set aside the superlative beauty that is the Swedish television series, the three main reasons I love Wallander are:
1. First off, I can't think of a single series of books other than the Wallanders that capture the contemporary issues of the modern world, specifically that of Europe so accurately, without ever trying to resolve them with morality. Mankell manages to pastiche decent storytelling with a multitude of issues plaguing the first world - politics, race, juvenile crime, immigration, abuse, problem marriages, consumerism etc.
2. Second, Wallander narratives are examples of textbook police work and investigation. In fact if you want to learn more about the classical, pre-technology detective work - interviews, corroboration, alibis, profiling, autopsy, fingerprints, ballistics, just pick up any Wallander book.
3. Not the least in anyway, realistic portrayal and great characterisation, e.g. a protagonist - who actually struggles to manage the so called 'balance' between personal and professional lives without much success. In fact It was only after reading Wallander books I felt less guilty about turning up late on dates :)
Wallander is so unique not only for the genre, but literature in general. In this book, written retrospectively, Mankell sketches back to the 21 year old Wallander, who having just joined the police force, stumbles onto his first case and begins to develop a nose to trail and link unseeming leads in a purported crime, under the able mentorship of Hemborg.
And here, in this book, of all the Wallander books, you could easily find the above enlisted reasons of my love for Wallander in its most simplistic, skeletal form....more
The book has no remarkable merit either in content or presentation. It just collates the openly available information on Florenze's main attractions aThe book has no remarkable merit either in content or presentation. It just collates the openly available information on Florenze's main attractions and adds a bit of narration around history. There are no photographs or maps, nor as the book claimed, has anything of interest for the history buffs. Guiliano was assassinated in the cathedral is common knowledge , not an arcane tidbit for a history buff?
This is just a skeleton of an idea wrapped as a booklet. could do better. ...more
'm pleased I got this Lonely Planet Pocket Book, a collection of 50 methods from different cultures that aids growth of reflection and spirituality. U'm pleased I got this Lonely Planet Pocket Book, a collection of 50 methods from different cultures that aids growth of reflection and spirituality. Understandably the list is inconsistent, it is more like a set of activities, practices, sometimes just information on certain unique cultural practices ( say siesta) The book is divided into themes: Nature, Rhythm, Sharing, Focus, under which different cultural practices are classified. I found it quite informative and light read, more of a general knowledge book than any spiritual treasure. impressed with the diversity of the content and the presentation. At £4.99 makes a perfect present too. ...more
Wanted to look up something about Sofia that I remembered reading here ten years back. Glancing through the pages, ended up rereading one chapter afteWanted to look up something about Sofia that I remembered reading here ten years back. Glancing through the pages, ended up rereading one chapter after another. Having visited most of the places described here multiple times now, I was surprised to find it as refreshing and light as it did the first time around....more
An interesting compilation of daily habits, rituals and routines of some of the famous artists, but not all of them are, as said in the title. Some ofAn interesting compilation of daily habits, rituals and routines of some of the famous artists, but not all of them are, as said in the title. Some of the unique habits are well known ( Kant taking his daily walk at 3 PM , Proust eating just one croissant the whole day) while some are new to me (Warhol dictating his diary over the phone) slice-reading it at tea or to take a break from other activities. I liked that the book is composed with references and in prose than in a list form.
Overall a very enjoyable and curious read, especially for readers interested in this sort of information....more
I can't remember who says it but there is a line in the movie ‘Rush’ that describes James Hunt as the guy who can lose a race 9 out of 10 times but thI can't remember who says it but there is a line in the movie ‘Rush’ that describes James Hunt as the guy who can lose a race 9 out of 10 times but that one time when all odds are against winning, if you want someone racing to push for a win, it has to be him. That line for me describes KP in many ways.
I felt the manner of his sacking was unprofessional and abominable. So I was curious to learn of any details of his ousting. Out of confidentiality contract with the ECB this month, KP uses this book (ghost written by David Walsh who uncovered doping by Lance Armstrong ) to essentially narrate his side of the story. In this sense, it’s not much of an autobiography of his life, but of his sacking but then that’s the word doing rounds?
The book at times is funny but mostly is a lengthy grievance, many a times rightfully against Andy Flower, the ECB and a few of his now well-known select teammates all of who it appears implicitly colluded against him.
The book has no literary merit, but it does expose some of the inside sentiment of the English dressing room. The problems between the parties involved is not just of blanket clichés of ‘not getting along’ or ‘personality clashes’ but there seems to be clear undercurrent of alienation and division within the team, that grows to become distinct and leads to the inevitable.
Some of the points raised by KP are reasonable, some remain incomplete and one-sided. The book like all versions of conflicts will remain one-sided. One thing that is very clear is the awful unprofessionalism and lack of man management skills of the ECB. Shame that a country that is re-knowned in the man-management of mavericks (e.g Allenby with TE Lawrence) and get the best out of them cut a sorry helpless figure overall. Rest is politics of puny humans. ...more
Though I was burned by the Dork book which I had to abandon, I picked this one up because I thought the podcasts on Indian history were really good anThough I was burned by the Dork book which I had to abandon, I picked this one up because I thought the podcasts on Indian history were really good and filled a gap. But it was a mistake. I can think of hundred things wrong with this book starting right with its treatment, narration, content and general laziness, not to mention glaringly obvious factual errors. More on this later. Any book with that many things wrong does not deserve to be bothered about. I'd imagine it would merit a special sort of dunce to actually like this book, for he must have read very few books, if at all.
Indians apparently exchange a lot of 'India facts' in emails that are dubious and without proof. Sidin shamelessly constructs a few pages of baloney around these spurious facts wearing a pretend investigative hat with hacks of irrelevant personal stories, godawful narrative tone peppered with street standard jokes and a few homework assignments to complete this so called history book. A book built by googling stuff is neither a book nor history. It's riding one horse too many.
Let me give you an example, consider these paragraphs from the first chapter on plastic surgery:
'Each issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine came with a few pictures, and the October 1794 edition was embellished with three. Two were unremarkable: a ‘Picturesque view of Lullintgon Church, in Somersetshire’, and one page of ‘Accurate plans of the keeps of Chilham and Canterbury Castles’. The third was something quite different: ‘A portrait illustrative of a remarkable chirurgical operation’. The illustration features a Maratha man called Cowasjee. Cowasjee looks quite splendid in it. He is dark, lean and quite muscular. He wears a turban and is bare-chested except for a cloth over one shoulder. He also has the doleful eyes of a St. Bernard....
But one thing is beyond dispute: the Cowasjee story of October 1794 set in motion a series of events that changed medical science forever. Its impact was so immediate and so widespread that it is considered a milestone in the history of European surgery in general, and plastic surgery in particular.'
First, 1794 October edition of Gentleman's Magazine, could not come with one, never mind three pictures. Because the first basic camera was not developed until 30 years later, so there were no pictures in the world, not even on a frame on any wall, forget mass publication in magazines. What Sidin so disingenuously describes are hand drawn sketches! Yes, sketches, that you can find on google.
This is a huge deal of difference, given the spurious misleading description, especially if you are taking upon yourself to examine claims and counterclaims.
Secondly and far more importantly, Cowasjee's story did not set into motion a series of events that changed medical science forever ! ( Good Lord!) So called Plastic surgeries were being performed in India and elsewhere for ages. There are quite a lot of stories ( I'm sure googlable) about East India Company doctors spending time in India to try and learn various graft procedures practiced by indigenous doctors. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to say many other civilisations, esp. The Egyptians knew of plastic surgery, hell they might have been even doing mastectomy with reconstruction. What the Cowasjee's story did was to hasten the experimental process of plastic surgery that coincided with the larger general bloom of interest in surgical field of the times. So essentially Sidin attributes a greater significance to an event that he is declaredly examining , without even bothering to ask one medical historian or surgeon! A series of such stories is this book.
He might as well just put his thoughts in an email and forwarded it to everyone.
Two stars for the effort, however dictated it is....more
I've been a fan Nigel Slater for a while now. I believe he is more practical with his instructions and less of a pedant which is very welcome in a fieI've been a fan Nigel Slater for a while now. I believe he is more practical with his instructions and less of a pedant which is very welcome in a field dominant by pedants. This book is an extension of first, but is still able to hold on its own. The recipes are eclectic and drawn from different cultures and cuisines. They are easy to prepare with ingredients that are readily available in the market. A handy investment if you are a novice or have early level interest in cooking. ...more
A basic primer for those who are not acquainted with meditation. The book has two sections that admix simple theoretical background of Buddhism with pA basic primer for those who are not acquainted with meditation. The book has two sections that admix simple theoretical background of Buddhism with practical aspects necessary to practise mindfulness meditation. I'd also suggest supplementing with the CD or audiobook version; though there are some discrepancies overall very useful for someone who is interested to start meditation. And of course Jack Kornfield, with his years of experience in meditation is an engaging and valued teacher. ...more
I can't remember why I downloaded this book; I had neither heard nor known of it. I caught it on amazon while lookingSometimes a book just finds you.
I can't remember why I downloaded this book; I had neither heard nor known of it. I caught it on amazon while looking for some other book.
As I read Harnden's introduction, I knew right away it was a unique book. And in spite of his suggestion not to read it in one go, I found myself at the end of the book in 2 hours - heavy, yet strangely calm and peaceful. And like many great books, it made me pause many a times throughout my reading, and reflect - at times completely without any thought on my mind. After the book ended, I kept revisiting the chapters, rereading, on occasions checking the references, but soon I realised the book will never have a psychological end; I will have to revisit it again and again and again, as long as I will live.
Book, though technically it isn't one, is an assortment of vignettes of unique travels and journeys, forty one in total- the unencumbered journeys - as Harnden describes them are drawn from real life, fiction and in fact one of them is a bird ( the arctic tern). The journeys are arranged as chapters. The first part of each chapter gives a brief introduction of the 'traveller', the second part describes the journey and its context, and third, arranged as a list ( in a poetic skeleton) is the list of possessions these travellers carried with them during these unique, exceptional travels. The book uses Travels and journeys as a metaphor for life , and the main motif of these journeys is sparseness and the wonder of simplicity.
Some of these journeys ( lives) are well known ( Thoreau, Gandhi, Jesus ), while some of them are unbelievably incredible ( Emma Gatewood, Ephraim M'lkiara) some are awe-inspiringly informative ( I didn't know that Herzog walked from Munich to Paris to visit Eisner, or that Marcel Duchamp travelled only with a toothbrush in his jacket pocket).
In a time where all of us as a society have collectively accepted to measure the worth of our identities and lives by our possessions, the book documents that all life will eventually amount to no more than how meaningfully you lived it. No more and no less. As Harnden illustrates in his example in the introduction 'Like a single Leaf'
The only crib I can force myself to think of, is that the book has too many American examples with Europe losing out ( e.g Wittgenstein ). This means the assortment can be improved.
As I have written, the book deserves endless revisiting, and as a testament, I will carry it during all my journeys.
To keep myself reminded. That life is no more than this....more
Blink explores the super split second of evolutionary memory we use to make instant decisions, especially under duress. I didn't quite like it as muchBlink explores the super split second of evolutionary memory we use to make instant decisions, especially under duress. I didn't quite like it as much as Gladwell's Outliers, I felt the narration lacked a trail and at times seemed to be just labouring on a static idea. Wanted to mark a three star rating, but the content is unique and stories quite engaging. ...more
The book jacket identifies the Paris Trance as a romance. I suppose to a large extent it is indeed a romance. Geoff Dyer who I am getting to scorninglThe book jacket identifies the Paris Trance as a romance. I suppose to a large extent it is indeed a romance. Geoff Dyer who I am getting to scorningly, grudglingly admire ( more for the life he’s lead than his writing, which by no measure is any less admirable) is a writer of themes and images.
The stories of the two couples, on their own and together is developed well. The unique, perhaps even daring aspect of the book is the dedication to idleness. I’ve never come across a book where the characters mooch around as much as they do in this one. It’s almost as if the book itself had smoked a joint and entered a trance.
Dyer has indeed admitted that one of the two main purposes of the book was to capture this aimlessness (the aimlessness of the 20s to be specific , the other purpose - to capture the drifting away). Dyer does capture it well in wry, informed Dyereseque prose ; a typical Dyer sentence would essentially twist on its tail contradicting its meaning yet conveying a perfect sentiment. And it is for this self flagellating funplay, that one reads Dyer. But as the book progresses the images and the themes that Dyer specializes in turn monotonous and well, excessive. Somewhere midway through the book I became slightly nonplussed and at pages even lost interest.
Dyer is a core romantic in denial. All his works or rather the books that I've read so far are elaborate sublimation to wrap the romance in a deliberate, middle aged sort of wisdom, even cynicism. But at its heart they are all young wild at heart romances.
Agreed that Paris Trance is a romance and agreed it is Paris, but how often do you meet a woman studying Nietzsche in Paris who also fancies walking past the idle men playing street football everyday at lunch time? She must be almost unrealistic right? This is where I find Dyer faltering in his fictions, in his conception of his fictions rather (he’s admitted he’s poor at plots).
Most of his characters save for the protagonist ( who are invariably versions of himself) lack the richness of what I would call ‘an original fiction writer’, say Zadie Smith. Often most of his women characters become versions of themselves. I couldn’t tell the difference between Nicole in Paris Trance and Laura in Jeff in Venice… Dyer seems to fail to look beyond a set template that he seems to have for his women – they are always intelligent, funny, articulate, somewhat attracted to marginalised men, and they are invariably, good at quips!
For these reasons we don’t really know much about Nicole in the book. I mean her own internal mind, her perspective. For the most of the book she is invariably looked at from outside, while pages and chapters go on about Luke. In the story both Luke and Nicole seem equally purposeless and lacking any direction, which is what makes them a great couple, well couple in a first place. But something’s got to give right? Of the two, Nicole seems more mainstream and integrated. She comes close to questioning Luke about his life once - What does he want to do? gets a typical I'm living my happiness answer and drifts back into the trance again! I felt slightly disappointed that somehow Dyer leans towards Luke than Nicole, almost overlooking her if not ignoring. I would have loved if Nicole actually broke up with Luke than the other way around. She had reasons to, yet it seemed that Dyer was too preoccupied with Luke which left the ending, in my opinion, one-sided and somewhat confused. I am aware that Dyer was trying to portray the absurdity and the confusion of the breaking up, but again it can’t be absurd without it making no sense to both the parties involved. As far as I know, the separation made perfect sense to Luke and Nicole just went with it. It's symbolised in their parting scene where Luke makes Nicole walk away from him while he watches her leave, as though living a Noir scene of a movie he had memorized in Pariscope. She willfully complies!
Must say was slightly relieved to finish it. And quite aptly finished in travelling in Turkey in the meander river basin, the river that gave us the word meandering just what the book did in its latter half.
As a plot and characterizations quite thin actually, not one of Dyer’s best, and slightly stretched, otherwise a good read, the usual Dyer positives apply like the change of narrator - enjoyable in most parts. I loved some of the Parisian images the book evoked, Dyer's view of Englishness and the coffeeshop flags conversation. Even Dyer can’t convince me that the said conversation didn’t really happened in his life.
Technically, this is my first Dyer and I liked it. That, in itself, would make it unlikable for an average reader.
The book is really two separate noveTechnically, this is my first Dyer and I liked it. That, in itself, would make it unlikable for an average reader.
The book is really two separate novellas: the first is the story of Jeff Atman, an aimless middle rung journalist in London who is assigned to cover the Venice Binneale to a ‘scoop’ interview around a story of prized nude photograph of a singer?
The action moves to very ‘otter’ than ever before Venice. Jeff, portrayed as somewhat of an outsider at the international art scene, trudges along the parties and galleries gulping Bellinis and snorting Cocaine. He meets Laura an American gallery owner (or was she a curator?) Anyway, they hit off. They roam around piazzos and gallerias cracking airy drunken jokes and witty repartees at each other. They duly end up doing what two people who hit off are expected to do – have roaring sex! The segment is well written – cynical but dipped in comical smugness, an unmistakable sense of lurking gaiety pervades through the pages as Jeff looks down upon the clichés and the quirks of art world between his broad range of experiences in Venice - absolute aimlessness ( keenly observing a pigeon on a pavement or snorting cocaine in a cathedral) to kinky sex and snogging in public toilets. He even manages to get stoned with his celebrity interviewee. I loved the sense of humour that Dyer smuggles into this segment - not overt yet well ingrained within the dialogues. There are quite a bit of puns too. (Dyer – hair dye etc)
The second part is the story of an unnamed protagonist (May be Dyer / may be Jeff, it is never revealed ) who gets assigned ( ? again) at the last minute as a substitute to write an article about Varanasi the historical-holy city of the Hindus.
He starts off at a typical arm's distance – mildly disdainful of the poor hygiene and the mad Indian traffic, but slowly gets drawn into the Hindu idea of the life and universe. He overstays well past his assignment, gets initially attracted to a fellow Brit and later a Swiss traveler but not as much as to the city itself which continually entices him like a long lost lover, unraveling through its strange inhabitants and mysterious ways that appear, at once, both profound and meaningless to him. Under such contradictions he grows more interested in mulling over his existence and life in general; he becomes more distant from his wants and lacks, finally he is shown to develop abstract spiritual ideas of his own.
The second segment, needless to say, is more engaging - the Dyer potshots are more subtle though at times gross and unnecessary ( talking goat - a chide at Rushdie and other magical realists). The description of the scape is more detailed, which lingers away as the book progresses. The change to within is well captured, as the protagonist turns more reflective and zany by the page.
At times the book was predictable, at parts needed tighter writing, but generally I liked it. It's in my favourite genre too, if it is one at all: part memoir, part travelogue, and part philosophy without any plot whatsoever. Readers looking for plots are suggested to make an easier choice. I loved both the novellas, each I could personally relate to: hedonistic frivolity of the west and the silent fatalism of the east. The book draws its title from the old Thomas Mann classic – Death in Venice - a novel that also deals with the same themes of life and death but with somewhat greater intensity.
This is a love it or hate it sort of a book. I get a feeling that goes for Dyer as a writer too. Once you finished the book it’s not hard to see why Dyer chose to weave in the two cities as a part of a book. In essence, the book is about these two cities, their similarities and contradictions. Both are very distinct cities – literally poles apart yet very similar. Varanasi being symbol of the abstractness of Hindu philosophy while Venice an international art hub of sorts. Both attract travellers but for totally different reasons.
Venice isn’t as detailed as Varanasi in the book, but I still suppose, it’s fair to say that the book is a charming tribute to both the cities, a sort of testimonial that makes you run to them the very next holiday. I haven’t been to Varanasi but I already feel I know a lot about it. I’ve even been googling hotel Ganges View.
Flying over Turkey, that geographical handshake of the East and the West I couldn’t help smiling at the irony of reading this book at 38000 ft, eatingFlying over Turkey, that geographical handshake of the East and the West I couldn’t help smiling at the irony of reading this book at 38000 ft, eating packaged meals served by stressed out stewardesses. We all could have done with a bit of Buddhism. And for some imaginably profound reason I think that moment somehow represents this book.
For some time now I have perceived the lack of informal historical narratives in India; except for some vague oversimplification of history into a myth, India doesn’t have an equipment to look at her own past, her leaders or their thoughts. Much of what is known of Buddha in India is but the investigative works of 19th century colonial British while in India, and, given that there aren’t any real ongoing Indian explorations into Buddha and his life, I thought this book accomplishes quite a lot; it gives a real speculative narration of Buddha and how he would have lived his life in ancient India without deifying or criticising him, something one cant find in an average Indian work.
Mishra manages to cast a more thinking eye on the Buddhist history tracing the birth, growth, influence and finally the relevance of Buddha and his teachings to the contemporary world.
I particularly liked how Mishra regularly pegs his narrative on western thinkers esp. Nietzsche, both his own writings and views on Buddhism to expand on Buddhist ideas. I thought the chapters on the history and the being of Buddha reflected quite faithfully the Indian socio-religious- political life of the era. Further, the core Buddhist ideas of self as a dynamic process conditioning itself to values it is exposed to and thereby trapping itself within the laws of cause and consequence are very clearly written, in fact to an extent that I would recommend the book as a Buddhist primer to a philosophically orientated mind.
The prose is generally simple and easy , something I am sure Mishra has refined over years of literary reviewing. But the major area where he struggles is when he tries to go back and forth between historical narration and his personal experiences. The transformation in narration is not always smooth, and I guess the confusion in the effort really shows.
In essence the book is two books really. One where he intersperses chunks of texts about his personal life / travelogues - his intellectual isolation and distance from the typical Indian mainstream which I can relate to, but I am sure would confuse or perhaps even bore typical Indian and western readers alike while they are reading a book about Buddha. The other segment of the book actually deals with Buddha and his ideologies.
I must also say the later few chapters on relevance of Buddhist teachings was a bit of a let down, mainly because I thought he could have explored a bit more. Though he has given a good bird’s eye view of the American assimilation of Buddhism post war, his thoughts on general pertinence of Buddhism to a capitalistic postmodern life came across abrupt and somewhat incomplete.
Over all quite a decent book which could have easily been better. ...more
The very fact that the book has compelled me to put down my thoughts here when I've barely finished reading a quarter of it should reflect on how muchThe very fact that the book has compelled me to put down my thoughts here when I've barely finished reading a quarter of it should reflect on how much a wonderful read it is.
What David Lodge has done is quite simple - he has chosen a variety of styles in fiction eg intrusive author, unreliable narrator, suspense, symbolism, magical realism, interior monologue etc and illustrated each of them with a passage taken from a well known book with a succinct missive to go with them.
The beauty of the book is in its discretion and economy, making it easier to relate it to a lay reader ( by which I mean a reader who had the fortune of escaping the painful literary expositions of neurotic university professors).
Consider these chapters - Interior Monologue, Stream of Consciousness, Symbolism - as I think of these literary techniques, left to myself, I would have choosen Edouard Dujardin, James Joyce and Scott Fitzgerald, but then I realise how wrong my choices would be, because these chaps almost master and monopolise their respective techniques, thereby rendering themselves a poorer example for an average lay reader.
Then as you read the simple missives, you see why David Lodge's choices are James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and DH Lawrence!
I gather these chapters appeared as weekly articles in the Independent in the 90s. I could easily picture myself religiously waiting for the articles every week, so that I could cut them off for my collection. Well, with the book, I guess that would be unnecessary....more
I always find it difficult to talk about the books I really like. Especially so if it is a Naipaul book. I read The Bend again this year and found itI always find it difficult to talk about the books I really like. Especially so if it is a Naipaul book. I read The Bend again this year and found it much more ensorcelling than first time around . I guess what is so appealing about the book is its sense of diligence, a discipline which attempts to faithfully reflect the emerging world in Africa, as it is. No more no less. Perhaps, this is why, even after half a century and million more theses written on Africa, it still reflects the essence of Africa as none of them do.
I suppose most paperback readers find it inane or even boring. But, bear in mind it's not a transit read. It's not a fiction of plot or story. It is a narrative of reality. And like all realities that are known to man, has no beginning or ending. It is a snapshot of a typical third world problem ie a recently independent state or culture desparately trying to hold onto something as its own in the wake of emerging post-modernism. But it never has or had anything of its own, anything that would give it an identity in the contemporary world apart from the history of having been a colony. Therefore it tries to manufacture a past – leaders, tribes, dances, cameraderie. Oh! the vanities, the denials, the insecurities, amidst all that is forming and unforming, changing choices, conflicting values. But it is what it is.
Then there is the beauty of Naipaul prose. God! How it flows. Delicate, sublime, perfect yet letting the reader to make his own mind without patronizing or simplifying the sentiment. What I found most incredible in the book is the style used to pastiche the complex reality, so unhurriedly, so gracefully; as the book moves forward, it feels like a wave slowly falling and receding on a shore – adding something to the before, yet taking away something after; letting all the voices to speak on their own terms, to express their own realities to ultimately add up a grand reality that none of them can access in toto.
Here is a wonderful instance – Indar is so ashamed of his third world identity that he desparately wants to trample his own past… ‘It isn’t easy to turn your back on the past. It isn’t something you can decide to do just like that. It is something you arm yourself for, or grief will ambush and destroy you.
And Raymond with his first world citizenship, so much yearns for the True Africa that his own past has no bearing on his personal life. This leads to his wife's discontent and her confusion. Here's Raymond musing on Africa.. I was sitting in my room and thinking with sadness about all the things that have gone unrecorded. Do you think we can ever get to know the truth about what has happened in Africa in the last hundred or even fifty years? All the wars, all the rebellions, all the leaders, all the defeats?
It doesn’t occur to you when you are reading it but as you move along, as the impressions of their characters are better formed , suddenly, somewhere in the next chapter perhaps, it occurs to you , that these two completely different men from completely different worlds are so unknowingly seeking each other’s past. They are only allowed to seek, ...Indar seducing Yvette or Raymond wanting to be Mommsen of Africa .., but never find. But they cant give up.
Hence the world is what it is, always in movement....more
Have to say one of the brilliant books I've read this year; yes I even liked it more than the celebrated Patrick French Biography. This is a compilatiHave to say one of the brilliant books I've read this year; yes I even liked it more than the celebrated Patrick French Biography. This is a compilation of all the interviews of Naipaul from sixties to nineties. Bought it for £16 and thought it was worth every single shekel. Reading these interviews and the insights made me want to run and grab the next available person while screaming 'This is it'.
This is one-man-clinical-precision-scrutinizing-machine having all the cultures and countries of the postwar world for breakfast, one at a time. Absolutely brilliant, loved the James Atlas interview for Vanity Fair in 1987, and many more wonderful ones. There was also an average one from 1965 by Derek Walcott, who pretends to catch the thoughts of Vidia while they are clearly sailing way past his head. In one question he even tries to put his own words, his own second rate understanding of the world unto Vidia and deserves what he gets.
Here's the question:
Walcott: Do you think that having lived in Trinidad, in a multi-racial society, has helped you to achieve a more balanced perception? For example, a writer brought up in Trinidad does not have the same racial belligerence as a Jamaican writer.the societies are different. In your work there a very delicate sense of humour. One finds this in Selvon also. Do you see your ability to laugh at certain situations, not with mockery necessarily, as part of having been brought up in Trinidad?
John Banville in this leg of trilogy of Revolutions paints a detailed sketch of Nicolas Copernicus- from his childhood to his long feeble death; his cJohn Banville in this leg of trilogy of Revolutions paints a detailed sketch of Nicolas Copernicus- from his childhood to his long feeble death; his conflict in being a disciple of both the science and the church during the testing medievia in astonishingly sublime prose that only Banville is capable of....more
Usually I manage to resist reading a review before I read any book. But, when it is reviewed as the main article at the London Review of Books, it becUsually I manage to resist reading a review before I read any book. But, when it is reviewed as the main article at the London Review of Books, it becomes incredibly hard to ignore. And impossible, either due to the reaction to it or because of my admiration for the writer, if it is a Naipaul book. Through such travails of reading the book after having read about it, and, amidst reverberating echoes of such canon-shots booming between the pages, I finished Naipaul's latest book Writer’s people -Ways of looking and Feeling, last week.
The book deals with one of the expansive and original subjects one can read about in the post-modern world. Naipaul typically, with no allegiance to anyone and no belongingness anywhere writes about writing and the writers - whom he had read or come across in his lifetime; and how, with their ways of looking and seeing, they helped to shape his own way of seeing.
Admittedly, the book is quite airily written and lacks the eye for detail that one usually associates with Naipaul. Given the vastness of the domain chosen for the book, it is at best a selective summary. It is fragmented, flaky and even in the best of its pieces surprisingly incomplete. Also, I must add, for anyone who has keenly followed Naipaul’s works, it would not be a subject entirely unfamiliar. At least I wasn't when I read the book.
Though there are liberal transplants of sentiments from his earlier books ( we all know about the influence of Huxley’s Jesting Pilate and Vidia's positive takes on Gandhi and RK Narayan) The Writer's People book doesn’t fail to give you a clearer understanding of his perspective. Yet, somewhere while translating the cynicism into criticism, in a passage here and there, one finds his shameless malice unmasking itself . Many pages on Anthony Powell have little relevance and is presumably prompted by his personal differences that was between them. The chapter was, as Naipaul claims himself at the very beginning - difficult to write - making the reader who has read it wonder, what exactly was the need to go through such hardship? More so, at a premise when it is least pertinent? Difficulty or malice, whatever it is, the sentiment has been given the treatment it deserves by many a critics. However, that shouldn’t let us overlook other segments of the book: there are wonderful observations and assertive judgements on others which, as hard as they are to digest, cannot be reasonably refuted: The takes on Vinoba Bhave and Flaubert for instance. I haven’t read any Salvon so I cant make a valid personal judgement. And the well-known Walcott-Naipaul bitching duel that's been running on for a while also finds it's share in the book. Pity really.
In all, personally the book was a welcome, coming during the hackneys and baloneys I have been letting myself read over the last few months. From a larger view, it wasn't an incredibly outstanding book but neither was it a dull put-aside. Which other writer would research to tell you that an Indian Bullock-cart did 24 miles a day in 1890s? And going back to the reviews, after having read the book was - sort of irony of relevance – because the book is all about ways of looking.
It’s always amazing to see how reviews on Naipaul often aid to propagate their own perception of him; the most commonest transference that goes into his reviews are that he is an arrogant, provocative prude who defines himself by criticism. But readers, who are able not to let themselves carried away by their own prejudices and loyalties often, if not eventually, bring themselves to admire his work - fiction and otherwise. But, for almost repeating his own old material and the apparent offence he has wrapped it in, I am not sure if that would happen with this book....more
On Chesil Beach is what I would call ‘a product of contemporary British establishment’. It is staid, refined and delicately crafted but like most suchOn Chesil Beach is what I would call ‘a product of contemporary British establishment’. It is staid, refined and delicately crafted but like most such establishment books has nothing to offer- either in reading experience or in worldly insight.
Clearly Ian McEwan has tried to thickly pad what was or could be only an average short story into a novel. He uses a lot of Victorian Englishness for the purpose- how rhythmically he stirred the tea / how the rustle of the leaves reminded her of Schumann etc, which only further add to the disappointment.
The story is simple: Edward and Florence, two virgin newly- weds are on their honeymoon in a hotel on the Dorset coast and struggle to consummate their marriage. For the first few pages, you feel for them but half-way through when the book becomes hopelessly stuck in its grande neurosis you just wish Ian McEwan lets them get abducted by aliens( For Heaven’s sake it is set in 1962?). Sadly he goes on and on and on turning them into caricatures.
That this book was shortlisted for a recent Booker only speaks for the rockbottom-state of the Booker these days. I thought, at least it was an interesting subject ie to explore a complex and incongrous relationship but again the book lets you down miserably being unable to reflect the layers of the relationship between the main charecters or its rather sequestered form. I would be better doing a Tomas and Tereza again....more
My first completed read of the year, Moments of Reprieve, aptly described in its missive as a discovery of 'bizarre, marginal, moments of reprieve' chMy first completed read of the year, Moments of Reprieve, aptly described in its missive as a discovery of 'bizarre, marginal, moments of reprieve' charts the stories of a myriad variety of people, mostly Jews who Primo Levi had come across during his stay at Auschwitz. Among many others, a juggler, an almost mute worker, a mirror chemist, a helpful SS officer, are all bound in a conflict, both that ravaged their internal beings as well as the external world they inhabited in times where sense failed. Primo Levi, like what he is well known for in his holocaust works, tells the tales of harrowing times in quiet, unaffected prose, and thus sharing an intimate experience with the reader than just a book....more
Though the book is a capitalistic marketing of an icon I could not resist buying it. I wanted to know if he was the same person I had reckoned him toThough the book is a capitalistic marketing of an icon I could not resist buying it. I wanted to know if he was the same person I had reckoned him to be through his songs. When I finished the book , I had realised how incredibly daft and supremely beautiful was his passion for music. The book is an excellent journey of affect through passion and how it burns you out if left on its own....more
In two words, Not bad. Paul Theroux’s latest novel, is actually a compilation of three novellas- each, a story at the Indo-american interface set in coIn two words, Not bad. Paul Theroux’s latest novel, is actually a compilation of three novellas- each, a story at the Indo-american interface set in contemporary times. The first is rather a weak story of an American couple holidaying in an Indian spa; the second , perhaps the most intense of the three is a story of an American businessman forced to visit India because of his work and the last is about a young American backpacker. Interestingly, all the characters come to India with their own ideas, but find themselves drifting into first, and later, sucked by something inexplicable that would change them and their idea of India forever. The common pivotal motif in all the stories is sex, which takes different forms in different stories: an one-off, an affair/arrangement, a rape.
In themselves, the stories are unremarkable but Paul must be credited for his efforts to break the stereotype of the Western impression of India; thankfully he doesnt hover around identity, diaspora, generation gap, new-found feminism, secularism etc which could be safely trusted(to be overdone) with the Indian writers. The stories, though built in rich and easily flowing prose lack a definitive identity, a not so surprising relevation when one looks too long at India. Perhaps, that is the reason why the book carries three novellas instead of a single novel. ...more
I have memories of Naipaulesque India: people claiming cultural and spiritual superiority over the rest of the world while the country was consumed byI have memories of Naipaulesque India: people claiming cultural and spiritual superiority over the rest of the world while the country was consumed by poverty, the so called Indian socialists making a life and political career out of refuting everything in the world, leftist professors poisoning the minds of vulnerable uni students that they can remove the stupidity of the human nature by chanting slogans, all such nonsense only ended up in making India borrow food and pawn its gold. Also on the other side of the coin, how within months of liberalization, our living rooms were flooded with Bold and the beautifuls, Remingtone steels, making every other aunt choose daquiri for lipstick shade; How Pepsi became the holy water and eventually how India became the land that launched half a billion mobile phones.
Mr Gurcharan Das traces magnificently in easy prose the co-ordinates of Indian economy , from the British East India Company to the great Indian IT revolution. And how the social, cultural precepts and the post-scripts of the times influenced the structure and the direction of the economy. He vividly paints the reasons for the failure of so called Indian socialism and how it choked the Indian economy for 40 years since her independence. Also, there is a wonderful chapter on the details of the reforms that took place in 1991 and changed the face of India forever. He further charts the challenges facing the economy and how to go about dealing with them. Having been a witness to both the sides of the economy I can relate to the sentiments of the book without any effort. It covers the economic core in the vast background of Indian social, political and cultural horizons without ever drifting into academic jargon or staying too away to be shallow. India Unbound is an accomplishment, a must read for anyone keen on India in general and post-modern market India in particular....more
Mom had tickets and wanted me to go with her to watch a young lad play cricket , who would later on go on to be The Wall. I had been doing Madame AgatMom had tickets and wanted me to go with her to watch a young lad play cricket , who would later on go on to be The Wall. I had been doing Madame Agatha Christie almost alphabetically and wanted something lighter, cosier for the Sunday. So refused the cricket invite and picked this book up .
To save the long trauma, It was awful and made me sick. The story and the narration, if one can actually find them in it. This was the first book I abandoned in my life and I cant put into words how guilty I felt. Moreover I could never forgive myself for having missed the cricket for this trash.
This was more than a decade back. I have never even dared to try her again. And even now, I think I cant ever bring myself to read a Shobha De book, yes, for the book’s credit, I must say, I am yet to find a worser book published. ...more