A friend of mine and I have taken a pledge that this year (starting July, 2013) we would read 100 books (at least). It is not a rigid rule, we just feel that if we aim that much, we would reach at least somewhere close.
Reason: We spend more time on facebook and other social media websites than we do in actually concentrating and reading any one thing. It is true, my attention span has actually decreased over the years, in fact I could not recall what it was to get passionately glued into a book and not being able to leave it for anything. I have gotten greedier with internet, I open more and more pages, download more, accumulate, but do not register as much. I have widened the scope but have reduced the depth of my knowledge.
Earlier I was a voracious reader, and would savour some lines for many days, today I read and forget. I don’t want to put the blame on particular technology, perhaps it is the fact that I rush and rush as if these web pages won’t open again.
I found it difficult to begin with, I have so many books to read, I would start one, leave it midway,start another and so on. I finally decided to just pick an easy read.
1. I read a book called “The Dalai Lama’s Cat”, written by David Michie. I was tempted by the title, it got me curious, a cat’s perspective on spirituality? a newer vantage point? I found the book to be slow in the beginning, mostly predictable and a very slight attempt at telling the story through the cat. Nevertheless it was devoid of the heaviness of many such books and touched upon issues that I could truly relate to, things I face every day. I relished the fact that it spoke of spirituality not as a fragmented approach, rather as a practice in daily life, in whatever you do. It made me want to seek happiness from within, wherever I am. I won’t exaggerate to say it changed me forever, but there are moments when I am reminded of situations people faced in the book, and am able to learn from it. I think this book comes alive after you have finished reading it, it stays with you. Its simplicity then becomes its asset. The book cover is beautiful, it is serene and simple. I liked looking at it.
2. This was followed by “Pigeon English” written by Stephen Kelman. I am in a stage where I am experimenting with different genres and authors, developing newer taste.This one was a different stroke altogether. It made me feel the negativity through the innocence of a child. It gives you a child’s perspective (Ghanaian immigrant in London) on gang warfare, a non simplistic, complex view of it through people, their lives, their relations and hierarchies, their needs, the poverty and paradoxes they deal with. Even though I found him compelling, I was not at ease throughout the book, because you could see what was happening, you could see it coming, and when the book ended, I was very unsettled, very disturbed, yes it is an empathetic account meant to make you realize what it is to be where he was. What did not work so much for me was the juxtaposed view of probably the pigeon. At times I rushed through it, but this is a very personal choice.This novel was also shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.
Some wikipedia info: “. The book became a bestseller, and has featured in a national campaign launched by the National Literacy Trust and the Booker Prize Foundation to encourage prisoners to read. It is also widely studied in schools and universities…The novel is being adapted into a play by Fringe First winner Gbolahan Obisesan. The play is a co-commission between Bristol Old Vic Young Company and National Youth Theatre, and is directed by Miranda Cromwell. The play will perform at the Bristol Old Vic and 2013 Edinburgh Festival”
I like the cover, the sneakers are an integral part of child’s perspective and how he grapples with harsh reality of death along with desires and fantasies. I however feel, that the one with the pigeon is more justified considering the parallel narration by the child and the pigeon.
3. This was followed by one written by an author I truly admire, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie. Respect!
I think this novel is most addictive, I read it when in auto rickshaw, I read it standing in queue, I read it in the washroom, well practically everywhere. I love the fact that it deals with academia too, most relatable, most empathetic, witty at places, but most of all, a very human take on migration, relationships, change, love apart from lot more. It seemed very real, very strong, and as always with her books, it is a compelling narration. I do no justice to it with what I type here, I am glad I read through it, I am glad she writes.If you live in US please read, if you do not live in US please read, if you are into academia please read, if you are not please read, if you are young please read, if you were young please read, you got it!
4. I was gifted the fourth book by my childhood friend, Niyati. V.S. Naipaul’s “A house for Mr. Biswas”
This book wasn’t easy in the beginning. I was at times moved, and at times repelled by Mr. Biswas’ tragic life. However once I was halfway through, I was at one with the book, with the narrator, empathising with his pain, his irritation, his sense of loss, his obsessions, his indifferences, his desires. I then began to feel the extent to which I had been drawn into it and realized how those minute details provided of structures, individuals, their psychology, their relationships, the spaces, the moods, how it evoked images in my head and made me visualize Trinidad, The Tulsi Family, Mr. Biswas’ relatives. I could imagine the bread with salmon, the cafe where he agreed to go and see a house, even Mr. Biswas’ photograph in the Sentinel.
When I closed the book, I wondered how unfair it was to Myna, to Kamla, who were almost non-existent, but then this was Mr. Biswas’ perspective, and he chose to focus on Anand and Savi more than the others.
I am still in the book, I am yet to move out of a person’s lifetime, the people, places and history surrounding him.
I am updating after quite some time, and am already aware of the influence of time on my memory of the following
5. “One thing alone does not exist — oblivion.” Quoting from Borges’ poem “Everness” Anita Mazumdar Desai’s The Artist of Disappearance, is a collection of three novellas, which are marked with the presence of an impending loss, but never really reaching that state.
Be it the museum, Ravi’s hidden art in nature or Prerna’s favorite author from Orissa, one fears the loss of that museum forever, one fears the loss of that secret garden, one fears the loss of those stories in regional language. There is a resonance of a thought, that the new might take over the past, but it is not established throughout.
Some of the descriptions were beautiful and I savored those slowly. The details of prerna Joshi, her lifestyle, her thoughts were brilliant, i can very well imagine her, relate to her, so was the characterisation of Ravi.
The contrasts between the characters in the three novellas were stark yet relatable.
This is the first time I read work by the author and look forward to more.
6. Flame: The story of my mother: Shahnaz Husain , written by Nelofar Currimbhoy
This was an interesting and very quick read. Written simply with the nostalgia, love and encouragement a daughter would nurture for her mother, it was a moving picture of a woman’s struggle and her successes. I parts I felt there was more of a daughter and less of an author, and in parts I felt it was beautifully descriptive. In the case of the former, the free use of adjectives at times spoilt the read for me, in those parts it seemed too fantastical, almost a hyperbola.
Nevertheless I think I found it tempting to complete as soon as I started.
I think the cover plays an integral role here, it does create an aura. I have always found Shahnaz Husain slightly mystical. I have also judged her without knowing her, as if there is an incredulous aura surrounding her, her panache for beauty. However post reading the book, I did find some of my earlier thoughts to be lacking any grounding.
I am probably the last person to go to a salon, definitely not one of those who are very agile with beauty care, however I found it very interesting to learn about her, why she got into her stream, the professional willingness and strength that she carried with her glamour, I enjoyed reading about it.
7. Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
8. and not 8.
I started Leela’s Book by Alicia Albinia, I am sorry, I really could not go ahead. i am tired of wannabe contemporary rendering of Hindu mythology Gods. Secondly, the weird entanglements of the characters were just not interesting. I know I am being harsh, that is because I am terribly disappointed.
8. How to get filthy rich in rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
This was gifted to me by my father on my brithday, truly unputdownable. What pace, what wit, it is wicked at times and at times I felt it was almost tragic in what it depicted with cunning ease, I loved it!
9. A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif
Greatness I say, was completely engrossed, could not let go, just could not let go! it was so exciting and how smartly woven!
10. The Illicit happiness of other people by Manu Joseph
In the beginning I could not decide, of course I could relish certain parts, sarcasm here and there, the ease with which characters were portrayed, but towards the middle it gave me goosebumps, I know these people! I know that your mind can do this! I perhaps know Unni!
A friend of mine asked whether it is a must read, I don’t know, it disturbed me a lot and it stays with me, it always will, yes perhaps you must read and then we could discuss 🙂