Monthly Archives: December 2012

Week 38: the book this week is The Casual Vacancy

Week 38 – I am happy that after 38 weeks I am still able to go on with my commitment of 52 books. Although a few books shorter then the weeks, I’m positive as and when I get a chance I will be able to bridge that gap.

Winter is a season when all you want is a cup of hot tea or coffee in the bed and having a good book to read. The world looks so pretty that way. Isn’t it?

In this part of the world the winters are not that bad, nevertheless whatever winter we get, I try to enjoy a few cold mornings in the bed with a book and for the next few winter mornings (and evenings) the book that I have in hand is one which I wanted to read since it was released a few months back.

The book this week is “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling. 

Oh yes the same J.K. Rowling who brought us the great Harry Potter series. This is her first adult novel.

Now as I have read all the HP series books before I started with the 52 books challenge so haven’t been able to ever write about the series itself or the author. May be a few lines are mandatory for the great author:

It was not until the second book of HP series (i.e. Chamber of Secrets) that I have heard of HP or J.K. Rowling. One of my colleague told me about it and suggested me to read. I was like “I don’t really get interested in children book..” but he insisted so I took a dive.

And the day I finished the first book the next day I was out to buy the next one in the series and had ever since been a HP fan and in turn J.K. Rowling’s fan.

Ironically J.K. Rowling is like a magician herself in HP series where she conjures a magical world which you get so much soaked in that the characters start seeming like real ones (also thanks to the HP movies for that). I have always admired her for the ease with which she takes the readers to an altogether different world of magic which does not feel so much different. From the characters to the events to the rituals all in some way or the other seem so plausible. And after certain time the reader starts empathizing with the characters.

For a book to create the kind of stir that HP series did among all age groups is a testimony to great writing. I am a very conservative person when it comes to becoming a fan of anything (music, rock-band  movies, books, etc.) but I will admit if ever I was to be called a fan of anything, I would happily call myself a HP fan (although I never stood in line to buy the books).

Some of the HP series book could be called mediocre or less than perfect but then when you are writing a series that is bound to happen, people will compare every volume with the previous ones. Nevertheless my admiration for HP and respect for J.K. Rowling never dwindled throughout the series.  And I even admired her more when she decided to end the series (although the heart always wanted more even till date).

So that’s in short is my acquaintance with the author, I even read the “The Tales of beedle the bard” which was kind of ok not that great. So since I heard about the casual vacancy I wanted to read it and find out how does the author fare with adult novels.

So here I am with “The Casual Vacancy”. Hopefully it will be fun (honestly I don’t expect it to be anywhere near HP but still…)

So will meet soon with the review, till then Happy Reading !

Also a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all the readers!

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Review: Knots and No Crosses

knotsWhat’s wrong with India? More specifically what’s wrong with the new-gen Indian authors? Why does everyone thinks that just because they are born in India they have ingrained ability to write about love and romance?

People say (or used to say till sometime back) that Indian movies are romantic and we do good romantic movies and soft mushy types are our forte. But I differed back then I vehemently oppose that notion even today. We do not make good romantic movies in Indian movie industry and on the same lines we do not even write good romantic books/novels or the ones involving ‘love’.

Why don’t we try something other than love? Why does anywhere we begin it has to end with love? Why cant the new breed shed their inhibitions and try something different something bolder? Why not for once truly do something ‘leek se hatkar’?

Anyways enough of my tirade towards the new-gen Indian authors, back to the book this week.

The book this week is ‘Knots and No Crosses‘ by ‘Hitesha Deshpande‘. As it says on the book cover, this is the first book by the author and she seems to be a avid blogger earlier (and a good one too with large following).

There are several problems with the book (or may be it’s just me) beginning with the title itself ‘Knots and No Crosses‘ and the book cover. I didn’t understand the title before I read the book and not even when I finished it. May be my English is just that bad but in no way I could understand the title or relate with the story.

And what’s with the cover page? Why is everything so abstract when all you are trying to do is write down a normal 200 odd pages Indian marriage drama for the public at large who knows basic English and just want to while away time (and may be boast to their friends that they read books)?

And who names the main characters of the book as ‘Akki’ and ‘Bobo’? It was so irritating to read those names again and again at times I felt like just throwing away the book.

The story is utter nuisance (if you even call that a story), the protagonist returning from Munich to marry and all the events that happen in between till he is married to the nth love of his life.

The lad is from somewhere in Rajasthan who against his parents will come to Pune to learn German later gets a job in Mumbai and then gets placed at Munich. In this process he meets so many girls and all the girls he meet falls for him and starts loving him. Now the point to be noted is that nowhere the author explains the physique, personality, charisma (if any) of the lad that all the girls, from the not so good-looking to the extremely gorgeous ones falls for him (even one of them is already married with a kid and is a CEO or something of a company).

Does that sound crazy to you? No wait the cherry at the top is that he doesn’t love any of them initially but later on falls for them. Now how this transition happens every time that is also nowhere explained.

At some point in the book you might get a feeling that the author actually was trying to write a funny book, where the events that are described during the marriage are meant to be hilarious but believe me it doesn’t even begin to tickle your funny bone at any instance.

I have always believed that making someone  laugh (as a stand up or as an author) is the most difficult task. You can write a murder mystery, a drama and anything else but a good book which can really make someone smile or laugh is very difficult and the authors who try to write such a book should be double sure about what they are dishing to the readers.

The characters are not properly described and have no significance, the events such as 50 Kgs of marigolds sent to brides home, chacha found to be gay, parents fighting after 40 years marriage, etc all seem like patches. They do not seem essential or integral part of the large story at any point. Even if you delete some events the book is as good or as bad.

Another problem (oh yes I am far from done) is the unnecessary use of some words or some brands, names, etc. I will give this to the author that she can write. How well is the question? But the book reads more like a blog rather than a proper book.

There is this weird fascination among the current new-gen Indian authors of mentioning things like ‘Jack Daniels’, ‘Sabyasachi creation’, ‘iPhone’, ‘Blackberry’ to describe the attributes of their characters. Now what does author wants to convey if the protagonist drank a Jack Daniels or Mrs X wore Sabyasachi designer saree. Probably it’s aping the western novels but they do it so subtly and their characters are so well-defined that if the line reads ‘… and he one last time checked his blackberry for her calls before the game began…’ it never leaves the focus from the character. Here, to describe the qualities of the character or to describe the character itself the author takes help of such words (or products) which are really unnecessary. It doesn’t read good and people are not impressed (these products are still not so part of our culture).

More than necessary characters, confusion, chaos mar the book. How does a flamboyant,  outgoing girl like Eva (yea really the name of the girl is Eva and she is Indian) who laughs off all the previous relationships of the lad become so non-understanding and starts creating scene for no reason just a couple of days before marriage, why after agreeing for the marriage the mom and grandma starts  calling the would be bride names, why that unnecessary angle of chacha being gay etc. are the questions that left unanswered and believe me after you put down the book you won’t even be interested in getting any answers.

In the end like I said the only thing that probably works for the book is that the author can write (I ain’t saying a book or a blog) and probably that the intent of the book was right and it became chaotic while trying to address so many different points like Indian Marriage, NRI, Traditional Parents, Modern girls, Gay theme, love, friendship, infatuation, heart-break  etc.

When it comes to the “Indian Marriage Tamasha”, there is only work that stands out from whatever I have seen or read till date and people should watch that again and again, just to get inspired if nothing else and that is a movie called “Monsoon Wedding”.

 

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Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

readinglolitaintehran4There are times when you finish a book you are so overwhelmed with emotions that you don’t know how to describe that book.

That time came to me last night when I put down the book this week “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi.

In this journey of 52 books I have come across so many different types of books excellent ones, the good ones, the not so good ones and sometimes crappy ones too.

However how I would like to describe “Reading Lolita in Tehran” is that it’s different. It’s different from the all the one’s I have read before in many way.

How the author Dr. Nafisi has woven this tale, set in a lesser known land  Iran is a tribute to writing itself. In this age where people are not so much inclined to reading and where we don’t have the Austen, James, Atwood and Nobokov writing for us, Nafisi takes us pretty close to what excellent writing looks like.

Still I am struggling for words as to how to describe it and any words said or written won’t be able to do justice to it, but I will try…

Iran – not many people know about the country very much (still) except for the fact that it’s an Islamic republic and anti United States. Last Year when the revolution spread to the streets of Tehran (yet again) in re-election of the president “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” then some interest was rekindled about that nation. How protesters used social media to fuel the revolution was the talking point of many websites and newspapers. We in India however have a different view of Iran (with gas pipeline coming up  and we supporting Iran in the use of nuclear energy for domestic purpose) and at some point consider it as a friend.

The story is set in the 1980s and 1990s when the author returns back to her home country Iran to find that liberals were being sidelined and a revolution was on the anvil which threatened to curtail the rights and liberties of the Iranians. She takes us through those initial days of revolution when Iran was getting converted to a complete Islamic republic. The freedom and liberty that was once being enjoyed in the state was getting drowned in the shouts and screams of the clerics and other politicians in the name of Islam.

The way author remembered Iran when she was a teenager (she left for studies at the age of 13)  was quite different. She describes the trials and tribulations of living in an Islamic state where veil was mandatory for women, women were not allowed to wear any makeup, nail paint, not allowed to talk to member of opposite sex, not allowed to shout, scream, run, etc and men used to have all sort of rights and privileges.

The entire change from a liberal nation to an Islamic state is so vividly described by the author that you can at times feel that you are actually walking in the streets of Tehran. Author takes up a job at university and teaches English literature. How the writings of the renowned authors such as James, Nobokov, Austen sometimes draws equal to the life they lead in Iran is simply beautiful. When the author could take no more of restrictions of the university (directly controlled by government) she quits her job and starts a literature class with a few of her students on Thursdays at home. Azin, Nassir, Manna, Yassi, Nima, Sanaz, Mahshid all her students of that literature class have separate lives in the Islamic republic and how they abhor the restrictions they have to live in and how they want a better life.

The book goes on to describe the impacts of the revolution, the war with Iraq (which lasted for 8 years), the modification of universities and how everyone tries to cope up in that nation.

The book is about Iran but not only about Iran, it is about life in an Islamic republic but not only about that, it deals with the issues of woman but not only in Iran, its about literature about Nobokov, Austen and James but not only about that.
The truth is that the book is not about any one thing and you just can’t take out even one thing it deals with without taking out the soul of the book. The amazing thing is that at the end of the book you just don’t come out hating Iran for the atrocities that it committed against its citizens or the liberties it curtailed for the woman. You don’t even come out with sympathy or sorrow or any such feeling for the characters as well. Even after reading all of it a sense of serenity prevails.

I don’t know if  it was deliberate but Azin, Nassir, Yassi, Manna and others, these characters are never so well described that they will remain with you forever but still they do. You can’t tell the difference at the end as to who is who. That kind of perfectly fits the physical characters that every woman was same, was adorned with the veil where that makes one no different than  the other.

It’s so much better to know a place through it’s people and after reading this book you would feel you know Iran better (you won’t love it, you won’t hate it) . There is so much art and literature in that country that you would realize while reading the book (as well you might realize several instances where Iranian movies are shown at world stage and even won many Oscars) and at times you would be surprised at the paradox the country is. The country which restricts women so much there girls and boys  both sit together in university classes and study. The country that abhors west, has the western philosophy, literature and art so deep rooted that you can’t separate out one from the other.

What Dr. Nafisi has written is a masterpiece and I am sure if you haven’t experienced it all first hand you would never be able to explain so well as she did. The book is amazing, simply beautiful and very different from all you have read.

Thank you Azar Nafisi for bringing Iran and Iranians to our bedrooms and living rooms.

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Week 36: the book this week is Reading Lolita in Tehran

The book that I started pouring into last week (yes I wasn’t able to finish due to work work and more work) is one I wanted to read since the time I first saw it on the bookshelf of crosswords.

I am sure you would agree that “Reading Lolita in Tehran” is an intriguing title. Both Lolita and Tehran conjures up 2 different set of images in our minds that several unknown facts which increases our curiosity.

The little that we know about Iran sitting in India is that it’s an Islamic Republic and is constantly at war (if not practically then in all other sense) with America. However I am sure none of us in India see Iran as an enemy or a rouge nation (to use the american political language).

I bought this book a while back (when it was 50% off) and since then it was just sitting there and every time I used to look at it I wanted to start. At last I was able to start it last week and believe me whatever I have read till now, I simply loved it.

I won’t reveal anything more than that, look forward for my review by this weekend.

Do let me know if you have read this book or your views on Lolita or Iran.

Till next time Happy Reading!

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