Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 in Books

After a dismal 2013 in terms of books, and a resolution to not repeat that in 2014, I somehow managed to read just about 10 books. (As opposed to 20 that I had took up as a challenge!)

Even though the number might not be impressive, I have to say that I read some of the best prose and style this year.

Here is the denary:

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson - What a drug-addled chaos! Review.
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - "Oh it was gorgeosity and yumyumyum." A bloshy big review will be govoreeted later on.
  • Money by Martin Amis - "I will spin out a review as soon as I am done with a twenty-quid rug-rethink." I keep recollecting about some situations from this book as I do from the still-incompletely-read Infinite Jest.
  • Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett - Probably the best of the Discworld. Review
  • Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy - Wow! The very stylish McCarthy just whips your imagination to a degree that at times makes you cringe, and at times makes you hold your breath in horror. The most violent book I have read so far. Review.
  • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman - If you think that a graphic novel cannot be simple and yet represent the horrors of WW2, then you must read this book.
  • Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut - Another classic Vonnegut, or so it pretends to be. Review.
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, The Ultra-runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall - Very inspiring and a brilliant narrative! Motivated me to run my first ever Half Marathon!
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami - I was eager to read this before this was released, but it didn't turn out as good as I hoped it would. Review.
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons - A masterpiece in itself. Someday I would write a review about this milestone of a graphic novel. Someday.
Book shelf of read books in 2014. Courtesy: Goodreads.
Here's to a better year in 2015!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse - Book Review

Piccadilly JimPiccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a recent Reddit post titled What books are worth reading just for the quality of their prose alone?, I was very happy to see P.G. Wodehouse being mentioned. He truly deserves to be mentioned!

With Piccadilly Jim, PGW is probably at his descriptive best and the book contains ample amount of the sunshine-filled (hat tip Stephen Fry) language that is known to flow out of his mind.

Plot-wise I wouldn't say that this book would stand well in a Sumo wrestling match against some of his other champions, but the Wodehousian charm is strong and pervasively permeating in this one.

I loved the characters drawn in this book. Mr. Pett (Sensational Turning Of A Worm!), Miss Trimble, Mr. Crocker, Jimmy, Jerry Mitchell, Ann (with her red hair and the nature which generally goes with red hair), and even Ogden for that matter are beautiful.

He had the plethoric habit of one to whom wholesome exercise is a stranger and the sallow complexion of the confirmed candy-fiend.

(On a slightly unrelated note, the Kindle / Gutenberg version has chapter titles that are missing from the printed book. The titles do add to the fun part!)

Few gems from the book:

An exile from home splendour dazzles in vain.
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again;
The birds singing gaily, that came at my call,
Give me them, and that peace of mind dearer than all.

Mr. Crocker had never lived in a thatched cottage, nor had his relations with the birds of his native land ever reached the stage of intimacy indicated by the poet; but substitute "Lambs Club" for the former and "members" for the latter, and the parallel becomes complete.

"Have you packed everything I shall want?"
"Within the scope of a suitcase, yes, sir."


It is but rarely that any one is found who is not dazzled by the glamour of incivility.

It is one of the effects of a successful hunch that it breeds other hunches.

And this one is particularly romantic!

"To a girl with your ardent nature some one with whom you can quarrel is an absolute necessity of life. You and I are affinities. Ours will be an ideally happy marriage. You would be miserable if you had to go through life with a human doormat with 'Welcome' written on him. You want some one made of sterner stuff. You want, as it were, a sparring-partner, some one with whom you can quarrel happily with the certain knowledge that he will not curl up in a ball for you to kick, but will be there with the return wallop. I may have my faults—" He paused expectantly. Ann remained silent. "No, no!" he went on. "But I am such a man. Brisk give-and-take is the foundation of the happy marriage. Do you remember that beautiful line of Tennyson's—'We fell out, my wife and I'? It always conjures up for me a vision of wonderful domestic happiness. I seem to see us in our old age, you on one side of the radiator, I on the other, warming our old limbs and thinking up snappy stuff to hand to each other—sweethearts still! If I were to go out of your life now, you would be miserable. You would have nobody to quarrel with. You would be in the position of the female jaguar of the Indian jungle, who, as you doubtless know, expresses her affection for her mate by biting him shrewdly in the fleshy part of the leg, if she should snap sideways one day and find nothing there."

I enjoyed reading this book a lot.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

2014

Last year has triggered a variety of emotions and feelings in varying degrees of manageability. Close family members were caught between two cycles of life. One began while another ended. Two very closely interlinked cycles. For most of the time, we had to play the game of wait-and-watch.

It is tough thinking about how unexpectedly things can change. As eloquently put by P "a verbal reply of what I really feel, is impossible to formulate".

I tried to imagine how it must be to caught in between "I felt unguarded, a little less loved and a bit shaky in my knees" and "I believed every minute that she is in a better place, that her suffering has ended, that she is at peace". Though I could come close, I cannot say I completely feel what you do.

In fact, I failed miserably.

In grief we are all alone.

So much so that the past starts to feel more real than the seemingly-fictional present, or the unknown future.

The room of memories that opens with us, will close with us eventually. The ones adjacently close to us will remember and reminisce, probably shed a silent tear or two, and walk along the path of time. 

Everything has a tendency to move on.

Just as you should. Move on carrying the memories, the thoughts, and the values with you. Ensuring they stay alive. Just like the person they belonged to would have desired.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

With the only communication coming in the form of wails and cries, we are at times reduced (or elevated) to reciprocating in the same manner. - Kd's Journal.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami - Book Review

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't want to answer "What did you think?" I would prefer "How did you feel?"

Pain is what gives rise to meditation. It has nothing to do with age, let alone beards.

Some parts of the story hit the right notes. Some of it were diffused, hidden somewhere between the noises of the criss-crossing trains intermingled with the noises of the passengers waiting at a train station.

But there are some keys about human emotions that Murakami knows how to pluck, and he plucks them quite a bit once in a while.

No matter how quiet and conformist a person's life seems, there's always a time in the past when they reached an impasse. A time when they went a little crazy.

I would fondly remember him talking about harmony towards the end of the book. The little observations and analogies whenever I see a railway station.

I read the line "Then she paused, as if leaving a space on the page." and the enrapturing power of words and meanings took hold of me.

Eventually, the book echoed some of my feelings, and stayed surprisingly positive!
Not everything was lost in the flow of time.
We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something - with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Reminiscing the South Indian road trip

Almost a year back, we started with a plan for a small trip Bangalore. What was an innocent 2-3 days trip to a lovely city with the aid of sheer adventurism and longing wanderlust snowballed to a 2-weeks, ~3300 km, east coast to west coast South-Indian road trip.

The idea of touching the sand on the east coast and west coast in the same trip was the main trigger if I try to recall by clearing the happy fog of colourful memories a bit. With that romantic idea, somewhere the seeds of visiting a historically important place called Hampi were sown. Somewhere in between, other nearby locations like Pattadakal, Badami, and Aihole were brought into the travel plan. West coast was finalized as Goa much before we even began to discuss, but to give the trip due justice, we planned Gokarna en route Goa. For east coast we picked Pondicherry. At the centre of it all was Bangalore! The place that made us think of steering away a bit on its either side.

Once the tentatively-final plan was charted, we began detailing. Talking to experienced people, Eicher maps, tons of blogs, travel forums, shared spreadsheets, hotels, guest houses, best routes, highways, and thus slowly all the little circuitry started connecting bit by bit.

The first decision was whether to go east before west or vice versa. The heart said west (read Goa) before east, but the mind and experienced folks said otherwise. Eventually east to west made more sense. Then we resumed our information gathering for the trip.

Thereby, a grand road trip was planned in our little Wagon R and the three of us took off!

The route was:
Pune > Bijapur > Badami > Pattadakal > Aihole (we gave this a miss eventually) > Hampi > Bangalore (planned this slight detour while sitting right near the paddy fields and rocky boulders of Hampi) > Pondicherry > Bangalore > Jog Falls > Goa (skipped Gokarna)

Dates: October 12, 2013 to October 26, 2013
The route we travelled
It's almost a year now when we initiated this beautiful road trip. For almost the entire year I have felt that I need to write a travelogue about the trip. It will take a lot of dedication to sit, think back and actually pen down the beautiful feelings in fitting (or close to fitting) words. I'll try and attempt it. Someday, I'll look back at these words and they'll connect me to the feelings hidden deep inside.

Here's to wandering!
 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut - Book Review

Mother NightMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up Mother Night after reading Maus. There is one major, dreadful, heartrending thread that binds these two books together:

Auschwitz.

While Maus paints a deeper and detailed picture of what it would have been on those unimaginable, worse-than-hell grounds, Mother Night superficially mentions it. But this outwardly treatment is done by Kurt Vonnegut in his own melancholy-inducing stylish humour. Very few authors can write war humour so well as Kurt Vonnegut does. His humour has the power to make you realize the degree of destruction caused by a war and the effect it has on humans. Both the victor and the vanquished.

Vonnegut’s proud characters, unfolding of events, and the subtle humour stitches together a meaningful tale in the form of Mother Night. Here we listen to or read Howard J. Campbell’s memoir about the way he pretended to pretend during war times and weaved together a complex identity for himself. How things tumble down during and after World War 2 for him and how the seeds he has sown grow into trees that creep towards him and pull him back to tangle him upside down by the hanging roots. I also loved his talk about the little "Nation of two."

As Vonnegut describes very early in the book the moral of this story is: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." The intensity behind this apparent "moral" becomes jarringly obvious as we trod along the story through the little twists and turns.

Compared to his other works like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cats in the Cradle, and Sirens of Titan, Mother Night is more grounded and is without the grandiosity (sometimes interplanetary!) of the other books. It is definitely a lovely little book, if you can describe a WW2-related book as lovely. I will certainly be returning to Vonnegut books again when I become older and maybe a bit more eccentric to enjoy the books even more than I do today.

Till then...

P.S.: One of the other vivid moments I recall from the book is the incident about the corpse-carrier. It still keeps haunting me thinking about how dreadful WW2 must have been for some. Just to think that people survived hell... and oh what a hell that must have been. It's really sad when people used WW2 related jokes when the German team won the football world cup this year (2014), specially the earlier semifinal against Brazil. Indians joking about WW2 and the German war juggernaut? Do you even know what you are talking about?

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Went for a run

Went for a run
Today I saw the sun
We looked beyond the clouds of yesterday