Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - Book Review

The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Losing all hope was freedom. - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Normally, I tend to form the review of a book halfway through the book and then it gets a finer shape as I complete the book. Sometimes the review that I have in mind suddenly metamorphoses into a completely different set of words. But with this book, I just am not able to collect my thoughts to pen them down.

I really liked the book. After completing it I decided that someday, when I grow older than what I am right now, I will read this book again. I will look back at how I felt while reading the book for the first time. I will see if I have aged with time or I have just amassed some more memories and modified some other.

But for now, I am at a loss for the right words. The book is unlike any other book I have read so far. In a slim package of 150 pages, Julian Barnes presents an intense, thought provoking book. It makes you think and recollect the fond memories that you had. It prods you further in the direction of the scenarios that worked in your favour and others, probably the ones you desired more, that didn't work out in your favour. It gives you some time and teaches you tricks to play around with the what-ifs and whether-thats... and suddenly takes you tumbling down the rabbit hole along with Tony Webster.

Maybe I shouldn't be drawing parallels just because I read these novels in succession, but I felt that there was a characterial overlap between Gatsby's Nick Carraway and Sense of an Ending's Tony Webster. Both of them are observers. Both of them are the metaphorical hubs of the story's wheel. Whereas in Nick's case external forces turn the wheel, Tony makes the wheel move by himself and yet feels that there are external forces acting on him. In Veronica's well-iterated words, Tony just doesn't get it! Nevertheless, Tony does get it, eventually...

Ok, back to the book... Sense of an Ending speaks in terms of logic as applied to human behaviour, common sense as humans try to apply to their behaviour, abstract behavioral mathematics, and ever questioned rationality, but the book leaves you with a feeling that is nowhere as straightforward. It's as misty as a mountain top during monsoon and leaves you in an intoxicated state to find your way through all that haze.

Relationships. Complexities. Reactions. Consequences.

We keep moving back and forth through past and present (metaphorically), try to perceive time and memories linked to a time, understand the dynamics of our behaviour as opposed to what might have happened and just play along. Tony Webster does the same. He looks back at himself, he reminisces, he wonders; he tries to change the mistakes of the past and realizes that the seeds of his previous actions have grown into fierce, road-blocking trees, unknowingly shadowing his motives and hopes. He tries to understand the consequences of his actions. He tries in vain to rekindle the fire. He tries to split remorse in chunks of guilt to tackle them individually, while searching for a stamp of forgiveness. He senses the end and begins the search for corroboration that affirms his memories, life, and the way everything happened. Eventually, Tony gives up his quest.

Adrian's Diary was just a time machine that forced Tony to look back. Veronica was just a force that kept Tony thinking and making modifications to his actions. Veronica's Mom represented the very human nature of unpredictableness. Margaret was the laugh that we need, the smiles that carry us through. Adrian, a mathematical anomaly. Tony, all the while, a hub in the wheel of something called as life. Life, as it happens to some, and as some make it happen.

I loved the book for what it was. The lovely poetic, poignant lines, the melancholy trip through memories, and the wry humour that brought a smile or two at the needed times. I will definitely read this book again and will recommend it to anyone who has thought about the past, not just to change it, but to really think if that change would have been worthwhile as compared to the present. Because who can really predict happenings?


It is the same!--For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

- P.B. Shelley, Mutability

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Book Review

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who is John Galt Jay Gatsby?
What is Great about Gatsby?
...I wear this crown of thorns,
Upon my liars chair,
Full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair,

Beneath the stains of time,
The feelings disappear,
You are someone else,
I am still right here...

- Hurt, Nine Inch Nails and more poignantly by Johnny Cash.
This story belongs to a long gone era. An era where opulence was regarded supreme, where identities were hushed behind a veil of grandiose, material happiness. A part of the book belongs to that era... A part has trickled down. Leading to confusion. Just like the confused Nick Carraway. Unsure about things to believe and things to ignore.

Is Gatsby that part of Nick who is in love with Daisy, but has to be buried eventually because things have changed and past cannot be undone? Is it Gatsby or Nick who stunningly describes the beautiful Daisy and her enchanting, alluring voice?
It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.

For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened—then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
Nick, who slowly paints the characters, the surroundings, the sub-textual philosophies, and weaves the story that moved him so much. Nick, caught in the ever-shifting world of sudden changes brought by a man's strong, undying love for a woman. Nick, caught in a contradiction of beliefs, of trust.

Everything is melancholy, and then the emotions are rapidly flattened out... hinting at the things to come. A haziness brought just before the music fades, the alcohol is drunk, and the people go home, before words are scattered along like used tissues... Papers with words and distended feelings that are eventually broken into pieces. Love is put to test. Love loses against fate. Love loses against the past. Too much contention.

Love is mostly on the losing side.

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