Parting

“If I ever want to get any work done, I will have to get out of this all-consuming relationship. Do you understand…?”

No answer.

“I’m thinking I’ll be better off with something short-lived, something lighter, more fun..”

No answer.

Finally I put it back in its place and picked up a collection of short stories.

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Review: Turbulence by Samit Basu

Turbulence- Samit Basu
Turbulence- Samit Basu

I’ve rarely been so excited about a book from an Indian author. And I started loving my job a bit more when BookChums got me this book to review. 😀

Turbulence is India’s first mainstream novel talking about superheroes, very Indian superheroes at that. By some freak accident everyone on the BA flight 142 gets powers that reflect their innermost desires and secret longings. Some of them are coming to terms with their newfound powers and some are hatching plans and plots to change the world with their powers while some are disappearing off the face of earth. Our protagonist Aman Sen is trying to piece together the puzzle, get the other heroes on his side and form his own Justice League to eradicate evil, corruption, poverty and all things bad from this world.

Aman, your average Joe, who always felt he wasn’t well-connected enough, gets gifted with the power to control anything that is in a network, yes, even the interwebz. Tia, a housewife from the North-east who wanted to be many things and be at many places becomes a very literal, but better, embodiment of MPD. Uzma Abidi (very very Katrina Kaif-ish), who is on her way from London to make a career in tinsel town starts oozing charm and charisma that can melt a T-Rex. There’s Vir, the noble and handsome IAF pilot who can fly now. Together with Tia, Uzma, Jai and a bunch of other mildly (and weirdly) powered heroes, Aman sets out on his journey to beat the bad guys amongst the superheroes. One of the bad guys here is superman-without-wings, Jai, whose grand plans of world domination don’t seem to go down too well with the other bunch of superheroes and a mysterious character with ability to provoke and control mob rage. With such an eclectic and eccentric cast, Basu weaves a story that is brimming with acerbic wit, zany humor and supercharged exchanges.

One of the things I liked best was the Indian-isms, those behavior patterns and habits that are so typical to us Indians. One of my favoritest parts is when Vir gets a call, while preparing to fly in to destroy enemy camp, apparently from a telecaller about getting a new credit card. Then there’s his brilliant posse of heroes, who are not completely superhero-material but aren’t mere humans either. His depiction of Aman and portrayal through the novel is bound to win over many hearts. And how can one ignore all those glorious superhero fiction references. There was a moment when I was dying to scream out “X-Men X-Men” at the pages before Aman came to my rescue and said it. I do wish the battles and the progression of important events in the book weren’t as chaotic, but perhaps it adds to the book’s unpredictability.

This is the fourth book I’m reading by Samit Basu, having read his Gameworld Trilogy couple of years back. I loved The Manticore’s Secret but didn’t get as swept away by The Unwaba Revelations as I expected to be. When I first heard about Turbulence, I was hoping very hard that this one would match up with my liking for Manticore’s Secret. And I think it has succeeded, well beyond my expectations. I cannot wait to watch its movie version, I cannot wait for its sequel and I cannot wait to get my hands on his other books.
For anyone who loves superheroes, Bollywood, nerd and geek culture stuff and dudes and dudettes who are a bit off their rocker will love this book. If you are someone with time on your hands, you would definitely devour this one in one day. If you are someone with not much time on your hands, best of luck while you attempt to do the cover-to-cover run in one go.

Book Review: Diary A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Diary - Chuck Palahniuk
Diary - Chuck Palahniuk

Diary is Chuck Palahniuk’s sixth fictional novel, following the success of books like Fight Club, Invisible Monsters and Choke.

Diary is written in the form of, well, a diary, by the leading character Misty Wilmot, a one time promising artist, now working as waitress in a resort hotel on Waytansea Island, where she landed after marrying her art school boyfriend Peter Wilmot.

While looking to sort her life and come out of it alive, she has completely given up art, any hope of becoming a renowned artist, any promise of returning to her old talent. Misty seems to think the whole town is urging her to start painting again so that she can restore the family to their old grandeur and wealth and also save Waytansea island from being turned into a tourist dump. She seems to be able to paint only when she’s under extreme duress.

The diary shows her journey through her days, from when she reluctantly picks up the brush, how she copes with her miseries and how she comes to face the reality which turns her world upside down.

The novel is short, precise and cuts across like a sharp knife. Palahniuk always claims to write in verbs i.e. his story is told in action, his characters are talking and acting, he doesn’t waste much time describing background, settings, and other elements of the bigger picture. This style works very well for his writing and his plots- he keeps the reader focused on the main story and uses his characters to channelize the emotions from a first person voice, which obviously is more engrossing for the reader.

Some parts of the novel will elicit very strong reactions; one almost cringes at the cruelty she has to suffer to produce great art. That’s one of the distinctive features of Palahniuk’s works, they have scenes of physical, mental and psychological violence which can remain frozen in your memory for a long long time. Though he has been criticized for employing violence and disturbing imagery with excessive force and frequency, one can’t deny that it lends a distinctive and vivid touch to his writing.

Diary will keep you engrossed, cringing and breathless throughout its 270 odd pages. A must read for Chuck Palahniuk fans and for those who’d like to experiment with horror and satire concocted in a heady blend.

 

You can read the complete review here.

Kari- Book Review

 

Kari - Amruta Patil
Kari - Amruta Patil

Kari is the dark twisted tale of our eponymous character. Twenty something, working as a copywriter for an ad firm in the city of dreams, she wakes up to a failed suicide attempt. Or was it? Her love and soulmate Ruth has left the city, saved by safety nets while she was left to crawl from a sewer into a landfill. Thus begins Amruta Patil’s debut graphic novel, throwing the reader into a whirlwind of colors and words from the first page.

She takes us on a ride with Kari, where she stumbles and falls, retraces her steps, and picks up after herself. We watch her floating through life as if in a dream and search for meaning in trance, all the while struggling wearily with the dreariness of real life, mundane and painful. Patil paints a picture of gloom and despair, her grey ink leaking from pages, into the lives of her characters.

There are writers and there are illustrators. Amruta Patil dons both hats with apparent ease and adroitness. Her words and colors melt into each other, her writing and artwork complementing each other, like two entwined streams of thought and consciousness. She captures the city’s soul and her heroine’s with a keen observer’s eye and infuses a sense of dystopia that at once overwhelms and relieves. Kari’s emotional turmoil, her distorted realities, and her alter-egos each have their own nuanced hues and shades, bringing to the reader a breathless and entrancing escapade from our monochromatic lives.

Amruta Patil has a Master in Fine Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and has been an editor, a copywriter and a school teacher before making her fray into the world of graphic novels. Kari has been claimed to be a definitive piece of work in Indian graphic fiction and is a must read for graphic novel lovers and people who love the feminine mind, body and soul.

 

You can also find the review here.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover- Book Review

Lady Chatterley's Lover- D H Lawrence
Lady Chatterley's Lover- D H Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is probably the most controversial and most misunderstood novel of the twentieth century. The time in which it first came out was one of the primary reasons for its notoriety, but for the same reason it is also a highly commendable and one of the finest works of the time, proving Lawrence was a bold and brave man possessing courage to speak his mind within the realms of art, with the genius and understanding of a visionary.

The story revolves around a young married woman, Constance (Lady Chatterley) and her relationship with Oliver Mellors, gamekeeper of her husband’s estate and born to a class that’s beneath her and her husband’s social standing.

Constance,the protagonist, called Connie throughout the novel, who hails from a Scottish bourgeois family marries Clifford Chatterley, a baronet who prides himself on his membership in the aristrocracy, however a small part that may be. Following the first World War, Clifford becomes paralyzed from the waist down, which renders him impotent.

During their stay at Wragby Hall, she meets Oliver Mellors who goes on to be her lover in the story. Mellors comes across as a reticent man, who has a strong disdain for his rich masters. As Connie comes to know him, she realises that beneath his rough exterior and broad Derbyshire accent, there lies an intelligent, deep man with a noble heart and a sense of humor brimming with sarcasm.

Meanwhile in the novel, a new relationship begins to develop between Clifford and Mrs. Bolton, their middle-aged nurse who looks after him. Mrs.Bolton displays motherly affection and care for him,worshipping him for his success and intellect. While Connie and Mellors are moving away from dissatisfied relationships to a nurturing one, Clifford and Mrs.Bolton are heading towards a malicious and twisted one.

Though these relationships form the heart of the novel, the author explores the class and social conflict in the background. He depicts that through Mellors disregard for authority and Mrs.Bolton’s grudging admiration of Clifford.

The novel requires one to look beyond the narration, and into the characters’ minds and their words. On the surface, what is an adulterous affair, is also the rendering of one of the most beautiful relationships a man and woman can have. One that doesn’t discard passion for the meeting of minds, nor does it become mindless in the pursuit of primal desires. Lawrence describes the love making without euphemisms, without pretense and without any false modesty. He uses vernacular terms and words that are still black-listed. His work can be compared to that of Goya’s The Naked Maya which invited much ire and controversy. When the reader refuses to go beyond what he sees, he reduces a work of art to commonness or worse, to being obscene.

The book still faces censorship in many countries, a fact which still rankles free speech supporters. Even more obscene is the fact that even when the mainstream media is profligate, authorities still gun for works of art containing explicit material that might be central to the work or act as an instrument of art.

For those who have only heard of controversies of the book, it would do good to pick this one up and find out for yourself. The book is as dirty a book as Galileo was a madman for his heresies.

You can find the complete review here.

Review: My Name is Red

My Name Is Red- Orhan Pamuk
My Name Is Red- Orhan Pamuk

The title is bound to intrigue and lead many to pick up the book. The fact that it is a bestseller, an internationally acclaimed work with many awards to its name, and is written by Nobel Laureate author Orhan Pamuk definitely heightens the interest.  And it doesn’t disappoint.

The novel revolves around the murder of a miniature artist from the Ottoman Empire and is narrated through different characters throughout the book. The book is a maze, that gets deeper and complex with each chapter, with the maze being so intricate and beautifully composed that it overwhelms. Towards the end, the book becomes a question and answer within itself- What is art– the artist’s rendering of his views or that which is perfect and as God made it be? What is the artist allowed to draw and depict? To whom does the artist’s soul swear allegiance – to God or his art?

Pamuk wonders aloud about these questions through his many narrators, while unraveling the mystery of the murdered miniaturist. The thematic and narrative styles, along with the lyrical fluidity of prose make this a very engrossing read. One might have liked it more had they read it in the original Turkish version, but Erdağ Göknar‘s translation does bring out the beauty of the prose and plot.

But, the book brings with itself a task, a task those well-read can hope to live up to. The constantly changing narrators and their many voices may begin to crowd. The complex overlapping and recurring references to books, stories within stories, art styles can begin to befuddle.

If you do pick up the book, read it with a deeper mind and keener eye than you would spare a Grisham or Archer thriller.

Read the complete review here.

Review: The Alchemist

The Alchemist- Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist- Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is a very simple book. It is also a very brilliant tale, a mesmerizing concoction of the many elements that make a great story- there’s passion, there’s love, there’s danger and adventure. But that alone doesn’t explain why the book has sole more than 65 million copies, why it has been lauded by critics, famous people, teenagers and adults alike, or why, after being first published in 1993 (English edition), it still sells as many copies.

The book’s message lies in its most famous line- “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Now do you see the power behind the book?

Coelho takes your dreams and desires and gives you the hope, the power to believe and the faith that all that you wish will come to you. And it will come to you with the aid of the entire universe, nature and men conspiring with each other to help you fulfill your dreams. Such promises, or the fulfillment of some such in a story can seem immensely attractive. And that is what makes the book such a huge success.

It is in essence a self help book, told beautifully through the story of an Andulasian shepherd who goes on to unravel his destiny and find his treasure studying signs that nature and fate throws at him. Isn’t that how all of our lives run- on signs and indications, on risks and opportunities, on means and ends? And what do we all want while we chase our dreams- a little bit of help and hope. And this book gives you exactly that.

Critics and cynics alike will call this a novel chasing lofty fairytale ideas, but what is life if not chasing fairytale ideas? Optimists and dreamers would definitely love this book. So drop the cynicism and pick up this book for a thrilling journey with Santiago and his dreams.

Read the complete review here.

Review: A Maiden’s Grave

A Maiden's Grave-Jeffrey Deaver
A Maiden's Grave-Jeffrey Deaver

“Eight gray birds, sitting in dark.

Cold wind blows, it isn’t kind.”

Eight school kids and their teachers are kidnapped by three escaped convicts and are taken hostage in a slaughterhouse in rural Kansas. The FBI is trying to negotiate their release with their abductors. Seems like a run of the mill hostage thriller? It would be. Had it not been for the eight school kids and their teacher to be deaf.

The prime criminal is Lou Handy, savage and brutal who threatens to kill a girl every hour if his demands are not meant. Arthur Potter, the FBI’s top negotiator, tries his best over the time frame of around 18 hours to get the hostages out safely. The cat and mouse game is as thrilling as it can get.

The routine hostage-release drama is convoluted and twisted by Deaver to bring out subtle nuances of relationships that develop between the hostage, the kidnapper and the rescuer. The hearing impairment of the hostages lends a subtext to the story overall and Deaver sprinkles illuminating factoids across the pages that bring out the scope of the drama in a more vivid manner.

When I read the book, I found it to be disturbing in some ways. But the twists and turns never ceased to shock. Deaver weaves a thriller so complex and tight, it is amazing to find a love story blooming amidst all the thorns.

Read the complete review here.

Review: Love Story

(Oh boy, we’re on a Segal roll here!)

Love Story- Erich Segal
Love Story- Erich Segal

On 14th February, 1970 a novel was released by Erich Segal. The title of the novel was Love Story and it was the story of Oliver and Jennifer.  The novel went on to be the highest selling novel of the decade, selling more that 10 million copies, spawning a feature film, a sequel, and getting translated into 20 languages. It also coined the popular line: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Almost everyone knows what the novel is all about. Those who haven’t read it would know by the many movies based on it. And those few who haven’t heard about it at all, well, the title says it all, doesn’t it? The story is as typical as love stories can get- boy meets girl, they come from different backgrounds, their families don’t agree to their union, they get together despite all odds, they face difficulties but live happily till calamity strikes, and then- well, go pick up the book and find out. It’s only 131 pages short!

For many novels, it’s a matter of time and at what stage you were in your life that make the book better or worse in your eyes. The first time I read Love Story, I loved it. I loved it so much I cried and got admonished by my mother for reading books that make you cry. Most people I know who read it in their teens also had similar experience while reading it. There’s no escaping it, it is a very touching tale. Of a love that made “sorry” a redundant part of your vocabulary. And so generations grew up reading it and loving it.

Then some people, like me, read it again and found it silly. Found it melodramatic, too soppy, too this and that, but still went through the whole book and couldn’t change their opinion of it. But as you grow older, and hopefully wiser, you learn to distinguish between the emotional attachment you have with the book and your experience of reading it and the actual merit of the book as a work or art or literature.

Erich Segal’s Love Story is your easy dose of escapism, your inexpensive opium for feeling, and your chance to exercise some dormant tear glands. Go grab a copy, curl up on your couch, keep some Kleenex handy and fall into this heady love story.

You can read the complete review here.

Review: My Legendary Girlfriend

My Legendary Girlfriend- Mike Gayle
My Legendary Girlfriend- Mike Gayle

Our hero, Will Kelly is soon going to turn 26. He hates his job of an English teacher at a comprehensive. His house is such a dump that he can’t cook without setting off the communal alarm. He has a somewhat steady income, but not enough money to distract him from the most important problem of his life: his legendary girlfriend Aggi. Or rather, ex-girlfriend. It’s been three years, and he still can’t get over her.

Then one fine day, he gets a call from Kate,the previous tenant of his shabby cubbyhole. They get talking and Will starts mulling over the possibility of life after Aggi, of a life with new beginnings, of a life with Kate. And what happens next is for you to find out. Does he find his second “The One” ?

The debut novel apparently took Britain by storm and was pegged as the Male Bridget Jones Diary. For the first claim, I wonder if it’s saying anything considering the fickle weather of Britain. For the second claim, now here I have two things to say-

1) Women whine. We know that. It was funny, even endearing to some extent to see Bridget Jones do that. I doubt I want to listen to a man whine about not getting a date or complaining that he’s getting fat.

2) There’s a reason it’s called “chick-lit” and not “dude-lit” or “hunk-lit”.

I couldn’t decide which guy I hated most- Will, Mike Gayle or the friend (yes, a guy) from whom I borrowed this book.

The complete review can be found here.