Book Review: The Sellout #ManBookers2016

Also in the Series :

Man Bookers 2016 Shortlist

the-sellout

Set in regions of Los Angeles, The Sellout by Paul Beatty is the social satire portraying the unfortunate & crime filled neighborhood called Dickens. Dickens is populated majorly by the African Americans, & most of them are economically backward & socially awkward.

The narrator & the protagonist of the book, referred mostly in the book by his last name, through an interesting turns of events, finds himself defending his case in the Supreme Court. What may had been an isolated case of insane activism in the parts of city which was otherwise popular for police shootouts & gang wars, the protagonist manage to shake the foundation of American society by re-initiating slavery & segregating students in schools on the basis of race.

While the author may have considered many things while writing it, political correctness was no where in his consideration. Since most of the characters in the book were African American ( or niggers, as it was fondly referred in this book), there were many references or name calling which will make you feel guilty while laughing at them. The narrators’ father was the controversial socialist of the neighborhood was referred as “nigger whisperer” because of his ability to talk out the “niggers” who have lost their mind in a violent rage. There is one of the most hilarious racial equalizer in the city in the name of America’s first “black Chinese Restaurant”. And then there is the last one of the “Little Rascals” comparing “the blacks’ soul with the Brahmins of Vedic society.

The last social satire to win the Bookers was “The White Tiger” by Arvind Adiga in 2008 & it still divides the audience stating that “it was not the Bookers’ Book” ( I don’t know what it means though). The Sellout should not be relegated  as only a “satire”  because it touches the important issues. Though in the book there are few things that could have been better. Outside the main characters, all the other characters were underdeveloped & so many subtexts which were opened during the narration were then overlooked or not closed.

I rated “The Sellout” 3/5 stars in goodreads, definitely missing on an extra star because of over dependence of humor in most of the times.

Next On #ManBookers2016:  Book Review of “His Bloody Project”.

Man Bookers 2016 Shortlist

Image courtsey- The Guardian

Image courtsey- The Guardian

Ever since the long-list was announced for this year’s Man Bookers Prize, I was watching this space very curiously. There were some known names there- J M Cortzee with the School days of Jesus, which is supposedly the sequel of The Childhood of Jesus. I was not looking forward to read The School Days of Jesus because I was somewhat not enthusiast about the alternative world created in this series. So when it was excluded from the shortlist, it was a kind of relief for me.

From last 2 years, I try to read all the short-listed books before the winner is announced but never manage to read more than 3 books. Especially the books that eventually win hold me up the most. The Narrow Road to deep North ( the winner of 2014) was so slow paced that it took me a month to finish & the Brief History of Seven Killing (the winner of 2015) was 800 pages long interesting but confusing period tale based in Jamaica was another difficult read for me.

This year’s short-lists are:

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

All That Man Is by David Szalay

American authors have definitely increased the quality of books in the short-lists since last year. I have already read The Sellout by Paul Beatty (USA) which I enjoyed reading ( it means it will definitely not win😛 ). “His Bloody Project” by Burnet (Scotland) is another interesting read that I am thoroughly enjoying.  After that, I am planning to read Eileen. Thanks to Kindle, the books which were otherwise not available in India are now available online.

There are no books from Asia or Africa this year, which is a surprise.

Can’t believe have not read them yet

Good Omens was my first Terry Praichett book

Good Omens was my first Terry Prachett book, read in 2015

Until this January, I have not read The Catcher in the Rye. Before December, I only knew that Oscar Wildie is fabulous writer but when I read “The Importance of Being Earnest” , I realized what I was missing. I followed it up with “The Picture of Dorian Gray “.  Last January I read my first ever Earnest Hemingway book, ” The Old Man & the sea”. And here comes the biggest one- I have read only book one of Harry Porter.

I can’t be the only one who call oneself a reader without actually reading some of the greatest books. There are still so many in my list that I can’t believe, I have not read. I have met people who are yet to read The Great Gatsby or Lord of the Rings. Others who have never read any of the Shakespeare or Charles Dickens. Thankfully, I am not alone.

Another author whose books I have not read yet is P G Wodehouse. He is loved and adored by his many many readers. Finally, I decided to fill by reading void and asked my friends on twitter to recommend me one PG Wodehouse book to start up

tweet question

Thanks to my friends, I got following responses :

Tweet Divya Mahajan

Tweet suggestion

Twitter suggestion 2

Thanks to these suggestions, I got a starting point in to the world of P G Wodehouse.

2016- Half Yearly Books Report

Half year-reading challenge

2016 is running in a Jet speed. As I am writing this post, we are in July that means half of the year is gone in no time. Good things is that I still have my gym membership (which i took last month realizing that June is the new January when it comes to New Years resolution) and have a decent pace towards my reading goals.

It is my 4th straight year of signing goodreads annual reading challenge. I find this challenge very motivating and meaningful. I started in 2013 with the modest target of 25 books. My aim was to read 2 quality books a month. I revised the target to 36 books for coming year which I comfortably achieved in the successive years and I also managed to revised the targets to 45 in mid year.

Reading Challenge- past years

This year I have managed 23 books so far. I always try to keep a good mix of Fiction, non fiction & graphic novels in my reading.  Here are the list of my books in 2016 so far.

RC books- 2016

Favorite Fiction book of the mid-year–  It definitely should be The Martian. It had all the great tropes of a good novel- research, plot, characters, humor, story arches & literally out of the world complications. Too bad I had not read The Catcher in the Rye before and it takes the grade.

Favorite Non-Fiction book of the mid-year: Elon Musk‘s biography is amazing read- maybe because I am big admirer of his work. Similarly I loved Korma, Kheer and Kishmet– travel/food story based in old Delhi but if I have to pick one, I will pick Jhumpa Lahiri’s “In Other Words“.

Favorite Graphic/comic book of the mid-year: There is no contest here. Alan Moore’s “Batman- The Killing Joke” is one of the best comic books ever. Don’t miss it if you are a Batman fan.

What am I reading right now ? : Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig.

Friends, do tell me about your reading in 2016 and your favorite books this year.

Happy Reading

No one cares about the translator

Gregory Rabassa died at the age of 94. Rest in Peace master !

Gregory Rabassa died at the age of 94. Rest in Peace master !

Just take a minute and think how many Non-English books translated in English that you have enjoyed. The chances are that there are many such books. From the legends like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Leo Tolstoy, Paulo Coelho, Calvino, Kafka to recent wonders like Murakami- they all adored and loved by English readers. But we fail to give credit to the people who brought these books closer to the English readers & that is the translators . They are like silent ninjas who have been instrumental in bringing the cultures together.

Earlier this month, the translator of the celebrated literary icon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez died in Connecticut. Gregory Rabassa was 94 and he was instrumental in bringing Latin American authors to English speaking countries. Apart from Marquez, Rabassa has also translated the books of Julio Cortazar. Marquez himself praised Rabassa often and once said that his translation of “One hundred Years in Solitude” was an art in itself.

Marquez praised Rabassa work as an art itself

Marquez praised Rabassa work as an art itself

I am big admirer of Marquez books. His books seldom seemed like foreign, they always touched the cords of English readers. Gregory Rabassa died on 14th June and though I follow many blogs and twitter handles related to books and literature, I didn’t see any tributes for him. I felt sad. I went to my bookshelf and saw his name credited as the translator. I felt so bad that I never acknowledged his name until he was dead.

Rest in Peace Gregory and hope your name will be alive in long times to come. I hope the publishers and media give more attention and love to the translators. They are as much an artists in their rights as are the writers and the editors. English and Spanish are a very different language in terms of metaphors and expression, but Gregory made sure we never felt that different. Also, a big shout and love to the translators all over the world.

Korma, Kheer & Kismet took me back to the streets of Old Delhi

od delhi- via Telegraph.co.uk

Once I took a travelling friend from another city to the Old Delhi for sightseeing (or just eating!). After taking the metro from Central Secretariat we reached the Chawadi Bazar station. The sight after we exited the metro station was so different than what  we had left behind. At Central Secretariat, the view of the Lutyen’s  Delhi was very impressive- clean roads, beautiful Government buildings and rows of expensive cars in the parking. But the sight outside Chawadi bazar station was chaotic, disoriented traffic including hand-carts, autos, rickshaws, the shouting vendors and endless rows of crowd. “Do you really like this place ?” My friend asked me. I gave him an “obviously” nod.

We headed towards the Ashok Chaat house and ordered the “Mirchi wale alloo” ( boiled potato wrapped with the red chilli power fried in ghee). It is served with yogurt and pickle of kachalu (a vegetable from the potato family, similar to Taro(arbi) or elephant’s ear. I have only had it in Delhi and no where else. Also one friend explained me kachalu as “Arbi ke papa”!  ). After eating 2 other chaats there, we headed toward Kucha Pati Ram and ate the amazing Falsa ki Kulfi. After that it was his turn to say, “Man, I love this place.. ”

Korma, Kheer & kismet- Book cover

There are many interesting stories about Old Delhi. The visits to Moti Mahal & Al Jawahar, Sunday book market in Daryagunj followed by Chole Bhature near Delight cinema- all these memories came fresh with Pamela Timms’ Korma, Kheer & Kistmet- 5 seasons in Old Delhi. The cover is beautiful, hard bound, full with colors. Pamela not only celebrates the food, the flavors and the festivals of Dilli, but also the chaos, uncertainty and some awkwardness of the old city. I am happy that many of my favorites got listed in the book.

What I love about Pamela’s effort is that she goes back & try to find the background story from each of these food legends. Some of them are shy but others are outspoken, some of them are secretive and others have nothing to hide.  Her quest also took her to the workshop of ” Daulat ki Chaat” where she encountered an unpleasant place for food but at least she crushed the rumor that Daulat ki Chaat gets its flavor from the natural dew of winter.

She is not the first one from Scotland to write an amazing book on Old Delhi ( Yes, I am talking about William Dalrymple’s City of Djjins ) and maybe she won’t be the last. I hope that she will keep spreading the joy over her Delhi style Chai and mahfils around the world. You can follow her on her blog Eat & Dust however she is not posting anything new in it these days but you can always read her old post.

I rated Korma, Kheer & Kismet, a 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads– a nostalgic trip to the gastronomical khumbh mela. And the good thing is that you don’t have to wait for 4 years for it.

Book Review: Elon Musk- Inventing the Future

Elon Musk is often compared with Tony Stark from Iron Man

Elon Musk is often compared with Tony Stark from Iron Man

It’s been a while that I posted anything on the blog(It’s almost 2 months actually ). It’s annoying not to write anything but whom do I blame ? There has been so much to write about.  There were trips to Kochi, Mumbai Chennai, Colombo, Kathmandu, Mysore and others. I read some good books, met some old friends, the whether in Bangalore is no more killing me and I can finally say that I have settled in the new city and in my new role in the organization.

However I am here to write about Elon Musk and the brilliant book that features his life, his personality and his path making Companies. Written by the Silicon Valley journalist Ashlee Vance ( not related Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration :P ), this book captures Elon Musk as no one has done before- capturing his achievements, failure, personality, ignorance, arrogance and most above his innovations.

Elon is the seasoned entrepreneur, who before making his name in the ground breaking companies like SpaceX, Tesla Motors & Solar City, had successfully co-founded Paypal. The journey and the background behind each of these companies are a great eye-opener for many who aspires to be put the dent in the universe with their innovation.

[Bonus Read : Did you know that Musk proposed to revolutionize the Urban Transportation by introducing the Concept of Hyperloops. Here is the analysis of his proposal . ]

Many have compared Musk with Steve Jobs of Apple- maybe because they are both very out of the line personalities. The Musk’s companies have challenged the major established sectors and their leaders. the way no one has done before. While most of the new start-ups in recent years have challenged the  Information, gaming or Web/Mobile services, Musk have created companies that are actually making the tangible changes in the sectors like automobiles, Space Exploration and power. With him in the driving seat, these companies have grown faster and bigger than anyone had expected. His Silicon Valley style of enterprising has shaken the big names in these respective industries.

However, this book is not only about the business side of Musk. Ashlee also covers Musk’s extraordinary journey from the troubled childhood from South Africa to his struggling days to Canada to his initial days in USA. Also, there is insights  on his personal life, general behavior, relationships and marriages.

Overall, it is a great book to read and I highly recommend it to people who enjoy business biographies and technology related books. Also, if you enjoyed Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson then it is your natural pick. I rated Elon Musk- Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance 4 out of 5 stars in goodreads.

 

Book Twins (Part II)

Also in the series :

Recent Book loves

Book twins (Part 1)

On the same theme of the Book Twins, I present you following book twins from my list:

3. Da Vinci Code & The Krishna Key  :

Still from Da Vinci code, the movie

Still from Da Vinci code, the movie

Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code was a genre defining book in every prospect.  It broke the best selling records of the era and it was my personal favorite for long time. It opened the style and tone for many future thrillers. It questioned one of the most powerful organization of the world, the Vatican. Brown’s style is to use the names of the real organizations and historical figures to build his world of fiction.

[Bonus Read: When we abandon our role models, featuring Dan Brown]

the krishna key

Ashwin Sanghvi used the same theme in his third book, the Krishna Key. The dependence of Dan Brown’s style was so evident in his book that it almost appeared like a fan fiction. Sanghvi was riding on 2 bulls. The success of mythological fiction in India after the success of Shiva Trilogy & already popular Dan Brown’s school of writing seemed to be the motivation behind this book. A good effort but lacked the depth and originality of its muse.

I rated Da Vinci Code a 5/5 stars on the goodreads whereas I gave a generous 3/5 stars to The Krishna Key.

 

4. Gone Girl & The Girl on the Train.

gonegirl

Both Gone Girl & the Girl on the train won the Goodread’s reader choice awards in their respective year of publishing. Gone Girl was also a successful Hollywood project and Girl on the train is soon to be a major motion picture. Both thrillers features mysterious women characters with an unusual narrative. In Gone Girl, Amy goes missing from her house and after many days of search, the police concludes that she was murdered and few Agatha Christie level twists later, you realize you have been punked.

girl on the train

The Girl on the train also is very much in Gone Girl’s genre. Paula Hawkins’s book central character is the alcoholic train-wreck who is almost living her rock bottom when she finds herself in center of another murder controversy. A good read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as gone girl.

I rated Gone Girl 4/5 stars on Goodreads whereas 3/5 stars to the girl on the train.

 

 

Book Twins (part I)

Sometimes our Recent book loves lead us in search of the similar books in quality & background. Till few years back. I was very particular about the genres of books that I wanted to read. But some books are so genre defining that they open the gate for many other books in its genre in the To-be-read list .

Whenever people ask me for book recommendation, I always ask them about their recent books and what books they really enjoyed reading – that helps me in understanding their taste and recent book appetite. It works similar in the movies and TV shows recommendation ( Like if you enjoyed Marvel’s Daredevil than Jessica Jones is a no-brainer recommendation.) I am basically searching for the book twin for their recent book loves.

In this post, I am discussing the book twins- 2 books which are too similar in the nature of plot, author’s profile. Here is the list-

1 The Em and Big Hoom & Illicit Happiness of Other People

The beautiful paperback

The beautiful paperback

As the author, poet and translator, Jerry Pinto made a good name for himself with the Em & Big Hoom. The book is based in Mumbai and though it is a work of fiction, but the book is inspired by his personal life. The book is vivid and picturesque. The humor of the book is also delightful. It is centered as Em, who suffers from mental illness, & her family.

Bonus read- Book Review of Em & the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

The Illicit Happiness of Other People-cover

On the similar grounds, Manu Joseph, author of Illicit Happiness of Other People , is also an award winning journalist. This book is based in Madras, where Manu was bought up. Like Jerry’s book, this book also involves middle class family & central character suffering from depression & mental illness.

Both books are one of the symbol of the modern Indian writing in English. Manu and Jerry have that rare story telling craft where you will get perfumes of laughter even in the worst of situation.

I rated both books 5/5 stars in the goodreads. Read this books if you have any doubt in Indian Writing in English.

2. The Lowland & Lives of Others

The Lowland by Jhumpa Laahiri

The Lowland by Jhumpa Laahiri

 

The characters of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland as similar to her other creations over the years-expat Bengalis living in America. It is the story of two brothers separated by the tragedy. The Naxalbari uprising of 1960s effects the life of this family and story further shapes from their lives in America.

[Bonus read: Book Review of The Lowland ]

Life of Others;Book cover

On the same theme of Naxalbari uprising, Neel Mukherjee’s The life of others is the story of a joint family based in Calcutta that experience the change due to the uprising , both within the family and outside the family.Neel’s book showed how youth and elders were effected by the movement.

[Bonus Read- Book Review of The Lives of Others]

I rated The Lowland 5/5 stars in goodreads whereas 3/5 stars to the lives of others .

I Want To Take My Blog To The Next Level #Blogchatter

I was tagged by Srijal to write this post.

Movie Poster

Movie Poster- Mistress America

You can’t really know what it is to want things until you are at least 30.” This quote from Mistress America was delivered in a very casual conversation in the movie, but it send me a chill in my spine ( Ok, Just being little dramatic here).  Though I am couple of years off 30 but I believe that my soul has already crossed 30. I could relate with the anxiety, excitement and the predictable failure of the character. My problem in the movie is that not only I found myself relate-able to the 30 year old character, Brooke, but also with the 18 year old Tracy.

Still from the movie - Mistress America

Still from the movie – Mistress America

Tracy is upset that she is not yet selected for her college’s prestigious Literary Society until she finds her muse in her soon-to-be step sister Brooke. Don’t worry, I am not giving away too much of the movie, as this movie’s beauty is not only it’s plot but also it’s brilliant writing.

Coming back to things I want to- ” I want to take my blog to next level.” Not to a level that will make me very rich because there is really no money in blogging. I want to create something that I am proud of- I want my blog to echo my personality but at the same time, I also want my blog to allow me to be someone else for sometime. I want my blog to be intelligent but at the same time I want it to be full of dump jokes as well. I want my blog to be both a 30 year old and a 18 year old at the same time. – Am I asking too much ?

But the problem is that I have recently moved to a new city and my job is more demanding than ever. My life is evolving, I am more insecure about my short-comings, I am out of my usual comfort zone. Also at the same time I am proud of where I am in my life and I feel this is the time to run to the another base. I know someday when I am lazily sitting and doing a television marathon on Sunday, this post will come back and haunt me.

mistress america quote 2Mistress America quote3

I now tag Divyakshi to write her take on the topic.

I want to take my blog to the next level with Blogchatter

 

P.S: I highly recommend this movie. It has my favorite women characters and has a very Woody Allenish touch. Also by the same team, is Frances Ha, another amazing piece of writing and acting.

 

The Recent book loves

Still from the movie "The Reader "

Still from the movie “The Reader “

Regardless of the number of books that we have read in our lifetime, there are only few we talk about in a given period of time. These books are the recent book loves of that time. Obviously, there are some books that stay with us for eternity and beyond and they are dropped in the conversation with the same affection as pixar movies and gummy bears. But most of our conversation is generally about the recent book loves, which is the highlight of my latest series on the blog.

I am discussing my current book loves and how these books influence our reading habits. I am also looking forward to know about  your current book loves and the other books that stayed longer with you than you ever expected.

Here are my two recent book loves.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

You will love this book too

You will love this book too

This book was the biggest surprised package of last year. Though this book was released few years back but I was almost oblivion about it’s existence. It reached me after a chain reaction of collective love on the goodreads. This book has the most number of 5 stars by my mutual friends on goodreads. The entire book is in the form of letters, based on the period post second world war. It is the story of the people of Guernsey, a small Island in the English channel, which was occupied by the German’s during the second world war.

During the occupancy, to escape the punishment, a group of people makes up a literary society as a cover-up for their meeting during curfew. This society starts meeting often and it kept their spirits on even in the times of war. Post war, one of the member contacted a London based author and told her about this society. That was the beginning of the long distance relationship between the author and the members of society. She later moves to the Island for the research r her next book.

If you are one of the souls who love the letters, you must read this book. You can thank me later😛

 

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

 

In Other Words- Book cover of the English Translation

In Other Words- Book cover of the English Translation

“When I rated In Other Words a 5/5 stars on goodreads, a friend asked me, “is it that good?”. To be honest, I really don’t know if this book is “that” good. It is non-fiction book, originally written in Italian by award winning English Fiction writer, Jhumpa Lahiri. My favorite books by Lahiri are Unaccustomed Earth, the Lowland, The Interpreter of Maladies and the Namesake. Also they are the only books published by her. So yes, 5/5 can be a fanboy rating.

This book is about the metaphoric journey of author in learning and adopting a new language. She takes us through her insecurities and curiosities. She shares the excitement of her baby steps in Italian and also her giant leap (the book ). Everyone, who are in a transition in their life of some form will love this book.

[Bonus Read: Ishita on “In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri ]

Please share your recent book loves. I will look forward to hear your comments and suggestions.

 

 

Death on the door step (RIP- Harper Lee )

“We have reached an age where we will see death of people we admired, frequently. “ My friend texted me this message when she read about the death of David Bowie. David Bowie was our kind of rockstar.  He was an avid reader, a creator and a thinker. He questioned major television networks, political parties and dead-old perceptions. He imagined things and loved space and universe- he had an alter-ego & his music lived all of his personalities. His death marked an end of era for certain type of music followers.

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

[ Did you know– David Bowie played the character of Tesla in the Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed feature film The Prestige. Click on the picture below to know why Christopher Nolan begged David Bowie to play this role ]

Why Nolan begged Bowie to play Tesla in The Prestige ? Click to know

Why Nolan begged Bowie to play Tesla in The Prestige ? Click to know

Few days after Bowie’s death, there was another death of the beloved guitarist and musician Joe Walsh who is better known for his role in the Eagles bands, as a lead guitarist. He joined Eagles in 1975 and the first album they released after his involvement was Hotel California, that immortalized the band. His soul also departed in 2016, and he will be always remembered by his fans and music lovers in general.

[Did You Know– Joe Walsh did a mock campaign for Presidency in 1980 with the slogan “Free Gas for Everyone.”  The idea was to create an awareness about elections. ]

Joe walsh

This brings me to our beloved mocking bird. Harper Lee. She was in news recently, after she released her only second ever novel in her 50 years of writing career. For many years, To kill a Mocking Bird was her only novel. It was favorite and darling of every book club and library. The closest she came to writing another book was “In Cold Blood” where she assisted her childhood friend Truman Capote in researching and drafting the book.

To kill a mocking bird

Last year, “Go Set the Watchman” was released and there was so much talk about Lee’s life in solitaire and her friendship with Capote. There were also myths and rumors that she never actually wrote “To Kill the mocking bird,”and was actually ghost written by Capote. However, there is no proof of such claims and once Harper release The Watchman, all these rumors were at rest.

At the age of 89, we say goodbye to the creator of our beloved novel. May her soul rest in peace.

Rest In Peace

Rest In Peace

 

PS: The title is inspired by Memoir by Khushwant Singh, Death on my Doorstep,  where he writes about aging, life and death.

 

 

 

 

#ModernClassics: The Other books of the bestsellers

Most of the great authors have more than one amazing book in them. But many authors are known for only one or two of their bestsellers and many of their other great work ends up in the piles in library and in the homes of few admirers. But thanks to the modern classics series by Penguin, I came across the amazing other books of the bestselling authors:

 

1. Burmese Days by George Orwell:

burmese days

George Orwell made name for himself with the great books like Animal farm and 1984 but his debut novel, Burmese days is unnoticed by many readers. Set in Burma during British Occupancy, the book brings out interesting characters from Oriental world and the divide between the east and the west. Orwell himself served as a sepoy in the British East India Company and was positioned in Burma. Though the point of view of the author is western in every aspect but the detail of local life shows that what Orwell is actually capable of.

[ Bonus ReadBook Review of Down and Out in Paris and London by Geroge Orwell. Wonderful memoir on his struggling times in Paris and London after we quit the services with British East India Company ]

Orwell's memoir of his time in Paris and London

Orwell’s memoir of his time in Paris and London

2. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

the dharma bums

Jack Kerouac had an interesting writing career. Though his peers made more money and critical fame than he did, but this did not stop Jack from writing amazing books. His book, On the Road is the most popular of all his books. He also managed to sell the movie rights for it.

3. The tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

tales from the jazz age

Vintage cover of the Tales of the Jazz Age

This is the collection of the short stories by F Scott Fitzgerald . These stories were written for literary magazines of that era that became popular. He used to fondly called writing for these magazines as whoring but had little or no option to survive without them. One of the stories, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was also adopted for the major Hollywood Film featuring Brat Pitt.

Movie poster of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Movie poster of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button

4. Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway

Men without Women

There is hardly any writing or literary cour that does not mention Ernest Hemingway. His writings has shaped the craft of modern literature and one can see his influence in the preceding writers. In this book, he brings stories from the continental towns and villages, focusing on the man on job or in play. This book demonstrate the literary display of Hemingway’s craft.

 

This is the last post of the modern classics series. Hope you enjoyed it. Here are the other posts from the series:

Books that Defined The Modern Classics 

Speakeasy- Jazz Age Part II

The Jazz Age

Since I love this era and there is so much I want to talk about it , so I will keep random posting about it.

Books That Defined The Modern Classics

The term modern classic is conflicting in itself. My understanding of the “Modern Classic ” is the book that is neither a modern, nor a classic and at the same time is both the modern and the classic. It is somewhere in middle of everything . For me the book that defined the “Modern Classic” is On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

On the road

Nothing says “Modern Classic “like “On the Road “

This book had both worlds. A scenic background of conflicting 60s , but the characters and their views that you can instantly relate. If you have not read the book but have seen Kristen Stewart starer movie based on the book, with the same tittle, then you may not buy my word instantly. I am not going to argue that the book was better than the movie because that is always true. I think that the movie didn’t stand anywhere near the league of the book and reading the book again will change your opinion.

Also in the Series :

Speakeasy- Jazz Age Part II

The Jazz Age

On the road movie poster

Movie failed the book. The star cast of promising and art-direction was reasonable- I always see this movie as a lost opportunity

Another book that made Modern Classics as its own is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I talk about this book a lot, so before you give that expression of not again, I want to assure you that even the second read of this book is equally timeless and joyous experience as the first time. ( You can read my musing on the book on this link🙂

The book cover

Timeless and one of the best ambassador of the term Modern Classic is Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Though Modern Classics is the series initiated by Penguin publishing and commercially it maybe mean only the books published by Penguin only but my consideration is wider than that. ( I have also heard some criticism by readers that Penguin has launched this series to hike the prices of the books that should have been cheaper or even available for free because of their age. As long as Penguin keep printing them in wonderful covers, I am okay with them making some money off it). Ayn Rand released her 1943 classic with The Fountainhead and still I find 20 year olds calling Howard Roark as their hero. The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger and Anne Frank’s Dairy of the young girl  were other other two non-penguin published books that fits the bill of being modern classics and there were also the books like “To Kill A Mocking bird ” by Harper Lee that created the league of it’s own.

Catch 22 cover

Catch-22 is a cult book. The catch-22 also entered English dictionaries after the success of the book

 

To kill a mocking bird

There is no reading club, library or anything literary thing that can be complete without this book

There were also other great writers that were challenging the entire notion of literature of their respective era. George Orwell’s Animal Farm changed the way satire words & Catch 22 by Joseph Heller gave new perceptive to the war fictions.

Book cover of Animal Farm

From the sub-continent flavor, R. K Narayan made international strides with The Guide and the house of Mister Bishwas did the same for V.S Naipaul in early 60s.

I will love to hear your favorite modern classic books.

 

The Modern Classics Series

This is my latest Blog series where I want to discuss the influence and the love of the Modern classics in art, popular culture and mainly literature.

Speakeasy- Jazz Age Part II

Pre-Prohibition Speakeasy

The Modern Classics Series

This is my latest Blog series where I want to discuss the influence and the love of the Modern classics in art, popular culture and mainly literature.

Also in the series:

The Jazz Age

Speakeasy

No matter which town you live in, or you are travelling to, you will always find a vintage themed bar. Many of them call themselves Speakeasy. Speakeasy now refers to the Prohibition Era themed bars. But originally they meant something else.

The origin of Speakeasy is engraved in the culture of the jazz age. The years between 1920 and 1933 was infamous as prohibition days in America. The new constitutional amendment prohibited the sale and purchase of alcohol or any form of liquor in public places. However, there were no restrictions in the personal consumption or possession of liquor. Anti- Salon movement and the high cases of alcohol abuse led to this decision by the congress.

Speakeasy were the illegal bars set up during prohibition. They functioned as ” well-known secret “because most of these bars had worked out kick backs for the local police. They also went with the name of “Blind Pig ” or “Blind tiger”. Speakeasy were responsible in bringing “the underground” culture. Underground bands were the bands that played in these bars. Lots of artists, writers and journalists were frequent in these places. Speakeasies had so much of Jazz in them and Jazz had so much of speakeasy in it’s personality.

Another contribution of these bars was towards the popularity of  Sweet or Fruit based Cocktails . In 19th century, there was flood of the pure liquor based cocktails (Pure gin martini for example) but due to bad quality of liquor in circulation during prohibition, fruit juices and sweeteners were added in the drinks, which saw the trend of these drinks. This era also saw the rise in the trend of “home brews” in America as it was not prohibited by the law.

There were many social criticism also of the prohibition. One of the main issues was the rise of organized crimes and corruption in the local bodies. Domestic trouble and alcohol related violence only dipped marginally but the social cost of Organized crimes and goons was too big for America. Poor quality of liquor cause many deaths and health related issues as well. Another major concern was the opportunity cost to the American Government in the tax revenues from alcohol. In 1929, USA slipped in to “The Great Depression” and many argued that the Government could have used extra dough from the liquor money. In 1933, the 19th amendment lifted the Prohibition on alcohol (in some states, the Prohibition stayed for few more months)

India also has it’s share of Speakeasy themed bars. PCO, in Vasant Vihar in New Delhi comes closest to it’s American counterpart. Here are some pictures.

pco New Delhi

From outside, it looks like Public Calling Booth or PCO – maintaining the underground theme of the place

PCO New Delhi

Outside you have to say the pass code to enter the place. This is more ceremonial in practice as most of the Speakeasy used to have passwords

pco 3

PCO pictures are in courtesy from mova1.net.in

Do you know any more Speakeasy in India or in your country? Or any interesting stories on speakeasy in general, please do share🙂

The Jazz Age

Still from Mid-night in Paris by Woody Allen

Still from Mid-night in Paris by Woody Allen

The Modern Classics Series

This is my latest Blog series where I want to discuss the influence and the love of the Modern classics in art, popular culture and mainly literature.

The Roaring 20s

Something amazing happened in America in 1920s. This era gladly abandoned the royalties, dignities and elites from the previous one and adopted the romanticized and mythological love affair with the unknown. The popular culture was flooded with passionate, loud, bit phony but lovable characters. This era changed the music, the literature, the fashion and the women.The poster boy of this era was F.Scott Fitzgerald, who released his first book, This Side of Paradise in 1920.

The central character of the book  is Amory Blaine, a narcissist Mid-western who joins Princeton University amid big promises but becomes disillusion with failed romance and army duty during first world war. This book is almost biographical, the thing I realized much later through the book.

The Old Jacket of the book. I was searching for this jacket in few bookstores with no luck

The Old Jacket of the book. I was searching for this jacket in few bookstores but with no luck

His next book truly defined the Jazz Age. The Great Gatsby sold millions of copies worldwide and was adopted in two major Hollywood projects. Originally this book was not considered a success when it came out. Maybe it was bit ahead of its time. The book’s contribution was not only about the style and substance of the era, but also the commentary on the marginalization of women and expectation from the society. The disillusionment that he portraits in his former book takes a central stage here, with the focus on the materialistic Gatsby, whose American dream was described as “nightmare”.

The most iconic book from this era.

The most iconic book from this era.

The another unique voice from the era was that of Ernest Hemingway. While working as a foreign correspondent in Paris, Hemingway’s novelty was the unseen of the world and the flattery to unheard of the society. His stories were based in small towns and cafes- from France to Spain to Scotland. His experience in war gave him a unique lens,especially on his notion of “Lost Generation” of artists and writers who got physiologically displaced due to first world war. His two big releases in the era were “The Sun Also Rises” and “A farewell to Arms.”

Hemingway introduced a unique narration that changed the decibel of the fiction

Hemingway introduced a unique narration that changed the decibel of the fiction

 

A farewell to Arms

 

The famous Fitzgerald and Hemingway in Paris picture. Via ernestmillerhemingway.blogspot.com

The famous Fitzgerald and Hemingway in Paris picture. Via ernestmillerhemingway.blogspot.com

While in Europe, Franz Kafka and Conan Doyle were making strides with their amazing creations.  The Castle and The trail by Kafka made sure that he became the most popular Non-English language author of the era while Conan’s new books on Sherlock Holmes made it a great decade of books.

Another form of art that came in popular culture in that era was cartoons. Winnie-The-Pooh made his first appearance but it was The New Yorker Magazine’s first edition on 21st February 1925 that brought America’s very art, culture, humor and literature in the forms of cartoons. Both Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s stories also featured in The New Yorker.

Released on 21st Feb, this is the first ever cover of The New Yorker Magazine

Released on 21st Feb, this is the first ever cover of The New Yorker Magazine

The influence of cartoons may be phased out from the magazine now, but The New Yorker kept influencing the modern fiction. Authors as popular as Truman Capote, Jhumpa Lahiri, Murakami, J.D.Salinger, Stephen King, Ronald Dahl featured their best works for the magazine. Also the influence of magazine in the cultural journalism has been second to none.

Just like The New Yorker magazine, the jazz age is the symbol of the modern culture.

 

Hope you enjoyed the post. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

A still from 2012 adaptation of The Great Gatsby book

A still from 2012 adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

2015- In Books (Thanks Goodreads for keeping the tracks )

 

Goodreads Year in books

Goodreads is definitely one of my favorite website. I visit there everyday, to view what other readers are reading and get inspired to read more. This year, I managed to read 47 so far ( It will be 48 before the year officially ends), and I credit goodreads from where I discovered most of the tittles and filled by To-be-Read list.

 

Here are the books that I have read in 2015 ( Screen short from the goodreads report )

2015 books 1

Books without cover on the above picture
  1. Tamarind History by Sundara Ramaswamy
  2. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Favorite reading moments of 2015

  1. Discovering that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is also an excellent short story writer (Do read his Strange Pilgrims to experience the magic of his short-story writing)
  2. Finally completing Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell after 5 months. Just like well aged whiskey, this book is suggested to enjoy in small pegs.
  3. Speaking of small pegs, Invisible cities by Italo Calvino is a book that you can read a page a day before you sleep. You will be smiling in your dreams, I can assure.
  4. Can the greatest authors of the genre  collaborate together and create a masterpiece? The answer is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
  5.  Finally read the books by Hakuri Murakami and understood why his fans are like his fans (I read 3 books by him this year- none before. So, am I in that club already ? )
  6. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes proved that even tragic memoir can be a fun read too.
  7. The moment when I started reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It is my favorite book of the year.
  8. Naseeruddin Shah‘s candid memoir took me to 70s of film industry and it is the best book from Bollywood by far.

Do share your favorite 2015 reading moments and books. I will love to read your comments. And Merry Christmas everyone.

What is this story about ?

Picture via bvd.se/stories

Picture via bvd.se/stories

When I was younger, the stories always ended with a moral. A lesson with the each story was a compulsive necessity. At first, we were told the morals, and then we were asked to find them. Our stories had kings, queens, magicians, elephants, crows and beggars. The honesty was celebrated, the evil was shamed, the deceiving ones were punished and braves were awarded. Fortunes were overturned, the curses were spelled, the heroes were awakened, the gods were kind and monsters were slayed.

The stories changed as we grew older. The morals were not discussed anymore. No one missed them though because now our stories had adventures and conquests. The hero solved mysteries, undertook brave journey and outwitted the evil plotters. There were wonderlands, galaxies, jungles, deserts and caves. There were also apes, witches, smugglers, murderers and inter-galactic drones. The dogs could talk, the birds delivered the letters, rainbows were the highways- the good always won over evil, the Davids always defected the Goliath. The world was a happy place. But we were still in search of something similar from these stories- if not the morals, but still the virtues of heroes- the victory of good over evil and sense over stupidity.

The later stories demanded more from us as a reader,or was it the other way around?- A meaning, a symbol, or something we could relate with. Often, in these stories, we were part of something that was bigger than the narrative.Stories told something, meant something else and felt something completely different.

But what stories are doing now to us or in that order, what are we expecting from the stories now?  As we grew older, we demanded more from the stories and also stories demanded more from us. Not only the craving for seeking adventure, wisdom, hero’s journey and the inspiration is there but also the meaning and symbol to relate. Now we wanted more. We are looking for the world inside the stories to adopt us. We want to be the refugees inside the universe of the books we read; we want to walk in the shoes of the characters- we just want to borrow the eyes and the mind of the writer.

I trust that stories will keep evolving us and someday, we will be able to contribute in the amazing world of stories.

 

 

Man Bookers’ 2015 Books- Reviews

This year, the Booker’s Shortlist for fiction saw a good variation of books. Fantasy, local legends, historical fiction, diaspora and science fiction.

Every year, I try to read the shortlisted books but I fail to go beyond 3 books. This year also, I have read 3 books, and I am involving a short review of each of  these books in this post.

Bonus Read: Man Booker’s 2015 Shortlist 

A Brief History of Seven Killings 

Book Cover

Book Cover

It was not an easy book to read. There are several narrators who are changing the point of view in every few pages. It is difficult to picture each character clearly but it is not only the changing narrators and point of view which is the biggest problem for this book. To protect the authenticity of the characters, Marlon James incorporated the ghetto language of Jamaica of 1970s.  It might have worked well for him because he was the Booker’s 2015 winner for the Fiction category and is also highly rated elsewhere . His voice is unique but this book becomes a painful read for me. Reading A brief History of Seven Killings was nowhere a pleasurable experience and I rated it only 2 out of 5 stars on the goodreads.

 

The Year of the Runaways 

The book Cover

The book Cover

The year of the runaways by British author Sunjeev Sahota was not available on Kindle and hence ordered a hardbound book. The book came with the recommendation of Salman Rusdie on the cover, that is already good selling for likes of me who admire Mr Rusdie’s works. In one of the interviews, Sunjeev admitted that the first novel he ever read was Midnight’s Children when Sunjeev was 18 and since then “It was like I was making up for lost time”.He did catch up well to get his hero’s endorsement for this book.

This book captures the story of 3 Sikhs and 1 low-caste boy from Bihar who against all odds meet in UK. Their stories are not heroic. There are hardship and sorrows in their life back home and they decide to take an illegal route to immigrate in UK in the expectation of making faster money and returning to their homeland. It is ironic that this book is released during the major immigration crisis and it will be interesting to know how the western readers have received it.  It is fast paced but it is one dimensional-sad narration. There is not multitude of emotions and you know each time how the story is going to end. However, it is good effort by the author and rightly deserves the shortlist. I rated it 3 out of 5 stars on the goodreads.

 

The Fisherman

The first book from Nigeria that I have read

The first book from Nigeria that I have read

Originally, it was my first choice from the Shortlisted books to begin with but at that time, it was neither released in India, nor the kindle edition was available. Written by Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma, who is now resident of New York City, the fisherman is the story of 4 brothers in an Nigerian town whose life change after they go to fishing in the town river. Narrated from the point of view of 9 year old Benjamin, youngest of the pack.  Obioma in few pages sound like Africa’s answer to Khalid Hosseini, that is obviously a compliment to the young author. He managed to mix the mythical and traditional elements in the book, circling around one family but that can also be expanded to commentary to modern African problems- be it social, economical or political.

I rated The Fisherman 3 out of 5 stars on the goodreads.

Have you read any of the above books ? What are your views ? Please share🙂