Friday, October 30, 2009

Bookshelf and Bookmarked (October 2009)

Finished the First Women in Love by D H Lawrence in August. Then work got the better of me. Read Identity by Kundera over a flight in September. After that…some short stories by Balzac (end September) – not yet finished. Were quite bleak if I remember well. Then came Dan Brown…Lost Symbol. Then Pushkin – Queen of Spades collection. Then Nocturnes – which I finished last week. So October has been a good month.

On the bookshelf - Infinite Jest (started the same day when kindle arrived. Am just 10 pages deep in a 1000+ pages book). Also reading (unkindled) - the art of the novel by Milan Kundera (got more suggestions on the kindle list) and Consider the Lobster...(Wallace) and writings of E B White (charming) and finishing up the short stories by Balzac. We are sometimes tempted to write as Mr. White writes.

Striking, interesting stuff registered recently on books read (may be colored still):
First Women in Love
– Broken notes. Lawrence writes like someone I’ve never read before.

Some notes from the time I started reading the First Women...
I like the book. And I am humbled by the depth of thoughts of almost all the characters in the book. Somehow, I realize that the way Lawrence looks at life through the lens of all his protagonists, it leaves you a lot richer in terms of new ideas (given the recent readings I have done) – This seems like discovering a new Doris Lessing. I like the voice, the tone. Soliloquies are interesting and so are the dialogues. And you realize that you have so much to learn about the craft, so much to discover, it leaves you hungrier for more such texts. I think, given the last book I read (Revolutionary Road), which was a novel, though beautiful in its own way – the way Richard Yates uses language and approaches situations; Compared to that, this book definitely gets categorized as a literary classic. I am joyful, at the opening up of more such rich experiences, to savour more of Lawrence's works.

Notes post finishing the book -
He is on a slightly higher level of awareness about the world. I guess, as a writer, one is supposed to be. Otherwise, how does one observe, capture and convey in simple terms the thing that is so complex. So far, so good. Most writers are on a higher plane of awareness. What distinguishes Lawrence from the people I’ve read earlier including Lessing is the way his characters are also on a much higher plane than may be the people I meet on a daily basis. Or maybe, the people are talking about their innermost thoughts, even movements of thoughts, motions, changes, how one thought leads to another and not just an action – and that’s why it seems different. Its not what people talk about on a daily basis. Hmmm but then didn’t Lessing also record something similar…the innermost? But maybe, it is the time that is different….but I’ve read other books about England during that time. Ok, its not just about the same time. Even Archer/King/Brown are in the same times as Kundera/Marquez/Lessing….but the things they talk about are different…the material is different. The viscosity is different.

Identity – Milan Kundera picks up a thought and turns it into a dream like novel – you don’t know the difference in the material. If Archer/Grisham are water, Lawrence is thick lotion/potion, and Kundera is like smoke – hazy, difficult to catch, elusive, filling up the room but still not what you can put your hand on, or in.

The Lost Symbol – pros - the extent of knowledge, the things you get to learn. But was quite saddened…it didn’t resonate. I was saddened by the way it turns back to look at something which was and which doesn't seem to be the right way instead of looking forward – getting lost in rituals when all that matters is faith – that kind of thing. But he sells and makes movies…as a story, good fun, fast - but what it talks about sometimes borders on the thing I can talk about for ages and still wonder (life, its origin, beyond) to things that can be classified as absolute crap (sacrifice – fine, but ritual of sacrifice?)

Nocturnes – Ishiguro -New discovery. K picked it up. Quite interesting….good part is it’s a quick read. Sometimes it leaves a sad taste and sometimes, an unfulfilled question – what happens? What would have happened? No way to know or to google. You just leave the question, and try not to look back and move ahead to the next story. A lot about music. Since I know just so much about music, think I may have not understood the full depth of some of the stories…just followed the story lines. He can be quite funny at times and then quite unfulfilling at certain other times. The book kept talking about piazzas, cafes, coffee, the artistic life…which, just because is quite inaccessible becomes more desirable and interesting. Liked reading it.

Queen of Spades…Pushkin - like the other Russian guys but a much more flowing story kind of thing rather than ruminations or thoughts or viscosity. Old times type/ recording stories. The beauty is the stories have such a different subject matter and are set in a different time and land…that makes it interesting and worth spending time on. More Pushkin soon.

Howard's End by EM Forster

This is the second Forster book that I've read. First one was A room with a view - which, I remember liking. I thought the theme can be easily picked up and a Hindi movie made based on that and even suggested so to some people who actually make movies...to be told that there have already been some Hollywood/European adaptations of the book.

Howard's End was closer to a movie than a theme (esp. in the end where the coincidences get too much to handle). I got reminded of The Joke (Kundera) and how one seemingly unimportant incident completely changes the lives of people around it. Something of the butterfly effect, chaos theory...but more coincidences than chaos. It also is about families and how people in a family can be clubbed together on certain traits. I tend to differ there. Liked some of the people, liked it to be ahead of its times in some ways, but then Forster's heroines are so much different from Jane Austen's - maybe a century between them explains it. I quite liked Margaret but was quite disappointed when after 30 she loses the penchant or the inclinations towards the mysteries and wanderings and wonders of the inner life and comes down to earth.

Overall, the coincidences are of the type that happen mainly in movies or in books where things end the way you wish them to end and most of the times, you wish for the perfect ending, and how does one know it is perfect? ..because most of the time in a book/movie you know what is happening in everyone's life and what is going on in their minds and you can play the pocket God and make people fall/meet, change/ understand, which, out in the world, the inefficiency of part-knowledge and the negative efficiencies of speculating on what goes on in people's mind makes the whole thing meander away from may be, what is the perfect close. And no one knows the perfect close as no one knows the universe.

This was my first book on my Kindle and a pretty pleasant, refreshing and quick read for that. There were a couple of instances in the book where I laughed out loud. Finished it yesterday evening as we touched down on the Mumbai tarmac. Liked the experience of reading with locations (instead of pages), and a constant bar showing my progress, and an in built, no-movement-away-from-the page-being-read dictionary. Though old world in certain senses (There is no touch!!!, the display is not backlit, so night-time reading without light not possible, though I can synch it with my iphone) but charming in its own way - and the strain on the eyes is equal to the strain of reading a printed page. I look forward to more kindling.