Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - The kindled and the unkindled

2009:
Total 32 books. (Yes, happy. :) )
Since the kindle arrived - 6 kindled, 4 unkindled.

List follows:

  1. QnA - Vikas Swarup
  2. Nine Stories - J D Salingar
  3. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  4. Love, Again - Doris Lessing
  5. To catch a butterfly - Vivek Kumar
  6. Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
  7. Curious Case of Benjamin Button - F. Scott
  8. The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
  9. Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri
  10. The runaway Jury - John Grisham
  11. The Dip - Seth Godin
  12. Paths of Glory - Jeffery Archer
  13. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  14. A room of one's own -Virginia Woolf
  15. A room with a view - E M Forster
  16. The Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
  17. Three Guineas - Virginia Woolf
  18. Identity - Milan Kundera
  19. The first Women in Love - D H Lawrence
  20. The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown
  21. Queen of Spades and other stories - Pushkin
  22. Nocturnes - Kazuo Ishiguro
  23. Howard's End - EM Forster (Kindled)
  24. Murder in the dark - Margaret Atwood
  25. The wife and other stories - Anton Chekhov (Kindled)
  26. Selected Short Stories - Balzac
  27. Never Let me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro (KIndled)
  28. The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison (Kindled)
  29. Chariots of God - Erich Von Daniken (Kindled)
  30. 2001: A space odyssey - Arthur C Clarke(Kindled)
  31. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  32. The land of Green Plums - Herta Muller
So come to think of it, only a few - may be 4 or 5 are books which K would have read. This year, thankfully, he picks up his reading - and most of the times we read different stuff. Apart from the above there'll be couple of score of short stories - new yorker, elsewhere on net, once in a while ft exclusive.

A few points for 2010 -

  • Read more. Yes, the one book per week has been a target for last few years - but, someday, rather some year. 2007, 2008 - I read some 25 odd books each. Halfway. So 2009 was better. But I have bought a lot more, so lots to unkindle and kindle.
  • Read more K-read stuff - Larssen, soon. But somehow I and K meet only at a few authors. The people I like to read are quite different from K's style. But am happy to explore - that's one of the things about first few days in Jan - you are more open to considering new things, new ideas. Hope the attitude stays.
  • Read more short stories - No problem with that. K has recently ordered more contemproary short stories from Flipkart. And I get my New Yorker gift - 40 odd assured apart from the fiction issue. I really love the short story form.
  • Read diverse - New and old.

So far in 2010,
1. 2010 - Odyessey two: Yes, Yes, I spent the first two days of 2010, reading 2010. And as always, Arthur Clarke was fun. Unkindled. More on the book later
2. Still reading - Remains of the Day. I like the narrative style - fresh. More once over. Just 100 pages down. Hopefully as the second week of 2010 ends...
Next in line - Other rooms other wonders (short story collection), Steig Larssen :), And some more on kindle.

Score keeping over.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I do not remember reading much of Sylvia Plath’s poetry – She is known more for her poems than her prose – and then the way she died. This is the only novel which she published during her lifetime.

About her writing – Very involved, compelling, drawing you in. This is one of those books where my hypothesis that for the first 20%, you need to work on the book and then, the book works on you stays disproved. In this book – from the first page onwards, the prose draws you in. I guess, poets have a much better command over the language, the scene, the emotion – and in few words, they convey things and feelings which a routine author will take many pages for.

Her writing is beautiful. When I started reading it – I could identify a wee bit with the protagonist – just a wee bit. Then the lady’s life spirals downwards into depression and then the book becomes a treatise on suicide or contemplating ways of suicide, then it translates into an inside out view on asylums and mental homes and the inside out view on the mind of a mentally deranged person – call it a person who has given up on life, because there is no other differentiating feature apart from that – between the normal and the demented, its just the will and the willingness to stay occupied and play upto the idiosyncrasies of life. The normal has it, the demented thinks it is fruitless. Who is right? – Who is to decide?

What I liked most in the book? Her analogy of her life as a fig tree – where different figs represent different things that she wishes to do with her life – one fig about her turning into a poet and a professor, another fig – going to Europe and studying further, one fig – to get married and have children, another one – to stay unmarried, one more fig – to live the NY life of a fashion writer. The point being, she is sitting under this fig tree, thinking of which fig to eat- she thinks hard because choosing one fig is precluding all the other figs so she should be careful. All are mutually exclusive events. She calls herself neurotic because she wants all these figs at the same time. She dreams that she is still trying to choose while the figs dry one by one, shrivel up, darken and fall down.

A poet writing prose is a treat in terms of metaphors, articulation, capturing the moment – they are so precise and they give you a full, sumptuous meal of emotions on so few words. Good part is that the book ends at a slightly hopeful note, otherwise it would have been difficult to bear.

This one is my holiday purchase, unkindled. Finished in one day. Am on to Herta Muller’s Land of green plums now- where the heroine again sounds a bit like Sylvia Plath’s - just a wee bit. This one is more poetic, bordering on the styles of people like Marquez, Atwood (through whatever I’ve read of her) – poetic prose, disjointed pictures, portraits, landscapes, woven together – am just 50 pages in, yet to see how it turns out. Its set in Eastern Europe, sometime around the world war, in the times of dictators and innocent people in torture camps and in times of curtailed freedom. The strife for life is so different in such times – its not about the pay packet, the next car, the next holiday, but about the whiff of free air when the mind is without bonds, and a longing for the times when the sky can be seen through unmeshed windows.

The one by Sylvia Plath is set in post war US – females have just started going to work, just started to be treated as almost equals, and they arrive at the same conclusions about life as the Wheelers in Revolutionary Road did – its tough in these less interesting times – the present times, no wars, oppressing mediocrity and strife to equate oneself with the rest of the world. Isn’t this whole drive to improve the per capita GDP so that rest of the economy would flourish - another kind of socialism in capitalism’s disguise? Losing the individual-ness, missing the point, toys again to keep ourselves occupied and away from the unanswered questions. And the tough part is one has to deal with the ennui and the boredom without sounding bored, otherwise the risk of being tagged a demented in this world of normals. Good book.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2001, 2010, Odyessey and Holidays

Reading updates and...well, book buying updates. I wish all the book buying updates get quickly translated to books unkindled. But no, they take their own sweet time and there are 100 other things which need to be completed before one can relax and curl up with the book or the kindle. No cribs. Year end time. Time to reflect, time to get cliched and think of all the good things you have and all the good things that you'll do with your life. No cribbin can sure be one of them.

Finished reading a small one - 2001, a Space odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. On the kindle. All this while, I have been spotting 3001, 2010, on bookshelves but somehow 2001, the first of this series was always unavailable. So when a friend shared this book, the soft copy, I started reading it and this one surely didn't fail to impress. Somehow, since I watched Avatar also during the same time (One real fun movie. Hats off to imagination, to the shoot - at one point, I stretched out my hand to touch the jungle foliage. What I liked most - screwed gravity, magnetic mountains or floating mountains). So, the point is, some of my 2001 is mixed with avatar in my mind. But what I liked most about the book - the way Clarke approaches the prehistoric era - the learning ignited by external forces, or rather the idea of engineered learning rather than human beings inspiring themselves to evolve. The real fun part is when you try to juxtapose the situation in today's times. What is the situation? - this really really old times ape -man who can just think of the immediate thing, food for the day, fearing the night, the wild...and nothing else. One fine day, the monolith arrives - and this ape man gets hypnotised/suggestive hypnostism by this monnolith which gives this being a new idea, a new desire for a healthy, safe life and literally was putting concepts in this ape-being's head. Even things like throwing a stone or eating meat to save himself - which the ape man couldn't even imagine he could do....freeze frame. Now, try to imagine all those things (out of the box) which you wouldn't even imagine you can do...difficult, but still try doing it. And then imagine you can do all those things. the potential, the power, the power of potential. Deeds cant dream what dreams can do. Time is a tree, this life one leaf. Mr EE Cummings, you were never more right.

So thats the beauty of these books and people like Arthur C Clarke. Content apart, even concepts like these act as a spark for the firepowder in your own head - and the extent of the imaginations is Beautiful. I really like such books. Douglas Adams, Clarke, Cameron, yes, Avatar is beautifully imaginative, its a fresh way of looking at things- you just have to be ready to believe anything and leave all the earth given prejudices, nay, civilization given prejudices behind.

All this - just for that sweet sense of wonder - and that overpowering sensation that one doesn't know who rules, who runs all this, one can't even imagine what lies beyond this small little planet of ours. Happy with our toys, occupied, living life as people ask us to do it, lost in this huge random web, made complicated by our own choice - and not even a second spent to justify all this! Not many people feel its wonderful, but that's ok, wonder and awe, like beauty, lie in the eyes of beholder.

What happens after 2001? Next book is 2010. I don't have it on my kindle. The one which I have is 3001. So - next visit to airport for the holidays, I buy it - and not read it. And meanwhile, given its holidays, more coffee and bookshop stuff - and i end up buying more stuff - latest ones are Herta Muller (land of green plums), Sylvia Plath (bell jar) and Ishiguro -remains of the day. So yes, all these about toys and life on this planet -me too away from my wonder stuff. You need the right setting :) Not sure whether I'll finish anything in 2009 - if I do, it should be one of the above...that reminds me, I have to do a book count for 2009. Don't have my notebook on me right now...those updates saved for later.

Looking forward to 2010 (the year, the book), and more reading. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cosmic Latte

Finally finished something.

Finished reading the Chariots of God by Erich Von Daniken (Kindle). I have written enough about my thoughts on the unexplained...but to talk about the author and the book, definitely interesting.. but dated. Talks about certain things again and again. The weaving together of misplaced artefacts with conjectures on early astronauts is awesome. But still, it just opens a small channel. There are still so many possibilities which are not captured.

When I was younger, in my teens, I used to dream about writing a book - 101 ways of interpreting the universe :p. The sheer number of probabilities and possibilities make 101 a really select set - let the imagination go wild types. The desire is still there - the execution is missing. I remember I even started a blog - cosmic latte - inspired by the 'color of the universe' but could not sustain it. Someday :).

What I liked about the book - the fantastic-ness, the creative thinking, the research, the disruptive/ out of box thoughts, the humility
What could have been better - Am biased here, but more on the Asian culture and the rituals. Come to think of it, all the symbols in the Vedas and the epics...they refer to such fantastic thoughts but given our abilities to accept and to not accept certain things, we ignore them completely. So many more ideas can be developed just on those lines.

Too tired to do so right away :). Finding it difficult - to recapture my earlier thoughts. Too much of readings on Markets, Investments, financials, Visa docs and too early in the morning i guess. More sometime soon.

BTW the count on kindle is 5.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Unleashed horses of the Chariots of God

Saturday night. One of the very few Sat nights when K is away, kid is asleep, and have taken out K's Mac rather than picking up a book or the kindle. Spent time browsing, what all - FB, some music, some poems, some bit of non-serious pending reader updates, some book blogs and ...nothing else and hrs lost. Why am I not writing about the kindled stuff...? Nothing much to update.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. As I thought, finished it pretty quickly. Interesting way of writing the book...been a while since I finished the book, don't remember my exact after thoughts, but I do remember her acute descriptions, the stuff that she captured so sharply which actually sets up the time and place in front of your eyes. Regarding the emotions...somehow, post the book am left more with wonder rather than sympathy for the characters.

What else? Started reading the Catcher in the Rye and Chariots of God, and Fever and Cloud Atlas. Yes, I am not decided yet and haven't been reading. For the first 1/5 of an average book, its an active effort - you have to pick up the book and put in some reading work. For the rest of it, the book captures you and difficult to leave it till its over. So am nowhere near the first 1/5 mark.

Chariots of God - this is non fiction, book about the kind of things and thoughts which are my favorite time pass and a continuous source of wonder. Pondering about life, God, stars, UFOs, aliens, our place in the universe, here and beyond, beyond of beyond, what are we, were God aliens? This book (on kindle) ties up some of these thoughts beautifully with some actual evidence and tries to weave them together to lay out a beautiful mish mash of imaginations, new thoughts - some new, some corresponding with my own conjectures. The other day I was looking at the Hubble Photographs at the Big Picture...and it left me thinking - but there is just no way of knowing who we are, or how we came to be or why is this universe so huge - and still whatever we seem to comprehend of the universe may be a dot in another such universe. Or maybe as soon as we are able to comprehend something, we realise we have just started to imagine, and its like looking in a mirror which looks into another...to infinity. Imagining infinity. Difficult. Another way to look at it, think of the known world, known human powers, known capabilities...the ability to think is the best of all abilities maybe...still it is just the first step in an infinite ladder...the next ones may be telepathy, teleporting, or may be all this is just a drop, a ripple and we are existing in something locked in time and space...looking up at stars spread across the sky, each one at an expanse of a few million light years...it is like looking at time itself. May be some day, it would be easier to comprehend that time is just another axis, and that there are more such things. It is like there is some water trickling down a huge wall, whatever we think and know is that trickle of water. Somehow we do not realise that the trickle is from a huge ocean behind that wall...we hear it all the time, but since we hear it all the time, we do not think about it. Anyway, does thinking about it helps? Our daily problems are very very different...and maybe a way of keeping ourselves busy so that we do not think about the ocean beyond. But sometimes, just sometimes it surfaces, gives a hint, a glimpse, and there is a flash - you can see through and through and then you realise - all this is a mirage.
Depressing, K says, when I talk like this. But think about it, this is more like possibilities..a promise beyond this pale blue dot of ours, a promise that all what we go through is insiginifcant and there is a world, where all that matters to us is intact, or all that matters to us cease to matter to the universe. But yes, this can be depressing to think that the human species, the earth - with our sense of self importance, of our love of treating ourselves so seriously, the war, peace, money, economy, gold, oil, coal, love, hate- are just an accident in a massive scheme of things and the universe would have been no different even without us. Huge blow. But we need our own anchors, and our seriousness is our anchor.

To life. And to its inexplicability. It sure would have been boring if we knew everything. More fun like this. Rest - keep guessing.