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Posts Tagged ‘Bibliophilia’

Back To The Future

April 27, 2010 3 comments

For a long long time I hadn’t read any science fiction, although it was one of my favourite genres. Last week, on impulse I took up Alfred Bester‘s The Demolished Man. Once started, I couldn’t put it down and finished the novel in a few hours. Talk about reading at the speed of light!

Futuristic New York sets the stage for this psycho-sci-fi where mind reading capabilities of telepaths called peepers have successfully averted crimes, especially murder, for the past 70 years. Ben Reich, owner of Monarch Enterprises is haunted by nightmarish visions of “The Man With No Face” whom he identifies as his business rival D’Courtney. By enlisting the support of corrupt Esper Augustus Tate, Reich manages to murder his competitor, after his attempts at reconciliation are rejected. During the subsequent murder investigation, ace peeper and sleuth Lincoln Powell discovers that Reich is the murderer and sets about building the case for his “demolition”. His quest for the murder motive, method and opportunity are repeatedly thwarted by Reich. Just when Powell has gathered all evidences for Reich’s conviction an unexpected turn of events renders the case invalid. Powell comes to realize that his adversary is unconscious of the real murder motive and that he could prevent further disaster only at great personal cost.

The central characters of the novel are subtly nuanced – Reich is not the archetypal villain and Powel is not the typical saintly investigator. Both have their flaws and redeeming qualities. The battle of wits between the two men and the surprising celestial twists and turns keep you glued. Bester ensnares your attention and keeps it till the last word. The end is unexpected even though one could make out its vague outlines from the several clues scattered over the pages. Overall, an excellent piece of sci-fi, with a social message which could be realized only in the realm of imagination at the moment. Future beckons…

 Comment: Excellent read if you fancy science fiction

Categories: Bibliophilia

Kafka on the Shore – Sparkling Bullshit or Baffling Erudition?

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

This novel is kind of weird. It is populated with strange events – fishes and leeches fall from the sky for reasons left unexplained; and stranger characters – a diabolical whiskey mascot, a fast food icon masquerading as a pimp, a crow of a conscience, two frozen in time World War II Japanese soldiers guarding the entrance to a parallel world deep inside a jungle and more. Two concurrent plots converge briefly and part ways, the connection between them vague, tenuous.

The chief protagonist Kafka Tamura is a 15 year old boy with a suffocating emotional baggage, who runs away from home seeking to escape a dark prophesy. Nakata, his counterpart in the parallel narrative is a self confessed retard who talks to cats. Pried loose from his quotidian existence at Nakano ward, Nakata is driven by mysterious fate into a metaphysical journey of revelations, to set the universe back in order. Other characters, most significantly the transsexual library assistant Oshima and bellicose yet conscientious truck driver Hoshino, guides and assists Kafka and Nakata in their respective journeys. The novel is interlaced with several philosophical observations and the author’s opinion on various subjects, especially music.

Quoted below are the ones that I found most mystifying:

 “But people need to cling to something, they have to, you are doing the same, even though you don’t realize. It’s as Goethe said: “everything is a metaphor”.”

 “everything in life is a metaphor. We accept irony through a device called metaphor. And through that we grow and become deeper human beings”

 “But irony deepens a person, helps them to mature. It’s the entrance to salvation on a higher plane, to a plane where you can find a more universal kind of hope”

 “Man doesn’t choose fate. Fate chooses man. That’s the basic world view of Greek drama. And the sense of tragedy – according to Aristotle – comes, ironically enough, not from the protagonist’s weak points but from his good qualities. People are drawn deeper into tragedy not by their defects but by their virtues”

 “A revelation leaps over the borders of the everyday. A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need to do is move from reason that observes to reason that acts…”

 “that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through limitless accumulation of the imperfect”

 “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory”

There are many more, some makes sense some don’t. The refrain, “everything is a metaphor” recurs throughout possibly to emphasize the allegorical nature of the novel.

It was difficult for me to identify closely with Kafka. Miss Saeki in her real and spiritual manifestations did not touch a chord. In my opinion, the characters closest to reality in the novel are Hoshino and Nakata (despite his bewildering capabilities). This is not a book easily understandable on the first reading. There are a medley of situations and characters, some apparently superfluous – the prostitute philosopher and the coffee shop owner who postures as a western classical music expert for example. Aside from expounding the author’s  philosophical stand or opinion on music these characters do not appear to have any bearing on the plot. The import of Beethoven’s Archduke’s Trio to the storyline is also completely incomprehensible to me.

A complex fabric of  myth, mystery, magic and realism – not really endearing on the first read, but worth returning to – that is how I would describe the book. On the positive side, the language of the English version is simple and dialogues crisp and flowing, thanks to skillful translation by Peter Gabriel.

Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami

Categories: Bibliophilia

Bibliophiliac

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m addicted to books. I buy books, I download e-books, I occasionally borrow books (and return them of course), I have filched one or two from my college library (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) which I regret now, but I seldom read them. There are countless books on the shelf that I look on with remorse and fondness. Sometimes, I take an unwholesome pride in showing them off, as if having those titles on my bookshelf is proof of my intellectual superiority. But if anyone asks an opinion on a book all I can ever come up is “Hmm, yes it’s a good book” or “Oh, that’s a lousy one”. Don’t ask me the reasons.

But, all said and done, I would like to read them all some day. Only that, that some day never comes. Of course there are some books which I’m almost afraid to pick to read knowing that the endings are sad; there are many which I’ve begun, lost interest and kept back.

Is there are right way to read? I have a book “How to read a book”. I barely managed to read it and forgot it’s message the instant I returned it to the shelf. Nowadays, I read mostly travel books. Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron, Eric Newby, Michael Palin, Bruce Chatwin and a few others. Bruce Chatwin and Colin Thubron are empathetic, Michael Palin and Eric Newby are endearing, gentle. Paul Theroux’s observations are laced with sardonic malice, I feel sometimes, but his books are fun to read. A sinner is much more interesting than a saint.

The book I’m reading now is Colin Thubron’s “In Siberia”. In it, Siberia  retains its mysteriousness. The brutal history of the land and it’s people is gradually unfolded as he travels across this snowbound domain. One meets vagabonds, a Rasputin lookalike, orthodox Russians, fledgling Buddhists, the ice princess, the horrors of gulag, wanton exploitation of the land, poverty, hopelessness and tragedy. Even though I’m sitting in the quiet comfort of my drawing room, I travel the trains with him, walk lonely streets, pick through the rubble of defunct mines or gaze across the waters of Lake Baikal.

Sometimes I’m accused of reading without reflecting and I know that I’m guilty of that oftentimes. Still, I believe that reading has changed me in many ways for the better. And I thank providence for giving me this gift even though I do not use it well.

Categories: Bibliophilia