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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

One adjective that I find apt whilst describing this novel is ‘Clever’. Yes, it’s a clever book, not w.r.t. to its contents but its mere structure. For me, reading this book was like reading two volumes which constitutes of reading Cloud Atlas and then reading Cloud Atlas Reviews. Now you see, With Great Books, comes Great Reviews and that’s why I read its thorough analysis by experts as well as regular readers those that are available on internet, that of course to quench my own thirst of completely consuming every nuisance this book has to offer and not being describe by something like this: “Come now, what’s a reviewer?” I reasoned. “One who reads quickly, arrogantly, but never wisely”. I wonder if it was a message from David to the book critics around the world. I can merely hope that I was able to read this book with the wisest level possible for me.

Its composition didn’t astonish me completely may be because I did my homework beforehand but it was certainly something that I haven’t read before. So there are six different stories unfolded through 6 different eras having their own individual cultural building blocks. Now the genius of Mitchell is clearly evident in his prowess of using completely different writing styles in each of the story, which IMO is an impeccable imitation by him. Another master stroke by Mitchell is that on reaching the second story, you start getting the gist of what Mitchell is up to and the curious reader in you has to go ahead without looking back.

So when I started with the first story, I was frustrated to the core with that oh-so-indecipherable English and since I was not able to get emotionally attached with the narrative, it became all the more difficult and led to a lot of digression but I somehow managed to sail through. Afterwards the ride was pretty smooth. I liked the reckless ways of Robert Frobisher, the indomitable spirit of Luisa Rey, the humor in the ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, the mastermind narrative about Sonmi-451 and the naivety displayed on part of Zachry.

In the last story though, a lot of experimentation has been done on part of Mitchell. It’s like he invented a language of his own by mocking the English grammar( For eg: If past tense for Say is Said then why the past tense of think is Thought and not Thinked, Nay *winks*) as well as the contemporary internet slangs with generous use of apostrophes. In fact, I read some parts of that story loudly just to hear how it would sound if brought under practice.

The structure Mitchell employed in this meta-fiction constitutes of interrupting each story abruptly and carrying on a new story having some connection with the previous one (read Incarnation) of the protagonists. Each story is treated this way except the last one which is continued till the end. The central theme is same for all stories that humans can be real jerks when exposed to power, money and superiority and wouldn’t cringe a bit on exploiting or betraying their fellow human beings in order to fulfill their greed. Their selfishness can lead to far disastrous results than one can even imagine. Here, in this novel however, Mitchell did imagine and what an imagination!!!

As a reader, it challenges you from every direction and it would be advisable to have a tight grip on each story in order to avoid the wavering from the main plot of one story or the other, but there are some loopholes.

I am not sure if the idea of incarnation was well executed or even called for. The culture I belong to, there are certain myths that goes around with reference to incarnation, like:
-A person is incarnated if he/she died an untimely death; or
-There is some unfinished business that must be completed in next birth.

But here, none of the characters had anything to do with untimely death or unfinished business except Robert Frobisher, but he died after composing his best composition. Rebirth is a more accepted point since it relates to Karma. Possibly Mitchell wanted to bring up an exciting angle, but it failed to excite me.

Another grumble is how easily the author gave away certain points within the novel that explained his further plans and also how vocal he became about whether his writing style would be revolutionary or gimmicky, which was kind of annoying. It snatched away from me that Eureka moment I wanted to experience and it somehow conveyed as if he didn’t have much confidence in his readers who won’t be able to understand what he is trying to prove. Authors of his mettle shouldn’t bother with interpretations and let readers decide what they want to render after reading such novels.

So all in all, this book is a 3.5 for me. I must admit that Mitchell is a genius at work with his innovative and unique style. I am surely going read rest of his works, and although cloud atlas was not that enriching experience as I expected it to be, it still stand at an altogether different level and has carved a place for itself amidst thousands of books that world has to offer us.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Review: The Old Man and The Sea

Reading this book is like reading one of those lessons from your English school books which you always find boring but nevertheless you need to answer the questions giving at the back of the chapter. From there on you would realize the answers that particular lesson demands are with reference to ideas or experience you never thought about while reading it. So this story is about an Old Man, a sea and his fishing expedition. I became particularly interested in Hemingway after watching Midnight in Paris in which his character is particularly glorified that makes you curious of reading his works.

I heard about his writing style and how brevity is one of its main characteristic and knowing that a book hardly 100 pages long one can easily finish it in a matter of hours but I was not naïve enough to complete it that easily. This book requires lots of patience which I somehow lost during the process of reading it. I empathized with the old man and that fish too, I understood what Hemingway is conveying through this work of his, but do I really care? That’s the problem; I couldn’t bring myself to care about either of them in a way that makes this novel readable or enjoyable experience for me.

I am not giving any rating to this book as I’m thinking of reading it again after some years but as of now, it’s nothing more than a short boring book about an Old Man whose senility was not at all endearing but rather pitiful.

I am a brand new Haruki Murakami’s fan and having read Kafka on the Shore as my first novel written by him, I found myself gripped under the surreal and unimaginable experience his writing provided to me as a reader. And that intrigued me to read another of his famous novels, Norwegian Wood. Before reviewing or rather I would say giving my naïve opinion on this book, I better start with my assumptions w.r.t this book.

When we read someone like him, we start expecting something new and better every time we read more of their works but along the process we tend to forget that there are very few writers in this world who challenge themselves to tread a different path and walking upon it too and that’s exactly Murakami did with this novel, whose popularity surprised him also.

So, it’s not exactly a Love story in the eyes of many, but someone like me who has accepted and marveled at the different kinds of love that exists in this world, it definitely is one and a beautiful one at that. It’s a love story with a pragmatic and realistic view on human emotions. But again, there are several other things murakami surfaced along with love, like rain and how it symbolizes sadness (IMO), like Death and quoting here: “Death exists, not as the opposite but as the part of life,” but in this book, Death exists as a part of this Book. It’s a character in itself and needs to be understood not in a negative sense of death because it’s simply not, quoting again: “I’m getting rid of anything from the past so I can be reborn in the future.”

Why one would hate this book, there can be many reasons but to love this book, one need to put themselves in shoes of Toru, Naoko, Midori, Reiko, Hatsumi, Nagasawa and Kizuki (who started it all). And then one can understand its true essence to cherish the two basic treasures of humans: Love & Life.

**** Stars

Review: Will Grayson Will Grayson

Well, firstly, the Title of this book should be “Will, Tiny, Will”, as clearly Mr. Tiny Cooper is having, just like his physical persona, a huge presence in the lives of both Wills. I started this book by accusing John Green of having written the character of Will Grayson *First* similar to that of Holden from Catcher in the Rye but accusation soon faded away as the story proceeded. The book is hilarious in capital letters on many occasions that earn it an extra rating point but on a whole you feel like witnessing a High School Drama where the ending is quite predictable and not at all exciting. Both Will Graysons are flawed personalities and it’s hard to like them but I guess that’s exactly what both authors expect from their readers. This book is about Love, loving yourself, loving others and loving those you love to hate.

While reading you remain in a state of confusion that whether you like this book or you find it an okay read. It made me laugh really hard at times and at times it bored me.It’s no more than a one-time read as I don’t expect it to come anyway differently on reading it again.

The treatment given to homosexuality is cool and easy going mainly because it has a main role play in the story. For me it’s a 3.5 because even after having its flaws it gives you a break of reading a different style of prose which is a mixture of various elements like hilarity, seriousness, philosophy, etc.

*** and a Half Stars

Review: Kafka on the Shore

There are two reasons as to why I chose Kafka on the shore as my first Murakami’s novel:

1.The name Kafka in the title (unconventional and erudite)
2.There are cats in this book and they talk and I love Cats (unconventional criteria)

Hence my journey began into Harukis’s surreal world of inebriating storytelling that has surely made me addictive. I was completely clueless as to what to expect from this novel and I am glad that I was, since contrariwise the subsequent experience I had wouldn’t have been that much fulfilling and magical.

It’s a common belief that when you read a book you not only read but live the characters and story within and since we have that much privilege then why not extend our geographical boundaries to a state of fantasy where anything and everything is possible.

Kafka on the shore provides you exactly that. One might feel being lost in a reverie and if you take a break from that you might ask yourself,OK…What the hell am I reading? But you go back to it like an adamant lover to his beloved. Such books are heavy on a reader’s mind and have its after effects too. One start vying for more and more and begin questioning a lot many things because after all Truth is the source of most Fiction.

This novel doesn’t come up as wholly solely metaphysical but a blend of reality and philosophy with supernatural (by that I mean, not all characters in this book are abnormal, but abnormality is also a reality for many) so that it remains at an acceptable level of fiction. The theme constitutes of 2 worlds here, that of the living and of the dead and how both are connected to each other. It transfers you to some hypnotic state where you protest every sense of reason inside your head and go with flow of haruki’s stream.

The only minor gripe I have is with its ending simply because it doesn’t seem like an end. Murakami leaves it to reader’s imagination as to what might have happened to Kafka after everything he went through (read Oedipus myth), but when the protagonist is a 15-year old boy and having his whole life ahead one can’t simply say “and he lived happily ever after”. I wouldn’t have mind reading hundred more pages to know about Kafka’s future life.

Well leaving that apart, I loved this book and also I love how he brings mesmerizing music into his works and treat it with respect and dignity which I feel are the kind of recommendations on his part to his readers because undeniably music has a powerful effect on human lives.

And I know after having read two of his novels, I am going to love all his works inspite of their flaws because sometimes such surrender is pure bliss.

**** Stars