HAPPY BIRTHDAY, C S LEWIS!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Lewis!

I always have a lot to ask you rather than tell you; you confuse me well after all! A life resembling a sine-curve sans the regularity has placed you in a certain pedestal in my world onto which my eyes are capable of seeing only a part; lot remains hidden. For I wonder; what exactly made you write The Screwtape Letters when you were a devout believer of the Lord? Was that a work for the world or more for yourself? Was your protagonist, the Devil, a manifestation of your dilemmas that kept you on the border of theism and atheism? After all, you had seen a lot. You were living in a time that was witnessing a transformation; and every change of such nature turns many long-held beliefs into much abhorred casualties. Continue reading

Book Review: The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis (1942)

The Screwtape LettersThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where do I begin unloading this colossal bag of thoughts that are raging in my mind since yesterday? Well, my friend, you seem to be the victim today. So be it. Don’t term me evil; it is just the scent of one, I lived with for the last five days.

Actually, this work is hardly anything except for a bunch of letters, from a senior to a junior; it is nothing more than a series of succinct correspondence, gathered cannily and disbursed even more astutely to the promising newbies. Now, have we all not rubbed shoulders with atleast once such genial senior in our lives? Incidentally, this exchange happens to be between Uncle Screwtape and Wormwood who, well, under a generous dignity granted by Lewis, call themselves “Tempters”; I refer to them as Devil (Spirit). And they are up against “Him”; the one who lives in the churches and to whom the world attributes its goodness and life.  Continue reading

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEFAN ZWEIG!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Zweig!

I am so glad to have met you this year. Through your stupendously masterful Chess Story, you got into my book world like a summer rain; unexpected but alluring. Discovering multiple angles of psychological reflections in a slim novella of 80 pages was like hitting a jackpot; that sudden halt one comes to during a leisure walk at the sight of a sparkling diamond. The multiple facets of its work bore also a resemblance to your upbringing and the belligerent environment you spent most of your life in.

There is something so serene and beautiful in your writing that I find all my senses inadvertently active, most of the time; they work quietly to create a cognitive lattice within which I discover known and unknown fabrics of human emotions, touching each of them to feel their texture and holding many of them, close to my heart. Continue reading

Book Review: Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (1941)

chess-story-novelChess Story by Stefan Zweig

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Wanting to play chess against yourself is a paradox, like jumping over your own shadow.”

But what fun is life if words like manic, insanity, paradox and contradiction are not put to test once in a while? Even at the cost of years of discipline and rationality?

Stefan Zweig surely put his own constructs up the wall when he created this ingenious piece of art. Yes, it was pure art; outright splendid form of art that overwhelms the realms of conventional thinking and forces the mind to stretch itself.

A World Chess Champion, heralded as one of the best ever to play the game, in his casual quest of pocketing a few dollars, enroute to a tournament, encounters a sudden change of fortune, when a remarkable twist of moves from a rather ordinary looking, albeit a tad hysterical, middle-aged man, hands him his first defeat in many years. Continue reading

Book Review: Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry (2001)

Family MattersFamily Matters by Rohinton Mistry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.

Flipping through the pages, my heart leaped many times; those waves bearing the ring of countenance were from still stream but the ones with ripples of accusation roared thunder. Accusation? Accusation hurled towards whom? The fictional characters delicately brought to life by the stinging brush of the author or the guilty, manipulative, egocentric, conceited character of mine? Did my fingers pause typing these words defining myself? They did. And it also confirmed my worst fears: I am no angel and the pristine white enveloping me is a well-fabricated dwelling that I carry with temporary aplomb, aware somewhere deep inside that some of its bricks are turning cancerous by my vices.  Continue reading

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare!

Ah! It is your birthday, once again and an excuse for me to celebrate all that I have loved about your pen! The riches you have amassed over your lifetime make it almost unfair to other authors; I mean who can fill such huge boots? Not that the reader in me complains! I first read your work when I was a kid, 8 years perhaps? But I clearly remember the thrill that ran in my blood while reading King Lear. Experiencing that enmeshing of relationships to highlight various emotions driving life and gathering them all into a few pages of brilliant, dripping prose was scintillating! And since I shared a wonderful buddy-relationship with my father, the experience was heightened as I did a joint-reading with him. I read that work twice and I remember, discovering more meaning on my second reading. The book was a part of a thin collection of a few of your works (The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest and a few others) and by the time I finished them all, I was ready to relish more.  Continue reading

Book Review: Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert (1876)

Three TalesThree Tales by Gustave Flaubert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ever wondered if stark realities of life were humans, how would they converse? What would death reveal to Satan which may surprise agony? What may joy surmise on pain that might recall God’s support? What might greed and insanity bring to table worthy of discussion in peace’s eyes? Where would loyalty stand should all others be permitted to share the same house?

Flaubert embarks on a bold journey, by giving voice to these very boundless giants and drawing a territory around them by erecting three walls of formidable texture and strength, painted with magnanimous coats of deceptive prose and magnetic rhythm. Reverberating within their throes are three teeming groups of conversations – Continue reading

Book Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)

Wide Sargasso SeaWide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A few years ago, I happened to have a chat with an old friend. We were catching up after a long time and like most friends do, we picked up our favorite teen (innocent) crimes to gorge on. One of our best memoirs was of those sprints we made to the nearby movie hall to grab the tickets of a show at the penultimate minute of the show time. And we were suddenly overcome by the desire to relive those days. Since I was visiting her city, I let her choose the movie hall and the movie. She quipped that a certain film festival was running at one of the city’s best multiplexes and we could sneak in a show there. We checked the showtimes on their website, chose a show of a well acclaimed, classic movie that was a mere 20 minutes from commencement and yes, sprinted.

Continue reading

Book Review: Bonsaï by Alejandro Zambra (2006)

BonsaïBonsaï by Alejandro Zambra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What does a resonating journal do? Arrest us in the powerful aura of words? Dispatch us to the comforting cocoon of our memories? Render a blanket of dignity to our failures? Exhort our fledgling dreams to a palpable fruition? Cast a succor net on our isolated struggles? Attest our timidity as a prelude to stronger days?

For me, it’s essentially about reading about a distant ‘me’, the identity of this ‘me’ to be an inhabitant of past corridors or a tenant of future roads being inconsequential. As long as I detect a shade of me in the journal’s evocation, I am obsessed to read till the last drop of ink has faded. And Zambra doesn’t do anything much, besides telling me a story about Julio, who could well be sitting across me in this cafe and reciting the content, verbatim.  Continue reading

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY!

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I am sorry I fell sick and the birthday wish comes a tad belated, 6 days to be precise. But it is nigh impossible to have a week pass by without sending across my shout to you, Mr. D! You absolutely know how special you are, don’t you? That skill you have, ah! How envious am I of it? That wizardry of turning the mirror to reflect my darkest corners yet ensuring I never break the mirror in disgust! How clever, dear Sir! That surreptitious landing that you never fail to slip in, that soft cushion that you provide my feeble self while I stare agape at the unpleasant edges of my personality in your works – they all have a certain paternal feel to it. You are a wise elder whom I would love to share with people I think and wish good of. And even those I kind of don’t like all that much, so they fine-tune themselves to enter into my friends’ club! 😉  Continue reading