Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)

of-mice-and-menOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

It takes courage to stand up and speak. It also takes courage to sit down and listen.

These are the words on one of my most favorite posters. What always keeps me hooked to these lines is the validity of the trait, courage, from both ends of the spectrum. It holds good, irrespective of the side one stands at. Whether there is merit in holding on or giving in, is a matter of perspective which often remains stranded on the crossroads of past experiences and future expectations. And crossroads always bear the mark of confusion, don’t they? Continue reading

Book Review: Embers by Sándor Márai (1942)

783505Embers by Sándor Márai
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

My fingers were interlocked around my Baba’s arm and my head was resting on his shoulders. I was stealing a glimpse of his face every now and then, convinced that the lines of exhaustion were going to creep upto his tongue any moment, tendering me an apology to relieve him of our evening chatter for the day. However, my apprehensions were misplaced. The exhaustion stood defeated in the face of the radiance that slowly, ever so gradually, filled his visage, displacing the fatigue like a magic potion, as he reached for the cassette player and put one of his most favorite songs in loop. He also fondly went on to explain me its meaning.‘Smruti Tume’, originally composed in Oriya language, is an ode to ‘memories’; in Oriya, the two words literally translate to ‘Memory, You’. The translated lyrics go like this: Continue reading

Book Review: Ulysses by James Joyce (1920)

516vwb46y3lUlysses by James Joyce
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some works are not written; they are lived. The authors write not with ink, but with breaths. Every breath that finds its way in, sucks in a piece of the world and releases it into the author’s being, letting it permeate, gauge, prod, absorb and contemplate, and packages it like a farewell gift onto the back of the breath being puffed out. And since the saga of this breath-taking game continues for a few years till the red starts blinking, we get a work that resembles distilled crystals, found at the end of a purification process of worldly chemicals.

Fuelled by my love for Stephen , when I instinctively picked up Ulysses to read last year, I knew I was entering a labyrinth of diverse and encrypted observations, thanks to its inescapably cult reputation. I was aware I won’t understand half of it. And I felt okay to be in that space. Continue reading

Book Review: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1914)

7588A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

APRIL 19 (Evening): Alright. This is insane. It has been almost eighteen, 18 (has more impact) hours since I sat down to scribble something about what is going on in my mind but the right words are still elusive. And this eluding is colluding my mind no bounds. No, I did not mean to create any sense of rhythmic rhyme here. Because life is no rhyme. And far from rhythmic. It is a battle – fierce, dark, compounded with many elements and munitions and machineries and what not. It is a forever raging battle where I always find myself fighting, well, ME. Yes, I am always up against myself. A Present ME vs A Future ME, A Strong ME vs A Weak ME, A Hopeful ME vs A Dejected ME, A Sure ME vs A Doubtful ME. The last one, seems, perennially raging, blazing like the eternal flame of a glorious soul. Ah, Soul . Why did I even write that word? While the whole world tells me it is the purest part of a body, the guardian of noble deeds and the first thing to leave a body that has rotten beyond repair, I have seen it the most corrupt. Continue reading

Book Review: The Waste Land and Other Poems by T S Eliot (1922)

400412The Waste Land and Other Poems by T S Eliot
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thomas Stearns Eliot. A lot is hidden between those three words. A whole world perhaps. A depth measured by many oceans, a mystery viewed from bewitching lenses, a song marrying numerous notes, a candle thriving on inexhaustible wax.

During his writing season, that spanned over three decades, T S Eliot penned many evocative and luscious poems, with his pen always leaving a signature cryptic mark over his dotted sheets. Often a source of delusion to an enthusiastic poetic heart, his labyrinthine lyricism was like a lashing downpour on a parched heartland: one surrendered to the torrent at the risk of bearing undecipherable strokes on one’s soul. I belong to this clan. Continue reading

Book Review: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912)

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My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

As long as we breathe, we live. We do not possess the power to embrace death at will. So, we live. And for living, we cling to a purpose. The purpose may be clear or clouded, animate or inanimate, expressed or hidden, stable or fickle but we have it nonetheless. Even the person accused of leading a purposeless life is surviving on the shredded purpose of vagrancy.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that even Gustav Aschenbach, notwithstanding the fame and dignity safely held in his bag of accolades, gropes for purpose in his new found state of ripe mind. Nothing is a bigger curse for a writer than to have hit a plateau from where all the previous works appear a distant dream and the present air leaves nothing for the fertile imagination to latch on. Continue reading

Book Review: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1929)

41Ba82VmcdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dear Mr. Rilke,

Assuming it to be a frequent phenomenon with you, I partake in pleasure and liberty of appointing you the receiver of yet another letter, from a besotted admirer of your wisdom and expression.

You see I have always felt that the best stories are those that we wish turned true; stories that uplift us with their depths and spring us back to the surface to stay afloat; stories that carry our thoughts in their seams and weave the most warm blankets to protect us in the winters of life; stories that complete the half-drawn picture, packing us to a destination of solace.

But above all, a story works best when the mind inking it knows its reader like a best friend; knowing when to let her be and when to rejig her. 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

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: The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)

The StrangerThe Stranger by Albert Camus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when we bump into a hive of sticky words that seem delectable on the surface but grasping them blurs the lines etched in our minds? How does it feel when some kind of hurricane is unleashed on our notions that were, until now, not subject to acute ambiguity? It’s a bit harsh actually; voluntarily letting oneself meander into alleys which have danger signs dangling at every short step, at every dark window. But the human mind is a peculiar, peculiar creature – it’s as much ours as it’s free.

I met a certain Monsieur Meursault in these alleys yesterday. Continue reading