Book Review: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (2012)

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Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Forgetfulness was a gift, a talent to be nurtured.

In the war of remembering and forgetting, what side do we choose? Or do we choose at all? Isn’t life that, which happens when we are busy planning it? In the seductively opiated heavens of narrow-alleyed Bombay, a membrane-like life of a eunuch is stretched between her dreams and reality. The prima donna of a famed whore house, Dimple regales her customers with her melancholic eyes and business-like primness and efficiency. Wallowing silently in the memory of her departed lover, she wilfully insulates herself from her present state and instead falls back on books for sweet mental chaos. Come an unusually besotted patron one day and she switches her address in his favour. But does life change? Does the things worth remembering pile up and those worth forgetting, diminish? Continue reading

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Murakami

It was a rainy evening about seven years ago when I entered a book store. It was the perfect refuge – warm lights, thin crowd, a tea bar and loads of books. I marched to the tea bar, ordered a ginger- mint tea, placed my bag on a chair in the seating area and hopped to the alleys to browse for books while the tea was being brewed. Running my eyes like a squirrel, I was surveying the titles one after another when they came to a halt – they spotted a pristine white cover with a circular swirl in blood red. That is it. If the cover art struck me as a bored painter’s good night splash, the name at the bottom of it left me thinking. THE ELEPHANT VANISHES. Err… Has the elephant vanished into red-white whirlpool? What kind of a book could this be? And then, my eyes fell on the name at top of the band of the cover. MURAKAMI. Continue reading

Book Review: In Custody by Anita Desai (2007)

In Custody by Anita Desai
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

‘The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

It is befitting to quote Rumi to introduce the middle-aged protagonist of this book who sends swirls of a bruised dream into the air even while chugging along life with a rusted body. Deven, a teacher in the small town of Mirpore, finds his humdrum walk thrown off guard when his college buddy, Murad, a cunning fox and an accidental two-penny publisher, flummoxes him into interviewing Nur, a legendary poet of yesteryear and Deven’s idol in youth. Overwhelmed by the awarding of a chance so rare and fulfilling, his fan-heart heaves wild beats, that eventually begins sending tremors of discord and dislocation across his family, friends, circle and beyond.

His life suddenly becomes a series of road trips between Mirpore and Delhi, each carrying memories that ricochets off his present like belongings of irretrievable past.  Continue reading

Book Review: Nutshell by Ian McEwan (2016)

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

 

Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking classes of solutions.

This wonderfully sapient insight springs somewhere in the middle of this book and almost gives away the rationale behind McEwan’s choice of protagonist – a fetus.

Yes, this 200-odd pages of scheming a murder is seen through the eyes of a fetus from the womb of his mother, a party to the hatching game. The other party is her lover, who is also incidentally her husband’s brother. They huddle together in the former’s house, conspiring to kill the husband. Sounds familiar? Continue reading

Book Review: The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil (2017)

The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Aut insanit homo, aut versus facit. – The man is either mad or he is composing verses.

But what verses, would you say, emanate from the bosom of passion that borders on delirium? What timbre of voice floats in the smoked air held dense between intoxicating fame and inebriating oblivion? What fumes of rage charge the pen that knows its limits like a bird does the sky’s? Ask Xavier and he shall reveal the seething hearth, one ballistic verse (or painting) at a time.

When journalist Dismas Bambai embarks on expounding the poetic scene of post-colonial Bombay in an anthology, he excavates his known and obscure sources to put together the chapter on the Newton Francis Xavier. Xavier is a liar, a womanizer, a consumed painter. And he is also a loner, a masochist, a celebrated poet. Chronicle this 62-year old’s story across India and America, with cultural attendance of Bombay in full glory, is what the book does. Or not? Continue reading

Book Review: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2017)

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

Feminism – A rather commonly used terms these days, with interpretations far and wide, but not necessarily, coherent. If among contemporary writers there is one who imparts veritable meaning and clarity to this much relevant and pertinent ideology, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would be her name.

When a friend asked Adichie how she can raise her little daughter as a feminist, Adichie shared fifteen suggestions in form of a letter. And each one of them echoes so loud that it feels quite unreal to see these obvious orders missing in our societies. Continue reading

Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green (2017)

john_green_turtles_all_the_way_down_book_coverTurtles All The Way Down by John Green
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

The best paragraph of this book comes in the last chapter when Davis tells Aza why he chose to disclose a truth when hiding it seemed far more profitable for the stakeholders (including himself), and Aza accepts it without demur as if she saw it coming. In that one moment, John Green elevates his troubled protagonists to the admirable heights of selflessness and empathy, courage and love.

Green’s adept pen moves beautifully in sculpting his mains characters who reside at Indianapolis – the 16-year old nerd, Aza Holmes, with a obsessive-compulsive disorder, her hyperactive classmate, Daisy Ramirez, with a teenage fantasy fan-fiction series to her credit and her recluse classmate, Davis Pickett, with a penchant for stargazing. Continue reading

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Wounds must not be pitted against each other since it is not their severity but the victim’s reception of them that defines their impact on the body (and soul). So, I must not put together displacement and immigration next to each other for I haven’t experienced either (or so I think). But there is a little elephant in the room of ‘displacement’ that makes its abode more gruesome than ‘immigration’– that it is, without exception, enforced.

The young Saeed and Nadia hail from an unnamed country where the former is a praying liberal and the latter, an atheistic rebel. Their paths, however, meet and after all the dust of doubts and apprehension settle down, they find love. But guns find their town too, and soon, go berserk. Saeed’s and Nadia’s love story might have suffocated and withered under raining bullets and choking curfews and turned into an ordinary one had there not been the ‘door’. A door to exit. Exit West. Continue reading

Book Review: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (2014)

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Was it necessary to read ‘An Unnecessary Woman’? About a woman in the twilight of her life, a product of rusted times? A woman from a foreign land, and of foreign blood? A woman who offered pursed whimpers amid teeth that reeked soupy yellow? One with a musty room and a flickering temper? A borderline linguist who made peace with the unspoken word? She was nothing more than a drifting sprinkle of dust in this swirling world of men and ambition.

May be, it wasn’t. It wasn’t necessary at all to read An Unnecessary Woman. But I read it. And I read her. And read her more. Every page. Every day. Continue reading

Book Review: Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016)

Swing Time by Zadie Smith
My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li…]

There is something about every life: ripe with memories, rife with punctures, crowded yet distinct, deceptively omniscient but a puzzle to its only custodian. Zadie Smith’s narrator in ‘Swing Time’ attempts to hold this fleeting, substantial thing in her hand and poke it for its secrets over a good 35-40 years.

This is a story primarily about a brown girl in London, whose life arcs diverse places, people and emotions, keeping, somehow, another brown girl, Tracey, at its epicentre. Narrated in first person, she opens her rendezvous with Tracey at the tender age of seven, when all that mattered to the duo was dance, at which, Tracey was much better. Continue reading