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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Book Review: The Fox Was Ever The Hunter by Herta Müller (1992)

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The Fox Was Ever The Hunter by Herta Müller
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Imagine your heart is a sheet of paper and Müller’s words, the needle – and then, let the typewriter go berserk. Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang. The words hit you, one after another, and her ink doesn’t run dry. The angst, the rage, the lament, the despair takes on unstoppable force and goes pinging on your heart like a tireless hammer – only it is a needle and the prick seeps into your blood like it has found a home.  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: 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: 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: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (1972)

236219Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

You landed in my world on a calm, dewy evening
And struck was I with a song I was about to sing;
A song that lay hidden in the silhouettes of each letter
That protruded from the cover, all poised to embitter.

But waited I, patiently, under the light of the mundane day;
You see, Mr. Calvino, I had a knack of seeing your way.
Fusing the curious with the depth, and peppering them with some humor too;
All too often, you had served, a world that was both fictional and true.

So, on a fine evening, when all your cities rose, at once, to a noisy chatter,
I exited my world and entered yours, as it was now, an urgent matter. Continue reading

Book Review: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie (2017)

41msjhwrrsl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here.]

The world has turned a cacophony of unrelenting voices, where people in high offices as well as pedestrian consorts battle every day to be one up. The lines have blurred as issues have bulldozed their way, against most conventions, right into our living rooms, and administrative, as well as clandestine, powers are clashing regularly, and vehemently, across continents over the fatal flames of terrorism, corruption, religion and human rights. Bringing together these critical elements under a sprawling tale of love, ambition, deception and collapse is what ‘The Golden House’ is all about.

On one silent day, when Nero Golden, the enigmatic, octogenarian patriarch of a family of four, tip-toes into a lavish mansion in downtown Manhattan, the neighbours’ antennae go up without exception. Nothing is known about the family – its past, its roots, its business, its relations. Continue reading

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

61ug-qlo6nl-_sy346_The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

[Originally appeared here: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/reviews/review-the-underground-railroad/articleshow/56417934.cms?]

Shaping a work around the theme of slavery and its many tentacles is a bit like shaping a lump of rigid clay into something cohesive and stable. On one hand, excessive pressure on misery squashes the vein of the narrative and on another, a voice too rebellious, hollows out the inherent pain of its victims. Drawing that line which does justice to this divide is certainly not an easy task and that is precisely where Whitehead shines.

‘The Underground Railroad’ is an allegorical tale, spoken through the life and times of Cora. Her grandmother, Ajarry, from Western Africa, was a worker on the sprawling Randall plantation in Georgia, where, eventually, she passed on the tarnished legacy to her daughter, Mabel and granddaughter, Cora. Slave owners measure their success in the amount of tyranny they exert and Randall was not the one to walk against the league. However, 16-years old Cora was made of sterner stuff than most around her and harboured a burning desire, every instant, to break free. Continue reading