Having spent exactly 2 months at home, with nothing very concrete to do, till I go off for training, I had assumed that the summer would be one of bliss and contentment, which in my case, nearly always involves me reading my way through many, many books. Allowing for a moment of hubris, I think of myself as Lotus eater-cum-book worm. a lotus-eating worm. I am sure they have a name for it.
Imagine my surprise, shame and shock (alliterations will be the death of me, I am sure) today, when, as I sat down to do a month-end audit (or rather two-month end audit) of how far I had gone down my list of summer reading, I discovered that I was pitifully penurious. In spite of having all the time in the world, and a great variety of material to read, I found out that i was woefully under-nourished in brain food. It could be because of my recent and frankly speaking, alarmingly vigorous liking for books in the electronic format ( the range available and the fact that they are free smother any cries of ‘piracy’ or ‘what about the feel of real paper in your hands??’ that might arise from the inside of my book-lover’s soul) and that I could now simply leave a book half-finished and not have it sneering at me from my bookshelf. It could also be the fact that i have made a conscious effort to expand my diet, reading-wise.
Whatever the case, I undertake a resolution to devote more time to my one indulgence from now on. There is so much going on out there that I have no clue about, there is so much reading left to do. It is a most encouraging prospect.
Meanwhile a list of what I’ve managed to finish for now, in no particular order. I might be doing reviews for one or two of them soon.
1. Neil Gaiman- The Ocean At The End of The Lane:
Gaiman returns to the adult fiction format after 8 years. The rust shows. The psychological acuteness is still intact, but for me, the sheer joy and sense of wonder that his storytelling provides is, I dunno, missing. You get the sense that he is putting down rather less on paper than what he intends to say. I don’t know how good that kind of restraint is for a writer whose primary virtue(for me, at least) lies in “showing” me things through his writing that I would never have thought of before . Maybe a re-read and a review would help crystallize my feelings for this book . Still, it’s Gaiman, and as a purveyor of pure ‘storytelling’, he’s surely better than a lot of people writing the mindlessly commercial soft porn-fantasy-BDSM-faux realist stuff they pass around under that tag today. And how beautiful are the covers (both of them)! A re-read and review definitely.
P.S: I also managed to re-read The Graveyard Book, American Gods, and Good Omens. Awesome books, all of them. The Graveyard Book, especially, being the coming together of two incredible artists- Gaiman and Dave McKean.
2. Gaiman, Dringenberg, Keith et.al- Sandman #1-#75 + Specials + Death:
I am not too sure if I can call this The Complete Sandman, since I don’t have some of the iterations and spin offs of the series. I had already read the canonical series earlier, but was missing the specials. Nothing that I can write hasn’t already been said about this- one of THE greatest regular comic series . Calling it simply a ‘comic’ would probably be a great understatement (if that isn’t an overstatement!) . This is the stuff of dark dreams and darker nightmares made real and tangible in exquisite, sharp, acute writing, gorgeous artwork; beautiful, complex characters (Delirium- such a mind-bending, multi-colored first crush of a girl/Endless!) and an almost unimaginably big canvas of concepts, stories and ideas to tinker around with (and what tinkering!)-coming together to form what could be a life-changing experience for the reader. I plan on coming back to it, again and again, like an old friend. As Death herself says ” You get what anyone gets…you get a lifetime”. Make sure you read Sandman within yours.
3. Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon et al.- Preacher #1-#66 + Specials:
Blasphemously, Devilishly, Wickedly,Godly-ly good. Brings the High Powers down to earth, and makes them roll around in the same filth and muck as their creations. Almost all of the characters here, except maybe for Tulip, are deviant, psychopathic, mother-fucking (sometimes meat-fucking, and I am not cussing away here, merely revealing minor spoilers) maniacs. And it’s all incredibly violent and funny and sometimes just flat-out unreadable. Also, Arse-face.
Definitely not for the faint-brained, hearted, or mouthed.
4. Mohsin Hamid- How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia:
Hamid’s last book ” The Reluctant Fundamentalist” was a pleasantly surprising read. Written in a first-person monologue format, the book was taut as a tightrope and the undercurrent of tension (Is he? Isn’t he?) was almost unbearable at times. The fact that you as a reader could only see one side of the story- the side being narrated through you, and didn’t have the benefit of any secondary supporting voices at all was a very tantalising and fresh twist on the “Unreliable Narrator” trope. And although I haven’t seen the movie, the fact that cinema is a visible medium, where things are shown to you, necessitates some compromises on the part of the movie-maker, and the tale ends up losing some of it’s delicious ambiguity and quiet suspense.
Hamid writes sparingly. His craft is honed with practice, the words whittled down to the bare minimum required, and it is this spareness that lends a stark desert-like beauty to his prose. He does not believe in tricking the reader with sleight-of-hand and fancy phrasing. Not for him the verbose flourish of his brothers-in-trade from across the Radcliffe Line. He lays it out, bare and each word feels worth its weight in gold.
The same stark beauty permeates his new book. Here again he employs a clever literary device- the book is, in fact, a “How To” book- a curious amalgam of biography,autobiography and dispassionate, un-involved third-person narration. Although Hamid stumbles a little towards the end and loses sight of where he wants to take his protagonist, and us, resulting in a meandering looseness of grip, there are many, many sentences scattered throughout “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” that made me stop, re-read and go “oh wow”.
P.S : Detailed review later
There are nearly 10 other books that I started off, and managed to not finish. I am too ashamed to list them down now.
My resolution thus, is to make public lists of books to read. AND READ THEM. I think making a topic out of it on a blog could spur me on, although I have no idea how.