Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Blast from the Past

My new adopted book club chose Catcher in the Rye for this month’s read.  I had read this some years back, but was was quite happy to read it again.  I remember my copy of the “original” book was picked up from a shady book shop in Pushkar, where apparently it was a compulsory read for all back packers. 

Holden Caulfield, the not-so-likable protagonist , seemed as interesting as ever, although I find it difficult to identify with him, now that I am a “bit” older.  The outdated colloquial words do not help either. But never mind.  A brilliant characterisation, now a cult figure, is fleshed out agonisingly well.  A much dysfunctional coming of age book, set in the 1950’s in New York, is a comfortable, although a disturbing, read.  I believe it is a school text book in some states in US, although I would find it difficult to recommend this to young and impressionable minds.  But then New York is New York. 

The people at the Book Club either hated it or hated it.  There were some defenders of the faith, but were easily shouted down.  It has been a long time since I saw this kind of passion amongst readers.  Which kind of shows the book still has a kind of hold on readers.

Interestingly the band Green Day has this character in their Basket Case.  Check it out on the net.

All in all, a good read. I was chuffed. Never mind the disbelievers.

Odds and Ends

Now that I have been in Kuala Lumpur for four months, things are settling down well.  The book club and the books help, but undoubtedly the charm of the place are the wonderfully polite people.  Sure some complain about the crime rate, but I will take that.  Bukit Bintang is a wonderful place to stroll around, and the Twin Towers overawe the landscape like nothing else.  I get a wonderful view from my living room, and get to photograph the landmark in all sorts of weather.  Here is one I took the the other day.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Colorless and rich

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and his years of Pilgrimage Haruki Murakami

This is my fourth Murakami book, and and the one I enjoyed the most. It lacks the trademark Murakami’s surrealist backdrop against which real characters operate, but more than makes up for it by its rich story telling.  The sheer details Murakami puts into his characters and the ambience are stunning.  The watch Tsukuru inherited from his father segues into a flashback of his relationship with his father wonderfully. And most importantly this is book which celebrates mediocrity as that essential glue which  binds society and people together. 

Tuskuru describes him self as “ An empty vessel. A colorless background. With no special defects, nothing outstanding. Maybe that sort of person was necessary to the group.” 

To which Ao, his friend,  responds; “ ...having you there, we could be ourselves.  You did not say much, but had your feet solidly planted on the ground, and that gave the group a sense of security.  Like an anchor.  We saw  that more clearly when you weren’t with us anymore.”

Absolutely brilliant stuff.  We celebrate extroverts and people with outsized personality - people with brilliant colors- while underestimating the role the quiet performers play. Murakami’s salutes such people.   Other such moments in the book- finding your calling in a modern society - “ It is all trial and error, and eventually I was able to find my own niche.” 

Murakami at his best.

I am quite happy to go along with this new phase Murakami is sketching out in his writing.  Maybe he does not meet the expectation of his followers who expect more of the same, cult writing, but Murakami comes out as a much more vibrant writer, and like Tsukuru, unafraid to keep his feet on the ground while talking about the space  colorless people fill so competently.

I did feel though that the book should have ended a couple of chapters earlier.  The final chapters, stretched out the story of Tsukuru coming together with his girl friend, the point which was succinctly made much earlier.  A later ending added nothing to the story.

Odds and Ends

The 2014 Man Booker prize Shortlist and Winner

To rise again at a Decent Hour - by Joshua Ferris (My favorite)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flangan ( Winner)
J by Howard Jacobson
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
How to be Both by Ali Smith
We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

Delhi Chronicles

Now that I have relocated to Kuala Lumpur, I should rename this Kuala Lumpur Chronicles, but that would be doing injustice to the Delhi-wallah blog. Flying back from KL over the weekend, the smog over Delhi was visible miles away.  Clear skies till one hits Delhi, and then the lights of Delhi, with an overhang of haze.  Like the one hanging over Mordor with Sauron in full swing cooking up something nasty.  One of the the world's most polluted city? No wonder.