Friday, February 17, 2012

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White TigerThe White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The White Tiger is an exception to my usual readings of post-colonial, anglo-indian writers that I have known and loved. While my big guns (Rushdie, Seth, Ghosh, Chandra etc.) dabble in magical-realism and genealogies, this book wanders towards social realism in a way that can be at times called demagogic. However, the story is riveting, the narrator very interesting and the emotions do, even though at times smacking of much too much sentimentalism, go somewhere real that we all share. The social concerns of the author are revealed openly in passages like the following: "[...] The story of my upbringing is the story of how a half-baked fellow is produced. But pay attention Mr. Premier! Fully formed fellows, after 12 years of school and three years of university, wear nice suits, join companies,and take orders from other men for the rest of their lives.
Entrepreneurs are made from half-baked clay."
Or in another passage, the author's philosophy, albeit "half-baked", comes through:
"Iqbal, that great poet, was right. The moment you recognize what is beautiful in the world, you stop being a slave. [...] If you taught every poor boy how to paint, that would be the end of the rich in India."

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Sense of an Ending

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having lost interest in Barnes way when England England was published, I had to read what the old bean wrote to win the man booker. The book starts in a pubescent haze that I enjoyed. After that period it took me a long time to get through the rest as i found it simply boring. A few nice aphorisms of insight do decorate the pages that actually raise the bar of its profundity if anything at all ("history is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation"). However the last few dozen pages hit me like a truck in terms of emotional content. Waves of sadness that is pleasant only when they are artistic flooded over and an age-old metaphysical bellow of humankind tried to rise up my throat. It was not the content in fact I couldn t narrate what happens even to intentionally cause a spoiler to surface. I was reminded of another phrase Barnes had put down in Flaubert's Parrot on the tragedy of man -i believe belongs to Balzac but I' m not sure- which went something like "mankind is like a clumsy bear banging on a broken kettle while actually trying to serenade the stars". Anyway, i don t know if this book is booker prize material but it nonetheless contains some niches of wisdom and sources of contemplation if nothing else that can only come from a seasoned novelist as Barnes.

The sen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From Thomas Hardy

Late Lyrics and EarlierLate Lyrics and Earlier by Thomas Hardy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The moving sun-shapes on the spray,
The sparkles where the brook was flowing,
Pink faces, plightings, moonlit May,
These were the things we wished would stay;
But they were going.


Seasons of blankness as of snow,
The silent bleed of a world decaying,
The moan of multitudes in woe,
These were the things we wished would go;
But they were staying.


Then we looked closelier at Time,
And saw his ghostly arms revolving
To sweep off woeful things with prime,
Things sinister with things sublime
Alike dissolving.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Possessed

The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read ThemThe Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Now, I have mixed feelings towards Batuman. Her scholarship is erudite and proper, no doubt. Her prose is fluid, lightly humourous and colourful, as much as a literary academic can be. However, what made this book a work difficult to trudge through for me was, to be crude, the uninteresting nature of her research and personality. I normally wouldn't include personality as a determining factor of an author's book but this book is largely based on her experiences while doing research on russian and russian lit and her travels in the old soviet republics so I believe I have the right to comment on her character. Apart from the last chapter that gave the name to the book, where she finally reveals a bit more sincerity of character, the rest of the text basically issues from a retentive narrator who is either really trying to conceal (both from herself and her readers) the depth of her emotions, or is actually a very boring person. However, in the last chapter we get a glimpse of Batuman's heart speaking, albeit still in the most reserved manner possible. Unfortunately her pastoral descriptions did not engage me, nor did her simplistic and superficial descriptions of her interaction with the characters of the worlds she encounters. It is as if she has taken up literary criticism not only as a scientific way of looking at literature but also as a framework that dictates her heart. Her relationships with people are cold, unassuming and marked with a distance that, to me, is just plainly immature coming from a graduate student of mixed origins
Her picture reminds me of my deceased brother so I still have a positive bias towards her but this book I hope is only a toddlers step in a future of truly genuine writing. On the other hand, there is no way I can take seriously the over-the-top praise on the back of the book. So, in general this book is not bad, though is dissapointing, given the rich content she has the opportunity to tap into.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Garth Ennis' 303

303303 by Garth Ennis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being my all-time favorite writer in the graphic novel tradition after Alan Moore, Ennis is right in his element in this mini series. Ennis is well-known for his extreme, sarcastic and cynically witty style as displayed in books like Preacher, The Pro, The Boys etc. but to me, his true calling lies in war stories. The series Battlefields, the two volume War Stories and even the farcical Adventures of the Bollock Patrol demonstrate his strange and creepy fascination with war machinery, strategy, weaponry but without an obsessive, fascistic and militaristic point of view. In fact what makes Ennis' stories so poignant is the balance he is able to draw between the truly heroic (!) esssence of human battle as been practised for centuries in its various forms and paraphernalia along with the inescapable paradox that it creates, which is the cruelty that man exacts upon man. Ennis is fascinated by war (especially the two world wars) but no matter how much guts go flying around the panels and limbs are torn to pieces in multicolor, Ennis never leaves the reader without a deep sense of sadness about [the misery that man hands upon man / that deepens like a coastal shelf] all the while praising some indistinct innate glory that physical conflict between bodies carry with them. This is why Ennis is a good writer: he doesn't try to solve the paradoxes of human existence nor does he pretend to have any ambitious certainties in mind, he just marvels at them with a compassion that is cynical enough to be seriously down-to-earth - thus to be taken seriously....

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Emmaus by Alessandro Baricco

EmmausEmmaus by Alessandro Baricco

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Baricco'nun büyülü diliyle bir grup katolik italyan gencin yetişkinliğe trajediyle adım atmalarını anlatan Emmaus aslında bir taraftan da isa yoluyla yetişkinliğe adım atan insanlığı, 'biz'den 'ben' e doğru yürüyüşü simgeliyor: "Bu kadar zaman ne olduğunu nasıl bilemedik ve karşımıza çıkan her şeyin, herkesin sofrasına nasıl oturduk? Küçük yürekler - büyük yanılsamalarla besliyoruz onları ama yargının sonunda Emmaus'taki havariler gibi yürüyoruz, gözlerimiz kör olmuş, yanımızdaki arkadaşlarımızı ve aşklarımızı tanıyamıyoruz, artık kendini bilmeyen bir Tanrı'ya güvenerek. Böylece her şeyin nasıl başladığını ve sona erdiğini biliyoruz ama öze varamıyoruz. Başlangıcız ve sonucuz - her zaman geç ulaşılan bulgu." (s. 55)
Baricco her zaman kolay okunan bir yazar değil ama bu kitap dikkatle tekrar tekrar okunmayı hakeden bir dile sahip...

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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Book of Enoch

The Book of EnochThe Book of Enoch by Robert Henry (R. H.) Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Book of Enoch is a transitional piece of apocalyptica (!) written smack between the passage from Judaism to Christianity. So you have Sheol and not Hell, no Jesus but yes Son of God and so on. Some of the texts are as weird as the heaviest of the Nag Hammadi scriptures but in essence, tell of the same story of the time briefly described in Genesis, when the Nephilim came down from heaven and took human wives and worse, taught men agriculture, metal working, writing and so on. An A-level text for all "they came from outer space" nuts :)

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