Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book Review: February 2010

I’m going to cheat now. I finished just one book in February. And then there were the Murakami short stories, which I won’t talk about here. But I also read a book called Kari yesterday that I can’t keep myself from writing about it. So it goes into last month’s review : )

So the books being reviewed this month are:
  1. 2 States by Chetan Bhagat
  2. Kari by Amruta Patil

2 States
Chetan Bhagat

I hadn’t picked up this book for the negative vibes that were generated by ‘One Night…’ and ‘The 3 Mistakes…’ I should have known personal stories are different though.

Make no mistake, I am in no way saying that technically this book is better than any of Bhagat’s other books. I mean I would never want anyone to use his books as reference while learning English…unless it was one of those spoken English crash course types. Bhagat’s writing is for the discerning reader, who can rise above the language and understand a story I think.

So yes, after a strong recommendation about how he had done a good job of portraying the two perennially warring factions of India, I decided to pick up the book for its potential to be a socio-cultural commentary. No, I’m not that much of an intellectual…it’s just that people, societies and cultures appeal to me.

And the book did not disappoint on that front. Having gone through the entire situation himself, his observations about the two communities involved couldn’t have been wrong. The book delights with accurate and hilarious descriptions of both the Tamil and Punjabi communities and rides the stereotype wave quite well. In terms of the stereotypes, the book isn’t telling us anything new and yet, it’s really entertaining.

Of course, there are the elements that, I’m sure, were added to make the book Bollywood-ready. There is the requisite drama and exaggeration. In fact, I can almost see the book as a movie in my head – it’s quite easy the way it has been narrated in good detail, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rights had already been bought. But if Bhagat is clear about writing for the screen and literary brilliance or immortality isn’t exactly his aim in life then that’s perfectly acceptable.

I do have to confess I couldn’t put the book down once I picked it up. It’s a story of people, a real one and that can never be ignored. He even rouses enough curiosity for the reader to wonder what happens next. And that makes this a very fast read once you have gotten over the fact that the writing isn’t too great in itself but the idea.

So all in all a pure entertainer. The kind of light read you want to pick up over a lazy weekend and finish off in that time frame.

Amruta Patil

There I was ambling through the aisles of Crossword when my eyes fell on the cover of this book. For some reason, I felt it necessary to take a better look and so I picked it up. It turned out to be a graphic novel, a category of literature I never thought I’d take to. But then there was text as well. And words like 'ad agency' flashed across the pages in some very well constructed sentences. I was halfway through to deciding I should buy it when my eyes fell on this paragraph in the book:

Because I had no politic. Means, I have no Burning Issue. Blurring genderlines? Bigotry? Cultural genocide? Dying planet? I can’t pick. My favourite form of movement is ‘float’. I stand for nothing. I espouse nothing but Ruth.

I have no politic too…for most part at least. I can’t really stand fanatics. About anything. I don’t understand blind opinion. Notice I don’t mix it with blind faith. That’s another story altogether and yes, convenience may be involved here.

Anyway, suddenly I knew I would relate to most of the book. Operative: Most. There were other things about the book too – we liked the font, the sketches and there was the fact that I had never read a graphic novel. So I decided to buy it.

And I am so very glad I did! This book is brilliance. In fact, I am going to do something I hardly ever do otherwise because it’s boring and also unfair to the book – I am going to list out my favourite bits from the book!

This novel runs with urban India in the background and is a story of a girl called Kari. Her life in smog city, her separation from Ruth (strong suggestions that Kari is lesbian lace the book), her life in the ad agency and with her two room mates, her being a boatman to a dying woman…I really don’t know what to say except that you should read it.

I can’t really say the writing is abstract but it is not coherent either. It is metaphor that thrills, I personally thoroughly enjoy this kind of writing and have half the mind to drop the author an e-mail (again something I have never done before). The plot can pass off for chick-lit but it is not…in reality this is bold Indian writing minus the sleaze. Welcome the new age author.

I picked up this book last night to leaf through it and could not put it down until I had finished it 3 hours later. That should speak volumes about how the book makes me feel. Enough said.

A very few of the many bits I liked from the book are:

The body rights itself mid-air, aligns itself heaviest part first. It is with the head, then, that I must meet death, though it was the geart that willed it.

Her last memory of the city must be an aerial one. Dark and ablaze with fistfuls of light. Them airport was a ford, and she crossed over.

A failed suicide is death still, because no one emerges from it unscathed.

Every day, the city seems to be getting heavier, and her varicose veins fight to break out of her skin. Soon we must mutate - thick skins and resilint lungs - to survive this new reality.

A city alters when a person leaves. It drops drawbridges, grows new roads, looks hairy at dusk.

Interesting that my postal address in smog city sounds like a pit stop in a fairytale. Where gold trees with silver boughs bear pomegrenates with real ruby seeds. Floors of marble, cielings of brocade. Place where twelve dancing princesses dance through the night until the soles of their shoes wear out.

Every Friday, at 10 PM, is the long call home. Mamma talks, I listen. When I get back home, the silence has teeth again. My bed feels as large as a football field.

We are constantly awed by the shelf life of her skin.

My thoughts keep returning to the city's lower intestine. To the gutters and hastily dug out canals that empty her bladder and swell her arteries with clean blood. I catalogue smells for entertainment.

That's it for this month. Happy reading folks : )

2 Thinkers Pondered:

Rohini Kulkarni said...

Thank you for the review Anupama. I'll pick up Kari by this weekend. Looks very interesting. No Chetan Bhagat for me. Sorry.

Anupama said...

Hey Rohini,

Thanks for the comment :) Hope you enjoy Kari...lemme know what you thought