On Rousseau’s ÉMILE, or the Making of a Real Man

emile rousseau.jpgYou cannot help but pity poor Émile, condemned for no reason to a life of solitude and friendlessness, except for a grown-up pervert (read tutor) who is both know-it-all, comprehensive guide book and highly-evolved CCTV camera, and who is bent on making a junior double of himself out of Émile. From a little after infancy, Émile is literally surrounded, saturated, and manipulated by the sole presence of the sly tutor-master who claims to be Émile’s friend and equal. The child is like clay that can be worked into anything; and as far as clay is concerned, it is not hard to read. For fear of misleading him, Émile is not taught religion, morals, fables, stories of any kind, nor allowed to engage in solitary excursions, chit-chat, gossip, play with peers, chill time with the ladies, and in short, Continue reading

Awkward is Special: On Reading THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

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In the company of a hypersensitive, overanalysing, melancholy, first person narrator who rambles on about his boring school life (sounds like me), reading Perks is tedious work. He goes on about the special people in his life, such as everyone, including a devious sounding teacher who lends him novels and makes him review each one. As it turns out, the teacher was genuinely interested in helping develop Charlie’s writing skills. Because Charlie is ‘special’– sounds ambiguous and unfair.

I guess the book’s fine as a psychological case study, as most contemporary bestsellers are, such as We Need to Talk about Kevin; this one tells the story of a boy whose traumatic childhood memory

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On Three Tedious Authors

To the point.

For instance, Marquez is an over rated writer. Merely having force-fed myself Love in the Time of Cholera for academic purposes, I might not seem to be the ideal candidate for judging Marquez. However, after having attempted to read One Hundred Years multiple times and having failed miserably each time, I pitch the blame on the author for putting off a reader thus. There is no better judge of an over rated author than a competent reader whose competency has been crushingly thwarted by his panoramic, luxuriously sprawled out narrative. Marquez’s birdie-eye view of history sweeping across centuries and generations feels like you are caught in a labyrinthine family tree and you are entitled to take a break every now and then, every generation or so. Continue reading

Spectacular yet Tiresome *Bunker 13*

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Bunker 13 by author and journalist Aniruddha Bahal is remarkably insightful and surprisingly annoying. The novel offers unusual information on an astounding plethora of subjects, including the Indian army, weaponry, paratrooping, flying, drugs and their comparative upshots and downshots, double-dealing, drug trafficking, seduction, antiques, furniture business, terrorism, and corruption. The rhetoric is Americanized with a  fair amount of four-letter words liberally bestrewed throughout the book. This is alright, because the authority and wry humour of Bahal’s language seem to require a worldliness and sophistication that only Western slang can provide.

The second person narrative style, however, destroys your composure and fills you with a deep longing to get out of your skin or better still to get through the book as fast as you can. You feel misrepresented and victimized, forced to watch an imposter Continue reading

On Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple

colorpurpleIf I said I liked the book, that would be dishonest. It seems I need to find fault with revered and iconic works like a disgruntled ape, immune to finer emotions and subtle unspoken thoughts, seeing only the words on the page and nothing more. I admit there is a kind of spiteful pleasure, a schadenfreude, in railing at ‘canonical’ works. However, I am not decrying the novel completely; it is a gripping read, startling, enlightening. Celie’s sorrows are saddening and her narrative endearing. Nettie’s memoirs are informative, her style apposite for an educated, practical, in-the-world-kind-of person. The contrast between different narrative, linguistic styles is the chief highlight of the book, in my view.

Moving on to the more exciting part, the mudslinging, I figure the book lacks something–something that holds the whole together. The novel’s appearance of unity seems a strained one, especially more so, with its ‘neat’ closure. Wrong is righted, evil repents, lost ones are reunited, sorrows give way to exuberant happiness. So what is my point? Am I an instinctive hater of happy endings? Whatever, but still the fact remains: the denouement is too tight. All loose ends are knotted, the inextricable knots are unraveled, and like Eleanor Jane and her baby are shut out by the coloured group, the firmness of the novel’s conclusion is depressing, alienating.

Nevertheless, this could be in tune with the novel’s sustained concern with spirituality; nature redressing wounds, history erasing grudges, the cycle of life restoring, reversing, and redeeming. Even so, this tale of self-righting sorrow which promised an experience so harrowing simply vanishes into thin air, leaving you flummoxed and a suspicion of somehow having been tricked. You had got so far out of your way to empathize with and inhale the heavy air of sadness that permeate Walker’s language, when the dream-like pace of the rest of the story–where you abruptly come across the characters in their old age, chatting tranquilly about past events–unsettles you at the least. You ask incredulously, That’s it? Whatever happens, everything will turn alright at the very end?

Rating: 3/5

Thoughts on VERNON GOD LITTLE

220px-vernon_god_little_coverDBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little is a good read, once you get used to the language and peculiar structure of the narrative. The place-time coordinates are so haphazardly indicated that they are of no help at all. The result is you end up being caught unawares when something happens; the present situation gives no clue of the impending menace of the future. At one moment, Vernon appears to be in control (the reader too by extension), the thing that you are supposed to be hiding from is at a safe watching distance from both protagonist and reader; in the next moment, however, you are caught, exposed, like in a Kafkaesque revelation, and you realize that Vernon, with his poor eyesight and miscalculation, have all the while been subject (like Truman) to a ubiquitous Gaze, that interprets your every movement with the cold, smug finality of a reality-show jury.Thematically, the narrative strategy is quite efficient and appropriate, though it also unsettles the reader like Orwell’s 1983 does. There is neither captivity nor liberty, only an extended term of parole; You are being watched continuously, unceasingly–what the Gaze sees, it judges–if you are ‘innocent’, you will look it–unless your innocence is ‘obvious’ to the enlightened, ‘media-literate’ hoi-polloi, who can vote for your death or life as they choose, you are, by default, culpable.

CLOWNIN’ Rating: 3/5