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Clownin'

Remembering Myself, Travestying Time…and Phonying towards Perfection

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book review

On *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time* 

the curious incident of the dog in the night-timeA book I had read in a trance non-stop in my university library, a couple of years ago which I reread recently. It’s a great feeling to read a book with a protagonist that you can really relate with.  Christopher Boone is in that regard the closest I have come to relating to any fictional character (more than antiheroes like Kingsley Amis’s Jim, Holden Caulfield, the young Tom Riddle, to stretch a point). He’s almost like my pal, the pal I’d like to keep at a distance because neither of us likes overfamiliarity.  It feels refreshing to read the world so logically and neatly, to know some people do think this way and that most people are indeed muddled and berserk when they grow up. Continue reading “On *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time* “

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

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

Continue reading “Awkward is Special: On Reading *The Perks of Being a Wallflower*”

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 “On Three Tedious Authors”

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 “Spectacular yet Tiresome *Bunker 13*”

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

Living in DISGRACE


“… under the same silent far-off heavens, and with the same passionate desires, the same strivings, the same failures, the same weariness.” 
– George Eliot

jmcoetzee_disgraceJ.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace is a gripping page-turner; initially because of the ironic descriptiion of the life of a sensualist, or a modern-day Byron, exercising his ‘rights’, the manifold ‘freedoms’ of the individual, one of which may be the qualms-free succumbing to impulses. As the narrative moves on, every event is like an idea gone wrong, like honey turned foul, sickly pungent. The more you read, the sorrier you become, plunged unawares into the shared experience of disgrace that permeates the novel.

The disgrace of the old mixing with the young, the disgrace of being violated, of bearing the marks of that violation for centuries and generations, the disgrace of unwanted breeding, of being one too many, the many disgraces of death, of senescence , of the unshapely, the comical, and  the disgrace, ultimately, of being fallen — the Fall from power, dignity, independence, from one’s own. The individual enmeshed in this inexorable state of ‘fallen-ness’ is like the music of the toy banjo, which the haggard, disgraced ex-professor plays in accompaniment to Byron and Teresa’s ghostly romance:

“the voice that strains to soar away from the ludicrous instrument but is continually reined back, like a fish on a line.”

The energy of the narrative seems to slacken towards the end: the characters no longer the ‘actors’ but those ‘acted upon’. Perhaps Coetzee is enacting out the theme of disgrace on the level of narrative too; the lion’s share of the novel is devoted to consequences, movements post-action, the effects of actions ‘done’, spent, or to use David Lurie’s word, in the ‘perfective’. Things have been done — violation and violence performed, passion burnt out — what remains is the ‘dealing with’ them, the ‘taking in’, the slow accustomization to the smoke of lost, expired fires, the adapting to the past.

CLOWNIN’ Rating: 4/5

On DORIAN GRAY : Aestheticizing Life

“It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that.”

dorian-grayThere is nothing crude about Dorian Gray; everything is precise and spot on, nothing out of place, and nothing incredible. For the same reason, the novel is as unrealistic as a tableau.

Dorian Gray reads like a gothic allegory, with a drawing-room repartee party providing the backdrop. The characters are spectators of their own lives (“We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder of the spectacle enthralls us.”); art, literature, and life are inseparably interlinked that the spectator-character can look at a personal tragedy and evaluate the aesthetic perfection or lack of perfection of it. Even the most tragic of events, seen through this apathetic lens, able to  zoom in and zoom out at will, appear overdone or ridiculous, as mockeries of the real thing.

Its polished dinners, histrionic outbursts, sparkling conversations, picturesque deaths, and impassive intellectuality far removed from the sordid vulgarity of real life, all fall into place in a straightforward, undigressive Faustian tale. You can empathize with Dorian or Basil or Sybil (or Lord Henry) about as much you can empathize with the stock figures in a parable. This is not by way of fault, but the aesthetic prose of the novel describes, but doesn’t evoke, fascinates but doesn’t move you to pathos, and the words (or wordiness) themselves bar the reader from getting to know the characters or their worlds.

Dorian Gray is, if not brilliant, an admirable work precisely because it accomplishes what it sets forth to achieve.

CLOWNIN’ Rating: 3/5

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