The Great Gatsby

Posted by Divya at Monday, April 26, 2010 4 comments Links to this post

It was recently that I had come across the term 'Lost Generation writers'. I must admit it was a little intimidating to brace myself to read Fitzgerald, for I had expected 'the Great Gatsby' to be a bulky classic requiring months of laboring to complete. And like a pleasant surprise (I run the risk of sounding crude saying this) - the book is small and better still an easy read as well.

The narrative is first person and told my Nick Carraway who incidentally was in the first world war, probably like the author himself. The story in itself may not be out of the ordinary, but it is the narration that sticks to 'first-person' that makes it interesting; that is, Carraway only narrates things he knows of, any speculation about someone or something is purely his point of view. The story-teller is not omnipresent, but someone like you and me.

That said, the narration is in most parts satirical. The story is set in the Jazz age and a period when 'prohibition' was in effect in America; but this does not stop the protagonists to access to  abundant liquor. The general motif seems to be to emphasize the unfairness in the world. He brings it on paper through the references to high-end parties, west-egg and east-egg lifestyles and the classes. It is easy to imagine the cruel undertone of NY which to date remains very familiar. I did indulge in some wikipedia reads to get an understanding about America during this era of 1920s, so that I could figure some of the references in the novel.

Like an immovable force is Gatsby in the book, the rags to riches lad, the stupid lover, the doormat; all of this is known from Carraway's point of view, while Gatsby's real background remains a mystery almost throughout the writing, till the end. The initial tone of sarcasm slowly gives way to disdain and gets darker as the novel progresses. One is left to distrust Carraway also at times, for he is not a reliable narrator as well, with biases, frustrations and everything human.

The end is cruel, but it leaves a piquant after-taste, something you neither pity nor find heart-breaking. And simply like the vile world he projects, close the book and get on with your life. The world that has got no time to care...


Posted by Divya at Monday, April 26, 2010 0 comments Links to this post

This is my first graphic novel of recent works. Having not read Satrapi's more popular Persopolis yet, I wasnt sure what to expect from this terse book. I had assumed embroideries would be in the lines of a quilt-club of women and I was almost right, except for having guessed 'Embroideries' completely wrong!

The setting is a tea-klatsch ; There is the redolence of tea brewing in the samovar, a gaggle of  intriguing women and the warm ambiance suited for unending talk. With the motto of "To speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart" this strange clique presided by Marjane's grandmother settles to narrate stories that are even better than gossip, for they are gossip at its best.

 The main topic of conversation is surprisingly about sex, experience they have had or known others to have had. the stories flow as easy as conversations and are at the same time heart-breaking and funny. The things common to the stories are obsession to being a virgin when the woman marries and deception of men.

As the samovar warms and many rounds of tea is drunk, the stories turn to many confessions and mishaps that are laugh out funny, but equally tragic. Satrapi's ideas, and drawings are amazingly fresh. It is refreshing to see how much she depicts with the stroke of her hand and limited words. There is no real motif in the entire book but a culmination of dialogues, representing the woman's world in Teheran that is no different from the west.

It is a charming little book, with so much told and yet untold painting a vivid picture in our minds. You will love the characters and caricatures without much effort and may be even find yourself in the party.

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.....

Posted by Divya at Friday, April 23, 2010 1 comments Links to this post
Married to a HP-series lover, didnt give my hubby much of a choice, but to be coaxed to movies he didnt make sense of or dragged to watch the Harry Potter exhibition or be prepared to hear quotes every now and then from the books....

So a few weeks back, he finally decided to give in. And we began the one movie per week saga and are down with four and two more to go... until the wait for the 7th one releasing in Nov. Let me confirm that he has turned a fan, but wouldn't admit! :)

Nothing cheers me up more than the HP series ever! Although Rowling started taking many liberties towards the last couple of books and ended up in an incrementally uninspiring writing with the bigger books.... the books are a clever revolution and I thank her for giving us a chance to discuss her world that never fail to take me to my school days and happy place....

So.. now that I have N to discuss HP with... I can say
"Mischief Managed"

The girl with the dragon tattoo

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, April 20, 2010 1 comments Links to this post

I wanted to read this book as part of Orbis 2009; but the wait at the library extended 7 months and so I finally made it for Orbis 2010!

With enough good reasons, this book is pretty sought after, although my feelings about it are rather mixed. There were instances I devoured holding-my-breath-gripping, but a few pages that bored me to yawn. All in all, the book makes a great read for someone with a liking for murder/drama/thriller genres very much in the likes of Sidney Sheldon and James Patterson.

Larsson, fills the first and last 40 pages with the the protagonist Blomkovist, the financial journalist, and his quest to oust the fraudulent business tycoon. These details seem more like fillers and are not a fully developed storyline; especially the last 40 pages rant on without structure. I believe they were simply added to give Blomkovist's character shape and purpose. Although he disappoints a tad with the libel/financial journalism side of the book, he more than makes up for it with the murder mystery that brings Blomkovist with the Salander the other protagonist together into a fast-paced, yet gripping suspenseful hunt that covers most of the book. Further the author does take liberties to introduce Salander's past in a nasty sidetrack and projects her entire character with the incident of a lawyer who tries to abuse her.

Larsson generously strews sexual libidos, casual sex and intimacy problems with the characters, never really explaining any nor letting the reader understand. Some of the relationships he spins, like the one between Blomkovist and his business partner Berger is almost fantasist and confounding; but definitely entertaining!

Aside from these intricacies he seems to have missed or didn't care enough about, the murder/missing person hunt of Harriet, the heir to the Vanger clan is a fantastic piece of writing. The way he clubs Salander's photographic mind and natural abilities with Blomkovist's investigative inclinations is a real masterpiece. When Henrik Vanger the octogenarian retired business baron hires Blomkovist for the investigation he explains that his family as - "They are for the most part thieves, misers, bullies and incompetents ", you will eventually realize that is such an understatement! The reader does take a while to warm up to the Vanger family tree and follow the investigation with constant flipping of the page to match names with the family tree; the mystery is truly intriguing, that in the middle, I found myself taking notes to solve it.

Even though the book is a work of fiction, it does throw light on the Swedish ethos. Larsson, pins on the fact  that women are often ill-treated or abused in Sweden. He doesn't help erase the image of Sweden being a nation of depressed and extremities. For a moment, it almost seems like every man in his book other than Blomkovist, who is under the age of 70 has abused a woman atleast once. Secondly, I had not known of the Nazi uprising that had silently risen and subsided in Sweden during world war 2; the author doesn't harp on this fact but mentions it in passing. Thirdly, the Swedish seem to be ardent coffee lovers; so much so that, there might be atleast as many mentions of Coffee, as the number of conversations in the book. Sometimes it is so addictive, that you might want to brew some yourself before settling down with the book :)

I would definitely recommend reading this book, even though it has its share of gore, depression and extremely dark angles. If you want a fast paced book for your long journey this one fits the bill. As of now, I am not sure, I want to read the second book in the trilogy, for fear of finding it to be on similar lines! But may be I will pick it up on a day, when I want some entertaining read, without wanting a feel-good or literary craving.

Library Love

Posted by Divya at Monday, April 12, 2010 2 comments Links to this post
This week is apprently the National Libary week in the US.

I cant but stress more on the importance of libraries for the world in general. And I am a regular at the library in my town. The public libraries are totally well connected and offer many more services than just books. The one in my town has an entire section for children and promotes reading among them by organizing story times and the likes.

So this week, why not give that book shelf a glance; dust out the books you read once and tossed to the bottom of the pile and would never be motivated to read again. Why not donate them to a library and make someone else's day by getting them to read the book?? Or simply pay the library in town a visit and borrow a couple of books.

Happy library time everyone!

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