Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 9781447268970
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 333
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I could have easily finished this book in a day. That’s what I normally do when I start reading a book and I am totally immersed in it. That was also the case with “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. I was gripped by the prose and the beauty of the language and I could have finished it in one day. But my journey or love affair with the book lasted for five days and I also know that it does not end here. I will constantly keep thinking of the book, and will also reread my favourite parts which I have marked and will cherish for a long time to come.

On the surface of things, “Station Eleven” might seem to be just another post-apocalyptic novel, but it is way beyond that. It is a testimony to us being human and more than anything else, to the survival power art can have in our lives and to a very large extent about the role of memory and how it can be, both cruel and kind.

“Station Eleven” is more than the regular novel, well at least to me it is. Why do you ask? Because it makes you feel things on a different level. How else can I put it? It also makes you perhaps live this life a little better than you already are and if a book manages to do that, then it is supreme to me.

“Station Eleven” is not about the end of the world, as most people say it is. It is to me the beginning of a new world and new hopes and aspirations that never die, no matter what. The book is about a pandemic that wipes out almost three-quarters of the world and more. There is nothing left. The old world or the world that we knew is gone. The new world has no electricity, no cars, no Internet, you get the drift. People drift. People try and settle. Things are no longer what they used to be at all.

Twenty years have passed since. Humans are trying very hard to reconstruct life – new ways, new means and The Traveling Symphony, that travels on foot, putting up performances – musical and that of Shakespeare. Amidst this there is a prophet and his band of people which the Traveling Symphony encounter and from there things go haywire. And I cannot forget at the core of all of this, lies a comic, which you will only know more about, when you read the book.

Of course, I cannot say much because that would mean giving away the plot, which I do not want to. Memory plays a major role in the book, as I mentioned earlier. It is these memories that help people survive the new world and also for some it seems best to forget them, in order to move on. The small bits of the book make it so worthwhile a read: When newscasters say goodbye, when there is a glimmer of hope that maybe things will not be the same and someone will come to rescue the living, when people will do anything to hang on to faith of any kind because it is so needed, when you don’t realize that this might be the last cup of coffee you drink or the last orange you eat and when the most insignificant things become the most significant.

“Station Eleven” manages to evoke multiple emotions in you as a reader. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it even makes you want to believe in humanity when it is dying all around you in the book, but I think above all it makes you hope, no matter what. The idea is not about apocalypse or what happened in the new world, as much as it is about reinventing and recreating the world with memories. The book is about the connections we have with people (as the six people in this book do with each other in some or the other manner), about how the beauty of the world can never be lost, about life hangs on to the very end and how perhaps we need to give ourselves more credit for being human. I cannot stop recommending this book enough and I will not. I think everyone should read this book, just about everyone.

Here is the book trailer:

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Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

Lost in Translation Title: Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Author: Ella Frances Sanders
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 9781607747109
Genre: Non-Fiction, Language
Pages: 120
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Every emotion has a word. Maybe sometimes language does not fail us. We just need to look beyond our comprehension and beyond the way we perceive the world to be. There are so many times when I see people making fun of languages all around me and specifically that of Indian languages and of course by Indians themselves. Maybe this book is for all of them who cannot understand the beauty of any language and words and meaning in them.

Luftmensch

Luftmensch

In life, there are times when maybe you just need the perfect word for the way you feel or for the way things are. Language then doesn’t matter. “Lost in Translation” is the perfect cure for those times. It is a beautifully illustrated compendium of untranslatable words in the world and of course it does not cover all the words, but whatever it does, it just manages to melt the heart and leave that smile on your face for the longest time.

It has words such as “Luftmensch” which refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer and literally means “air person”. It also contains “Jugaad” with quite a cute illustration to go with. The illustrations in the book are also something else – they are flighty and frivolous and encompass all life and beauty.

Lost in Translation - 2

“Lost in Translation” is a book that will make you see beyond your world and embrace the newness of other words on your tongue. I pronounced each and every word and after a while, I felt like I could feel the emotion. This is one book you will not regret owning and will cherish for a very long time to come.

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7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik

7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: 7 Secrets of the Goddess
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Westland Books
ISBN: 9789384030582
Genre: Mythology, Religion
Pages: 270
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Whenever Devdutt Pattanaik writes a book, it is to be marveled on. Not because of anything else, but because of the way he makes mythology readable. In fact, according to me he is perhaps one of the first mythological writers who made readers, go out and pick up books on The Mahabharata or The Ramayana.

And this time he is back with his latest book, “7 Secrets of the Goddess”. This follows in line with his earlier books, “7 Secrets of Shiva” and “7 Secrets of Vishnu”. This time it is about the Goddess. It is about all of the Goddesses and this is what led me to read the book. I loved the concept of it not being restricted to one Goddess, after all each of them is a manifestation of the other, so there cannot be one without the other anyway.

Devdutt explores mythology and religion differently than how his counterparts do. While the book is heavy on the names and incidents, the reading is lightened by the fact that not at one single moment, you feel that the writing is pedantic. What the book also manages to do is reveal the sides of humanity and nature. There is always a balance there or perhaps it should be there and that is what is hinted at throughout.

“7 Secrets of the Goddess” has all the nuances of Devdutt’s writing. From his illustrations to easy-to-understand narrative, the chapters break-up in fact help the reader comprehend the book better, without it seeming to be an academic read. The book speaks of male and female domination. It explores gender quality and rituals of Hindu Mythology like never before. To a very large extent, this read will not only open your mind to mythology and its various aspects, but perhaps will also make you see humanity in a different light.

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The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger

The Three Incestuous Sisters  by Audrey Niffenegger Title: The Three Incestuous Sisters
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 9780224076869
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

This one is a strange book. And at the heart of it, not so strange after all. It is all about envy, longing, and gorgeously illustrated. Though the book can be read almost immediately and maybe within fifteen minutes, you still will pore and ponder over it. The book has a very Goth appeal to it (which I personally loved) and it somehow just adds to the atmosphere and no better time to read this book than Winter.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 1

The book as the title suggests, is about three sisters, Bettine, Ophile and Clothilde, who live together in a lonely house by the sea, miles away from the city, when a stranger named Paris arrives and everything changes for the sisters.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 2

Bettine, the youngest, falls in love with Paris. The oldest, Ophile also feels that she loves the young man and then the whole story falls into place, with the middle sister Clothilde playing her own role.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 3

Niffenegger’s writing is simple and weird in most places, as you will experience when reading the book. The relationship between the three sisters is strange and then there is also the element of magic involved.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 4

There is a lot which is left to the reader to deduce from the story. There are fewer sentences and everything is said through pictures, which is befitting for a book like this one.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 5

And to top it all, the book is not creepy at all as the title suggests. The relationships are almost mystical in nature and pass time like sand through a sieve. It is a beautifully conceptualized book and I cannot give away much or else it will turn out to be a spoiler. All I can say is that you need to experience “The Three Incestuous Sisters” for yourself and trust me you will not forget it.

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My Name is Abu Salem by S. Hussain Zaidi

My Name is Abu Salem by S. Hussain Zaidi Title: My Name is Abu Salem
Author: S. Hussain Zaidi
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143423591
Pages: 248
Genre: Crime, Biographies and Autobiographies
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I had heard a lot about S. Hussain Zaidi’s writing but had never read anything by the man. I do not know why. Perhaps, there was always this perception that maybe the writing will not live up to my expectations as a reader or maybe I would not enjoy knowing about the Bombay Underworld and about the other world, so to say. But I was proved wrong the minute I picked up, “My Name is Abu Salem”, the latest by journalist and writer, S. Hussain Zaidi.

Going by the title, the book is about the life of Abu Salem and let me tell you that while it does scare you as a reader to know what kind of people exist in the world, it also makes you hate the man a lot more. I mean, I can never imagine having any empathy for a man who killed people at will, who had not the slightest remorse at how he behaved and to top it considered himself to be the lord and master of everyone influential who did and did not come his way.

Zaidi’s writing style makes the book one breezy read and also makes you think about the situations (right time, right person) in which Salem grew to become an underworld don – a boy from a small town of Azamgarh to becoming one of Mumbai’s most feared Don, the one who only wanted fame, name and glory and perhaps still does.

For most part of the book, I just kept wondering: How people lead such lives? Salem had bedded a beauty-queen who then became a film-star, he had every woman he could and wanted, he never cared about his wife Sameera and his son Amir and of course the core of it all – the crimes committed by him and his men. In all of this, I could not stop thinking of the effect a man has and the control he commands. Abu Salem’s personality went beyond who he was and maybe that was another factor that added to his aura.

There are times while reading the book, you do feel that Zaidi is not revealing or telling all, but I think it has to do only with about whom he is writing. At the same time, he is just skimming through some parts, like Salem’s formative years. Zaidi does mention the main parts and there is a lot of information which otherwise no reader would know, like Sameera’s interview transcription on what was it like being Salem’s wife for ten years or Monica Bedi’s confusion when it came to him or for that matter the way Bollywood and the construction industry perceived him.

The book obviously ends open-endedly because no one knows what will happen next in Salem’s life, given that he was sent from Portugal to India and that is how the Indian Government was able to nab him. And in more than one way, that is how the “downfall of the Don” began. “My Name is Abu Salem” is a fast-paced read with a style of writing that does not once bore you or make you leave the book.

The Gaysi Zine: Issue 3

The Gaysi Zine Issue 3 It was an evening of fun. It was an evening of telling stories, of listening to stories and it was about the Gaysi Zine and the launch of their 3rd edition in Mumbai. I think more than anything else it was about solidarity, of the community being represented by its voices and their stories to tell. I never thought I would be a part of the zine and write for it, but when Priya asked me to, I was more than eager to and so somewhere in the zine is my piece as well. Now to talk about the zine.

This zine is perhaps like none other than you would have seen or read. The Gaysi Zine – 3rd Edition is fantastic. It has stories, it has visuals, it has a world that is marginalized and voices that will be heard, no matter what. I remember holding the Zine for the first time in my hand and being all ecstatic, well perhaps because I wrote for it, but also because it seemed monumental to me and not because I am Gay, but because it breaks boundaries and barriers in so many ways.

The pieces are all in black and white, in fact the entire edition is in black and white and that is what makes it even more special. Emotions are always black and white I guess, maybe that’s why the context. The Gaysi designer and the person who sketched this entire edition by hand gets more than a kudos from me – a big giant hug for when we meet.

Now to the content: my favourite pieces in the Zine are: 1000 Days to Love, Letters in Monsoon, Rosabel and States of Arousal. These connected to me like no other pieces. Let me also tell you something: Emotions thankfully have no gender and neither do voices. They aren’t queer or straight or transgendered. They are there. Waiting to be acknowledged and to be loved. The Gaysi Zine Issue 3 is something else. It is a labor of love. It is voices merged. It is a Zine which you should not miss. A universal language of love, according to me.

You can buy the Zine here: https://www.instamojo.com/GaysiFamily/the-gaysi-zine-edition-3/

Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra

Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra Title: Bonsai
Author: Alejandro Zambra
Publisher: Melville House
ISBN: 978-1612191683
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 86
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Not all good novels have to be long. There are times when you read a book and wish it was not that short. I have read “Bonsai” by Alejandro Zambra a couple of times. This was another time that I had to re-read it. “Bonsai” is a love story. It is a story on art and life. It is about life and its misery. It is also about how one can live and how one does. Alejandro Zambra’s debut novel (or actually a novella) is profound and yet funny in some parts. It is a story that is meant to be simple and ends up being extremely complex.

Julio and Emilia are two Chilean university students. Julio loves Emilia. Emilia loves Julio. They both are avid readers. They lie to each other about having read Proust. They read in bed. They are grand when it comes to love and also doubtful and unsure about their love. They drift apart. Emilia then disappears from Chile without a word and that is when the story begins, merging the past and the present. There is also another story within this story and one more which will leave the readers spellbound.

Bonsai of course does have a major role to play in the book and that I will not speak about in my review. Each word is essential. Everything is in place. The writing is accessible. It is melancholic and superlative. This is the kind of book that shows you that you do not need too many words to say what you want to. The tragic end of the story and the way it begins is enough for the reader to know that he or she is sold. The book is edgy, will be a treat for literary lovers and for those who want to explore the different side of fiction.

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