Category Archives: Authors I Love

387 Short Stories : Day 58 : Story 58 : The Dead by James Joyce

Dubliners by James Joyce Title: The Dead
Author: James Joyce
Taken from the Collection: Dubliners

It is surprising how I have never been a fan of James Joyce. While everyone in college was gushing over Ulysses and how it is the greatest novel ever written, I could not care less. It is not that I did not think much of Joyce; it is just that I could not relate to Ulysses as a novel. That is all there is to it I think.

Having said that, I always go back to his short story, “The Dead” from Dubliners. According to me, it is the one short story that defines it all when it comes to writing the short story – style, structure, plot and emotions. Some even call it a novella, but according to me it is a short story.

“The Dead” is about Gabriel Conroy and his life – all his loves and losses accounted for in one story. It is about self-awareness which is painful and somehow very enriching at the same time. A story which you will not forget. Read it.

Affiliate Link:

Buy DUBLINERS from Flipkart.com

387 Short Stories: Day 42: Story 42: The Ice Palace by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald Title: The Ice Palace
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Taken from the Collection: The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was in Jaipur when I read this story. I had attended a session in which Sarah Churchwell, the author of Careless People, a story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald was in conversation with Chiki Sarkar and I had to read a short story by Fitzgerald then. They were after all talking passionately about the invention of The Great Gatsby and it happens to be my favourite novel.

The Ice Palace is a modernist short story, so to say. It is about Sally Carrol Happer, a young woman, who is from the fictional town of Tarleton, Georgia and wants to get rid of boredom. She wants to experience more and see the world. The story is about her adventures, so to say and what happens thereafter.

In my opinion, no one could have written about the 20s the way Fitzgerald did. He was pompous no doubt, but with good reason. His writing is marvellous after all.

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald from Flipkart.com

387 Short Stories: Day 40: Story 40: Adultery by Andre Dubus

Adultery and Other Choices Title: Adultery
Author: Andre Dubus
Taken from the Collection: Adultery and Other Choices

I discovered Andre Dubus by chance and since then I have yet to come across someone who can write the way he does. His prose cannot be matched by any other short story writer that is because he has a style of his own for sure, but also because no one can express the way he does.

The story I read from one of his collections was, “Adultery”. As the name suggests it is about an affair – a married woman and an ex-priest carry it on. The themes of marriage, religion, faith, fidelity are brought out like no other in this story or novella to some extent.

Hank Allison watches his wife Edith have an affair. The book is of perspectives and life and how sometimes you have to do what you do not want to. The choices we make say a lot about the lives we lead or choose to lead.

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN:
Genre: Fantasy, Coming of Age, Young Adult
Pages:
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

It was a pity that I had not read, “The Graveyard Book” yet. I had it with me for years and never got around to reading it. Like I always keep saying and believing in it: The time was not right. I was not prepared or right enough to read that book. Books choose you when they want to; otherwise reading them will just be another futile attempt. I guess it would have been that way with “The Graveyard Book” had I read it that time.

“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman has it all – the elements of fantasy, which most of his other books also do possess. For me though, the storytelling of this one was beyond his other books. Nobody Owens is at the centre of this book, when his entire family (parents and sister) are brutally murdered one night in their own home, by a man, simply known as Jack. Nobody is but an infant and somehow manages to escape and find refuge in a nearby graveyard, where the spirits roam at night, with not a care for the world. Mister and Mistress Owens (a spirit couple) decide to adopt the infant and that is how he gets his name – Nobody Owens, Bod for short. There is something known as the “Freedom of the Graveyard” which not only gives Bod access to the graveyard and all its ways and passages, but also protects him as long as he is in the graveyard.

Jack obviously will not be satiated till he kills Bod. He comes back after years to finish the unfinished job and that is where the crux of the story lies. Actually, I take that back. The crux of the story lies in the spirits in the graveyard, in the mysteries of the graveyard and how a living boy is actually adopted not just by two spirits but by the entire graveyard and Silas – his Godfather – who neither belongs to the living or to the dead. I found the descriptions in the book (which were also funny at most times) of great interest. Gaiman has a knack for details – as a reader, you will imagine each and every line written. This I guess comes from him being a graphic novel writer as well. He can just somehow visualize to the hilt and transfer the power to the reader.

The plot is extremely tight and the read is a fast one for sure. The book I guess has no age barrier – it can be read by anyone, of any age and that is where the beauty of the writing actually is. You will fall in love with Bod and the other characters. In fact, Liza Hempstock, the witch was my personal favourite. I am most happy that I read this as a part of my “The Novel Cure Reading Challenge” and will definitely reread it sometime later. “The Graveyard Book” is a book which will warm your heart and also make you instantly want more of it – a sequel for sure, I hope.

Next Read in the Challenge: The Cuckoo Boy by Grant Gillespie

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Graveyard Book from Flipkart.com

Book Review: The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam

The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam Title: The Blind Man’s Garden
Author: Nadeem Aslam
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 978-81-8400-109-9
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When you read a Nadeem Aslam novel, you mull over it. You take in his words and breathe what he has to say. You are aware of the political undertones in his books. At times, you also may not like what you read. You might also detest some parts. You will yell in happiness when something good happens to one of his characters. You want to keep the book aside and you will not be able to, because that is the power of his books. You will ignore everything else and read on, because Aslam has a story to tell and his characters will talk to you. They will make you believe and sometimes make you cry and live as well.

“The Blind Man’s Garden” according to me is one of the best books that Aslam has written. I have read all his books and while all his books have the much needed political angle; this one to me is most emotional and heart-wrenching in a lot of places. I interviewed Nadeem Aslam at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year (which will be a different post) and he was so passionate about the book and the way he spoke with me. The book almost came alive through him. All his characters and the situations he put them through almost seemed surreal and believable. For me that is the craft of a great storyteller. “The Blind Man’s Garden” makes you feel and think about humans and what does war do to them. He gets into the heart of his characters and makes them speak for themselves. He makes them tell their stories, their lives spread across the canvas of his landscape, of time unknown and sometimes time is of great essence. This is precisely why I cannot help myself but mark almost every other line on every other page of an Aslam novel.

Jeo and his foster-brother Mikal leave their home in a small Pakistani city not to fight with the Taliban but to help care for the wounded victims. The Western Armies have invaded Afghanistan and the brothers only want to help the wounded, whether Afghani or the Americans. They only want to help and yet they get embroiled deep into the war as its unwilling soldiers. At the same time left behind is Jeo’s wife and her superstitious mother, and their father Rohan, who is slowly but surely turning blind. The war is seen through from all perspectives and that is the crux of the story.

For me everything worked in the book. The writing is sharp and hits in places that you would not expect it to. The past and the present situations merge beautifully throughout the entire narrative. In fact, what I loved the most about the book was the way the structure was built and at the same time the prose seemed very fluid, as though it was waiting to flow through the reader’s mind and heart. The heart of the book is about everything surrounding the war – lost children, grieving parents, hopeful wives and children who are left behind wondering when their fathers will return. Despite all this, what strings the book together is hope, which is unending and everlasting.

There are a lot of sub-elements and plots to the book (which I will not spoil for you) that add to the beauty of this wonderfully written novel. There is beauty and at the same time there is this sharp ache and a prayer that all should go well for the characters that you have come to known while reading the book. As a reader, I found myself hoping that all went well. Such is the power of this magnificent read. It is for sure one of the best I will read this year.

Here are some quotes from the book:

“History is a third parent.”

“The logic is that there are no innocent people in a guilty nation.”

“No,” he said, “but before they lose, they harm the good people. That is what I am afraid of.”

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Blind Man