Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Newton Letter by John Banville

I had borrowed this book from the library a long long time ago and I somehow happened to pick it up after like 3 books and read it in a span of two days! This was the first time I was venturing to read a Banville and thank god, I did decide to pick it up. A short novella – around 97 pages and riveting!

This book is a letter written by the narrator – who is nameless and has entered the Irish countryside to finish his book on Newton only to discover and re-discover his own denied passions and emotions. His cottage is situated in a place called Fern house where he encounters a strange lot of people – Edward, Charlotte, Edward’s Sister Diana and her husband Tom, Ottilie – Charlotte’s so-called niece and little Michael. As the narrator gets engrossed in their lives, he loses focus of the book, only to drown it. This is a classic juxtaposition of how Newton one fine day gave up on science and took to alchemy.

This book is one of a kind and when I say this, I really mean it. Banville conjures a mystery, a love story, a discovery sometimes and beauty of language so rare these days in most novels – and where else can one find such a combination and being told in 97 pages!! Wow!!

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Mad Mad Love

I do not know when or why I fell in love with books, however I did and now there is no turning back. It is like time. I can never look back and what has passed has come to passed and there is nothing I can do to undo it. I look at the number of books I own (close to 4000) and I am appalled. I really am. As to how less these books are. As to how I can add to my collection. As to how the house needs more shelves and the lack of space thereof. Books are strewn all over the place. In the living room. In the bedroom. In my mother’s room. In the kitchen also I think. Under the bed. On the shelves of course. Just about everywhere.

The love for books is something which cannot be explained and yet I attempt to. The thought of picking up a new book. The idea of smelling it. The pure magical experience of imagining a book and its characters and the setting as you read it. What other hobby or what other passion could take you to a different land without getting up from your arm-chair?

Books have also played a critical role in my life. There have been times I have not met men for a date since they were not readers. I wanted my very own Roark and if I was in a wild mood, then I needed a Heathcliff. Sometimes I wanted to become Catherine and others I was satisfied in being Oliver Twist, just to know what it would be like to be an orphan. I wanted to be loved like Miu from Sputnik Sweeheart (happens to be my favourite book). I wanted to experience an adventure like the one in Treasure Island. I want Edward McCullen to hold me in his arms and sing me a lullaby. Enough of the ranting already. My point is this: Why aren’t there more readers in my country?

Well that has also changed, thanks to the likes of Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagat (shudder shiver!). I wonder how people read them. Yes I admit. I am a literary snob (though I have had my share of Shobha De and Jackie Collins as well). I remember the time I was introduced to reading. I was 5 and was gifted an Enid Blyton by my mother. I have not stopped reading since then. My neices and nephews are 6 and 5 years old and they do not know of Enid Blyton. They never will. I hope they do. I tried to introduce them to her magical world but in vain. They did not try reading what I had gifted. I was sad and then somewhere down the line I let them be.

I am so glad that my man reads. He reads a lot and may be would like to read even more. Just that he does not get the time. My mother reads and so does my sister. I think we are a very different species. The species who reads. I know of so many of my friends who read and I love them for it. I love you my books. This is one love that will never end.

As Virginia Woolf says,  

The true reason remains the inscrutable one – we get pleasure from reading. It is a complex pleasure and a difficult pleasure; it varies from age to age and from book to book. But that pleasure is enough. Indeed that pleasure is so great that one cannot doubt that without it the world would be a far different and a far inferior place from what it is. Reading has changed the world and continues to change it. When the day of judgment comes therefore and all secrets are laid bare, we shall not be surprised to learn that the reason why we have grown from apes to men, and left our caves and dropped our bows and arrows and sat round the fire and talked and given to the poor and helped the sick – the reason why we have made shelter and society out of the wastes of the desert and the tangle of the jungle is simply this – we have loved reading.

Currently Reading

So I bought a new copy of “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen as mine has come of age. The binding is in two with pages strewn all over the place once I even attempt to open the book. So now that I have a brand new copy I am re-reading it and loving it as much as I did while reading it 4 times before! Love this classic…

The next book that I am reading with “Mansfield Park” is “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. It is the Mahabharata told from Draupadi’s perspective and till now it is going great! Can’t wait to finish these two…

My First Book Meme – The ABC Book Meme

Yay!! This is a meme copied from Rhapsody and only because I loved it..

For this meme, you list a favorite book that starts with each letter of the alphabet. If you don’t have a book for a letter (such as Z or X) than you can substitute a favorite book that simply has that letter in the title (ex. The Lost City of Z or Hot Six by Janet Evanovich). However, you can only do this a maximum of 3 times. (Z, X, and Q. But not Z, X, Q, and V.) Books can be of any genre from fiction to non-fiction to poetry to textbooks.

This is a difficult task to fulfill, because obviously some letters, like S and T, have many books that might be favorites, whereas others, like Q and X are unlikely to present you with difficulties making a choice. I have chosen Fiction:

A: After the Quake: Stories by Haruki Murakami
B:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
C:  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
D: Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino
E: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
F: Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
G: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
H: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
I: In Custody by Anita Desai
J: Justine by Lawrence Durrell
K: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
L: Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec
M: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
N: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
O: Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
P: Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt
Q: Quicksand by Junichiro Tanizaki
R: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
S: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
T: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
U: Underground by Haruki Murakami
V: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
W: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
X: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Y: Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates
Z: Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

So that’s the end of my first book meme and who do I pass this to? Well to everyone who visits my blog…Happy meme’ing…

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Just finished reading “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and let out a long sigh right after with a smile on my face. The ending may not necessarily be your typical happy-ending, nonetheless it is delightful. It was a re-read for me, for about like the 4th time and every time I have read it, I have found something different in it. While reading it this time I couldn’t separate the movie from the book. Audrey and Peppard kept flashing in front of me as I was reading the book and it felt nice. As I type this so-called review I am listening to “Moon River” [instrumental] and watching Audrey in the opening credits. I love the book. According to me, no one can ever write a novella of such force [besides Marquez and Murakami] than that of Capote. As Norman Mailer said about it, “I wouldn’t want to change any word of it. Its just perfect”, that’s exactly how I feel about it.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – if you already do not know what its about, may be because you haven’t read it – the plot is simple: It is about lost dreams, sometimes unrequited love and a whole lot of wit, profundity and the chance to go the whatever length in order to get what one wants. It is about Holiday Golightly [love the play of words] and her life or rather a fragment of her life, as seen through the eyes of the narrator Paul. Paul who loves Holly like all the other men in her life. Holly, who is also an escort/call girl. A girl who is all of twenty and possesses the wisdom of a thirty-year old without losing her naivety. Who believes that one mustn’t betray friends, no matter what. Who jumps into a cab and visits “Tiffany & Co.” when she gets the `mean reds’. Holly is everything and more. She is promiscuous. She is brazen. She does things like stealing masks and as Billy Joel would put it, “She’s always a woman to me”…

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella with many layers to it. Abandonment, loneliness, the need to belong and yet not be chained at the same time, the delight in the unorthodox and last but not the least about not loving a wild thing.

As Holly says in the book,

Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell…That was Doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky

The book was written by Capote at the peak of his career. The somewhat “curious” title Breakfast at Tiffany’s was inspired by a man from out-of-town that Capote heard about, who was “ignorant of New York”. When the man was asked to pick from the best restaurants in New York where to eat breakfast, he replied: “Well, let’s have breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which was the only place he knew of.

Written in 1958, it portrays a world in which women were invariably best seen and not heard, and totally reliant on men for money and worldly comforts. And yet Capote has created a female character that is largely independent and emotionally strong, although she’s vulnerable too (loneliness, depression and desperation are hinted at). While she might be having a lot of fun, she’s also on the run from a past that is forever trying to catch up with her as she tries to find a place that makes her feel as happy as Tiffany’s does.

All in all, this short novella is a joy to read. Capote’s writing is typically rich and lyrical. He describes this woman in such a way that you get the sense he has moulded her on someone that intrigued him, that held some allure or had an aura of mysticism that left a deep impression.