Monthly Archives: November 2009

Jane Austen and the Novel

So what is it about Jane Austen that captivates her readers? That is a question that I am waiting to find the answer to. I mean here she has written only of women who are waiting to get married or are already married. I agree that at one point I was a major fan and then suddenly I lost interest. I mean: The point of marriage in her books seemed so banal. Like my boyfriend says, “It suits the Indian aesthetics. They can relate to her heroines who lead a provincial life and marriage is the only end to happiness”. True, isn’t it?

Pride and Prejudice to top the list talks of 5 sisters – capable in every single way, talent and otherwise and yet yearning to walk down the aisle with men of substantial income. Yes, may be I get it. The fact that women did not work in those times. Therefore the only occupation was to find them an eligible groom. Have things changed much? At least not in India. The same situation exists around the world as well, I am sure.

I loved Austen’s dry humour while I was growing up. I thought Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Dashwood (of Sense and Sensibility) were fabulous when it came to comic timing and yet I also think that probably Ms. Austen should not have emphasized on marriage much. In her defense though there is also the fact that women in her novels just happened to get embroiled in the so-called concept of matrimony. They could not do much in the 17th century, could they? How could they defy their parents? We still don’t in our country.

All said and done, there have been times that I have loved reading Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. I think I have outgrown them, however one never knows when the need to read about clashing egos of men and women and marriage in-between arises.

Entrepreneur Journeys by Sramana Mitra

Alright, I am not the sort of person who reads any books on management, let alone training (which is my core profession). Till date at least I have not read a single management book and was not interested either till I lay my hands on “Entrepreneur Journeys” by Sramana Mitra. I have always like I said had this aversion to management books and I never knew why. May be it was the way they were written. Always trying to force ideas down my throat and not willing to listen to my viewpoint. (well, wonder if they ever will?). Peter Drucker and the likes of him with Edward de Bono and his thinking hats could not make juggle towards their concepts.

So what made me read Sramana’s book? Well to start with it was plainly written or rather it is. It says how it is, without any frills. It makes you learn from other’s experiences which makes sense and yet at the same time wants you to go ahead and take that risk to be able to make something of your life. For instance, I am at such a crossroads in my career right now that I am asking myself the same questions: Am I doing the right thing with my life? Was I cut out to do this? Can I do something better? Am I capable of starting out on my own?

And that’s what “Entrepreneur Journeys” makes you do – learn from twelve unique journeys of twelve unique entrepreneurs. Their ups and downs – and what it takes to get to the top or bottom (in some cases). It is about their experiences which Sramana brings out very well by using her insightful interviewing technique and thus making them confide their fears, hopes, passions, worries, and inspirations which have driven their ventures.

I felt like I was learning directly from the masters and I did. I would highly recommend this book to managers in organizations (like myself) who want to maintain an entrepreneurial culture as they grow or anyone concerned about global business issues.

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

I am not a science fiction reader. Never have been and never claim to. I have not enjoyed Asimov(Dare I say that!) or Dune(Even worse than to mention it on my blog) and yet I ventured and picked up Genesis. Only because I was intrigued and to tell you the truth, I was not disappointed in the least. Yes the story is set way in the  future – 2075 to be precise (which scarily enough does not seem very far, does it now?) and the crux of the story is “Individualism” – literally. All that Orwell and Rand profess.

The plot is simple with the many layers that one has to read between and that’s the fun part. Its about the formation of The Republic, which is primarily due to countries not trusting one another. Wars have been waged and the result is clear: The Republic stands on the other side disintegrated by a wall in the sea. They have their own principles and philosophies. Their world is divided into four distinct categories: Laborers, Soldiers, Technicians and Philosophers. Philosophers being at the top of the so-called existence chain. And then enters our principal character of the book: Adam Thorpe who rescues a girl from being killed and in the bargain has to spend time with a machine as an experiment. This has happened in the past.

The present is that of Anaximander who stands before a panel of examiners, applying for a place in the Academy, for which she has to go through a 4-hour long question and answer round. She is all set to stand up for her hero Adam and in the bargain only discovers that things are not always what they seem.

Well in my opinion, I loved the book. Though the premise and structure did remind me of influences borrowed heavily from Huxley, Orwell and Rand, yet Genesis stands out to be an original. The arguments between Man and Machine are beautifully expressed and while I do not believe in reading about books set in the future, I might just have to eat my words this time and recommend this one.