Daily Archives: April 7, 2011

Book Review: Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

Title: Comedy in a Minor Key
Author: Hans Keilson
ISBN: 9781843914563
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Publisher: Hesperus Press
PP: 112 pages
Price:  £9.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I believe in the cliché “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Too often over the years, a book has made me feel like the author was being paid by the word. I appreciate books whose author doesn’t waste words; Comedy in a Minor Key is a perfect example to me of how succinctness doesn’t have to compromise the story, and in fact, how succinctness can work in the favor of a story’s overall construct.

The book tells the story of a Dutch couple (Wim and Marie) during WWII who are providing secret housing for a middle-aged Jewish man (Nico), but who then must find a way to dispose of his body when he dies of pneumonia in their care. Even though the book was written in 1947, the book spends no unnecessary time explaining the context of their dilemma and assumes the reader knows what happened in the Netherlands during WWII, and what the inherent dangers of their predicament were.

Barely 135 pages, Comedy in a Minor Key is a subtle, compassionate, richly human story with more complexity and mystery than one would think was possible to sneak into such a slim, matter of fact volume. “Wim slowly regained his usual composure. Even if he was the younger man here, he was still the host, and that brought with it various responsibilities. He felt that the other man had understood precisely the reasons for Wim’s initial discomfort and that he had made an effort to dispel it, even though he found himself in an even less comfortable situation. Wim offered him a cigarette and said, as he lit the match, ‘My wife and I are happy we can do something for you.’” These small true moments reveal the character of people who do the right thing in extreme circumstances, yet maintain the ambiguity and complexity of character and motive that are universal in circumstances great and small, profound and banal.

As a reader I found the story contained poignant passages which serve as displays of the simple kindness and generosity of humans shown towards others facing adversity and torment. There is something very spiritually renewing about this book. I must mention that I failed to see the comedy or wit as the title would lend, being that it would be extremely difficult to find anything humorous about this dark period in world history. Would I read it again? Most definitely.

You can buy the book here on Flipkart

Book Review: America by Andy Warhol

Buy America
Author: Andy Warhol
Publisher: Penguin UK/Penguin Modern Classics
Genre: Non-Fiction
ISBN: 9780141193069
Price: £14.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Who is Andy Warhol? This is one question which is very difficult to answer. No really is it. From a movie-maker (pseudo, but what the heck, we all are in some way or the other) to a cultural pop icon to a writer to a philanderer to a weirdo and to a very successful painter – Warhol was probably everything rolled into one. Andy probably saw things which no one else did and that was the beauty of his observations coupled with this simplistic writing skills.

My fascination with Andy Warhol started when I first witnessed the Campbell soup can display and wondered: “Well, here is a man who is selling this to the public and they are eating out of his hands. This is exactly what he wants and he is getting it as well. This is Andy Warhol, I guess”. And maybe that’s who he was – a charmer. An intellectual in his own right – a person who was somewhere down like a child – wanting acceptance and a little insecure deep down and always wanting to satiate his curiosity and in the bargain producing brilliant works such as, “America”.

“America” is an introspection on almost everything American and what makes and breaks it – from images, celebrities and their guises to what does it take probably to just be human. What I liked about the book was the fact that Andy not once gets preachy about anything. Everything is a summation or just a mad and random observation and he has the need to let us know what it is.

For me the book was a revelation as I always thought of Andy Warhol to be self-obsessed and maybe he was that to a very large extent. It is just that with this book I got to experience another side of the artist and the mad genius that he was.  The book is very well-written, but of course however most of the book is full of pictures clicked by Andy and the images are wonderful. The madness is clearly visible and one thing is for certain: You cannot remove Andy from America and America from Andy.

You can buy the book from Flipkart