Daily Archives: April 9, 2013

Book Review: Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson Title: Written on the Body
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780679744474
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 190
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Books read at an impressionable age always leave you astounded. You cannot get more of them. You reread them at various stages in life and if it manages to evoke similar feelings in you, like the first time, then the book maybe is meant for you. Few books fit into this category. Fewer books make it there from the hundreds and thousands of books we read in a lifetime. It is almost like a personal treasure – this small collection that touches you every time you pick any book from it. For me, a lot of books fit into this, and “Written on the Body” by Jeanette Winterson is one of them.

I read this book for the first time when I was just about to come out to my family. It is one of those books which will always be close to my heart. It somehow gave me the required courage to do what I did. I don’t know how, but it did and at that time, it mattered the world to me. It made me want to go up to Ms. Winterson and let her know how much I loved her book and how grateful I was to her for writing it. Books do that. Any art form does. Anything that can manage to touch you to that extent.

“Written on the Body” is a love story as most of Ms. Winterson’s books. It is a meditation on love and desire. It is about how maybe love sustains itself no matter what the odds. It is everything to do with extraordinary passion and unrequited love at its worst. It is about the body – every single part of it, every pore of the skin, every surface that the beloved touches. The book is narrated by a nameless and genderless being about his or her love for a married woman named Louise. The book talks of their affair, their love, their desire and the betrayal by the body.

Winterson’s writing is beyond magical. She knows which nerve to touch on, which emotion to carry through, which rawness to portray that makes the reader wonder about his or her life. She speaks of how lovers know each other’s bodies. How they know every scar, every detail, every birthmark, every crevice of the body and how love gets to those places. The book is unusual in its narrative, however once you get the hang of it, you will not let go of it. The prose is lyricism at its best. Winterson’s expressions and her details about love and the lovers are not to be missed. The book is clever as well, but above all it is about the nature of love and how we do not give up on the lover, even if the love is doomed.

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Book Review: The Gaze by Elif Shafak

The Gaze by Elif Shafak Title: The Gaze
Author: Elif Shafak
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780141048949
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Off late I have been reading books about issues. About differences and the human condition when it comes to dealing with the differences. The idea of humanity is so complex at times. Everything that can be black and white is not. Everything is hankered over. Every aspect of life is microscopically looked at. Nothing is left the way it is, the way nature intended it to be. The way people think of us starts from the way they start looking at us, the way they perceive us to be. This is where it all begins and almost where it all ends.

While reading, “The Gaze” by Elif Shafak, several thoughts came to my mind. These thoughts were about identity, love of a different kind, of wanting to be accepted and at the same time wanting for the world to leave you alone with your loved one. “The Gaze” is a book that makes you think about all of it – the way you wish to be seen and the way you are seen.

The book has two stories rolled into one. One about a couple – an overweight woman and her lover, a dwarf who are sick of people’s gazes and want to change things for themselves. The couple lives in Turkey and that is where the action takes place. To make a statement, the man in turn then goes out wearing makeup and the woman in turn draws a mustache on her face. They decide to reverse roles. The subtext but of course being to let people not look or rather to make them look what they do not want to see. At the same time, the dwarf is busy compiling a book of his, known as Dictionary of Gazes, which has many layers and many stories. The reader through the dwarf’s eyes watches over all these stories which are all about different people caught in various times of turmoil and all want to be looked at and their stories to be told.

Shafak’s books always have been very political and societal in nature, and that is what makes her books so readable. The amazing thing about “The Gaze” is that it is set in different time periods and yet the common theme comes across brilliantly – that of looking at people and judging them for outward appearances. The prejudices are laid out the way they are and the reader is forced to think about them, also maybe ask the difficult question: Am I like this? Do I behave like this? Will I behave like this, given the situation? A gaze can be enough sometimes, to hurt someone, to make someone feel uncomfortable, to make someone rethink their life.

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Book Review: Hate: A Romance by Tristan Garcia

Hate- A Romance  by Tristan Garcia Title: Hate: A Romance
Author: Tristan Garcia
Publisher: Faber and Faber UK
ISBN: 978-0571251834
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

When one talks about the gay community, all they can think of is either sex or stereotyped behaviour patterns. They cannot look beyond it. There is something about the stereotypes and more than anything else, it is the glorification of them through media. Every so-called action and behaviour is recorded and then used by popular media to poke fun at the gay community. There are also times when gay men and women subscribe to these stereotypes and give them the strength, but beyond that it is about humans at the end of the day. Falling in love, wanting it all, desiring one another and at the same time oscillating between intense passion and intense hate.

“Hate: A Romance” by Tristan Garcia is about just that – deep rooted emotions in an ever-changing world. The first four chapters of the book introduce the four protagonists – Willie, Doumé, Leibo and Liz. The story is narrated by Liz and the relationships are seen through her eyes. The book then carries on with how these characters met and their relationships. It is all about their choices, their involvement and personal ideologies and their confirmation or not, and how the society at large transforms them.

The book borderlines on sexual preferences and choices. Tristan makes his characters take chances which is remarkably put in his writing. There is no regret and maybe because it is the 80s. It is a book about people making choices and sometimes not. It is about the rise of AIDS and how everything was attributed to gay men. The book beautifully infuses politics with love and issues that need to be talked about and no one does. Relationships are at the core of the book and Garcia uses short chapters to bring out the truths and lies of each intertwined relationship. The four characters are given their own voices (though there is only one narrator) and through each voice, the reader experiences a different view to politics, love, sex, AIDS and but of course hate and how relationships are constantly being forged or ending ruthlessly between these characters.

The writing is sharp and vivid. The core of the novel is intellectual and the contrasting viewpoints are intelligent and at the same reflect the state of the society, then and now. The story takes place in a culture lost to television and at the same time trying very hard to not lose out on the intellectualism and rights and above all trying to sustain love in between hate and opinions.

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