Daily Archives: December 25, 2013

387 Short Stories: Day 16: Story 16: The Star by Alasdair Gray

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Title: The Star
Author: Alasdair Gray
Taken from the collection: Unlikely Stories, Mostly

Alasdair Gray. A name not known to me till I read his short story today. It always feels nice to explore a new writer and his stories. “The Star” by was today’s story. It is a bittersweet story of what happens when a boy finds a star in his backyard – how is he fascinated by it and what is the outcome when he goes to school with it.

The story is simply written. It has a fable like quality to it. It makes you believe in stars all over again and the power that they possess. I most certainly think that I will read more by this author. I love reading authors who keep it simple and tell it directly.

Book Review: The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer

The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer Title: The Scatter Here is Too Great
Author: Bilal Tanweer
Publisher: Vintage, Random House India
ISBN: 9788184004595
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Pages: 214
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Bilal Tanweer’s characters are fragile, sometimes introspective, angry, filled with angst and well, at the end of it all, just human. I start this review like this, because I want you to know how the writer thinks and what better way to know that, than get a sense of how his characters are. I have always believed that it takes a lot for writers to dig stories from their lives, more so when they live incidents – one way or the other, and from which, stories are born.

Bilal Tanweer’s book, “The Scatter Here is too Great” – a collection of interrelated stories is just what the book doctor recommended for a weekend read. It is not frivolous. It is not your typical short story collection. The fact that it resonates and says it the way it is, is reason enough for any reader to pick this collection.

“The Scatter here is too Great” is about an event that strikes different perspectives, amongst different walks of life in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. The event – a bomb blast at Cantt station. The description of the blast is gripping, given what it leads to and how different views and opinions, loves and losses, anger and frustration and deeply embedded loyalty to Karachi come forth. Tanweer perhaps has no set technique and to me that was most refreshing while reading this gem of a book.

From a kid who is bullied at school, to an ex-communist and poet being harassed on a bus by youngsters, to a teenager who steals his mother’s car to meet his girlfriend and my personal favourite in the entire collection – a story of a girl who tells her kid brother stories, and hides her grief within.

I am trying very hard not to use the regular adjectives to describe Tanweer’s writing and yet I cannot avoid using the word stupendous when it comes to his writing. It does not at any point feel that Tanweer is a novice and this is just his debut. Terror is at the centre of the book, but it is not its heart. What is then is the love for the city, the characters that are constantly struggling for sense of normalcy, who in the wake of the incident, want to lead better lives and yet are hopeful about it. To me it was a fantastic read of the month and the year. If you enjoy short stories and even if you do not, the book will sure leave you spellbound.

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The Scatter Here is Too Great

Book Review: Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law

Gaysia by Benjamin Law Title: Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East
Author: Benjamin Law
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184004779
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travelogue, Humour
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It is funny how in the wake of Section 377 and LGBT rights, I finished reading, “Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East” by Benjamin Law – a book on gays in the East and more importantly on their culture and lifestyle. The reason I find it funny is that I find the judgment quite a farce and love how Law speaks of gay men and women (sometimes) in an account that is hilarious, emotional and mostly a travelogue in search of identity across Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Burma, China, Malaysia and India, each with its own peculiarities and quirks.

The book as you delve further in is not really a travelogue; it is more of an insight to a troubled world. It is a world where two men cannot love each other – though the rules of lust are very different. There is humour and a lot of angst to the people and stories that Law documents. The social patterns from where he comes, which is Australia are very different in Asia. The world when it comes to rights of men and women is not the same. The Eastern world when it comes to same sex love or lust as Benjamin sees it is quite an eye-opener and it is for this, I would urge people to read, “Gaysia”.

It is funny how things are in different countries. For instance, in China, there are self-flagellation techniques, when a “bad” or “homosexual” thought occurs. Of how in China again, lesbians fake marry just to keep their parents happy. In Malaysia, people – Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, whom the author encounters, thinks homosexuality can be cured. In India, a certain yogi (should not be too hard to guess who this one is) thinks that it stems from bad thoughts and that it can also be cured.

“Gaysia” was released in our country without raising any eyebrows. I think it did so also because the so-called law holders, could not care less about a book – may be they would not understand this type of non-fiction or any book for that matter. The writing is sharp and humorous (the trans-gendered beauty pageant in Thailand, pride parades in these countries) in parts and in some, Law reflects on his sexuality and his relationship with his boyfriend. To me, including something personal in a book speaks a lot about the writer. It somehow makes him more accessible to readers, which is most needed in a book of this nature.

“Gaysia” is an eye-opener – for most people out there. I think it is written with a lot of eloquence and at the same time, Benjamin does not shy away from writing what he witnessed. The writing is honest and that is hands down one of the strongest features of the book. I want to gift this book to every friend of mine – straight or gay, just to understand if nothing else, about orientation and the fact that people are different and entitled to living their lives, the way they want to. Free love does not come with a section or with a judgment. It is just there, for all.

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Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East