Monthly Archives: January 2014

387 Short Stories: Day 49 to Day 53: Stories Read

This is another set of stories read, from Day 49 to Day 53. From tomorrow, that is the 1st of February 2014, a new set will start.

The Collected Short Stories by Jean Rhys

387 Short Stories: Day 49: Story 49: In a Café by Jean Rhys
Taken from the Collection: The Collected Stories

In a Café is a story by Jean Rhys, which just like her books and stories touches on the topic of women being used by men. It is a sad story. It is about Phoebe and the life she thinks she was meant for and the life she comes to lead. It is about sexuality and about possession and about using women.

Rhys’s stories are born from an inner stream of consciousness. She saw. She felt. She made a note. She wrote. Her stories are strong. They are sad. They are weak. They are beautifully written nonetheless.

Gryphon and Other Stories

387 Short Stories: Day 50: Story 50: Poor Devil by Charles Baxter
Taken from the Collection: Gryphon and Other Stories

If you have not read, “The Feast of Love” by Charles Baxter, his most beautiful novel on love and loss, then I suggest you go and place an order for it right now and devour it. Till the time the book gets delivered, you read a short story by him called, “Poor Devil”.

This is from the collection, “Gryphon” and is about a couple heading for divorce. The couple is self-destructive and the story is succinctly told. He describes love, passion and its destruction just like Raymond Carver or at least that is what I think.

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom

387 Short Stories: Day 51: Story 51: A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom
Taken from the collection: A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You and Other Stories

The title story which I read is about a mom who is determined to see her daughter through a sex-change operation. To me the story is written very sensitively and with a lot of passion. The idea that a mother can see through a child go through a sex-change operation says a lot about her determination and support and to me that was enough. Nothing else needed to be told then and it goes without saying that the story has been beautifully told, not trivializing it or making it too sentimental.

Tenth of December

387 Short Stories: Day 52: Story 52: Tenth of December by George Saunders
Taken from the collection: Tenth of December: Stories

George Saunders’ stories shine on every single page with reference to plot, style, imagery and the way his characters turn out to be. The stories are not only dark and funny but also touching. He completes the cycle of storytelling the way it should be done, without making the reader uncomfortable or getting too familiar with emotions displayed. He tunes in the living of today and what has happened in the past, and maybe that is why every single reader would be able to relate to what he writes.

I loved the title story, “Tenth of December” and only for that alone, I could give it five stars. It is about a character who walks into the December woods wanting to die, before becoming a burden on his family. Stories such as these make you wonder about the power in Saunders’s writing. It breathes everyday living infused with its tragedy and humour.

The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg

387 Short Stories: Day 53: Story 53: I Looked For You, I Called Your Name by Laura van den Berg
Taken from the Collection: The Isle of Youth

“I Looked for You, I Called Your Name” is about the woman discovering her husband’s personality and in the wake of that, her relationship is riddled with doubt and she also begins to understand herself. The nature of the setting, Patagonia in this case also lends to the fragility of the story. For me, what worked the most was the sudden bleakness you are witness to throughout the stories and yet somewhere down the line, there is the underlined hope that is subtle and exquisitely written about.

Book Review: Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar; Translated by Jerry Pinto

Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar Title: Cobalt Blue
Author: Sachin Kundalkar
Translator: Jerry Pinto
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There are books that you read sometimes and do not know what to make of them. There are stories that are close to you and they emerge through the pages and the writer has just touched a nerve. You know it. Perhaps you do not even acknowledge it, but you do realize that the book has made an impact and there is nothing you can do about it. You let yourself go. You become one with the prose and then you just feel something so deep that you want to share the experience with the world.

My review of “Cobalt Blue” is an experience of reading, which I want to share. I never thought once before picking this book a long time ago. This time around it was a reread – a third time reread at that and I knew it would wrench the life out of me and it did and I loved every bit of it. There is no other way to read this book. It will overpower you at some point if you let it, that is.

I have the regret of not reading this book in Marathi – the language it was originally written in but I know for a fact that Jerry has kept the translation intact. You can feel the words and the senses merge and that is proof enough. I also remember hugging the commissioning editor of this book, for making this book happen in English, for making it available to thousands and millions of readers.

“Cobalt Blue” is about love. It is about strangers who break and heal hearts. It is about love and it’s longing. It is about the sensation of not getting what you want. Of getting it but not getting it completely. How do you then define those emotions? Do they have a voice at all? Tanay and Anuja are siblings. Both smitten by the tenant who comes to stay over. The tenant who is nameless throughout the book. He is the sort of person who will only break your heart. You are aware of it and yet you want to be loved by him, in whatever capacity. There is another brother in the family. There are parents. There are relatives and yet all attention is wanted only by that stranger.

The book had me from the first page. It is narrated by the siblings and the commonality they share. The dread, the eventuality, the similar feeling and yet they do not communicate with each other. Nothing is said. The pain is hidden or just invisible – it is not known to the reader. It is for the reader to decide.

The translation shines. Jerry’s prose mingling with Sachin’s emotions takes you on another journey. The effect is heady. I knew the book would not let me be. I also knew that I would end up crying all over again and yet I had to reread it. There was no other way. Jerry has tact – he says and translates and also lets the reader feel and of course it is true, that the text is doing most of the talking and that is Sachin’s magic. There are no hush tones to homosexual or heterosexual love. Love is love after all and that is the essence of the book. It seems that the book is the canvas and there are endless portraits, possibilities of colour, of tones, of palettes and of intermingling sensations. It is there. Raw and exposed and sometimes we all have to take our chances to see where we fit, where we belong and where we truly feel loved.

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387 Short Stories: Day 44 to Day 48: Stories Read

Day 44 to Day 48 went by very fast. 5 stories were read and since I did not want to write separate posts about them for now, I decided to club them in one post. So here goes:

Day 44: Story 44: The Gun by Philip K. Dick. Taken from the Collection: Beyond Lies the Wub

Beyond Lies The Wub by Philip K Dick

A story of space explorers who are investigating a deserted planet. A ruined city. A gun which shot most of them down. It is a thriller of a story. A roller coaster ride and yet a sci-fi story so well layered. Philip K. Dick after all, was not a master of tales just like that. A read you must give a shot to.

Day 45: Story 45: Summer People by Ann Beattie. Taken from the Collection: Where You’ll Find Me and Other Stories

Where You'll Find Me and Other Stories by Ann Beatie

It takes a man to meet a stranger to realize that he is not connecting with his wife. The unraveling is the genius of the short-story writer. She makes everything seem so out of the ordinary and then suddenly the unexpected hits you. Only a few writers are capable of this. She is one of them.

Day 46: Story 46: Jacob’s Hands: A Fable by Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood.

Jacob's Hands

You bring two giants to write a short story and this is what you get: A story beyond words or imagination. It is a complex and absurd relationship between a healer, Jacob and the woman who he heals – Sharon, and how their paths cross and what happens to them as individuals. It is about love, redemption and its insecurity.

Day 47: Story 47: Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston. Taken from the Collection: The Complete Stories

The Complete Stories

Sweat is about a woman Delia – who is a washerwoman and she is Black and has an abusive marriage. The story revolves around her, her husband Sykes and his mistress Bertha. The dynamics of this trio are brilliantly observed and noted by Hurston and there is more to what meets the eye. Delia is a formidable female character that I have come across recently and the story is nuanced and peppered with a lot of humor and also revenge in a generous dose.

Day 48: Story 48: The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway. Taken from the Collection: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

Ernest Hemingway had to be read anyway. Without or without this initiative. The story is about Harry, who is dying in Africa while on a safari. He is recounting his life and memories and how has he lived. He does not care about anything now. For me, it was this surreal nature of this story that has led to scouring more works of Hemingway and reading them – one book at a time. The nature of Kilimanjaro and the role it plays in the story will leave you speechless. A must read.

387 Short Stories: Day 43: Story 43: Lust by Susan Minot

Lust and Other Stories Title: Lust
Author: Susan Minot
Taken from the collection: Lust and Other Stories

This time it was the title story. Lust is about a sexually charged teenage girl. The story is a set of vignettes describing the girl’s adventures with boys. Susan is not apologetic about it and should not be as well. Neither is her character. The girl lives her life the way she wants to, in the constraint and standards set by the society and yet manage to do what she wants to.

The writing is brave and not feminist. Susan loves and cherishes bodies and that is beautifully depicted through the story. A story that is funny, warm, sad, and tender to the core.

387 Short Stories: Day 42: Story 42: The Ice Palace by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald Title: The Ice Palace
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Taken from the Collection: The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was in Jaipur when I read this story. I had attended a session in which Sarah Churchwell, the author of Careless People, a story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald was in conversation with Chiki Sarkar and I had to read a short story by Fitzgerald then. They were after all talking passionately about the invention of The Great Gatsby and it happens to be my favourite novel.

The Ice Palace is a modernist short story, so to say. It is about Sally Carrol Happer, a young woman, who is from the fictional town of Tarleton, Georgia and wants to get rid of boredom. She wants to experience more and see the world. The story is about her adventures, so to say and what happens thereafter.

In my opinion, no one could have written about the 20s the way Fitzgerald did. He was pompous no doubt, but with good reason. His writing is marvellous after all.

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