Monthly Archives: December 2016

You Left. Books Stayed

It is the truth. The men have left. It has been a long time now. The affairs, the so-called loves of my life, the ones I could not do without (or so it seemed then) and the ones who used me as well. They are all long, away and out of my life. What have remained though are books. With all the sex we did not have and all the sex we did, in between you gave me books – all of you. That is also because you knew that I loved them so much, that you could not have given me anything else. You left and the books stayed. Here are some of them. They still some times remind me of all of you, of bitter memories, of happy ones, of the sad ones and of the most sexual ones.

The Complete Poems of Pablo Neruda: You bought this for me on a whim. There were no online shopping sites then. We went to Prithvi Café for a cup of coffee. We played footsie for a while. I knew how this was going to end – in bed as always. You would be on top of me and I would give in gladly. There was a book shop – a quaint one at Prithvi. I insisted we check it out. Your testosterone was raging and you wanted the book browsing to get done. I loved Neruda. I still do. You bought the book for me. The only half decent thing you did. The affair did not last for more than a month. The book on the other hand, still adorns the bookshelf. I think of you sometimes. I am thankful.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: I remember this is how we started off. It was a chat room – one of those ubiquitous ones, where everyone wanted to chat up with everyone. Your ID was Heathcliff. I could not resist but ping you. I wanted to be the Catherine to your Heathcliff. I wanted to live up to Wuthering Heights. We spoke about it for days. You were in a different country. I used to stay up, just to speak with you. It so happened, that you visited India. I came to pick you up at the airport, only to see a hardbound edition of Wuthering Heights under your arm, for me. I was overwhelmed. You also told me that you were seeing someone by then. The book as usual stayed. You insisted. I could not refuse. I was never Catherine. You were definitely not Heathcliff. We have not spoken since.


Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert:
Isn’t it ironic that you were a married man, and sort of very loosely the plot of Madame Bovary played out between us? You could not meet me that often. I would yearn for you. I could not message. Neither could I call. It was futile. This relationship or so we thought it was then. You were married. I was younger back then. I should have known. It would not work, for the world and yet somewhere, I hoped it would. It was that time when you gifted me a copy of Madame Bovary. We watched the movie and loved it. I told you I already had a copy. You said, “Use this one for marginalia”. I did just that. I wrote notes, in the margins, of a love gone by.

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami: This was one of those times, when I hated you. I hated the fact that I met you. I hated everything about you. You were probably the only man, who brought out the worst in me. I do not even know why we dated. I have no clue why it happened or how. It should not have. You left me bereft in the wake of heartache. I did not want to know you. I did not care about you. It was not easy. It was almost like you took away the joy of reading with you, because all said and done, you were the only man I had met in a long time, who read. You read extensively and I also hated you for that. I chanced upon a copy of my favourite book with you – Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. I reread it the day I left you. I read it in your house. I left the book. I did not want a part of you.

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller: I do not know why you gifted me this book. It was almost at the peak of the relationship, and here you were, gifting me a book about unrequited love. It was almost as if you knew that we would not survive. Were we that self-destructive? We wanted a lot of each other, I guess. We could never get enough of each other. That was always the case. A stranger meeting a lonely housewife and their love not seeing the light of day. It was almost metaphorical. All we can say is that we tried, you and I and somehow there have been no regrets. Funnily enough, then I thought the book was cheesy. I have read it about ten times since you left. There was nothing more to do.


The Three Mistakes of my Life by Chetan Bhagat:
This was a long-standing joke between us. I was a Literature Student. You a Commerce Student. You challenged me then to read a book by Chetan Bhagat. You knew it would be most difficult for me and yet you posed the challenge. I chuckled. You smirked. You knew I would never read it. The book still is there on the bookshelf somewhere. I have not been able to throw it. Your memories matter. We still meet; chat for a while and I hope we don’t see each other’s mistakes.

Our Lady of Flowers by Jean Genet: This was not something which I had expected from anyone. This book was not even heard of by most Gay men, but you knew of it and you made it a point to procure it for me. Jean Genet bound us. Lawrence Durrell strengthened the bond. You quoted to me from these books. I had to wait, catch my breath and continue gazing at your neck as you spoke. I wanted to bite you then. I wanted to taste you. I wanted to own you. I could not. Love is like that – the bittersweet feeling and then the yearning. It rained when you gifted me this book. The book got wet. I went home. I ironed the book. It reminds me of you, time and again.

By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart: You were fascinated by the title. You said that it touched you. I could comprehend that. But the fact of the matter was that you did not read. You just wanted me to read it. You said, “Read to me” and I did. You said, “Write for me” and I did. I read the book, over and over again. I read it more than a dozen times. I read it. I wanted to know. I wanted to know why you left me the way you did. I could not find my answer.

So these are the eight books, given to me by very special men in my life. The various points of time – of love, of heartbreak, of memories, of spending time with all of you. Of a world which you gave me, sometimes introduced me to books and sometimes I introduced you to good books. They stayed. And sometimes in the form of memories, so did all of you.

Advertisements

Patience by Daniel Clowes

patience-by-daniel-clowes

Title: Patience
Author: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1910702451
Genre: Graphic Novels, Sci-Fi
Pages: 180
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

The deal with graphic novels written by Clowes is that there is not one single moment of rest. You cannot keep it aside and mull over what you’ve read till it is over and done with. “Patience” is one such of his graphic novels. It is sci-fi, love, twisted and redemptive in so many ways, that you cannot help but love the writing and the illustrations.

What is it about though?

Before I tell you what this book is about, let me also tell you that this book is highly trippy – the graphics are 80s and fucking (pardon my French) fantastic. I mean, this one for sure has surpassed his earlier works in terms of the visuals. Having said that, Clowes’ books do tend to drift away from the regular – be it the story or the characters’ nature. Patience is definitely no different and on the money every single time.

Clowes explores the themes of loneliness and alienation as he has in most of his other books. What makes Patience so different then? It is also psychedelic and it is a sci-fi love story – which is destructive and tender. Jack’s pregnant wife Patience is killed and this leads to his downfall. He lives in misery for decades till he discovers a way to travel back in time and stop the murder from happening. Once he does travel in the past, he learns a lot about his wife which he wasn’t aware about. How will the book end? What will be the outcome of this story? There is really only one way to find out. Read this book. It is one of those rare gems.

Opus by Satoshi Kon

opus-by-satoshi-kon Title: Opus
Author: Satoshi Kon
Translator: Zack Davisson
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 978-1616556068
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novels
Pages: 384
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Rating: 5 Stars

Satoshi Kon died very young. When he was only forty-nine years old. In the course of reading his manga, “Opus” I researched and got to know more about it. I didn’t even know till then that he was a renowned filmmaker. I’m only too glad that I read “Opus” – a little too late, but better late than never.

“Opus” is about worlds that writers create; characters they rule over, plots they devise and how all of them affect each other. The manga is about a manga creator Chikara Nagai and how he is at a deadline to finish his graphic novel Resonance. Lin, his main hero does not want to die. He protests as he tears the last sheet of the manga and runs into the world created by Nagai. Lin wants to protect Satoko who is battling the evil Masque. Masque will stop at nothing. These are characters created by Nagai and he doesn’t want them to have a happy ending, though his editor and everyone else around him wants them to.

Chikara by chance or magic if you please enters his world of Resonance. The characters want to write their own story. Satoko comes to the real world with Chikara and things change drastically – with a lot of thrill page by page for the reader. Let me not say any further now or I will be giving away most of the plot.

Kon’s imagination is magnificent – as is visible through this manga. I haven’t watched his movies, so I really can’t comment on them. Having said that, this manga is brilliant beyond words. The anime has so much character, grace, personality and plot twists and turns that you cannot help but love this one. I wish someone would make a series of it soon. It would be epic.

Wilson by Daniel Clowes

wilson-by-daniel-clowes Title: Wilson
Author: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House
ISBN: 978-0224090612
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comic Strip
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Wilson is a strange character. I have never encountered someone like Wilson in graphic novels. He is not a happy person and he doesn’t like people. He is a sociopath. He is a loser. He is also not a romantic. He loves his dog. He doesn’t care about his ex-wife (or maybe he does) or for his daughter (maybe he does). All said and done, Wilson isn’t the sort of man you’d hang out with.

wilson-by-daniel-clowes-image-1

“Wilson” by Daniel Clowes is told in the form of cartoon strips. It is spread over 80 pages in this format and is a delight to read, with every turn of the page. He is an introvert and also an extrovert – basically confused which most of us really are, so it is okay. Daniel Clowes focuses on the ups and downs of one person’s life and surprisingly, there are portions you can very well relate to. My grumpiness for example – I could totally understand when Wilson was not being so nice (which is almost all the time in the book) and that kinda overwhelmed me.

Wilson might also be about the mundane and about loneliness and how each of us deals with it. The pages compliment Wilson’s mood – the colours, sometimes the fonts and the attitude as well. Wilson is a bastard and you can see that – but he has more shades to him than just black and white and that is what makes this graphic novel super interesting. His interactions with others are most unique and funny.

wilson-by-daniel-clowes-image-2

I would highly recommend everyone to read “Wilson” only because it is so bizarre and so satisfying at the same time. It might also make you contemplate a lot about your life, so be cautious about that. Make it a holiday read. You will not be disappointed for sure.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

the-boy-in-the-striped-pyjamas-by-john-boyne Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Vintage, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-0099572862
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This was the second book I read as a part of ‘The Story Cure’ reading project. Also, it is holocaust literature, so it comes with the territory of tears, anger, and loneliness. There is nothing you can do about it when you start reading it. To top that, there is a movie based on this book, which I don’t think I will ever watch.

“The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” is a book that will not leave you – perhaps because you already know how it will end, but also because of the writing. Boyne is simple, direct and quite powerful at his craft. The book is by no means a difficult read – it is just the emotions that need to be dealt with after that is tough.

Bruno, a nine-year old boy lives with his parents and older sister Gretel in Berlin. The year is 1942. One fine day as he comes back from school, he is told that they are moving to a place called Out-With (Auschwitz or so he pronounces or understands it throughout the book). His father has received a promotion. He doesn’t have any friends in the new place. But it is the Fury’s order who father works under (the Führer – of course we all know it is Hitler. Again Bruno cannot pronounce it so he calls him Fury throughout the book) and they have to go to Out-With.

There is a tall fence there that separates him from some strange place – all wearing the same clothes – all dressed in striped Pyjamas. This is where Bruno meets Shmuel – a skinny, gray looking boy and their worlds will never be the same.

Boyne’s characterization skills are superb. The characters – including the parents, Lieutenant Kotler and the servants are gripping. Their sub-plots convey so much throughout the book and yet it doesn’t stop being a young adult book. It continues to maintain its innocence and has so much to say. The writing is funny also at times, mostly it is heartbreaking though. I don’t think I can bear to watch this movie. The reason it was a part of “The Story Cure” is as it answers the question “What it’s all about?” – it will cure you of it – all the angst (some of it) and perfect for teenagers to know what happened and how did the Holocaust play out for most. I almost didn’t want to read the book – but I am glad I did. Read it, but do keep the box of tissues handy.