Daily Archives: January 1, 2021

Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth by Benjamin Taylor

Here We Are - My Friendship with Philip Roth by Benjamin Taylor

Title: Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth
Author: Benjamin Taylor
Publisher: Penguin Books USA 
ISBN: 978-1524705787
Genre: Literary Memoirs
Pages: 192 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 3/5 

With the passing of time, and as you become older, you are set in your ways. There are some things you cannot change, and perhaps don’t wish to either. And somewhere down the line, much against your will (I think), you end up making new friends, and somehow, they stay. Them coupled with the ones who know you and who you know inside-out. I thought this book would be about that – a friendship.

Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth by Benjamin Taylor is exactly what the title says or should’ve been. It started off with so much promise – the first two chapters of a rather small book, and then you got to see the promise only in the last two chapters and that was that. I expected more. I expected glimpses into their friendship, but all I got was Benjamin Taylor gushing over Roth’s works. Well, it is a literary memoir, but then why tell us that it is a friendship with Roth, and then not reveal enough to feel something.

This is the second book read this year, and once again not very impressed by it. The writing like I said shines in places, and leaves you wanting more. Taylor speaks of Roth and his thoughts on being Jewish in the world. Of his characters, his parents (very briefly), his wives (again not too much other than speaking of Claire Bloom), and about being an atheist and such. But never does he speak of what it was to be his friend and vice-versa, except till the very end. Taylor knows so much about Roth, and yet the reader is left with nothing. There are several literary references – more than enough books (Roth’s and others’) that are mentioned. It makes for a great reading list but that’s about it.

Books and Authors mentioned in Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth:

Playlist for Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth:

  • The House I Live In by Frank Sinatra
  • On A Note of Triumph by Norman Corwin
  • Emerson Quartet
  • Friends will Be Friends by Queen
  • Bach
  • Beethoven
  • Brahms
  • Piku’s Sarod Theme
  • Pather Panchali Theme
  • Who Wants to Live Forever by Queen

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger by Aravind AdigaTitle: The White Tiger
Author: Aravind Adiga
Publisher: Free Press, Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1416562603
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Indian Writing in English
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 2.5/5

Every time I tried reading, “The White Tiger” I was unsuccessful. I couldn’t move beyond the tenth page. There was something about it, or something about me that didn’t enable the turning of the page after a certain point. I tried reading it in 2008 when it was first published. I tried reading it when it won the Booker that year, and many other times. I couldn’t.

Till I did a couple of days ago, and well, it turned out to be the first read of 2021. I must say that I was left disappointed. I could not empathise with any character. I mean I so wanted to with Balram at least. The one who rises above the very real and deep-rooted caste system. The one who does it all, no matter what it takes. It is Balram who is narrating the story. He could also be an unreliable narrator, but I was willing to believe it all. I was hanging on to every word till I stopped.

Balram Halwai is the protagonist of The White Tiger, or perhaps it is circumstances of one and millions of Indians who are drummed into believing that they have to serve. So, he serves. He is the son of a rickshaw puller, born in the heartland of India. He works at a tea-stall, also crushes coal, and dreams of a better life. Opportunity knocks when a big landlord hires him as a chauffeur for his son, daughter-in-law, and also to do other tasks around the house. For him, life is better when he is asked to move to Delhi with the couple, and thereon he plans his escape, so he can be a man who is at the top of the pyramid of life.

Yes, Adiga tries hard to speak of poverty, caste system, discrimination, of what he calls the “Rooster Coop” – as a metaphor for describing the oppression of the poor in the country. He does all of this, but somehow, I couldn’t find any nuance. The writing failed to make an impact. I couldn’t feel anything for any character. I did guffaw in very few places, but that was that. I did turn the pages quickly because it is that kind of read. Perhaps the very few Booker winning titles, that are actually readable. Maybe I read it because of the hype of the movie that releases on the 22nd of this month, starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkumar Rao. Whatever it is, the first read of the year turned out to be a dud.

Books and Authors mentioned in The White Tiger:

  • Harry Potter Series
  • Rumi
  • Iqbal
  • Mirza Ghalib
  • James Hadley Chase
  • Kahlil Gibran
  • Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
  • The Joy of Sex
  • Desmond Bagley

Playlist for The White Tiger:

  • Hazaron Khwaaishein Aisi by Shubha Mudgal
  • Fields of Gold by Sting
  • On My Way Home by Enya
  • I Want to Break Free by Queen
  • Return to Innocence by Enigma
  • Jawaane Jaaneman
  • Changes by Tara George
  • Hey Jude by The Beatles
  • Freedom by George Michael
  • Dil Jalane ki Baat by Farida Khannum