Category Archives: Authors I Love

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter Title: Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Author: Max Porter
Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 978-0571323760
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 128
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Grief – A word that we are most afraid of encountering in our lives. A word that has the capacity to change everything and turn life on its head and shake your being to the core. We all experience it, whether we like it or not. We have no choice in this regard. Life does not give us any choices. I guess after happiness, which we also share quite hesitatingly, grief comes close second as an emotion that is not shared. We keep it within and maybe that is when we need to be pushed to let it all out and get over it (so to say) and move on with life.

Everybody passing could comprehend how much I miss her. How physical my missing is. I miss her so much it is a vast golden prince, a concert hall, a thousand trees, a lake, nine thousand buses, a million cars, twenty million birds and more. The whole city is my missing her.

It is just that it kicks you senseless, this grief I mean. It will not let you be as well. I remember how I felt when my father passed away in 2001. Fourteen years seems to be a very long time and it probably is and yet grief is at the core of it all, mixed with regrets and prematurely died promises and hopes that we had as a family. So when I read, “Grief is the Thing with Feathers” I could not stop wondering about our lives in that phase from the time it happened to the time we moved on (did we?) and perhaps that’s why this debut by Max Porter struck such a chord with me.

Loss and pain in the world is unimaginable but I want them to try.

“Grief is a Thing with Feathers” is a book which can be read by everyone and that is what I think every book aims to be – to be read by everyone in the long run, for people to connect with it, for people to not leave it, for people to also wonder why did it end so soon (which happens to be more often than not when I read books such as this one – which is so moving) and of course for people to reread it.

Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.

The book is about the death of a mother and how the husband and two boys come to terms with her death. It is not as easy as it sounds. Life never is and that is the beauty of this book. They need something to help them cope – an external resource and that comes in the form of a giant Crow (fable-like, mythical quality, whatever you may call it, but it helps them live day to day), who transforms their lives inside out and will only leave once the healing is complete.

Grieving is something you’re still doing, and something you don’t need a crow for.

Max Porter’s writing shines on almost every single page. The writing style and composition of the book is varied – part prose, part rhyme and part poetry, it is a meditation on living and dying and the void called grief, thrown right in-between these two. My only grouse with the book was the crow’s voice at times, because I just could not understand that and that voice happened to be most crucial in the book. Well, having said that the story on its own is so strong that you cannot help but turn the pages, one after the other.

The narrative is not straight-forward and that is what sets this book apart from the regular ones written on the subject of death and grieving. There are silences in the book that speak to the reader and make him or her their own. The book is highly emotional but does not at any point become sentimental. The three voices in the book are so unique and distinct that even in less than one hundred and fifty pages you start developing fondness for all the characters, including the crow. The dark humour, the moving on pieces right in the end and the way life just comes full circle, whether we want it to or not is beautifully portrayed in these pages. It is a wild and at the same time a tender exploration of grief and above all most reassuring that the void does get filled at some point.

“Grief is a Thing with Feathers” is a sparkling debut which comes to be only once in a while. So I highly recommend that you go out there, pick up this book, read it and while you are reading, let not anyone interrupt the marvelous experience.

Here’s Max Porter reading from the book:

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Grief is the Thing with Feathers

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes Title: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
Author: Roland Barthes
Publisher: Vintage, Random House
ISBN: 978-0099225416
Genre: Photography, Art, Non-Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I was never interested in photography. Somehow, it just did not interest me. However, after reading “On Photography” by Susan Sontag and also “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, I started taking some interest in the subject and I had known of Roland Barthes. Coupled with this was the fact that he had written on photography, so it was just only a matter of time before I would read it.

What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.

“Camera Lucida” is about photos, life, and death and about the cultures we inhabit. The book is not just about photographs and photography. It is a lot more on actually how we see and how we are conditioned to see.

“The photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star.”

The book is all about art – about how paintings came to lose some significance with the invention of the camera and how that was not the case after a couple of years. “Camera Lucida” is a collection of essays on “the photograph by onlooker” than what a photographer may think of his or her photograph. He questions what it means to take pictures and what the probable outcomes of it are.

It is not an easy read, but it is highly satisfying. Barthes draws on examples from life, what surrounds us and how it feels like to have a relationship with a still image in an age of constant movement and newer digital means.

“Camera Lucida” is about interpretation, imagination and art. It is more so about living and what it takes to make sense of art that is all-pervasive. The book is short and just right to know more about photography and the medium that it is. I will of course go back to it at some point. I must also say that it is not a read that you can fly by, however once you sink your teeth in it, it is an excellent read.

Amphigorey Too by Edward Gorey

Amphigorey Too by Edward Gorey Title: Amphigorey Too
Author: Edward Gorey
Publisher: Perigee Books
ISBN: 978-0399504204
Genre: Graphic Novels, Literary, Humour
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Amphigorey Too is a wonderfully strange book. It is a collection of 20 tales which have been previously published and this book is an anthology. In fact Edward Gorey’s stories are so short and so many of them that there are four omnibuses to encapsulate all of them.

These 20 tales are dark and completely out of the ordinary. They will take you by surprise and while they seem to be meant for children, they most certainly are not. Gorey’s style is always dark and witty. I guess having a signature way of writing always helps an author in the sense that readers can then associate easily and know what they are in for after reading the first couple of stories or books.

Amphigorey Too by Edward Gorey - Image 1

I had not heard of Edward Gorey, till my friend at Book Sense spoke highly of him and I knew I had to read him. My favourite tale in the book is “The Gilded Bat” which is about a prima ballerina and her life between performance, rehearsal and boredom. There are children in these tales who die at the drop of a hat and before you know it even adults are killed and meet their end quite grotesquely sometimes. But you must also read “Amphigorey Too” for the illustrations. They are brilliantly done and in tune with the wry humour.

Amphigorey Too by Edward Gorey - Image 2

The stories are sarcastic, dead pan, whimsical, bold, gory and above all also quite emotional if read deeper. Some of it is nonsense. Some of it is not. All I can say is that this is a read for a perfect rainy Sunday.

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The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers Title: The Way Back Home
Author: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780007182329
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 32
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Reading an Oliver Jeffers book is a treat, for both children and adults. I love them. His stories comfort me. The illustrations make me happy and mostly if any sort of art form can do that, then it is meant for you.

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers - Image 2

A boy like any other boy finds an airplane and decides to fly. He flies higher and higher and higher till he is space and runs out of fuel. What happens then? He lands on the moon and it is dark and lonely on the moon and he cannot think of a way of getting back home.

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers - Image 1

In all of this he meets another one who is lost on the moon just like him – it turns out to be a Young Martian. The Martian is apprehensive of the boy initially and so is the boy of the Martian.

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers - Image 4

The story unfolds as they trust each other and eventually find a way back home.

The book is a children’s book – that’s for sure, but at the same time, it is quite an insight into us when faced with a stranger. It is about our fears and how perhaps as a child it is easier to accept everyone than as an adult.

The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers - Image 3

“The Way Back Home” is a book which will be cherished by all. It is simple and it makes you think about the world we live in which is full of racism, xenophobia, and fear. I write this review while listening to “Imagine” by John Lennon and I hope that the world is different for generations to come. For now, we will read books like these by Oliver Jeffers.

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You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons by Mo Willems

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons by Mo Willems Title: You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons
Author: Mo Willems
Publisher: Hyperion Books
ISBN: 9780786837472
Genre: Humour, Travel, Graphic,
Pages: 393
Source: Borrowed from a Friend
Rating: 5/5

I cannot bring myself to read funny books. That is somehow not me and neither has it struck a deal with me in the past couple of years, despite trying so hard. And then a friend told me of this book called “You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons” by Mo Willems and it was the kind of book that made me laugh out loud so much so that I had to borrow it from (which again is mostly against my grain of never borrowing, never lending) her and I loved the book!

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons - Image 1

I had heard of Mo Willems earlier as a children’s writer but this was the book that was published before his children’s books became famous. “You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons” is a travel-diary in the form of graphics and doodles and cartoons that the author experienced as he travelled almost around the world. The book has funny and unique experiences that he went through while travelling to several places and meeting different kind of people.

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons - Image 2

The book is a delight in the sense that it is satirical, humorous and at the most laugh-out-loud as well. I absolutely loved the doodles and that’s how you can see Mr. Willems grow from being a cartoonist to an illustrator when it comes to his children’s books. The book is a travel diary in the form of cartoons, each for one day of the year and that is what makes it so different and quirky, given the illustrations. I strongly urge you to read this over the weekend.

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw when it Monsoons - Image 3

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The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc Title: The Lion and the Bird
Author: Marianne Dubuc
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books
ISBN: 978-1592701513
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 64
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are very few books that come along and change your life. You do not know in what way, but after reading them you are not the same and you can feel it so strongly that it takes your breath away. This happened to me when I read the most astonishing and enchanting picture book I have in a very long time. French Canadian graphic designer and illustrator Marianne Dubuc gives us this little piece of joy and ecstasy called, “The Lion and the Bird”. I had a problem procuring my copy since it is not easily available in India, but when I did receive it, I knew that I would love and cherish it forever.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc - Image 1

As the title suggests, the book is about a lion and a bird. That is what it is. A lion finds a wounded bird one autumn day and his life changes in so many ways. He takes the bird in, heals it, and throughout autumn and winter the bird stays with the lion. They build a beautiful friendship and bond, which must come to an end because the bird will soon heal and fly and the lion will be left alone, as he was before the bird came into his life.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc - Image 2

“The Lion and the Bird” is an ode to childhood and in so many ways an ode to adulthood as well. We all need to learn so many lessons as we go along – that of empathy, of being selfless sometimes, of understanding another’s sorrow and pain, and what life is truly about.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc - Image 3

Marianne’s illustrations and use of space are breathtaking. The loneliness of the lion is depicted tenderly as he shrinks after the bird’s departure. The use of space is marvelously done and with great minimalistic effort.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc - Image 5

This book is so appropriate for both adults and children. The eloquent pictures and story (almost wordless) go hand in hand and the words just become unnecessary. This is this beautiful rhythm to the book and though it is short, it just stays with you forever.

Alligators all Around by Maurice Sendak

Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak Title: Alligators All Around : An Alphabet
Author: Maurice Sendak
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780064432542
Genre: Children’s Book
Pages: 26
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“Alligators all around” by Maurice Sendak is a book that will make you smile and make you feel so good about the world around you. It is a book that makes you see things differently. The book is an alphabet book but all about alligators and their day-to-day life. It is most charming and you cannot help but swoon over the family of alligators and their quirks.

“Alligators all around” is an alphabet book that teaches a lot. It is all about what alligators do and they are adorable if I might say so. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeously done and have the humour intact about them. Sendak presents the alphabet most differently and in a unique manner. I absolutely loved it. You can read it in 10 minutes but it is not about reading it, as much as it is about paying attention to the illustrations.

Maurice Sendak is a well-known children’s writer but I don’t think he wrote for children. Maybe this one, but not the others for sure. I think there was something else at play, which was targeted at adults than children. All said and done, “Alligators all around” will appeal to both children and adults and is a book to keep.

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Alligators All Around (The Nutshell Library)

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