Category Archives: Vintage Books

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

giovannis-room-by-james-baldwin Title: Giovanni’s Room
Author: James Baldwin
Publisher: Vintage Books
ISBN: 978-0345806567
Genre: Literary Fiction, LGBTQ, LGBT
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I waited this long to read this gem. “Giovanni’s Room” was always on my to be read pile but I never picked it up and even if I did, I just read a couple of pages and dropped it. Yes, I am aware of the sacrilege but it is all sorted now and hopefully a thing of the past, because I intend to reread and reread this marvelous book of loss, unrequited love and courage to some extent.

It is a fluid book. At the same time, it is also the kind of book that makes you introspect and travel deep within the recesses of your heart to perhaps realize yourself better. It is about David (the narrator) who is American living in Paris. He has a seemingly normal life with a girlfriend in tow, and things change when he meets Giovanni. It is the 50s and Paris was the place where homosexuality wasn’t illegal, though stigmatized to a large extent. It gives David the freedom to explore and know himself and he unknowingly falls in love with Giovanni only for the book to reach its heartbreaking conclusion (Don’t worry; I shall not spoil it for you, though you will know in the first two pages).

Baldwin wrote this book in the 50s – when perhaps it was unimaginable to think of an LGBT book. David is not likeable. He is confused, lost and often does not come across as a great guy to be with, and yet Baldwin created one of the most unforgettable characters in him and Giovanni and their love story – which is toxic, destructive and will not stop at anything.

Subcultures as presented by the author on every page – many characters unfold as the journey of these two men take place side by side. Love in the margins is not easy to write about. Everything about Giovanni’s room depicts David’s state – emotionally and physically, beautifully portrayed by Baldwin. To sum this book in one line, I will quote from this book: “Nobody can stay in the Garden of Eden”.

365 Short Stories: Day 2: The Snow Child by Angela Carter

the-bloody-chamber-and-other-stories-by-angela-carter

Today’s story was “The Snow Child” by Angela Carter. Taken from the collection “The Bloody Chamber and Other stories”, this is a retelling of “Snow White” and explores aspects of male power, desire and horror.

I cannot begin to tell you how deeply disturbed I was on reading it, but the craft of Ms. Carter is something else. In fewer than 500 words she manages to make you feel the eroticism of the Count, the envy of the Countess and the innocence of the Snow Child which cannot last for long.

There is the element of surprise, shock and horror – all blend in beautifully in today’s story. A must read, if you ask me.

Here is the link to it: https://biblioklept.org/2013/06/21/the-snow-child-angela-carter/

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.

The Tusk that Did the Damage by Tania James

The Tusk that Did the Damage by Tania James Title: The Tusk that Did the Damage
Author: Tania James
Publisher: Vintage, Random House
ISBN: 978-8184006742
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Initially I was reluctant to read, “The Tusk that Did the Damage” by Tania James. I have been a great fan of her short-story collection, “Aerogrammes” but somehow this one did not strike a chord with the plot glance. I don’t know. Maybe it was the fact that one of the narrators is an elephant or maybe that I was not ready to read a book about poachers and the wildlife situation in the country. Having said that, I picked it up one day because it was right there, staring at me and I am glad I read it.

Yes, the book is about an elephant, a poacher, a film-maker and a vet. But it is so much more than that. There is this element of humanity that is ever-present and it is there on almost every page and then you are made to wonder if animals have that gene in them or not? That of compassion or is it dead because of humans? The narrative is very strong – alternating between the voice of the elephant, the poacher, the film-maker and the vet is present in the film-maker’s parts.

The writing is very strong. Tania James has done her research to the tee and one can’t help but imagine each and every sentence that she carefully lays out for the reader. I know I am not talking much about the plot and that is only because I would rather you read the book and discover it for yourself.

“The Tusk that Did the Damage” is about all of us in it together – animals and humans and how the roles interchange most times without us realizing. I would recommend this book to everyone only because of what is written and not to forget the wondrous style of writing. A sure shot read this summer.

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Book Review: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Publisher: Vintage Classics
ISBN: 9780099572954
Genre: Children’s Classics
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

“The Secret Garden” is a friend’s favourite book. He cannot stop raving about it. He was after my life to read it at so many points in life and yet I just would not. Maybe I was not ready for it then. But when I was I picked it up and loved it. It was a part of the Novel Cure Reading Challenge. The book is featured under: To Cure Adoption and that is what the book is partly about, or I would say very superficially about. It is more about finding home and something magical in your heart, as cliché as it may sound.

Mary Lennox’s family is dead. Her parents and most of her family died due to a cholera breakout. She is the only one surviving and found all by herself in a big huge house. She is lonely. She pretends to be brave and she is not at all courageous. She is only ten years old and never known what it is like to be loved and perhaps to love someone. Till she chances upon a garden – a locked, derelict garden, which comes to become a place she loves and a garden which heals her and teaches her how to love and to be loved.

I have not said much about the story because I would want readers to explore and find out the way I did. The writing is fantastic. It does not seem that it was written such a long time ago, and published in 1910. The themes are as relevant today. The angst of childhood and the need to find out more is omnipresent and exists in every child. To me, the book is one of the best children’s classics I have read in a long time and will most certainly reread it.

Next Up on the Novel Cure Reading Challenge: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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