Tag Archives: 2022 Reads

Read 109 of 2022. Suit. Written & Illustrated by Samarth.

Suit by Samarth

Title: Suit
Written & Illustrated by Samarth
Publisher: Yoda Press
ISBN: 9789382579328
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 66
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

India turned 75. I read “Suit” by Samarth, illustrated by him as well. A short graphic account of a day in the life of a manual scavenger. A account that must be read by all to see clearly, where we started, what dreams we had, and where we are today.

As Vandemataram plays in my housing society, I am disturbed and full of rage about what I have read, about what goes on daily – about the differences of class, caste, gender, religion, that certain people use beautifully to their advantage.

A country where a Dalit boy is beaten to death, for touching a drinking water pot. A society that refuses to acknowledge deaths that occur in the name of caste. Suit by Samarth addresses so many of these issues & more. Of the nature of dignity and how it should be for all

Suit makes you uncomfortable, as it should. A certain section society that looks the other way, because it knows of the comforts belong to it, needs to look at the other side. Suit shows us the mirror – of trauma, humiliation, and tragedy in the life of a sanitation worker

75 years and it feels nothing has changed. But perhaps there is more awareness of where we have failed, of what we haven’t done, of who we have wrongly elected, though we don’t know where to go from here. But maybe deep down we know how we got here.

Suit isn’t just about one struggle. It made me think of the several struggles – ones that are forever ongoing, there is so much to unpack & think about the India that hasn’t changed for certain sections of society. The India that is ridden with inequality & strife for some

Suit made me realize that we have lost our voices, but they will return. Our right to dissent may have gone temporarily but we shall overcome. I hope. Suit is also about loss of hope, about how dark, gloomy, and unfair it all is and it is one-hundred percent true.

We live in a country, where we do not know what might happen tomorrow in the name of religion. What new atrocity will be unleashed on the minorities. Of what unspeakable acts of crime and indecency shall be committed. We live in fear.

As I was reading Suit, I was reminded of November 2019, I think. Or was it October 2019, when we came out on the streets? We protested, we stood together, we were united by one goal – that of fighting injustice. That which continued and still does. I would like to believe.

India turns 75. It is hard to celebrate. It is hard to look around and feel proud. It is not easy to witness what is going on. But maybe some day we will come together again, as we should – against all the tyranny, to finally feel free, in the truest sense.

Read 108 of 2022. In Praise of Good Bookstores by Jeff Deutsch

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Title: In Praise of Good Bookstores
Author: Jeff Deutsch
Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 978-0691207766
Genre: Books and Reading
Pages: 216
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Yes, this book starts off on a very boring note, and yes it also tests your patience, but I request you to also endure while reading the first couple of pages, because after that it gets better, and to the extent that you find yourself nodding your head to every observation or thought made or had by Deutsch.

I do not know for how long the bookstore will last. The physical, brick and mortar bookstore – the one that isn’t Amazon or the likes of it. Maybe it will for a very long time, but that also depends on us – the readers. To make them last, for them to not only survive but also thrive. Deutsch has always been a bookseller and he draws from this rich experience of his and gives us a book that makes so many points in praise of good bookstores, and how they are places of discovery and communities should only be thankful to have them around.

At the same time, I wish Deutsch would also speak of people who work for bookstores with limited knowledge of books, and how to work around that, or for that matter the stocking issues as well when it comes to bookstores – the book you want is almost never available. Having said that, Deutsch also looks at the practical aspects of a bookstore – of it as a space – of how qualities like time, abundance, light, and the presence of community make or break a bookstore.

In Praise of Good Bookstores also gets pedantic at times, and the author does quote a lot of literary greats, but it also quickly manages to get the book back on track about the elements most need for a bookstore to be good, great, and the best. It does tend to get caught up in the nostalgia and the old-world charm of a bookstore but also balances it with the real-time situation of the day. I would most certainly recommend this read for a balanced perspective on why physical bookstores are needed and praising the good ones that are around.

Read 107 of 2022. After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz

After Sappho

Title: After Sappho
Author: Selby Wynn Schwartz
Publisher: Galley Beggar Press
ISBN: 978-1913111243
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

After Sappho is a song that must be heard by all. It is a paean that generations of people must pay attention to. Of the struggles, the triumphs, the failures, & then of winning and the struggle to keep all of it sustained – Schwartz takes us through fragments of the lives of historical women, transporting us across time – from 1880s Italy to 1920s Paris and London. There are so many women we meet along the way, many kindred souls, many whose loves and lives we relate with, their broken dreams, hearts full of love, aspirations, yearning for independence, to be seen, to transform to Sappho.
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As a queer person, this book spoke like no other title on the Longlist. With every reread my heart has been fuller, my mind freer, and my thoughts wilder. After Sappho is about women reading books in trees, of Virginia Woolf falling in love with Vita Sackville-West, it is about liberation, need to express oneself, about how Henrik Ibsen took a woman’s story and made it his, about men who do that on a daily basis, about spaces that are waiting to be reclaimed by women, about stories that end in the year 1928 in the book, but are still going on and on and on, encompassing the lives and loves of women.
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The prose is not only compelling but gloriously touching. After Sappho is a story of collective voices, of individual laments, of voices that will not be subdued, of voices that have been told to shut up constantly, and of voices that belong to bodies that do, think, and act as they please. Schwartz writes with humour, writes about pain, what it is to be a woman (something which I will never know, though I am constantly torn about who I am and what is my identity), she writes about everyone who is on the periphery of society. She speaks of the past, merging it with the present, predicting the future. It is about learnings – what we understand from our ancestors, women who go back and forth to learn, to understand themselves, the world at large where they are concerned.

After Sappho is a testimony to those on the margins, the outsiders; to those women who don’t fit in and don’t want to. It is about anyone who has fought, and continues to do so. As a gay man I found myself in its pages. I was another Sappho, too.

Read 106 of 2022. In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing by Elena Ferrante. Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

In the Margins by Elena Ferrante

Title: In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing
Author: Elena Ferrante
Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 9781787704169
Genre: Essays, Nonfiction
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

There’s nothing that Ferrante cannot write about. That’s just my opinion and anyone can refute that, but I will stick to it. Ferrante writes like a dream. Yes, at times her works do seem laborious to get by, too convoluted even, but the essence of each of her books, the way she makes you connect with the emotions of her characters, and more than anything else the way she writes of course in the larger scheme of things.

In the Margins is a collection of three lectures (and an essay) she gave (through the actress Manuela Mandracchia) in November 2021 at the University of Bologna as a part of “The Eco Lectures” that started in 2000. In these lectures, she takes us through the process of writing, what writing means to her, what reading is all about, and how she fits in to the greater framework as a writer.

So, here’s the thing, the lectures make for great insights into her mind as a writer – how she struggled with it, how she found her voice, and how even today she sometimes struggles with the entire writing process. Ferrante draws on her childhood writings, her process as a writer (briefly giving us glimpses), and in all of that, she speaks of her novels, and the ones that inspired her to write.

Overall, I found the book extremely engaging, though there were times I felt completely disinterested, but carried through with it, because the language and expression of writing never let me go. The translation then as usual of her works by Ann Goldstein is perfect and doesn’t miss a beat. Goldstein not only becomes a vehicle through which we understand Ferrante, but somewhere down the line, I was also somehow trying to make sense of the translator’s thoughts and conflicting emotions while translating a work about writing and reading.

In the Margins will take some time to read though it is only about 112 pages long. It is packed with ideas, emotions, and thoughts on how life and writing intersect, of a writer’s dilemma, of what she perhaps owes to herself before anyone else – as a reader and a writer.

Books and Authors mentioned in the book: 

  • Umberto Eco
  • Elie Wiesel
  • Orhan Pamuk
  • Dante
  • Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo
  • Rime of Gaspara Stampa
  • Mallairne
  • Virginia Woolf
  • A Writer’s Diary
  • Samuel Beckett
  • The Unnamable
  • Macbeth
  • Jacques the Fatalist and His Master by Denis Diderot
  • Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern
  • Troubling Love
  • The Days of Abandonment
  • The Lost Daughter
  • Relating Narratives by Adriana Cavarero
  • Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Sexual Difference by Adriana Cavarero
  • Alice B. Toklas
  • Gertrude Stein
  • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • My Brilliant Friend
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Neapolitan Novels
  • Dostoyevsky
  • Hemingway
  • Mark Twain
  • Notes from Underground
  • Homer
  • Ingeborg Bachmann
  • Mörike
  • Goethe
  • Elsa Morante
  • Natalia Ginzburg
  • Anna Maria Ortese
  • Jane Austen
  • Brönte Sisters
  • María Guerra
  • The Lying Life of Adults

Read 105 of 2022. The Trees by Percival Everett

The Trees by Percival Everett

Title: The Trees
Author: Percival Everett
Publisher: Graywolf Press
ISBN: 978-1644450642
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The Trees is one of my most favourite reads of the year. It is mindful, self-aware, empathetic, brutal in its approach toward understanding a world of inequality, and the constant fight to find your place – only because you are the other – because of your skin colour, because of how you look, and how you are already perceived right from birth.

Percival Everett is a writer who also has a huge heart when it comes to using sense of humour as a device in a book about racial redemption, revenge, and then to use macabre humour, to even the slapstick, and to thread it all in with America’s long and horrifying history of lynching people of colour. Only Everett does what he does best and beyond.

There is a lot if intertextuality in Everett’s works – whether it is a writing of a novel in Erasure, or for that matter Everett’s insertion of himself in I am Not Sidney Poitier, this is how he satirizes.  In The Trees, the construction of the detective novel is used at large to drive the point home – to use the usual detective tropes to speak of justice and when do you truly feel it has been served.

I found myself mulling about the idea of vigilante justice and honestly, I didn’t find anything wrong with it – more so when the judicial system is so broken, who then do the “other”, the “discriminated against” rely on? Where does the idea of morality feature then? What can happen when things remain the same, even after decades? It takes a writer such as Everett then to show us the mirror. Of real racism that exists, of the brutality that takes place, of how lynching and shootings are treated by Americans, of how the collective White shame is not being discussed enough. The Trees is a book that will stay with me for a long time – it shows you what you do not want to see, will hold you and not let you go, and ultimately make you think or feel about the world at large.