Tag Archives: choices

Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra

multiple-choice-by-alejandro-zambra Title: Multiple Choice
Author: Alejandro Zambra
Translated by: Megan McDowell
Publisher: Granta Books
ISBN: 978-1783782697
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 112
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I remember loving multiple choice questions at school. I would actually look forward to that option at any exam or test, given that I could at least deduce some and get my answer and be almost sure that it would be the right option that I had chosen. Alejandro Zambra’s new book “Multiple Choice” is a book which is inventive, playful and based on the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test. It is one of the highly inventive books I have across in a long time (after Hopscotch by Cortazar I think and even he was Latin American) and I can in all honesty say that I loved it immensely.

“Multiple Choice” is a collection of micro-stories which engages the reader at every turn of the page – by giving them options to choose from. At the same time, it doesn’t really give you a choice and that’s when the clever writing of Zambra kicks in. This is not a novel for sure. It isn’t even a collection of short stories. I love the way this book breaks all norms and becomes something which no one can define. The irony lies in the postmodern prose where it challenges everything postmodern as well.

The book does take some time getting into and understanding the format – but once you do, you cannot help yourself but finish it. The book is divided into forms of multiple choice sections where as a reader you have to do either of these: exclude a term, reorder a sentence, decide on how to fill in the blanks in a sentence, eliminate sentences from a short narrative or show comprehension skills of stories. What the book then ends up doing is automatically laying ground for many perspectives to emerge from each short piece. What is interesting is the hidden political criticism that emerges in most short stories, almost defying a system in place.

Alejandro Zambra’s books are not easy to get into, as I mentioned earlier but what they do manage to do is leave a lot of thoughts lingering with the reader. “Multiple Choice” is a smart book that will make you feel clever and also underutilized at the same time. Some pieces are deeply moving as well – I loved the reading comprehension story on divorce which will choke you a bit. Sometimes the unconventional novel or a literary work challenges the way you think and rightly so. I strongly think more works of literature should do that, given the times we live in.

All said and done, “Multiple Choice” is also this good because of the fantastic translation by Megan McDowell. Every word, no matter how small stands out in the reading comprehension pieces and makes so much sense when connected with the questions at the end of it. I think that is the beauty of fiction that doesn’t follow the norm – it all ends up together one way or the other. “Multiple Choice” is deeply emotional, passionate, and political, and to forget a brilliant moving read. One of the best I’ve read in this genre and form in a while.

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The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

 

So I am not the one who reads anything related to management or marketing or business. I run away from such books. And then I chanced upon or rather “The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar was sent to me by the Hachette folks and I must say that I was in for a surprise.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point gave way to a plethora of psychological writing, rather psychological research that gave us an insight to ourselves and the way we behave and why we behave the way we behave, and in such a spate comes Sheena’s book that is absolutely realistic and is one of the best I have read in the genre.

Yes you guessed it right! The book explodes about choices and how they affect us to how they do not. It looks at choices in cultures and how it varies – right from Japan, where people are more likely to be directed to where to work and what to wear to the US of A, where a five-year old is aware about the choices he/she can make. The eason I started with sub-cultural nuances and how they affect choice, is because it was my most favourite segment in the book.

Simple and yet so relevant examples  of choosing and how it is really an art proliferate through the entire book. From a simple instance of buying nail paint (unnecessary choice making situation) to buying a car or to a new gadget (brands more or less tend to produce the same gadgets with one or two added features), to her famous research on Jams in 1995. (You have to read the book to know about this one as I am not saying anything).

What I personally found the most interesting was how we can categorize choices and we always do so without knowing it (sub-conscious choice-making process, may be. ). The idea really is that do we manage the alternatives in each category to begin with. And not to forget the part in the final chapter, when she discusses about choices being bad – especially when they are limited. How does one face or make them in that case?

However, having said all of this, all I can say is that you must pick up the book and because it is not sermonizing, nor preachy or trying to make a point. It just shows us the mirror of who we are when it comes to making choices and do we need any gumption for it at all. Pick it up and be enlightened!

P.S: I had the good fortune to interview Sheena over the phone. That will be coming soon.

“The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar; Little Brown and Company; Hardcover; 352pp; Rs. 499