Tag Archives: coming of age

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

Title: Ghost World
Author: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House
ISBN: 978-0224060882
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

If I remember clearly, “Ghost World” was my introduction to graphic novels and at that time I found it very strange – it is barely 80 pages long and yet manages to convey teen angst with such accuracy that my head spun. It was published in 1997 and I remember a friend gifting it to me in 2000. More so, what was or rather is unique about it is that it is in only two colours – green and blue and to me that still is fascinating – even when I reread it now.

“Ghost World” as most aficionados know is also a movie starring Thora Birch and Scarlet Johansson. Now that that is out of the way, the book is about two teens – Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer – who are most cynical, pseudo-intellectual and recently graduated from high school. They encounter people and wonder what life has in store for them – they live dry and dull lives in an unnamed small-town and want to perhaps step out and discover the world.

This graphic novel is dark and yet does not lose its humour. I loved the writing – it is razor-sharp and doesn’t lose its capacity for nostalgia. Clowes characters remind you of the most ordinary people you might come across in daily life and perhaps ignore in a split of a second. “Ghost World” is also a lonely book – of two girls who are either trying desperately hard to fit in or just living life as it passes them by. Clowes has this uncanny sense of the society we live in – that demands appearances be kept up and yet you have these two teenagers who don’t want to keep up and are loud, edgy, and refuse to submit or conform. A book that needs to be devoured in every sense of the word.

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki Title: Skim
Words by: Mariko Tamaki
Pictures by: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Groundwood Books
ISBN: 9780888997531
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 143
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I had heard a lot about “Skim” before purchasing it. It is all about teenage angst, but I also think it is meant for everyone who wants to find a place of their own in this world and also about what path you want to choose, when there are so many in front of you.

“Skim” is Kimberly Keiko Cameron – who isn’t slim, is also a Wiccan Goth (well she does want to be it) and goes to a private girls’ school, where keeping up and meanness is in vogue. It all begins with Katie Matthews’ boyfriend dumps her and then kills himself. This starts a chain reaction of events at school forcing Skim to think about things she doesn’t want to and also in the process she falls in love and doesn’t know what to do anymore.

“Skim” as a book works on so many levels – adolescence, crushes, love – gay or not, forming cliques and what happens when you’re not a part of them, first love, and more than anything else – a way to find yourself is explored beautifully in this slim graphic novel.

It is the kind of book that can and should be given to every teenager as a rite of passage so it can help them come into their own. It is a book about being young and more than anything else it is about actualization to some extent. Please do not judge it by the cover. The illustrations are beyond words beautiful and it is all in black and white, which makes it even more special.

I am glad I read this book this year and more importantly this month. February as cliché as it may sound is about love (well all months are) and one must read some books all about love – twisted or not.

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Hang Woman by K.R. Meera & Translated by J. Devika

Hang Woman by K.R. Meera Title: Hang Woman
Author: K.R. Meera
Translator: J. Devika
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin
ISBN: 9780670086542
Genre: Literary Fiction, Indian Writing, Translation
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Some books are just not an easy read. No matter how hard you try, you cannot skim through them. Neither can you dismiss them. They demand complete and total attention. They will not rest till you give it to them and neither will you. “Hang Woman” by K.R. Meera is one such book. It is no doubt a complex read, given the subject and yet I did not feel like letting go of it, at any point. A book can be gripping in many ways, sometimes the traditional route of suspense and sometimes in the not-so-traditional sense of strong writing and ideas presented in a manner unlike any other.

“Hang Woman” is a translation from Malayalam to English. On this note, I hope there are more such translations. We as a country have a lot of offer in terms of literature and most of it goes unnoticed or hidden. Perhaps that will change. And it is essentially up to publishers to change that and I know for a fact that Penguin and others are trying hard to bring about that change. Many say that translated books do not or may not have the same impact as reading the book in the original; however, the translator for this book, J. Devika has done a spectacular translation.

“Hang Woman” is a book of executioners or rather a family of executioners. The Grddha Mullick family has witnessed almost every single important event that has shaped the history of the subcontinent. It is a lineage of executioners, dating back to before Christ and there is immense pride in that they take. Cut to present day, where twenty-two year old, Chetna is the first lady executioner of India and with a family tradition to take over. Of course, that is where the title comes from, but there is more to it than the obvious.

The layers and stories come out gradually in the book. K.R. Meera does a splendid job of mixing the past and the present and weaving it to create a story of love, loss and violence. There is a lot of juxtaposition of beliefs and also confusion to a large extent in the book that lends it its unique voice. What I liked personally in the book is the subtlety – of Chetna’s feelings, her life and her choices. Like I mentioned earlier, the translation is easy to read and lends imagination to the reader at almost every page. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and for someone who is searching for that book that he or she can mull over and be entertained at the same time, then I would say, read, “Hang Woman”.

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Book Review: In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House by Denton Welch

Apple and Drops of rain Title: In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House
Author: Denton Welch
Publisher: Exact Change
ISBN:
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages:
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House” by Denton Welch is one of those books which you need to have time to reread the minute after you have finished reading it. It is one of those books that demands to be reread, I think. It rather compels you to reread it. Some books have that effect on people and those books are few and far in-between. This is one of them. I discovered this book through The Novel Cure Reading Challenge and I cannot thank Susan and Ella enough for including this in their book.

The book while about adolescence and growing-up is also sometimes a meditation on the world around us – on how we choose to see and behave in it and how it really is. To be very honest, it is but alone the descriptions that make this book what it is – a classic. Welch takes the ordinary and creates something extraordinary out of it. A simple scene becomes magical and the reader is in for a treat. There are very few writers who are able to manage that.

“In Youth is Pleasure” is definitely about coming of age, however it is also about life and all that it has to offer and doesn’t. Orville Pym is a character like none other than I have come across in fiction in recent times. It is a story of his one summer and how it changes him and the way he sees things and people. Pym is full of despair and yet there are moments that redeem him quite suddenly. As a reader, I did have a tough time sometimes reading this book, however it was only initially. Later, it was a breeze.

Most people have not heard of this gem of a book and that needs to change for sure. It is a book that needs to be cherished and savoured like fine wine. I will also go so far and say that it is a book which you will never forget after having read it.

Next Up on the Challenge: Cure for Adoption: Run by Ann Patchett

Book Review: The Virgins by Siddharth Tripathi

The Virgins by Siddharth Tripathi Title: The Virgins
Author: Siddharth Tripathi
Publisher: FingerPrint
ISBN: 9788172344542
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It isn’t easy writing a coming-of-age novel. It is almost treading on dangerous territory. Do you really want to compete with the likes of J.D. Salinger and the rest when it comes to talking about growing up? No matter what the context or the setting, I still believe it is a risky proposition to even consider. At the same time, reading a novel of such a nature can be fulfilling or not for the reader. There will always be the danger of comparison. More so, there will always be that funny moment or instance which you have already read about or experienced. The “newness” then is difficult to look for. I must say that that didn’t happen to me while reading, “The Virgins” by Siddharth Tripathi.

I am wary when it comes to reading a debut writer. Like I say these days, “You throw a stone in the country and chances are it will hit a writer”. There are dime a dozen debut writers but to hold your own is the task that I feel not many can get through. Siddharth Tripathi successfully manages that through his book. The imagery of India as is and as is aspirational is brought out very well throughout the book and that was a major selling point for me. I was hooked from the first word. The book is about “becoming a man” and yet at the same time, it is about what it really takes and means to “become a man”. It is layered heavily, but doesn’t seem like at if you are reading it superficially. It is seething with issues and yet Tripathi makes it all a light read, which I am sure it is meant to be, given the audience.

“The Virgins” is about three friends living in Banaras – Pinku, Bhandu and Guggi. Pinku is a school-dropout, with responsibilities towards his family, dreams of marrying a girl he loves and he is all of nineteen. Bhandu’s life is a mess. His family is not the perfect family and he is also searching his way on the road to love. Guggi is always up to no good and trouble, thanks to his friends as well. Besides this, they have their class 12 exams round the corner and life couldn’t get more exciting. From there on in this small town India, their lives begin and take on a different turn.

The writing is clean and sparse. It isn’t typical of how teenagers become men. It isn’t typical of all the drama that could have been a part of the book and I can only be thankful that it isn’t. There is nothing crowding the book. I must admit that the book does seem a little long; however that is not what gets in the way of the reading experience. What I felt at times was that the book could have been better edited in some places. The sentences are just in place but may be not all the time. The chapters were too fleeting and that should have been taken care of. Besides this, I loved the plot and the writing.

Siddharth knows how to deliver and this is visible through his debut. Banaras almost came to life through this book. The sights, the smells, the traditions, the religious bias, the gossiping neighbors, the uncles and the so-called friendly aunts, all of it was almost like a painting on one big canvas. The book has a lot of soul to it. A lot of scenes will flash through your mind as you read the book. This book makes me want to visit Banaras and experience life there as is and may be even reread the book in the city. A great debut and definitely a must read.

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