Tag Archives: quarantine

Top 10 Reads of 2010

So here is my personal favourite list of Top 10 Reads of 2010.  Here goes:

1. Castle by J.Robert Lennon: I loved this book. I mean, I loved it! The story was taut. It was not all over the place. It maintained the sense of mystery and thrill that a book like this deserves and at the same time did what few writers manage to – get a grip on the landscape and create it into a living and breathing character. I am all for this one and cannot recommend it highly.

2. The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov: Though I found the book to be a little boring in the middle, I have to admit I loved it. There is no way I could not. Here we have Nabokov’s last book (can we call it that?) with his original writing on cards which were well etched into the book. Brilliant design and even better story.

3. Quarantine by Rahul Mehta: Hands down for this collection of queer short stories written by an Indian living abroad. Not because I am gay, but because he did a terrific job of writing such crisp and well-defined stories, though they had absurd ends and yet this one remains to be re-read.

4. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver: Highly accoladed and well-deserved for all the awards it won, Kingsolver did it again. It takes a lot to write a fictional tale and spin with historical characters – to breathe life into them – about what they will say or do given the situation. I bow to The Lacuna. The writing was lucid and emotional in too many parts to be described here.

5. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell: A masterpiece of titanic proportions. A saga (of sorts) set in 18th century Japan. A nation closed to the idea of international trade and confined to its customs and traditions, and who better to write it for us than Mr. Mitchell himself. I was enthralled by it and it held me captive for 3 days and nights at a stretch.

6. The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi: And from the moment I started reading this book, I could not put it down. The tale of the Patels had me eating out of Ms. Doshi’s hands and I wanted more of it. I just cannot wait for another of her books to come out. An under-rated writer for sure. Please read this one.

7. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen: This has to feature on my list for sure. Dysfunctional family. Midwestern American State and all the action that takes place. How could I have not enjoyed this one? I loved it to the core. A Must must read for everyone.

8. The Difficulty of Being Good by Gurcharan Das: A brilliant meditation on how the Mahabharata still affects us in this modern world. How truth, karma and dharma play their roles in the corporate and personal life. Gurcharan Das has done a brilliant job with this one. And I for sure am a sucker for mythology anyday.

9. Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller: If there is one biography I would urge anyone to read, it would be this one. Most people only assume about Ayn Rand and that is because no one knew her. Anne C Heller does a marvellous job with this iconic biography. Read more to find out more about Ayn Rand.

10. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman: Last but not the least it had to be this book. With the way it is written to what is being written about, I fell in love with this book from the word “Go”. A book to ponder over for sure.

So this is my Top 10 reads for the year and I know it will only get better in 2011. Bring it on!!

Top 5 Gay Novels

This post had to come sooner or later. I mean come on! I am gay and I had to let you guys know my all-time top 10 favourite gay novels, and yes I just spelt favourite with a u, which wordpress is just about now rejecting and I do not care. Anyway, enough of the rambling and down to my favourites:

1. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami: This one will always be at the top of my list, no matter what. This is not even your traditional gay novel, if you know what I mean. It just is. Like a poem, like a song, like a tribute to unrequited love of two women and a man caught in between. I can read this anytime.

2. A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White: A coming-of-age tale of a boy who realises he is gay and how his life changes for the better or for worse. A heart-aching book. Brilliant!

3.Quarantine by Rahul Mehta: This poignant and yet beautiful collection of short stories is brilliantly written. I have posted a review on it.

4. Collected Stories of Tennessee Williams: Stalwarth of some great gay short stories. No one can touch what he writes. You sure do remember A Streetcar Named Desire and the sexual undertones in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof?

5. Queer by William Burroughs: A scandalous tale of love, immigration and loads of sex. I have always wondered how gay writers tend to throw in so much sex in one book and now I know why. Read it to believe it.

Well I wanted to post 10 books, however could only think of 5 that I really love. Till next time then. Toodles.

Quarantine by Rahul Mehta

I do not like to read every new gay novel or short-story collection, unless it is highly recommended by someone I know. That’s how I like to pick my gay literature and to most extent I have been proved right. I was also of the belief that when gay writers write, they tend to over-exaggerate the sex scenes and play them to the hilt. I also think that it is somehow the “gay writer thing” to have to depict sexuality in the forefront, as though that is the only thing that matters – the fact that we sleep with other men.

Quarantine thankfully does not do that at all and this book was not recommended to me by anyone. It was sent by the publishers as a review copy and I am elated to review it. Not because Mr. Mehta is gay or not because this book is centred around gay men, but because there is honesty that rings true in this book, that everyone – irrespective of being gay or straight can relate to and that’s what matters.

There are nine short stories in the book and they shuttle between being based in the States and India. The characters are faulty – they are not perfect people, they are young and gay and only try to realize their dream. Rahul Mehta’s voice may not be unique, you may have read these stories set in different time periods with different characters, and yet there is this freshness that exudes itself from the stories. There are gay cliches and that was expected to a certain extent, but they go beyond that. They take the reader to the hearts of the characters.

For instance, in “Yours” we meet the unknown narrator who is trying to come to terms with his boyfriend Don’s liaison with an older African-American Man and the feelings he harbours for him at the same time. While another story is about lovers who end up going to a night club with the agenda of cheating on each other.  There are subtexts to every story which takes it beyond the queer realm – there are parents and siblings who are trying to get on with their lives, there are best friends who feel left out and alone and then there are relatives who with a simple smile and a shoulder to cry on make life seem simpler and easier to live. And yes at the end of it all, these are ordinary people trying to live their lives in a quarantine of emotions, love and sometimes hatred.

All I can say at the end is that this is a book one must not miss reading this Summer.

Book: Quarantine by Rahul Mehta; Random House India; ISBN: 9788184001358; PP: 248; Price: 399