Tag Archives: random house

In Defense of Murakami

Murakami Assortment

A lot of people have discovered Murakami rather late and are taken by what he writes. There is one set of people who love his works, another who don’t understand his works and yet love him because everyone is reading him, and a third set who detest him, mostly because they have not read anything or have read but do not seem to understand the fuss around him.

I do not defend writers. Their work speaks for themselves, however with Murakami, it is a different matter altogether. He is more than a writer from where I see it. I first read a Murakami in 2001, when I think most people had not even heard of him, let alone talk of him and his books. I was lucky enough to have spotted Sputnik Sweetheart then and very proud of owning a first edition at that. I saved and ordered the book from Amazon dot com in those days and I knew somehow that my love affair with Murakami’s works would be a never-ending one.

Sputnik Sweetheart

Sometimes I wonder, how he writes, the way he does and then I do not. I just take in what he has to offer. I may be biased, but who is not toward their favourite writer/s? We all are and with good reason. To us, they are impeccable. To me, Murakami is. It went on from there – one after the other. By 2003, I think I had read all that he had to pen and then there was more. A lot more to come. His worlds are not easy. His people are not perfect and yet he seems to bring balance to their lives, after much distraught and complexities.

Murakami’s worlds are parallel and maybe he is repetitive, but most good authors are. That is also because one book is not enough for them to say it all or maybe two books. They need more and yet all his stories are distinctive or just follow a thread of bare similarity and that is where it ends. He is fond of finer things – cats, elephants and jazz. So? That is just how the man is. May be this is not even in defense of him, as much as it is my love for my favourite writer. His words resonate and reverberate along after I finish his books and to me that is sheer genius. I remember reading his short story from, “After the Quake” called Honey Pie and I for one could not stop crying. For me if a writer can do something like this, get to the heart of my emotions, then the deal is sealed.

I do not know what it is about Murakami’s writing that moves me so. I think because he connects us all through loneliness. His characters are forever seeking, wanting better, wanting to be loved and love someone in return, which maybe everyone can relate with. Yes, he takes time to get to the point, but to me that is just the beginning of a wonderful story waiting to be revealed. It is a rollercoaster ride of emotions and connections that last. To me, that is it about him. He is a genius. I love his works. That is that.

Book Review: The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer

The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer Title: The Scatter Here is Too Great
Author: Bilal Tanweer
Publisher: Vintage, Random House India
ISBN: 9788184004595
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Pages: 214
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Bilal Tanweer’s characters are fragile, sometimes introspective, angry, filled with angst and well, at the end of it all, just human. I start this review like this, because I want you to know how the writer thinks and what better way to know that, than get a sense of how his characters are. I have always believed that it takes a lot for writers to dig stories from their lives, more so when they live incidents – one way or the other, and from which, stories are born.

Bilal Tanweer’s book, “The Scatter Here is too Great” – a collection of interrelated stories is just what the book doctor recommended for a weekend read. It is not frivolous. It is not your typical short story collection. The fact that it resonates and says it the way it is, is reason enough for any reader to pick this collection.

“The Scatter here is too Great” is about an event that strikes different perspectives, amongst different walks of life in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. The event – a bomb blast at Cantt station. The description of the blast is gripping, given what it leads to and how different views and opinions, loves and losses, anger and frustration and deeply embedded loyalty to Karachi come forth. Tanweer perhaps has no set technique and to me that was most refreshing while reading this gem of a book.

From a kid who is bullied at school, to an ex-communist and poet being harassed on a bus by youngsters, to a teenager who steals his mother’s car to meet his girlfriend and my personal favourite in the entire collection – a story of a girl who tells her kid brother stories, and hides her grief within.

I am trying very hard not to use the regular adjectives to describe Tanweer’s writing and yet I cannot avoid using the word stupendous when it comes to his writing. It does not at any point feel that Tanweer is a novice and this is just his debut. Terror is at the centre of the book, but it is not its heart. What is then is the love for the city, the characters that are constantly struggling for sense of normalcy, who in the wake of the incident, want to lead better lives and yet are hopeful about it. To me it was a fantastic read of the month and the year. If you enjoy short stories and even if you do not, the book will sure leave you spellbound.

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The Scatter Here is Too Great

Book Review: The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy Title: The Baker’s Daughter
Author: Sarah McCoy
Publisher: Broadway
ISBN: 978-0307460196
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

A lot of books have been written about the Second World War by now. More so from the perspective of the Holocaust and nothing else. At times, you also think that you have read it all. After all, how different can one story be from the other? I have always thought that or rather used to. To read enough all the time about a particular incident does not make you an expert on it. Nothing can till you live it. That I guess just holds true for any human life. It has to be endured, and lived and sometimes chronicled.

“The Baker’s Daughter” was an interesting read for me this month. Though it started very slowly and did not interest me initially, it picked pace at about page fifty or so and from then on did not let go. The year is 1944 and the Third Reich rule Germany. Elsie Schmidt is sixteen years old and the youngest daughter of a baker in Germany. Everything seems to be going fine in her life, till she discovers a surprise in her house and from there on life changes course and events unfold. This is further complicated with another track, years later, in late 2000’s, practically sixty years later, when the past emerges and threatens to merge with the present. For now, this is all that I can give away.

Why should you or anyone else for that matter read this book? Because according to me, the book is written the way it should be. It is precise in its plot and the emotions it wants to convey with every turn of the page, which as a reader, matters the world to me and my sensibilities. It is well-researched and almost makes you think more of men and women thrown in extraordinary circumstances and what they must do to survive and make decisions against their nature. There were times in the book that I got a little bored by the description, but as I read further, I understood that it had its place and could not be done without.

The two story lines are fantastically juxtaposed and more intelligently so. The shifting in timelines does take some time to get used to, however once you do, then it is a cakewalk. Elsie’s story and character is but obviously the stronger one, however the second track is equally important and needed. The setting is quite challenging given the number of books already written on this subject, both fiction and non-fiction. McCoy does a fantastic job of chronicling the side of the Holocaust that is rarely written or talked about – the German side (this is to give you an inkling to the rest of the story without giving away anything about the plot).

There are some acts in life that are born out of humanity, some out of kindness, and some purely out of love. This story reflects that and makes us question our choices in times of need and how we behave and act. This is one of the times that I went back and reflected on the quiet power of storytelling.

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Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Broadway Books
ISBN: 978-0307887443
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I had heard of “Ready Player One” from other bloggers. I thought of the premise to be interesting, actually very interesting, and when I received the book, I could not stop reading it. More so, I finished reading the book twice in a span of six days and loved it more so the second time round.

Now let me tell you something about the book: The book is set in 2044 and the future is not very bright. It is everything but happy and cheerful. Everyone wants to escape reality and people choose to enter the world of OASIS instead, which is an artificially created simulated world.

The simulated world is created by a man named James Halliday, a geek – the ultimate lonely human being, who was obsessed with the 1980’s. Halliday dies at the beginning of the book, a billionaire with no heirs to his property and wealth. However, before dying he created a game within OASIS. The winner of the game would have to find three keys, leading to the ultimate find – the Egg. The winner would win billions of dollars. Everyone is in the rush to find the egg and win the prize. The protagonist of the story is an eighteen-year old boy, Wade Watts, with almost an in-built obsession to do anything with Halliday or the 80’s.

He lives in poverty with his cruel aunt (the regular orphan theme) in a trailer – which is quite surprising because in this world, the trailers are laid on top of each other, connected by a platform of sorts. He wants to get out of this misery and for him the only respite is living in OASIS. In this world, he meets his virtual friends – Aech and Art3mis. His own virtual world name is Parzival. The three of them head out to find the keys (separately or together is something that you have to find out). The story becomes only more interesting with more Gunters (the ones who are in the game) in the running for the Egg and another group called the Sixers, who work for a villainous corporation called the IOI who want to take over OASIS.

Wade has a lot of challenges set in his path before he can win the contest, however does he win or not, is the main question, for which you have to read the book.

The book is fast-paced (but obviously) and very intelligently written. I loved the random 80’s clues placed all over the book. From book references to movies to music to video games to the kind of computers made back then, it is all there – almost like reliving/living the 80’s. There is so much at the same time that I can go on about OASIS as a virtual world; however you need to read it to experience what I did. The writing is crisp in most places and there is a lot of ground that Cline has covered (which is quite evident) in shaping this book. I was tempted to draw parallels to The Hunger Games Trilogy, however that was just initially. Both the books are very different and hopefully intended for different audiences.

“Ready Player One” has it all – the ethical dilemmas, the love story, the virtual fantasy element and what it takes to be human in these such as these. It is definitely a page-turner and I am glad that there would be no sequel because the book is complete. The reader will go back and forth to mark the 80’s references and go back to them, at least I will. I absolutely loved “Ready Player One” and would recommend it to one and all.

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Book Review – Philida by Andre Brink

Title: Philida
Author: Andre Brink
Publisher: Harvill Secker, Random House
ISBN: 978-1846557040
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Rating: 5/5

I am always a little wary when I pick up a long-listed or a short-listed Booker title to read. It somehow conjures the image of some heavy-duty reading and while that is true for most books, it also sometimes happens that I tend to enjoy the particular read a lot. The same happened with, “Philida” by Andre Brink that has been long-listed for this year’s Booker.

A lot has been written about the condition of slavery. From Toni Morrison to Flannery O’Connor to Eudora Welty, all have touched on the topic and eloquently so through their stories and novels. Philida also revolves around the same theme.

Philida is about Philida, a slave in South Africa in the 1830s, when slavery was about to be abolished. She is the mother of four children; fathered by Francois Brink, the son of her master (I was not even surprised when I read this). The year is 1832. The Cape is ridden with rumours of the liberation of slaves. Philida decides to file a complaint against Francois who had promised to free her, but has not. From there on her life changes beyond recognition.

The novel also is told in third person, but goes back and forth in first-person narratives as well – that of Philida’s, Frans (Francois), Cornelius (her master), and Petronella. It is a bit difficult to read the book initially, but once you get the drift of the narrative, it becomes relatively easy.

The reason the book seems so real is because it actually happened. Andre Brink is the descendant of said slave owners and while dramatic license has been taken in writing fiction, some of the characters in the novel actually existed at one point. For me, this information alone was enough to thoroughly enjoy the writing.

The writing takes its own sweet time for any reader to get his or her teeth into it, but once they do, there is no keeping it, till you finish it. The novel pitches different narratives and it is yet very-well written. A novel about slavery and a woman’s need to set herself free is quite predictable, but like I said, it is the writing which makes it what it is.

“Philida” is a read which is not easy and at the same time, the realities of slavery and the road to its abolishment are cleverly brought to front. The concept of master-slave and courage as opposed to cowardice is clearly seen in the book. I would recommend it for sure and hope it makes it to the short-list of the Booker this year.

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