Tag Archives: sputnik sweetheart

Fox 8 by George Saunders. Illustrated by Chelsea Cardinal

Fox 8 by George Saunders Title: Fox 8
Author: George Saunders
Illustrated by Chelsea Cardinal
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN: 978-1526606488
Genre: Satire, Fiction, Fable for Adults
Pages: 64
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

There are some books that just nestle into your heart and stay there. For me, those have been the likes of An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami, The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Capote, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. You get the drift, don’t you? These are the kind of books that can be read to soothe me, when I am feeling down. I am certain we all have these kind of books – the ones that make everything alright, just by opening them and reading – over and over again. Fox 8 by George Saunders is the latest addition to my ever-growing list of “heartwarming” books. (I hate the use of the word heartwarming, my apologies).

I love Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo though is my least favourite book written by him, though it won the Man Booker Prize and all that). His short fiction is par excellence, his essays even better in my opinion, and basically whatever he writes is pure gold. Fox 8 is no less of a book because of its size. If anything, after you are done reading it, you tend to agree that it had to end, where it did, even if you wanted more of it.

Fox 8 - Image 1

Read more: In Appreciation of George Saunders

This 64-page novella/novelette is about a fox – the name is Fox 8 who is curious about humans (poor sad fox. I for one can’t stand most humans) and also learns some of the English language, by watching parents read to their children (I love how the fox also debunks fairy tales for us with reference to the role of the fox in them). Saunders is in his full form with inventiveness of language – writing (phonetically) the way a fox would – yooman and not human, bare and not bear, and the list goes on. At first, you wonder about the writing style and when you give in, you are in love with this fantastical tale of two foxes visiting a mall (that has been built razing most of their forest) and what happens next.

Fox 8 - Image 2Read more: George Saunders’s 10 Favourite Books

Before I forget, kudos and more to Chelsea Cardinal for the illustrations that go so well with the story. The illustrations are all black and white, except the foxes – they are in orange and stunning would perhaps be a lesser adjective to use. Saunders’ story is telling of our times – of the way we inhabit spaces and make of them to how endangered our wild life really is – and all of this is said with the eccentric and almost witty (in this one at least), true blue Saunders style.

Fox 8 is heartwarming, also heart-wrenching, makes you look at the world we have made and why and question almost every decision – which I think we must. At the same time, it makes a spot in your heart and will not go away. I am very happy that it was the first read of the year for me. Read it. It is truly beautifully done.

You can buy Fox 8 by George Saunders here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

387 Short Stories: Day 72: Story 72: Across the Bridge by Graham Greene

Twenty One Stories by Graham Greene Taken from the Collection: Twenty-One Stories

I have been a fan of Graham Greene’s writing since the time I was sixteen and read “The End of the Affair”. Nothing else perhaps could come close to it in the sense of the modern love story till I read Sputnik Sweetheart, and yet I keep going back to The End of the Affair most times for comfort and solace.

“Across the Bridge” is about homesickness, about a conman, an unnamed narrator and a lot of thrill as the story progresses. In fact, it is quite amazing to see how Greene can fit all of this and more in one short story.

I have always been in awe of his writing skills and more so, about the way he comes through both as a novelist and a short-story writer.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Twenty

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murkami

I went back to reading my favourite book in the whole wide world – Sputnik Sweetheart, when faced with a reader’s block and it uplifts me everytime. I remember when I first ordered this book from Amazon in 2001 on a whim. The story spoke to me and I wanted to read it. Right after I finished the book, I lost my father and felt the biggest sense of loss in my life – it was as though the sense of loss that ran through the book had engulfed my life and I did not know where to go or what to do. I re-read Sputnik Sweetheart and read it again and everytime I read it, it made me feel better. It made me sense my loss differently and for that I am grateful to Murakami and will always be.

Now for the review.  Most of Murakami’s work revolves around a common theme — the sense of isolation people feel and how easy it is for this loneliness to break your spirit and leave you little more than an empty shell. Sputnik Sweetheart focusses on the sense of loss people feel when they discover that love is fleeting and realize that the closeness they share with someone today will soon fade and may never be recaptured.

The plot is fairly straight-forward. K is in love with his best friend Sumire, an aspiring writer who considers K to be a close friend, but nothing more. Sumire, in turn, is madly in love with Miu, a married wine importer who lost the capacity for love when she went through a traumatic experience as a student. Sumire sets aside her writing to work as Miu’s personal assistant, and the two head off to Europe on a business trip. Sumire mysteriously disappears, and Miu summons K to help search for her. Miu being a woman in the book is so matter-of-fact, that I loved it.

Each of the novel’s characters is scarred by loss, and like the Sputnik, each character feels isolated, connected to the world and the people around them by the most thin and tenuous of threads. Miu suffers a traumatic experience as a young student which leaves her half a person and turned her hair white. As K sees her for the last time, she is a hollow shell, and her white hair reminds K of bone that has had every bit of life bleached from it.

Sumire’s sense of loneliness is even greater. Having never previously experienced or even understood love, she falls completely for Miu only to realize that Miu will never love her back. Like two satellites briefly passing each other in space, never to meet again, Sumire realizes that the has grown as close to Miu as she ever will and that she will eventually lose what little she has. She imagines another world where Miu’s lost half still lives and abandons our world to seek Miu there.

K too feels isolated. As Sumire becomes increasingly enamored with Miu, K sees his best friend and closest confident slip away. When Sumire disappears for good, K does his best to move on with life, but the sense of loss stays with him, and as the novel concludes, K finds himself tempted to join Sumire somewhere in that other world.

One idea in this book is that we are all broken vessels, and we want others to complete us. But perhaps that’s too much to ask. After all, everyone is looking for something different, and many of us aren’t even looking. So we all continue to be broken, to live each day isolated and unfulfilled. Is this life as we know and understand it? At times. I highly recommend this book if you want something to mull over. The plot and ideas are not straightforward, but the emotional impact is there. You don’t have to look hard; just let the book guide you. Murakami will remind you of what you already know, beautifully and introspectively.

It’s about perfection and ideals attained and lost, the continuation of the now empty flesh, such that the soul and spirit become myths and bedtime stories told to the very bodies they once colored and infused. There seems to be an inverse proportionality of the relative smallness of the book to the hole left in your heart when he’s done with you this time. It may be my favorite, though I don’t know when I’ll have the strength to read it again. May be when the next reader’s block takes place.

Here are some of my personal favourite quotes from the book:

So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us – that’s snatched right out of our hands – even if we are left completely changed people with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.
 
Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?
 
And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they’re nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.

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.

My Top 10 Fictional Heroines

Yes! Yes! and Yesses some more…I have been waiting to write this post for a very long time now and finally I will, about my Top 10 Heroines in Fiction. They are brash and sassy and know no boundaries. They are independent and live on their terms and conditions. They know no rejection or fear, and yet they love with a passion unknown to men. These are women I have admired growing up and love them to tiny bits. Here goes:

1. Catherine Earnshaw: No where can I find such a heroine who is mad with love for Heathcliff and yet hates him with a vengeance. She hopes he dies at one point in the book and regrets it so much. Catherine is a woman of contradictions and vulnerability – the irony kills me everytime I read “Wuthering Heights”. She is free spirited and beautiful, but can also be spiteful and arrogant. She is a wild animal and sees herself only with her one true love – Heathcliff.

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and [Edgar’s] is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” -Catherine Earnshaw, Chapter IX

2. Dominique Francon: She is a smoldering siren. The one who Roark rapes and she loves it. She is the woman behind the sole standing man, Howard Roark. I believe she is the fountainhead of the book, who wants to keep everything sacred in her man, who rather destroy him herself than let him be taken advantage of by the world. Such is Dominique Francon.

I wish I had never seen your building. Its the things that we   admire or want that enslave us, Im not easy to   bring into submission.

3. Miss Havisham: There is nothing more beautiful in a character than unspeakable obsession. The bridal dress is never removed. She is waiting for her groom to the verge of madness. The random nature of her revenge is not so random after all. She drives Estella to hate men. I love this character. She is a lady with a heart and its broken.

4. Becky Sharp: She lives up to her name. Her wit and sharp edge of sarcasm makes Vanity Fair a delicious read. She is witty, sexy and sandy-haired. Becky is from an impoverished background and makes no qualms about it. She is hungry – for rich men and power.

Revenge may be wicked, but it’s natural

5. Anna Karenina: From the time we are first introduced to her on a railway coach to the time she has an affair with Vronsky to her ultimate death at the very station where she first lands in the book, Tolstoy knew she would be his greatest heroine and she was. No one can touch the honesty of Anna.

6. Madame Bovary: Alright, bring out your little black books and please do not let them be provincial as Madame is in the house. It must have been difficult to please three men in one book, but not for this one. She epitomised beauty, slander, sexual desire and above all the act of being human. You go girl!

7. Emma: Jane Austen’s Emma is so very human. She is always plunging into such embarrassing mistakes – and yet they’re the mistakes one longs to make oneself, like telling the tediously garrulous Miss Bates to shut up. And, bless her, she is truly ashamed when she does, because she is actually very nice. Nicer than I am by a long way.

8. Sumire: She is not known to many (just like the way she would have liked it). She wants to be a writer and gets lost for the love of a woman. She is passionate and does not know how to dress well. She is the object of affection of K who can never have her. Loosely put, she is the best. You have to read Sputnik Sweetheart to believe what I am saying. Trust me.

9. Scarlett O’Hara: Try as I might I cannot ignore this cat. She had it all – the style, the attitude and the ambition. She wanted what she got, well most of the time. She could make clothes out of curtains and look stunning. According to me, Scarlett could have done anything. Anything at all.

10. Holly: Who can forget her at all? I for one cannot. From being Lulu Mae to Holly – the life of a party, to a call girl who has to but make her money. Holly Golightly was everything that Capote ever wanted to be and he made her come alive in more than one way.

You know those days when you’ve got the mean reds…. the blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long.  You’re sad, that’s all.  But the mean reds are horrible.  You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of.  Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is. 

And these are my women…No not jezebels. They are only human, in their defense…You’re always a woman to me…