Tag Archives: time

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro

Hourglass Title: Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage
Author: Dani Shapiro
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 978-0451494481
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

To sit back and see life passing you by. That’s the thought I had while reading, “Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage” by Dani Shapiro. It almost felt as though an old friend was speaking with me – telling me tales from her life, snippets that were hidden, incidents that had occurred a long time ago and were being recounted because she just wanted to let me know how she felt or feels. “Hourglass” though it is only 160 pages long, takes its own time to grow on you, and once it does, there is no way you can tear yourself from it.

So, you might wonder, why should I read a memoir about someone’s life and marriage when I don’t even know anything about the person? That’s a valid question to ask, however, that’s also where the answer is. You have to read the book, because Shapiro makes the disassociations feel familiar. Her emotions are universal (just like all of us) and we can relate to it one way or the other.

There are sweet and poignant moments and then others that are cast with essential sadness. Essential sadness – the kind of sadness that there is no running away from. The exploration of a marriage is so honest, that it almost takes you by surprise and awe at some points of the book.

She puts her marriage under a microscope. Initially, I was a little uncomfortable reading about her personal life (as it always happens to me when I read a memoir) but slowly and steadily for sure, I started looking at it more from the point of the writing, which is staggering. Her prose isn’t fancy or verbose and that to me is the beauty of the book. Marriage is difficult, sometimes impossible and Dani’s marriage to M of 18 years cannot be contained in one book. I hope there are others. For our sake. So we can all learn as we go along life.

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The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson Title: The Gap of Time
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: Hogarth Shakespeare
ISBN: 978-0804141352
Genre: Literary Fiction, Adaptation,
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

There are books or plays that you cannot imagine being retold and when they are, you cannot imagine anyone else retelling them but the author who gave it a new voice. I strongly go by this and more so after I finished reading “The Gap of Time” by Jeanette Winterson, a retelling of “The Winter’s Tale” by the Bard – the first in the project commissioned by Hogarth books under a new imprint “Hogarth Shakespeare” where all of Shakespeare’s plays will be retold by various authors.

“The Winter’s Tale” is one of Shakespeare’s last plays – exploring the theme of forgiveness more than jealousy over time. The plot is similar to “Othello”, but the story and the way it moves is very different and so is the conclusion. There is redemption. You actually need not read “The Winter’s Tale” to read “The Gap of Time” but do have some plot summary in your head before you embark on Winterson’s adaptation.

King Leontes of Sicily believes his wife Hermione is having an affair with his best friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia and that the child she is carrying is his. So he orders Polixenes to be murdered, the bastard girl child to be exposed to die and Hermione to be sent to prison, where it is believed that she also dies. The bastard girl child survives. Shakespeare has a change of heart so to say and must wait till the child Perdita – the lost one appears in Act II and everything then falls into place, including the broad themes of forgiveness, time and everything that is lost must be found.

Jeanette Winterson takes this plot and makes it her own. The setting is contemporary. The jealousies are the same. Polixenes is Xeno – a bisexual man who is in love with his best friend Leo and his wife MiMi. Leo suspects MiMi of having an affair with Xeno. Perdita is born. Leo orders his gardener to take her to Xeno. Things don’t go as planned. Perdita is adopted by a grieving man Shep and his son Clo. The plot unravels on Shep’s seventieth birthday and nothing is the same ever for the characters caught in the trap of time. They have to live and see what happens next and a lot does, which I will not give away in this review.

Winterson does a fantastic job of bringing “The Winter’s Tale” alive in 2008 – when the financial crisis was hitting the world and bringing it down. The theme of redemption is so strong running throughout that Winterson is the only one I know of who can breeze through it, without it becoming boring or monotonous at any point. There were lines I could not stop underlining or marking. The writing as usual leaves you speechless. It actually also surpasses time itself – just as her earlier works, where time is fluid, flexible and bends at will. “The Gap of Time” is such a worthy successor to “The Winter’s Tale”. You simply have to read it.

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Ongoingness : The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

Ongoingness - The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso Title: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
Author: Sarah Manguso
Publisher: Graywolf Press
ISBN: 978-1555977030
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 104
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

What is “Ongoingness”? What does it mean and how does it come to be defined? Is it even a word like that? Is it okay for anyone to invent something like that? And does it also then mean that it is all okay and to just experience moments as they come by? “Ongoingness” by Sarah Manguso is a diary – it is however, not your usual run-of-the-mill diary either. Come to think of it, it is not like something I have read in a very long time and trust Ms. Manguso to come up with something so uniquely different and contemplative.

Of course you can finish this book in one sitting and that is the idea. However, I also had to pause in most places and keep contemplating about life. The book is about Sarah’s life as a mother and how memory and loss of it played a major role for some time then. This diary is just a series of fragments on time, memory, the nature of the self and how one connects with the internal and the external world.

The memoir is barely only about 100 pages long and yet there is so much you will see in this book which perhaps no other book will be able to communicate or show. Manguso has dealt with the passage of time beautifully from the time when she was not a mother to the time she became one and how things changed drastically.

“Ongoinginess” is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It is about relationships and life and yet Manguso has a different perspective and outlook in everything. It is a poetic meditation on our need to remember and capture life through words, images and sounds.

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Sex Criminals: Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

????? Title: Sex Criminals: Volume 1: One Weird Trick
Author: Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 9781607069461
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comic
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I heard of “Sex Criminals” while browsing through Flavorwire and I knew I had to read it. I then realized that I had been living under a rock. The first volume came out in 2014 and I still had not heard of it, forget reading it. “Sex Criminals” is a very unusual kind of graphic novel. I call it unusual because it may not be suited to everyone’s reading taste. It is as the title suggests, all about sex and crime (the crime bit not so much as a directive of all the sex) and I don’t know if too many people in our country will take to both of these very inherent human behavioral tendencies.

Sex Criminals - Image 3

“Sex Criminals” is your classic boy-meets-girl story and at the same time it is way beyond that. Suzie and Jon meet at a party and hit off instantly with both being able to rattle lines from Lolita. They hook up as regular 20-somethings would and then they discover something about each other, which each thought was only special to them – they can literally stop time when they orgasm. To me that is the ultimate way to come (literally of course). The world is deadened. It is as quiet as you want it to be and it is just you and other person and your moment.

Sex Criminals - Image 1

Suzie calls it “the Quiet”. Jon calls it the “Cumworld” (the man versus woman names given are hilarious). This oddity brings them closer than they have ever been to anyone else and rightly so. That is when they think of the idea of robbing banks to save a library from being shut, the library that Suzie works at. This is when they realize that there is more to them and so do the readers.

This book is all about sex. So if you cannot stomach something as natural as this, I recommend that you do not even come close to this book. It is not for you. There are no roles laid out here. There is no agenda. There is only pure and not-forbidden sex which doesn’t need time or place to be enjoyed. It is the kind of sex that gets you in a trance and makes you see the entire world differently. Maybe in all honesty, we need more of this. All of it and more to be candid.

Sex Criminals - Image 2

I could not stop thinking of how much of a sensation would this graphic novel have caused had it released in bookshops in India. What would the reaction be like? Would parents forbid and avert their children’s (teenagers I mean) eyes? Would hypocrisy take over or not? I would be most curious to see how that works out. Anything related to sex in our country and we clamp up everything behind the veil of tradition and culture. This book is the anti-thesis of everything we have ever objected to.

“Sex Criminals” has deep character stories as well which I am sure will be explored in the second volume (which has just released by the way). Who are the Sex Police? What is their role in the book? Why can’t they be a part of the zone? You have to read this graphic novel. It is funny, intelligent, feminist and unapologetic all at the same time. Suzie and Jon are just regular people with regular issues, only a bit more aware of their drive and what it can do to them and the people around them. The comic is beautiful and fantastic. It is obviously one of its kind and I cannot wait to read the second volume.

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Book Review: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman Title: Einstein’s Dreams
Author: Alan Lightman
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9781400077809
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I have always gone back to this book. Read and reread it and this time I was rereading it for the fifth time or so. It was recommended to me a long time ago, when I was in college, by my mother’s friend and I cannot thank her enough for this. Every time I read this book, I feel something new with great fondness for the writing and the book’s plot. There are very few books one can go back to again and again and this for me is one of them. It is about time and human beings in it, whether we like to be in it or not, we are right there, at the core of time and its existence.

“Einstein’s Dreams” as the title suggests is about Einstein and his dreams pertaining to time. The book is written in the form of his dreams – all about time and the different aspects and the overall nature of time and the role it plays in our lives. Time is the hero of this collection of dreams. The different ways in which it can evade into people’s lives and change the way they are, the way they see the world and the way they see themselves. The dreamer of these dreams: But of course Einstein. The book is about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but the way Lightman does it is beyond superlative. It is about his ideas and dreams and how he shares them with his friend Besso. That bond is also very well done in the book. The dreams are almost like fables – magical, surreal, almost something that makes the reader want to live in those different time spans, experience all of it. I for sure felt that way every time I read the book.

The beauty of the book is that there is just going on and on continuous chapters on time and the people around it in Berne, Switzerland, where Einstein worked as a clerk while working on the theory of relativity. Lightman’s language is lyrical and beautiful to no end. Lightman does not spoon feed his readers and neither is he too vague about what he wants to say. It is as clear and yet as complex. It is not a book about science alone. It is a book if I can say, mixed, both with the right amount of science and the right amount of emotion which is much needed. To use the barest of plots and no specific technique, Alan Lightman has created a marvel of a book – the one which constantly takes you by surprise and is a jaw-dropper for sure. I highly recommend this book and hope that you are as fascinated by it as I was.

Here is a little something from the book for you:

“Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic,” writes Lightman. “Scientists turn reckless and mutter like gamblers who cannot stop betting…. In this world, artists are joyous.” In another dream, time slows with altitude, causing rich folks to build stilt homes on mountaintops, seeking eternal youth and scorning the swiftly aging poor folk below. Forgetting eventually how they got there and why they subsist on “all but the most gossamer food,” the higher-ups at length “become thin like the air, bony, old before their time.”

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