A commentary on psyche and suffering

“Why, at such a time as this, I ought to snap my fingers at aestheticism and all the rest of it; and yet, I am all at once as particular as a dog looking for a corner?”

After a series of relentless obstacles from a severe fit of cold ripening to a fever, to vacationing in hill-stations and conning the science of “making perfectly round dosas and chappatis” so I don’t bring ignominy to my family as I step into another (insert face-palm gif raised to infinity) I ended up finishing Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment with a pang of bittersweetness; bitter for it is always devastating to end a splendid book and sweet (kind of) for an edifying ending.

To write that this book is good or even excellent would be an understatement. Crime and Punishment is glorious. It is not your Mills&Boons for a light read on a park bench, for a short flight and it’s definitely not worth for skimming and flitting. You have got to soak it all in- well, you will- because Dostoyevsky’s narration of the mental constitution just has so much to offer, the composition is impeccable-looking like something that was conjured by a spell- it makes you think how we live our lives, what makes us human, perceptions of despotism, poverty, the mind of all, nihilism and a civilization to mention a few.

The fascinating thing about this is that Dostoyevsky traverses his whole psychoanalysis in a book, as the scrutiny of a man who commits a murder and how he is, in turn, punished for it. Despite a lot of characters all sounding similar with a syllable or two for distinction- Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin, Porfiry Petrovich, Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin- Dostoyevsky takes the reader deep into the character’s mind, like it is similar to a commentary on the psyche of the mind and suffering and why we suffer like we do.

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart.”

 

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Brownie points if you got this.

Even though Crime and Punishment is a minefield of remarkable quotes, I chose this below and the one at the beginning:

“When choosing between the river and confession, why had he preferred the latter? Was the desire to live so difficult to conquer?”

 

 

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History Happened While You Were Hungover

A lizard from the far-future at one point observes, “all time was one instant, all space one point.”

Apart from scrambling for the dictionary more than often, this book has got me hooked! You might wonder how I like nearly every other book that I read; the thing is I really find it ill of me to not like books/certain plots for various reasons. There are some books though that I’ve had a hard time getting through, halted halfway which I don’t write about. So if I write about a book, it means I really like it and it has etched an impact on me some way or the other or I plainly enjoy reading a novel for the pure pleasure of it.

Now, enough of that explanatory overture (yep, yours truly has been listening to a lot of classical music lately). So I’m reading a book right now, by Ned Beauman – The Teleportation Accident and whilst I was on page 69 (as the odds would have it), a fanged unorthodox idea sunk its teeth into my brain; why not review the book as I read it and post it all together … chronologically?!

And that’s what I did and I apologize for that in advance.

May 2, 2018

Dear diary

My day was bad. The chapatti I had for dinner did something to my tummy and it looks like I may have to lease the lavatory on a one-day contract.

Where were we? Oh, yes; The Teleportation Accident. The plot of this book still seems unclear even though I’m on page 69! Beauman has spilt his tea all over the place. I am quite not able to pin down a genre on this book. It’s not an erotica for sure but there are more than required compositions of carnal festivities for 69 pages, it is set in 1931 and dwells deeply about Berlin but that doesn’t make this historical fiction does it, the satire is prolific but I wouldn’t go as far as shelving this under Humor and it definitely is not noir – all the lights are on.

Maybe I should get past 69. So you might wonder what got me “hooked” when the mere genre-ascertaining has been disarray for me; the vignettes, kids the vivid vignettes. Allow me the pleasure of showcasing some for you –

On being inebriated Beauman writes: It transformed him into an emotional equivalent of one of those strange Peruvian frogs with transparent skin exposing their jumpy little hearts.

On Adele Hitler’s (whom we’re yet to confirm if she is related to the Hitler) eyes: Most tender eyes that Loeser had ever seen but also the most astonishingly baroque, with each iris showing a spray of gold around the pupil like the corona around the eclipse with a dappled band of blue and green, within an outline of grey as distinct as a pencil mark and then beyond that an expanse of moist white that did not betray even the faintest red vein but sheltered at its inner corner a perfect tear duct like a tiny pink sapphire.

On escalators: Never in your life will you have seen so many apparently healthy adults queuing up for the privilege of standing still.

On how the rich laugh: Nearby he heard one of those startling explosions of communal laughter that are distributed at random intervals through parties like moisture pockets in a fireplace log.

These are just a few. Now you see why I want to keep going despite the dubiety.

May 3, 2018

To put it concisely, the plot has moved from the Weimar Republic to Paris and the protagonist has switched from the German named Egon Loeser to Herbert Wolf Scramsfield, an American in Paris. I’m on the 92nd page and the plot… well, it escalated quickly. We’re in Paris, in 1934 now.

But back to the start for a bit.

In 1931, Loeser, who works at a theatre, sets a stage for a play on Lavicini (a carpenter, a set designer himself and Loeser’s apotheosis, paragon… call it what you want, he adored that guy and has done a lot of research on him). As a tribute to Lavicini, Loeser and his three other friends plan to bring out a play in a tiny Berlin theatre. That play is based on an incident wherein 1679, Lavicini builds a machine called Extraordinary Mechanism for the Almost Instantaneous Transport of Persons from Place to Place, in simple terms: a Teleportation Device. This device on its attempt at Theatre des Encornets in Paris collapses, killing 25 members of the audience and the set designer Adriano Lavicini, the machine is immediately condemned and also believed that it was possessed by some devil and thought to have had infernal features. It has so much history, darting through time carelessly but Beauman has a way through his words that makes this rapid time-travel from past to present, present to past, future to past through the present and the Section – C Grammar of the 4th standard English paper fair to middling.

But on the contrary, I think Beauman riffled through a dictionary, held a random page, closed his eyes, placed his index finger on some word and just spliced the word to the sentence he was writing. Or his vocabulary is just exemplary. The surreal plot swivels here and there aimlessly, there are so many open-ended patches but I’d read the book just for the motley of idiosyncratic, incredibly graphic phrases. The book is just so quotable that my book is almost indecipherable with all that pencil markings! And the cover is even better.

May 7, 2018

Dang it! I’m done with 76% of the book. SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED. No more in Paris either. It’s Los Angeles, baby!

(Weimar Republic (Germany) > Paris, France > LA, USA)

Gosh. There are too many characters to keep up with and then there’s the physics of time and space, all the science behind time traveling, the technical know-how of the Teleportation Device, mechanics and the engineering of set-building, infidelity of the bourgeois’ relationships, literary realism, past, present and future happening all at once. And our anti-hero protagonist is beyond knee deep in being in love with Adele Hister (now Hister from Hitler, to avoid people from misinterpreting that she’s somehow related to Hitler) and devoted rerererere-reading Midnight At The Nursing Academy, that he misses out on important, slightly-of-consequence Nazis dictatorship, the Holocaust and basically the World Wars – politics and world affairs in general mainly because he’s hungover most of the time and partly due to him shunning Politics away.

ARGH. HOW DO I EVEN BOIL THIS BOOK DOWN TO A REVIEW?

Note:  Given the kind of a lazy person with way too many aiyo-amma suspirations I am, I have duly neglected my promise of chronologically reviewing this book.

May 13, 2018

Not sure if I am done with the book or if the book did me.

The ending was worth sticking to a plot that went bonkers the word it made sense it to me. It was all worth it. It was all worth it. It was all worth it.

Zeitgeisterbahnhofe (four endings)

The book comes down to four equally mind-bending endings. I am still blown away by the raw brilliance of how neither of the four endings came together like how I thought this book would gird up to the finale.

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A book as old as me

An abundance of adjectives, rich allegories, social stigmas, decrees on love, the 60’s Kerala; it’s rise of communism and the tale of two kids. This book radiates profound parables of belonging, reconciling love and loss and savouring solitude without suffering loneliness. It is very much similar to the Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, A God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy makes you bittersweet, sad and happy at the same time, makes you weary of reading but you’re unable to put it down. A paradox. The plot flits between the adult selves of Rahel and Esthapen (the outlandish, eccentric, twin protagonists of the book) and the little versions of themselves. The story, told in both their voices, begins with a finicky sculpting of a hot, brooding summer in Ayemenem (a town in Kerala where the story is set). The twins are gloriously mismatched like a pair of fingerprints, similar yet different.

It is operose with melancholy and stirs even the robotic guts of your heart. The twins, Rahel and Estha are born to an opprobrious, Bengali father and Malayali mother, a Christian who ceaselessly brings ignominy to their miscellanea of a family. Their mother, a widely read rebel who taught them enough to say “excuse me” before interrupting her in Public and loved the twins enough to let them go, raises her kids in Ayemenem at her mother’s place with her brother, Chacko, an Oxford graduate, who’s had a pitiful marriage to a Margaret, a Brit and they have kid Sophie before divorcing and their grand-aunt lives with them propagating seeds of her early disappointment in love. The story orbits around these characters, their broken, flawed lineaments and its effect on the twins. It deals with two portions, to be blunt; the part before Sophie’s arrival at Ayemenem and After, both parts are equally haunting. The main reason for the success of this book is the soreness of truth, the quality of tragic resonance, the breathtaking beauty of Roy’s pick of words and the inert anguish with which the book concludes. It’s the third time I read this book in a span of four months and I thought I’d defninitely have to write about it. This review (sort-of) does no justice to the book but again, something is better than nothing.

Bottom-line: If you are a sucker for adjectives, A God Of Small Things is your vade mecum.

And here’s an add on.

A Dead Man Can’t Run Forever

If Suits is your frontrunner on the TV Shows list, John Grisham should be the frontrunner on your Books list.

The Partner by John Grisham: sort of a review

Patrick ought to count his blessings that Vakeel Vandumurugan didn’t handle his case because if he was, Patrick would be dead lang syne, that too for the second time.

Now, The Partner is a serious, racy novel plethoric with legal innuendos, long names (too many of them too to keep track of, in fact), shrewd, savvy characters and an exalting case charged for murder and robbery on a man who returned from the dead, all packed in 410 pages (actually depends on the edition you choose) under John Grisham’s finesse. Patrick Lanignan, a young lawyer was found dead (with a pelvic bone for evidence, since his car caught fire and burned to a near wipeout) by the interstates of Biloxi, they buried him under a sizable tree, sniffled and sobbed for him and went on with their lives after his memorial service. The only person happy for this tragic cataclysm was his wife, Trudy who gained two million dollars on his insurance that she never knew about. Four years later, a high-end detective agency finds him in the countryside of Brazil, getting ready for his morning jog. Grisham then reveals that Patrick (or Danilo, his Brazilian alter ego) had pulled a Brobdingnagian heist of ninety million dollars right before he faked his own death.

He is captured by the detective agency to be tortured remorselessly on repeated questioning of the whereabouts of the money he stole. The news about the capture of the dead man on the run brought back slews of interested groups; the FBI (they were just curious but well, they’re the FBI), Benny Aricia (they man who owned the ninety million dollars), Patrick/Danilo’s ex partners of the legal firm he worked for pre-death, the insurance company that paid up two million dollars to his wife, the guy his wife was cheating on and basically, the town of Biloxi on a whole with many question on their mind but the soundest one being – whose pelvic bone was that the State police found then?. And to further surprise, barely a million out of the ninety million dollars stash were spent by Patrick. He lived tight and miserly in Brazil, with all the dough.

Only through few more pages comes to light that there is a completely extraneous reason for this heist. Patrick and his confidante, a Brazilian lawyer unravel the mystery like opening some fruit; peeling off one layer at a time to Patrick’s newly recruited lawyer, Sandy who is also an old friend, a classmate from college and a pallbearer in his funeral to defend him against his multiple capital charges. Writing further about this book would do injustice to you if you are planning on reading it and injustice to the movie (Water for Elephants, yeah I’m watching just now and for the first time) that I’ve kept on Pause.

I’ll end with this – towards the last chapter of the book, Patrick’s capital charge of a maximum thirty years of incarceration gets dropped and plummets down to a penalty of maximum one-year imprisonment for something he did (avoiding a spoiler alert here). This book was like reading Suits; if Harvey was charged and Michael defended him; only a hundred times better. And it ends with a sudden turnabout of events that you don’t see coming. I wouldn’t rank it above the Rainmaker or A Time To Kill but this is on par with the Street Lawyer and fairly good book.

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Detective with a firm touch of dementia

“How do you solve a mystery when you can’t remember the clues?”

It’s been a week since I finished reading Elizabeth Is Missing but the early twentieth century, a war grappled England, the enigma of dementia and the mystery of two missing cases is still haunting me. There are very few books that do that to you; a hangover or a feeling looming over for the next few hours sometimes, days together that makes you dysfunctional. This is one such whodunit with staggering descriptions, two timelines that keep switching often and the protagonist who is an eighty-year-old lady, Maud trying to find her missing friend Elizabeth and uncover what happened to her sister Sukey, another missing case that took place seventy years ago but the thing is Maud has a severe case of dementia and all that she remembers are the events that took place about five or so minutes ago – dementia. And she is determined to find out what happened to Elizabeth and Sukey when she forgets that her stove’s on or that she has enough peaches and eggs to feed an army but she forgets all about her inventory and leaves to the store to buy some more peaches and eggs only to get lost until her fifty-year-old daughter, Helen comes in search of her and gets hold of her.

Hands down, one of the best books I’ve read this year. The characters are so vivid and the storyline, even though it alters often, is bereft of the expected confusion that might arise due to the ever-altering timelines. With the ending so gripping, I might have found the best book I’ve read this year. This is a pretty old book (three years) we could call it newly old maybe? And won the prestigious Costa Book Award in 2014. No wonder!

Bottomline: a novel that throws off Stephen King vibes but with the repugnance missing.

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The Book I’d Have Missed If I Had Judged It By Its Cover

(Book is better with Radiohead – OK Computer (all songs), Bach – G minor, T-rex – Debora and Saint Saens – the Swan)

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

“We’re deaf men working as musicians; we play the music but we can’t hear it.” 

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I never knew earlier that such a book existed, to be honest, I did not know that such an author existed. William Faulkner, I know. But Sebastian Faulks, I didn’t. We were at this book sale that sold second-hand books and the proprietor asked us to buy another book, in that way our total would be rounded off. And this book, Engleby was the nearest. Someone left it discarded at the checkout place. “Do you want to get it?” asked dad. I haven’t heard of this guy. And the cover doesn’t look much inviting too. But in the end, I bought it. It sat in one corner of the bookshelf crammed with other books that were the same shade of colour (yes, my bookshelf is colour-coded.)  for about four months. I’d be done by then, reading all the other books bought. There was too much of indolence and a blasé attitude towards that book. I could not just get myself to read it. But at one point while at home, I was like let me take this back to the hostel, try reading it over there.

And yesterday, another month later I started this (aggressively weird) book out of end-semester-exams-stress induced boredom. The first few hundred pages are a drag (like all the other Goodreads reviews said), nothing really happens but the pace picked up furthermore pages later (which the Goodreads reviews don’t talk about). They probably lost patience. This book has a lot of negative responses than positive comments. Probably because Engleby elegantly delineates the human psyche that so much of truth or conformity to reality and us; taste very bitter to our conscience that people would rather not read the book.

There are some books that feel like a paralytic slap across the cheek, there are some that soothe and rock you to sleep, there are some that take you to Utopia with Saint Saens playing in the background. But Engleby to literature is what smorgasbord is to a banquet. A paralytic, mind-numbing slap that returns with a kiss but in a fist aimed at the jaw. So Michael Engleby is from a barely-making-ends-meet family at Reading. He is an introvert, intellect, iconoclast and an anti-feminist to be brief. He hates psychology/psychologists primarily because he thinks human behaviour is more than just a discovered pattern.

“They’re so attached to their patterns that they’ve forgotten rule number one of human behaviour: there are no patterns. People just do things. There are no such things as a coherent and fully integrated human personality, let alone consistent motivation.” 

It is set at Cambridge (he’s on a scholarship). He takes History and Natural Sciences. He likes a girl, Jennifer also the reason why he attends History. She goes missing one night. And the novel sets about her missing case and the physical and mental ontogenesis of Mike through the years.

The weird, weird part, personally was that I could relate to the character. The Cantabrigian Psycho as some reviews call him. But the parts I could relate to was, when he chose reading and music over socializing, his deaf attribute towards fashion, and the futility of swearing and expletives and that he never cared about anything. But later on, after another few hundred pages he was so pulled into blue pills, smoking and almost every night was led by an evening of bacchanal revelry and pickpocketing too entered the scene by then. So I kind of lost the Mike I could relate to through the pages forward. I have never read quite a book like this, to be true. It has the element of mystery to it, a huge turn of events in the last few chapters takes you to the 70s London, the music, the politics, the protagonist’s claptraps of London and people in general and most importantly there’s alcohol, at least a pint per page.

“This is how most people live: alive, but not conscious; conscious but not aware; aware, but intermittently.” 

 

Turtles All The Way Down

Warning: I’m bad when it comes to reviews.

Okay, let us get this straight; I am kind of disappointed.
John Green is a great author but after books like The Fault In Our Stars and Looking For Alaska, Turtles All The Way Down is a letdown. Nevertheless, the book is on par with Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Catcher In The Rye and books along those lines. This book has some great quotes, an even better look into the mind of an unstable, precarious person battling depression and insecurity. I completed this book in a day and a half despite an (in)significant exam lurking around which also means that I just couldn’t put this book down, it was good.

As always, Green dazzled me with his uncanny knowledge on uncanny stuff. It was cancer first, last words next, cartography then, Eureka moments and the math behind love later and finally, c-diff and quotes from poems this time. It is just so hard to be apathetic towards Green despite a hunky-dory book. If you like quotes and if you are okay with a quite badly woven plot then you should go for this book. Plus, the plot has got a jot of mystery to it. You’ll get why I bolded the “mystery” if you read the book!

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Some quotes from TATWD:
“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.” 

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

“In some ways, pain is the opposite of language.” 

(Few more will be added in due time.)

Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell, good job.

Matthew Quick, you had one job.

I saw the movie version of The Silver Linings Playbook few years ago after its red-letter mentions at the Oscars. I was satisfied with the movie a good deal; Bradley Cooper (YEAH!!), it was good to see Jennifer Lawrence in someone else’s shoes other than Katniss Everdeen and Robert de Niro played his role pertinently. The movie about two emotionally disoriented, screwed up people with a penchant for working out and running for hours together was indeed worth the two hours. I was quenched with the movie as it was; I even lent it to a couple of friends and recommended to the other few. But I chanced upon the book a week ago at a local book fair. Until then, I had no idea that the movie was based on a book. The placid yet matte finished cover page with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and a summer yellow back with accurate description caught my eye and then I knew I would buy the book no matter if I had seen it ten times.

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It took me four hours straight to read the 289 paged book.

The first hundred pages are heavily filled with Pat Peoples, the protagonist talking about nothing but silver linings in the cloud (plus how much he hates pessimism and at an equal degree his belief in miracles), Nikki (who happens to be his beautiful wife who according to him is away for a reason), his workout: iron bench press, leg lifts, sit ups on the Stomach Masters 6000, bike riding, squash, knuckles push up, curls- the works (phewwwwww) and his NFL home team – the Eagles. The story per se revolves around these four wispy yet significant pointers. He runs into Tiffany, his best friend Ronnie’s sister in law whose husband died a couple of years ago in an accident. Tiffany is evenly lost as Pat is but unlike Pat she’s reached the point of accepting reality as it is where as Pat still believed in happy endings, silver linings and miracles. The author’s work is incredible as the book could easily pass for a disturbed person writing it but it is devoid of a stimulating plot that the movie compensates for.

The movie has more drama, racy ending, Pat and Tiffany actually get together (Pat and Nikki being divorced) and kiss (Pat gets his Happy Ending) where as in the book Quick closes with them deciding to be best friends who look up at the sky with the Cloud Chart besides them. And the author suffocates the readers occasionally with too much American football, Nikki and his obsession over optimism. But I think that is how a confused mind would work: over-thinking and obsessing. The movie spares you the over-thinking and obsession but you also miss out on cute parts where he instead of swallowing his pills he tucks them under his tongue and spits them out in the toilet later which he says is quite an adventure for him and the sweet sensation he describes when his boy Baskett scores a touchdown and little others things along the pages.

Apart from such limited grounds to read the book, the book was a good read indeed but the movie outsmart the book with its cast, slight but noticeable changes in the script and a decent soundtrack.

P.S. David O. Russell is the director of the Silver Linings Playbook movie.

Matthew Quick is the author of the Silver Linings Playbook book.