Thursday, June 24, 2010

Love, Like, Hate, Adore.

Do you remember your first crush? The thrill? The madness? The excitement? Do you remember the anxiety?

I remember. I was 14 and so was he. He was a geek, (how I loved those glasses!) Had an overbite. ( Isn't that better than saying he had buck teeth a la Dharmendra in Ghazab?) He spoke with a slight South Indian accent. ( I found it super cool....would have used another word but my daughters read this blog.) In other words, I was totally mesmerized.

I remember talking about it with my friends. I remember writing down my name on a sheet of paper,  A-P-A-R-N-A and then writing down his below mine , V-I-, well never mind, my husband reads my blog too. I remember striking off the letters that were common to both our names and softly counting the ones that were left. Love, Like , Hate, Adore...ticking off the remaining letters one by one till I arrived at the conclusion. It was such an innocent, silly game.

Two of the books that I read last week dealt with first loves. In Alice Munro's collection of short stories, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage; Johanna, the protagonist of the title story is a strong  yet vulnerable woman. The story centres around a deception two school girls play on her and the unusual turn her life takes due to this childish prank. Incidentally, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship Marriage is also the childish game the two preteen girls play to determine the fate of Johanna's love, something very similar to my own Love Like Hate, Adore. Interesting, isn't it?

The book has 9 stories in the collection. Alice Munro, a Canadian author, sets the stories in provincial towns of Canada. The stories are of ordinary women and their ordinary lives. Their dreams, love, fate and aspirations. Nettles, a story that I particularly liked, dealt with a girl's chance meeting with her first love after many years. The story is poignant, reminding us nothing remains the same forever and fate can be cruel at times. Some stories in the collection are simple, some are more complex. The author, the 2009 Man Booker International Prize winner for her lifetime work and a contender for the Nobel Prize, deftly unwraps the lives of women in small town Canada and moves you with her simple and powerful narration.

I do not know whether I should recommend the book. Authors like Chekhov, Saki, O Henry or Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few  short story writers, have impressed me more than Alice Munro. But you can try out her books, they are definitely worth a read.

The other book that I read was South Of The Border, West Of The Sun by Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author, now settled in the USA. This 186 page novel, which you can finish in 2 days, is a somewhat touching tale of Hajime and Shimamoto who were classmates in an elementary school. They have similar taste in music ( the title of the book is taken from a song by Nat King Cole) and spend hours listening to songs in the girl's house.They are perhaps in love but are too young to know for sure.Years later, Hajime,  now a successful owner of a jazz bar, married with a pair of kids, meets Shimamoto again and they begin their clandestine love story.

This book is about wrong choices we often make in our lives. A flawed man, Hajime is not your typical hero. He is selfish and insecure and he ultimately does something that causes his almost perfect life to come crashing down around him. A lot of people would perhaps identify with his character. His lady-love Shimamoto on the contrary is a mystery woman. Till the end the reader has no idea about her true nature. All we get are some small glimpses into her life. Sometimes sappy, sometimes touching, the book left a lasting impression on me, though I admit I really hated Hajime at times. I loved Murakami's style. I now know why there are some people who swear by him and I would definitely love to read more of his work. His language is soft and rich and each word dazzles. He creates a strong imagery in your mind and you can see his characters right in front of you. Although, this perhaps is not the best work by Murakami, it still is a highly enjoyable read.

There was a delightful book that I picked up called In The Pond by Ha Jin, a Chinese writer, settled in, you guessed it, USA. The literature students would be familiar with the Picaresque novels of Europe in the 17th and 18th century. In The Pond reminded me of those novels.The protagonist, Shao Bin, works as a  pipe fitter in a fertilizer factory in a small village in Northern China. He is a senior worker and deserves an apartment in the Worker's Park Apartment Compound. But he gets passed over for the corrupt officials of the Communist Party and their cronies. The episodic novel tells the story of how Shao Bin, with the help of his art (he is a calligrapher) and a few journalist friends, takes on the commune's Party Secretary and fights for his rights. I loved the book. The book (only 178 pages) made me realize how similar the Indian Babus are and how the common Indians, waiting for a telephone connection, a house, a gas connection are harassed every day by these corrupt bureaucrats of our country. The Indians and the Chinese are not so different after all. The Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai slogan may actually mean more than we ever thought! Who else will know better than the officials who coin such terms! I highly recommend the book. It is funny and entertaining. You will not be disappointed.

The other book that I finished was The Bookseller Of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist. The story is an account of her stay with an Afghan family in Kabul. It is yet another tale of Afghanistan's tyrannical male dominated society and the brutal treatment of Afghani women. Apart from making me happy about the country of my birth, the book did not do any thing for me. It lacked the raw emotions of A Thousand Splendid Suns or the poignancy of The Kite Runner. This was nothing new and can be completely avoided. Those who have not read Khaled Hosseini's books on Afghanistan however should definitely pick up his books. I simply adore them.

I am thoroughly enjoying my journey of the world through books. The next few books on my list are

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I love her poetry and I did not know she also wrote novels. This apparently is the only novel she wrote.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, in fact I have already finished this one. It is a superb read.

In The Country Of Men by Hisham Matar.

I hope you will keep on recommending books for me to read. This is such a wonderful world, this world of books...


Nupur said...

1st :)

Nupur said...

wow I'm glad to see your progress on the book journey around the world Aparna ! You are an inspiration.. :)

Oh yes I remember the school times girl boy friends thing..that time it was quiet hush-hush..unlike these days where not-even-teenagers are boasting there GF/BFs :) any ways..what I remember from your post is the FLAMES that we used to calculate..where every letter stands for a relationship :)

I've read Alice Munro's 'Too much happiness' and I could relate to what you've written in the review...

Other books that you've mentioned..sadly had never heard abt them but now I know :)

Nona said...

:) Well, you have given out the secret and people will be looking for people with "VI" on your friend's list. You are doomed, girrl!

All of the books sounded interesting when you wrote about them! These posts are definitely going to help me when I want to go book shopping. Thank you.

Lazy Pineapple said...

Aparna...this is so are reading so many books and also giving us a peek into how they are...I am going to jot down all the books you have read..from your posts and read the ones you have recommended :)

Thanks :)

The Panorama said...

Nice post, I have read Haruki Murakami is one of my favourtite authors, I like his style of writing.

I have read the book by ├ůsne Seierstad about the Bookseller in Kabul. It was supposed to be a journalistic piece, liek a docu drama in words but Seierstad has been criticise for trying to go into peoples head and write what they were thinking and feeling, when she didn't speak the language. So even though the book sold like hot cakes, it is not really a convincing account of life of the bookseller.

Will try and read the other books you have recommended

Aparna said...

Nu, I played that one too! Except we called it FLAME. The S part I think got added by the later generation, we were a bunch of prudes :)
Read Murakami, he is good.

Nona, sadly, the elusive V is not on my friends list! That does not mean I have not tried to find him though!

Lazy Pineapple, thanks, I am thoroughly enjoying myself here!

Neena Sharma said...

I feel Alice Munro is overrated, and so is The Bookseller Of Kabul. And oh yes, give me Hosseini anytime. Totally unpretentious. Now that you mentioned The Bell Jar, I had tried it long back and found it distressing and depressing.

RGB said...

Books have an amazing influence on us. Places and Words find new meaning with every book, every author. Nice reviews...will make a note of the books you've recommended.

The Holy Lama said...

JUst knowing more and more. Thank You Aparna. I for one had been wanting to buy an Asterix for long. The price was always the deterrent. Last week , I just went and bought a digest of three books.

Vrinda said...

Aparna you are truly an inspiration...Every post you write apart from the content, topic, humor ...I like your style the most.

You won't repeat the presentation, every post is different. I've seen many blogs, read many posts. I never found the magic, which I find in your posts. You are truly genius aparna.

The Ketchup Girl said...

you will like The reluctant Fundamentalist very much. First time here. nice! :) You are a namesake :) Though i go by ketchup Girl in the blogsphere. :)

starry said...

You are indeed on a book journey.I am going to read some of the books you mentioned.I enjoyed the kite runner and a thousand splendid suns.It was nostalgic to read about your first crush.I know I felt and did the same things.Innocent love.

A New Beginning said...

:) loved to share the cute childhood memory with you :)

Im in awe with your progress, its just getting better..keep up!!!

Chatterbox said...

Wow! I love reading but usually fail to manage enough time for it.
At such a time book-reviews are a great help to help me decide my next pick :)
Thank you for sharing :)
You've got a very interesting way with words :)

Keep writing!!

lostworld said...

Interesting options to choose from. Btw have you read Pearl S. Buck? She's also Chinese settled in USA. I really loved 'Kinfolk' :)

ZB said...

And Wow, you are reading more that i can

I envy that you are able to manage time....i wish i were a house husband.Try Toni morrison books, if you havent already..Beloved or The bluest eye....I am sure you will like them.

I dont remember exactly who my first crush was. But I am sure it would be one of the Nurses in the hospital i was born. Pretty Mallu Nurse, 32 years ago-hope they are still alive.TC, Love reading this post as ususla...:)

Smita said...

wow! That many books???of the whole list I have "Reluctant Fundamentalist" a highly acclamied but for me an OK book!!!

And what all have u reminded me with that simple alphabet cutting game!!! Sigh!

Ishita said...

I like you template.

Ishita said...

Ugh! Buck teeth, glasses, geek, and whatnot? Cool? Really?

Anonymous said...

Memories of your first crush are always so vivid, aren't they?? You recounted yours so well that I couldn't help going on nostalgic trip of my own :)

As for the book reviews, will pick a few as I found them quite interesting, esp Alice Munro's collection of short stories. I love Khaled Hosseini's work too.

Thanks a ton for the reviews :)

Onkar said...

I enjoyed a lot the two books of Khaled Hossaini that you mentioned.

Sonu K said...

i started following your blog bcz of my sister(Bhavyasidlethoughts).she was right i likd ur writing style .Looking forward for more posts..I already started reading your old posts....and thanks for suggesting some good books ma'm.i read Khaled Hossaini's books..they are awesome.Did u tried Paulo Coelho's "The alchemist"??
its inspiring...


Aparna said...

Neena, you are right, Alice munro was just about average. Haven't started the Bell Jar yet, I hope I''l be able to finish it. I do not like distressing books.

RGB, books have an amazing influence, there are so many things I've learnt from them.

HolyLama, I've been forever waiting to buy those Tintin comics. Price does matter , but I thought what the heck, I don't spend it on anything else anyway :)

Vrinda, thank you so much! I am speechless.

The ketchupGirl, I loved the Reluctant Fundamentalist. Thanks to you, I got those names of the Australian books. Now all I need to do is to arrange for them!

Starry, thank you.

A New Beginning, thanks.

Chatterbox, thank you. Some of the books have been really worth it.

Lostworld, Yes, I've read Pearl Buck,there was a book that I really loved, called the Pavillion of women.

ZB, thanks, haven't read Toni Morrison yet, tried one book and gave up mid way!

Smita, I am on a book marathon! Try Haruki Murakami and Ha Jin, they are fantastic.

Ishita, he was super cool :D

Deepsspeakingup, first love is always special!

Onkar, i loved the books.

Sonu, thank you for visiting my space. And yes, I've read the Alchemist, though I really did not find it as good.

Sonu K said...

did u tried "Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window",_the_Little_Girl_at_the_Window

thats one of the best book which i read...I'm sure you'll like it..

sujata sengupta said...

you had a crush at 14!!!! I dont believe you..and you actually fell for a geek with an accent WOW!! Playing flame was fun, I remember that bit..even the boys played it quite seriously!! I am sure they will deny it now..but ask your husband just for his reaction! Happy reading!