Getting back to reading

“We like lists because we don’t want to die”, says Umberto Eco.

Not sure if that’s the reason I am writing this post but then the apocalypticaly tagged 2012 is also hanging close, so who knows what the subconscious mind may be cooking.

Anyhow, coming back to the title of the post, I actually didn’t read the whole year, save for the last two or three months. Part reason was the miserable business of life and also i didn’t much look beyond the few good writers I had read some years ago. A small opening, reading one or two previously unread but only heard voices led to a resurgence of sorts and am pretty glad for that. So without much further ado I’ll just list(Yeah, Mr Eco must be grinning now) some of the good titles.

Solo – Rana Dasgupta

Coincidence is what comes to my mind as I think of this book now. Though i read it now, I had in fact brought a copy some two to three years ago, when it was yet to be the winner of prestigious commonwealth prize. Going back home as I stayed over at a dear friend’s place, a book on his shelf caught my attention with its title and I decided to read a few pages. It was The Case of Exploding Mangoes and after having read some I decided to trade the book for Solo, with the intention of taking it back while coming back from home, though it never happened. Incidentally The Case of Exploding Mangoes later that year won the Commonwealth First book prize and Solo won the Commonwealth Best book prize the next year.

Solo is a story narrated by a hundred year old blind Bulgarian, Ulrich, who reminisces over his past and often daydreams. Overtly ambitious in its scope it tries to capture the life of a common man, an everyman, torn through the upheavels of the last century, which forms the 1st part of the novel, named – First Moment : Life. The second part, named- Second Moment : Day Dreams, takes few characters, with certain similarities to the cast of the 1st part, through the much changed landscape in the later part of the century, though the fate of these characters remains overpowered by the sociocultural and political forces of historical magnitude. A brilliant read.

Tokyo Canceled – Rana Dasgupta

It was imminent that after having read Solo one would seek his other novel, which is a collection of short stories, narrated by passengers stranded on an airport after their flight got canceled.  Though the tone and character of these stories remains the same through out, for which the author was pointed out by numerous critics, but nevertheless the inventiveness and imagination behind them sails the book through many a miles. The stories are often surreal imbued with elements of magical realism. A highly recommended read.

The NewYork Trilogy -  Paul Auster

The books contains three stories City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room. All three are one of the initial works of Auster and were published individually, though they have been clubbed now as the Trilogy. Told in the form of detective fiction they are essentially existential tales of certain individual in search of certain identities, which often merge with their own identities blurring the lines of reality. I had some time ago read the Travels in the Scriptorium by the same author but it didn’t enthuse me enough to explore him further. I guess now I’l read few more of his works.

The High Window – Raymond Chandler

This book was another highlight of the year.I had never much liked detective fiction before, but after reading about Murakami’s inherent indulgence in his works, I was tempted to see what was being offered there and that check proved to be a rewarding experience. Its now easy to see from where the stylistic influence in Murakami’s fiction comes from.

The protagonist, Marlowe is the perfect hardboiled detective. He’s a tough, clever, contemplative chap who’s always ready with a wisecrack up his sleeve. Effortless in holding his own in any tough situation. A literary influence on many a crime fiction writers after Chandler. Another of the best thing about Chandler’s writing style is how beautifully things, places, faces or people are described.  A delight to read. Quite a savoury experience.

Lady in the lake by Chandler is what am reading now.

Will you be quite, please? – Raymond Caver

The obsession to check the writing influences of Murakami made me read Raymond Caver too. Will you be quite, please? is a shot story collection. These are stories of common people, of their everyday mundane encounters, bordering on some quirky, eccentric upheaval, though mostly the tension is built but never released. The stories end usually with a tantalizing feel.

One Last Story and that’s it – Keret Etger

After having read Caver and Dasgupta’s short stories, reading some article about contemporary short story writers got me to check out Keret Etger and what a delightful experience it turned out to be. Etgar writes in a playful, mundane manner. The stories are often 2-3 pages long. All starting with everyday people or situations that are ready to take sinister tragic turns. There’s a tragicomic hint to every situation. At times things have their dreadful fated ends, though on others times events unfold to leave a smile on your face.

While Mortal’s Sleep - Kurt Vonnegut

While on that short story reading spree I also tried this. A great Humanist as Kurt was, these stories too mostly serve the purpose of telling a moral or driving home some point, though this implicit push robs the stories of their sheen. These stories are from his early times and were published posthumously this year.

Open – Biography of Andre Agassi

Whatever was seen over the years on and off the court was filled by this book with a heart wrenching as well as uplifting story of a great human. If Tennis is music to some, then he’s the Jim Morrison who’s survived through. These stories are once lived and then only told afterwards.

Also read some literary essays from Stranger Shores by J M Coetzee.

Read some in poetry too. Currently half through Rumi’s Selected Poems, Penguin edition. Also got hold of The Great Enigma by Tomas Transtormer and Charles Bukowski’s The pleasure of the Damned.

There were few currently half read, ready to be finished ones also. Orhan Pamuk’s The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist and Coetzee’s Elisabeth Costello top that list. Though there were few other’s too but i don’t see my self completing them except these two.

Currently reading Murakami’s 1Q84,  apart from few mentioned above.

Lets see what 2012 has in store.

Setting men apart.

Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning towards dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes like air, and every deep drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in your brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all his life in the gray, and the land and the trees of him dark and somber. The events, even important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then-the glory-so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and the number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates to us in the world. It is the mother of all creativness, and it sets each man separate from all other men.

- From East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Murakami on Writing

So what do you do when you have a sudden urge to read Murakami, knowing pretty well that the urge is because of the date, of his latest magnum opus 1Q84‘s english release coming closer?

Well, if you are one of a character from his world, ironing clothes will be a good idea. Or may be cooking spaghetti will do the trick. Or may one should consider listening to some Beatles tune or some Mozart’s piece. Or just check the road outside for some cat to follow. Or may be do nothing and just wait for the phone to ring, hoping for some strange women to call.

Anyhow, I decided to read his interviews. There were many out there and he’s quite candid about his ways and reasons of writing. Below are few excerpts from his interviews.

I write weird stories. I don’t know why I like weirdness so much. Myself, I’m a very realistic person. I don’t trust anything New Age — or reincarnation, dreams, Tarot, horoscopes. I don’t trust anything like that at all. I wake up at 6 in the morning and go to bed at 10, jogging every day and swimming, eating healthy food. I’m very realistic. But when I write, I write weird. That’s very strange. When I’m getting more and more serious, I’m getting more and more weird. When I want to write about the reality of society and the world, it gets weird. Many people ask me why, and I can’t answer that. But I recognized when I was interviewing those 63 ordinary people — they were very straightforward, very simple, very ordinary, but their stories were sometimes very weird. That was interesting.

[..]

..subconscious is very important to me as a writer. I don’t read much Jung, but what he writes has some similarity with my writing. To me the subconscious is terra incognita. I don’t want to analyze it, but Jung and those people, psychiatrists, are always analyzing dreams and the significance of everything. I don’t want to do that. I just take it as a whole. Maybe that’s kind of weird, but I’m feeling like I can do the right thing with that weirdness. Sometimes it’s very dangerous to handle that. You remember that scene in the mysterious hotel? I like the story of Orpheus, his descending, and this is based on that. The world of death and you enter there at your own risk. I think that I am a writer, and I can do that. I am taking my own risk. I have confidence that I can do it.

But it takes time. When I started to write this book and I was writing and writing every day, then when that darkness came, I was ready to enter it. It took time before that, to reach that stage. You can’t do that by starting to write today and then tomorrow entering that kind of world. You have to endure and labor every day. You have to have the ability to concentrate. I think that’s the most important ingredient to the writer. For that I was training every day. Physical power is essential. Many authors don’t respect that. [Laughs] They drink too much and smoke too much. I don’t criticize them, but to me, strength is critical. People don’t believe that I’m a writer because I’m jogging and swimming every day. They say, “He’s not a writer.”

- From The Salon, a 1997 interview titled The Outsider.

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

[..]

When I make up the characters in my books, I like to observe the real people in my life. I don’t like to talk much; I like to listen to other people’s stories. I don’t decide what kind of people they are; I just try to think about what they feel, where they are going. I gather some factors from him, some factors from her. I don’t know if this is “realistic” or “unrealistic,” but for me, my characters are more real than real people. In those six or seven months that I’m writing, those people are inside me. It’s a kind of cosmos.

[..]

Please think about it this way: I have a twin brother. And when I was two years old, one of us—the other one—was kidnapped. He was brought to a faraway place and we haven’t seen each other since. I think my protagonist is him. A part of myself, but not me, and we haven’t seen each other for a long time. It’s a kind of alternative form of myself. In terms of DNA, we are the same, but our environment has been different. So our way of thinking would be different. Every time I write a book I put my feet in different shoes. Because sometimes I am tired of being myself. This way I can escape. It’s a fantasy. If you can’t have a fantasy, what’s the point of writing a book?

- From The Paris Review, from a 2004 interview.

Few other intervews – When I Run I Am in a Peaceful Place, Roll Over Basho: Who Japan Is Reading, and Why & this page has a collection of other articles and interviews on Murakami.

And yeah, I forgot to mention, that urge that I talked about in the begining, was fueled further after reading his new short story The Town of Cats in The New Yorker, which apparently is a part of 1Q84.

The Best of Youth

This was my second viewing of The Best of Youth, though I totally skipped the 1st part this time. And also a bit of 2nd part’s beginning. It was that urge which somehow has parallels to the childhood desire to grow up quickly. I just didn’t want to see the characters in that 1st phase of their lives, may be because that’s the stage I am currently in.

Anyhow, its an epic. Yes, a relatively unseen and unknown epic. More unseen, then unknown if one may say. Primarily because of its long six hours duration, which is the greatest thing about it and also the very thing which will keep it unseen for the rest of its life, or rather the life of we human race.

A great review will be a good tribute I guess, and which in turn will be a great reason to watch it again.

Though it feels suspect, but I guess I can welcome myself to blogging again.:)

 

In the Mood for Love

It is a restless moment.
She has kept her head lowered,
to give him a chance to come closer.
But he could not, for lack of courage.
She turns and walks away.

That era has passed.
Nothing that belonged to it exists any more.

He remembers those vanished years.
As though looking through a dusty window pane,
the past is something he could see, but not touch.
And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.InMoodLove

There’s something strange with Wong Kar Wai movies, the more I watch them the more I happen to like them. Some time ago Chungking Express was my favorite movie, and I had happened to watch it three times. Then came the second viewing of 2046 and it seemed to push Chungking Express behind. And now there’s In the Mood for Love knocking up there, as I watched it one more time.

The magic of Wong Kar Wai’s just seems like a gorgeous dream that just keeps repeating itself, making you remember it more vividly then ever.

The male protagonist, Chow Mo-Wan, once tells his friend that in his country when people want to unburden a secret, they go up a mountain and dig a hole to bury the secret there. But its not some secret that Chow Mo-Wan wants to get rid of, but several feelings and emotions that could not could not reach their rightful conclusion. That’s the end of the story, which begins with Chow Mo-Wan and his next door neighbor So Lai-zhen slowly discovering the infidelity of their spouses and then starts the playful enacting of scenarios of how their spouses could have started that very something which now has brought them together. Little they realise, or may be they fully do, about what has started brewing between them but something hold them back, keeping them form doing what their spouses did, by painting their relationship in colors that their spouses soiled. Well, that’s actually the story, which I guess was all Wong Kar wai had in mind when he would have concieved the idea or rather when he started shooting, as it’s charactersic of his style of never working with any script and developing the story with each scene, often shooting more and then carving the story while final editing.

The movie’s a veritable mood peice, fleetingly moving from one scene to another,  shifting between different hues and colors, yet always blending with the overall melancholic and at times melodramatic texture.  The colors, the music, the different directions. In one scene, titled Last Reunion, both meet in Angkorwat, then there’s another scequence titles Room 2046, where their relationship reaches the level which they always seem to shy away.  hese all threads look to be the remnants of his movie making style but then there was this comment by Wong Kar Wai himself, “the role of Tony in the film reminds me of Jimmy Stewart’s in Vertigo. There is a dark side to this character. I think it’s very interesting that most of the audience prefers to think that this is a very innocent relationship. These are the good guys, because their spouses are the first ones to be unfaithful and they refuse to be. Nobody sees any darkness in these characters – and yet they are meeting in secret to act out fictitious scenarios of confronting their spouses and of having an affair. I think this happens because the face of Tony Leung is so sympathetic. Just imagine if it was John Malkovich playing this role. You would think, ‘This guy is really weird.’ It’s the same in Vertigo. Everybody thinks James Stewart is a nice guy, so nobody thinks that his character is actually very sick“.

Here’s a video reflecting upon the music of the movie.

That annoying feeling

So what does it mean now?
nothing has changed,
not the stars, not the colors,
not even the toads.

is it just me?
or just the the air around me,
even i doubt that,
i guess it was always there.

what has changed is just the moment,
with that just the flip of the grey cells,
and accompnaying them is, some always obeying something,
resonsible for this unassuming, yet arrogant smile.

I hate it,
but can’t escape it,
need it,
but can’t own it.