Gone With the Wind

19 08 2011

Totally loved reading this classic by Margaret Mitchell, set in 19th century  Georgia of USA.  It’s a whopping 900 pages and it’s as good a page turner as any thriller. I enjoyed the whole experience a lot and I believe this book remains one of my favorites, its powerful characters etched forever in my memory.

I have a kind of phobia for huge books and it was with great reluctance that I first embarked on this novel. Also, it being a classic, I had doubts as to the pace of the story and I must say that I had been pleasantly surprised to encounter its fast tempo.

When one reads a book this size and a story of this breadth, it is inevitable that the characters cast a deep impression on one’s mind. One gets to feel a certain kind of kinship with them which is not dissimilar to that invoked by daily soaps, I guess 😉 .

During the 3 weeks it took me to finish this book, I found myself several times contemplating the southern life as depicted in it – Tara and its beauty, tempers and mannerisms of the Old Guard, Atlanta and its buzz, the war and more. It had been impossible to detach myself from these enigmatic characters and events even when I was not reading and I recollect many a night when I ruminated about them before going to sleep.

Scarlett, with her high spirit – selfish and insensitive though she was, won my heart for her courage and determination. Rhett, the hero of the novel was always a gentleman at heart but was irrevocably the most notorious character in and around Atlanta. He did move me to tears when he bared his heart to Scarlett towards the end, in such an impassioned  and broken-hearted way. It’s true that however much he loved her, he couldn’t have expressed it explicitly, for Scarlett would then have scorned him. What a pity she didn’t realize it earlier and it was too late when she at last did. But of course one can’t expect anything else from her, knowing her.

I often wondered about Scarlett’s feelings for Ashley and vice-versa. I was struck by her blind faith and loyalty to him – or rather to her image of him. Ashley always seemed hazy and swept off by Scarlett’s charms and little else. He didn’t come out as a strong character. I felt that the way the author made it all cleared up in the end is laudable. And how can I forget Melly, the ideal woman of the novel – soft spoken, kind, gentle and at the same time courageous in her own way who had been the inconspicuous source of strength for both Ashley and Scarlett.

Margaret crafted the characters so well that they stuck to their dispositions all through and were so meaningful as to deliver a rich experience for one who is interested in studying personalities.

Gone With the Wind is a stirring saga that just swept me off the ground. This is something too good to miss.

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Short Cuts

28 05 2011

This collection of short stories (9 stories and a poem) by Raymond Carver is a delightful read. It offers glimpses into the ordinary lives of American families. What makes these stories endearing is the utter simplicity of them and their characters. It is easy to relate with them.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable around the stories which leave unanswered questions, either as to the motives of the characters or as to the rationality behind the happenings or the like. So many of the critically acclaimed stories come into this category that I was first afraid that I was going to read another such bunch in Short Cuts but I was wrong. These stories cannot be farther from such stories which evoke strange feelings and often leave me utterly confused.

I always prefer those stories which have a proper beginning and more importantly, a proper, clear, and satisfying end. While I can’t say that the stories in Short Cuts meet this expectation of mine completely, they do not seem unreal or distant or make me feel  bewildered. The stories in this collection are different in that they portray the true picture of emotions people feel. In life, we don’t always act or feel rationally and we cannot always explain our urges or motives or actions. It is this struggle with our own selves and with those around us that these stories tried to depict.

Only one story in this book, titled “Collectors” made so little sense to me that I’m not even able to describe what it’s about. 😐 I may want to read it again sometime later with a fresh mind, in the hope to be able to better appreciate it.

It may be interesting to note that these stories are made into a film titled “Short Cuts” by Robert Altman; like a string of stories with exposes different facets of something. In fact, it is Robert who brought these stories, which were part of different collections earlier, together in this book.  The movie “Short Cuts” vaguely reminds me of “Das Kahaniyah” of Bollywood (a string of 10 separate stories).