No Country For Old Men

4 06 2015

ahf9-square-175I have read this classic novel of Cormac McCarthy years ago and marked it for re-read. Because I was painfully aware that I was not able to appreciate its greatness at that time. Actually, if I remember correctly, I didn’t even understand the plot completely. 😛 Guess, I wasn’t paying it the attention it deserved.

I just finished listening to this book, and this time I can say that I’m duly rewarded by my efforts. 🙂 It’s just brilliant.  I know that by no means I’m the first one to say it. Nonetheless, it feels good to say it aloud. The dialogues and narration are simply matchless. They made even ordinary characters extraordinary. I felt that Sheriff’ Bell’s reflections were particularly impressive. As also Moss’ dialogue with the hitchhiking girl. I also found the conversation between Chigurah and Carla Jean, right before he shot her dead, striking. ( A gem from that conversation – “Do you understand? When I came into your life your life was over. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is the end.” What can one say to that? What can one say to anyone with a gun pointed at one’s head? )In fact, each and everything in this book this is just remarkable.

The narrator Tom Stechschulte did a great job and I guess I owe him for my better comprehension this time around. 🙂

I don’t claim to have gotten everything right in this encounter with the masterpiece though 😛 and look forward to reading it again sometime in future for better enlightenment. 😉

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. It had been an immense pleasure.

Anna Karenina

16 04 2013

It is a story of love and adultery. This masterpiece of Leo Tolstoy depicts upper class Russian lifestyle. Besides portraying the nuances of day to day life, it also captures internal monologue of various characters. It is with conscious effort and cajoling that I took up this bulky classic. Though I took much longer than I expected to finish the book, I must say that it’s an extraordinary read.

Anna Karenina is a remarkable woman, who falls in love with a young officer outside her marriage. Their saga of love and adultery continues in the midst of the conservative 19th century Russian society. The discrimination and scorn of the society at large coupled with her imaginative disloyalty of her lover finally gets to her and she commits suicide.

Adultery is a popular theme in literature (may be in life too 😉 ) and every time I come across it, I wonder. However much those involved in the affair condone it in the name of love or incorrigible conditions of their married lives, adultery can never be justified in the eyes of the society and is always judged harshly. (Of course, usually the woman is judged more harshly than the man.) It may be possible in certain cases that even a theft or a murder can be made allowances for, but I feel that adultery is always a source of intense shame (for those not insensitive enough) and beyond any excuses in the eyes of one and all. Does this signify that sanctity of marriage still holds big time or is it just a case of eccentric hypocrisy?

A few pearls of wisdom I noted down, towards the end of the book:

If goodness has causes, it is not goodness; if it has effects, a reward, it is not goodness either. So goodness is outside the chain of cause and effect.

In infinite time, in infinite matter, in infinite space, is formed a bubble organism, and that bubble lasts a while and bursts, and that bubble is Me.

Reason discovered the struggle for existence and the law that requires us to oppress all who hinder the satisfaction of our desires. That is the deduction of reason. But loving one’s neighbor reason could never discover, because it’s irrational.

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.

The Painted Veil

28 06 2011

This is my first major read by Somerset Maugham. I’ve only read a few of his short stories before. This novel is brilliant and I enjoyed every moment of reading it. It’s the story of a woman who commits adultery. She couldn’t love her husband who is in so much love with her, despite his knowledge of her mediocrity. The husband seeks revenge for her infidelity and being spurned by her lover she is forced to oblige  and follow her husband to an epidemic infested area.Though she could never make herself love him and never regrets her past actions, she understands her husband, becomes cleansed and hence a better person in the end.   The story takes different turns and twists and keeps you interested till the end.

I loved the following quotes from the book:

  • Beauty is also a gift of God, one of the most rare and precious, and we should be thankful if we are happy enough to possess it and thankful, if we are not, that others possess it for our pleasure.
  • There is only one way to win hearts and that is to make oneself like unto those of whom one would be loved.
  • Failure is the foundation of success and success is the lurking place of failure; but who can tell when the turning point will come?
  • One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one’s soul.

Rashomon and Other Stories

25 05 2011

This is a collection of six stories written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa and translated by Takashi Kojima. These stories were written in the beginning of the twentieth century. The author is considered to have a significant place in the modern Japanese literature.

The six stories are each strikingly different and fabulous. “Rashomon”  was the largest gate in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. With the decline of the West Kyoto, the gate fell into bad repair, and became a hideout for thieves and a place for abandoning unclaimed corpses. The story is about how a samurai who just lost his job prefers to thieve to starvation against his initial reservations.

“In the Grove” is the story of the killing of a samurai through the conflicting testimony of witnesses, including the spirit of the murdered man. “Yam-Gruel” is a story about a lowly official, who has forever been humiliated by everyone, whose only desire in life is to have his fill of special dish – Yam-Gruel; how this desire has made him go very far; and what happened when he actually had his wish fulfilled.

“The Martyr” is about a boy who follows Jesus in practice and sacrifices his life in the process.  “Kesa and Morito” is a complex, seemingly conflicting lines of thought of two secret lovers. Finally, “The Dragon” is a fable about a priest who invents a lie with the malicious intent to make fools of everyone as a sort of revenge.

This short book is truly a rewarding read.