Books form an important, no… a vital part of my life. I have always been a voracious reader, and so writing here in this blog, I feel compelled to make books a central part of my posts. I need to analyze the books I read, not only to fully appreciate them, but also to record my thoughts and remember the ideas that they awoke in me. Each book I read needs to be reviewed, perhaps not explicitly as in a summary of the novel itself, but at the very least in reference to the impression it made on me. Each book awakes in me certain ideas that stick around for as long as I am reading it, but soon enough, when some time has past and another book commands my attention, I forget. I forget so completely it is as if I had never had those thoughts at all.

Perhaps the most important book I read this past year was Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It awoke in me revolutionary ideas and an entirely new way of thinking and looking at the world. But I squandered all that the book had done for me, as I twiddled my toes wasting time before I would put down my thoughts to paper, though I had every intention to.

It never happened.

So now I must do so. From now on, every book must be accompanied by a post, be it good or bad, long or short, frustrating or enlightening. I of course could have committed this blog to be entirely of books, bestowing it with an appropriate literary name which would easily identify it as such, and so make subsequent efforts to join in the blogrolls of similar authors. But this blog is not so narrow in scope. This blog is about me; and while the books that I encounter are a part of that, they do not represent the whole. I am attempting here to create a new me. To forge with the limited tools at my disposal, a refined and more complete version of myself, and so this blog will not be limited to literature and science fiction and fantasy.

This blog will be be about books… only somewhat.

Dog vs Ball

January 23, 2006


Dear God (or Eminent Head of Publishing Company, whatever title you prefer)

I go through periods of extreme frustration on a regular basis. They occur whenever I am attempting to find a new book to read, and I end up spending the obligatory hours at Amazon.com, sifting through reviews, Listmania lists, and recommendations. And I find nothing.

Really.

Nothing.

Days go by. I sleep, wake up, watch TV to pass the time. I don’t read. Do everything but read. And then one fine day, I will stumble on some book, a review, a memory of an author, and ‘Disaster’ will be averted. I cling to the book like a lifeline, and at its inevitable end I cowardly jump straight to another by the same author, or even better, its sequel.

But finding new authors, new books with exciting new ideas in them, is a very hard process. And critics and booksellers don’t make my job any easier. I was told repeatedly and unendingly to read Saturday by Ian McEwan, Extremely Loud… by Safran Foer (which I tried and abandoned) or even the singular fantasy recommendation, Jonathan Strange… by Susanna Clarke. Later in the year it was The Historian, or A History of Love. Certainly the sheer wealth of positive reviews should urge me into reading (or completing) these books. But I only venture into such waters of “acceptable” reads tentatively, wanting to be part of their phenomenal admiration and love, but unsure if I fit into it. Sadly my approaches have only served to burn me, to turn me away from the bestseller lists, and caused me to return to my futile and frustrating search.

I search for a long lost brethren of my mind, a voice that echoes my needs of a compelling novel, compellingly written. I can only take so much abuse from an author (Rushdie for example tries my patience, and then breaks it completely), and the second criteria is nearly as important as the first. A case in point is Greg Bear, whose ideas on the future of human evolution drew me to his “Darwin” books like a fly to a pile of shit. My nose being a tad more sensitive, I endured through both books only with much painful wrinkling of the face in effort to disgorge the stink of a badly written novel, wasting an eminently great idea.

This is one my more rambling posts, but still what I am trying to (ineffectively) say is that finding a new book to read is perhaps one of the most discouraging cycles that figure in my life. I need to find a particular critic, a single blogger who shares my taste, who I can turn to during my frequent times of need and will be comfortable in the knowledge that I will find a good book waiting.

Till then, I shall frequently return to the well trodden pages of Ayn Rand, Robert Jordan, and James Clavell. For they have proven to be, time and again, welcome companions that never fail to amaze and entertain me, unlike the sour and often fickle tales of whatever passing fancy that currently dominates the bestseller lists.

I hate the way I write

January 10, 2006

I hate the way I write.

I mean i really, really hate the way I write. It takes so much for me just to get out a coherent sentence, and when I do manage that, it usually sounds as if some retarded kid from Sabi-Sabi wrote it while high on crack. I have to constantly think of how I want to sound, and match it with what i am writing; the process is slow and extremely tedious, and the results tend to be mixed.

And so when i decided to write a blog (I mean really write, not just create a blog that is never to be seen again by the face of mankind), I promised myself I would write without over-thinking it, otherwise I would never end up posting anything at all. Even now, I have recorded only a tiny share of the posts that I have wanted to write, just because I didn’t want to put anything down before I had an absolutely complete entry fixed within my mind, with detailed, insightful analysis and careful composition.

So when I do look back at my previous posts, I literally cringe; the writing seems so unpolished, awkward and simply so bad that all i want to do is just delete the whole damned thing. But after much inner turmoil, I manage to stop myself. Who knows, maybe in a few months I will be able to look back at my early, clumsy attempts at writing, and be confident that I have moved on, to a more assured voice, and controlled structure.

But until then, all I can do is write. And hide my head in shame. Of course since I have taken great care to make this blog anonymous, one can assume that I have already done so, just by protecting my identity from my huge flocks of readers. (That was sarcasm at the end, by the way. See how bad I am?)

Reunion

January 2, 2006

It is a cold December night, with a chill in the air and dense fog all around. My vision is clouded, the shapes around me indistinct, as if my brain is reluctant to bring the world into focus. A door looms up ahead, defiant of the blur that surrounds me; I stand frozen before it, unable to push my way in. A furtive glance through a curtained window reveals little: like the current contents of my mind, I see a vast emptiness in a cramped corridor.

I have not known what to expect from the upcoming evening, of friends long forgotten, companions not seen or heard from. “Has it really been five years?” my brain screams at me. It just doesn’t seem possible. I retreat into my more comfortable denial, of mischief done a half-decade back, seemingly only yesterday. Yet here I stand outside, in a foggy driveway, before a stubbornly clear door that beckons me in, five years hence. I am frozen between the contradictions of the vast amount of time it represents to my short life, and the immediacy of my memories that defies that gap. I submit to the reality, that five full years have past since that fateful day in 2001, when I walked out beyond those imposing gates that had sheltered me for over seven years, and had enclosed my home.

I have vague expectations, of people to be met, of occasions to reminisce overdue, and of a hundred broken promises of ‘keeping in touch’ to be renewed. Yet as I lay my hand on the doorknob, cold as it is to my tentative touch, my mind abandons all preconceptions, and I have no idea of what lays ahead for the next few minutes of greetings.

Reluctantly I close the door behind me, which had, only a few short seconds before, served as my sole bulwark against the unknown, now acts to cut short any thoughts of retreat. I peer forward, nervous of the first encounter. The unmistakable sounds of Dosco’s reveling in joyful reunion filter around the blind corner, down the corridor, and into my fast warming heart. A solitary figure stands at the far corner, under the illumination of a single light, intent on a conversation with his phone. He turns… his eyes flare up; I see the quick reconciliation, the merging of the figure of a boy, etched five years ago into his mind’s eye, with the image of (I hope) the young man that stands before him.

A smile splits his face.

“Dude!”

The phone forgotten, the quick calculations of the brain complete, a long hug is exchanged. Ever so macho, but unashamedly glad.

It has been too long.

Walking into the living room, my step light, my eyes eager, I stand for a moment gathering in the faces, duplicating the calculations I had so recently observed in another. Each one reminds me of a moment, of anger, of laughter. I am late. Some would have remembered to expect that, in tribute to the days when such things were known of all those you lived with, you ate with, you played with. A chasm exists in the long history of our knowledge of each other. There was a time we were aware of all of the annoying idiosyncrasies of our roommates. Now we remain wary, unsure of the breadth of that void, of the depth of change the short years would have wrought on us.

Each memory has a person attached, and is thus rekindled in this coming together of its members. We are united into a brotherhood with bonds far greater than those of steel; our memories tie us together even when names and details remain forgotten. An absent participant will chance upon some fragment of the story, from some forgotten recess of his mind, while innocuously working at his desk, or buying clothes at a store. A smile will break free, or an unexplained laugh, confusing those around him. A rueful shake of the head and he moves on, providing a mildly apologetic look to the bewildered passers-by.

The memory remains, revived and alive.

Yet here, we now stand sharing in our past, and a present still being forged. Everyone describes a beginning, a new job, a move to a new city, country, continent. “I’m going to begin working in a Bank” seems to be a popular reply. Rejoice you fine institutions of finance and money, while you still remain free of this group of louts that I once knew. They shall infest you shortly.

I jest. Fine futures have been forged. Some promising ones, lost. Advice, a mainstay of young professionals everywhere, seems here to flourish unnaturally. It is given, received and cheerfully regurgitated (with careful additions, of course) in subsequent conversations. The weighty wisdom of some twenty-two years backs this deluge of opinions, and is treated accordingly.

The evening fast approaches the enjoyable stage of the ‘three-drink-minimum’. Everyone seems to have complied, some more so than others. Warm, fuzzy, fraternal feelings seem thick in the air, a nearly palpable sensation of joy as the discomfort of early meetings dissolves into the relief of our discovery that while we are all changed, we remain the same. Yet the gathering remains incomplete; too many are missing, the current of their lives carrying them to places beyond our reach. We miss them, from the moment of short disappointment when we walk in and note their absence, to the bitter-sweet farewell at the end when we remember them with regret. Regret that they did not enjoy in this night of reunion, this vital renewal of commitment to all things Dosco. But there will be other reunions, other opportunities and occasions for catching-up with lost friends, and dissapearing acquaintances.

Till then all I can say is farewell. And keep in touch.