Mashed Musings is Moving

Hi everyone,

I am closing Mashed Musings and moving all the content of the blog to my new website. The blog URL will be http://amit-sharma.co.in/blog

All the old posts, comments etc will be available at the new location. I will also be setting up a redirect on Mashedmusings so that if you open this blog by mistake, it will take you automatically to the new location.

I will also move the email subscriptions for Mashedmusings to the new website so that you keep getting my latest posts in your mails.

If you have subscribed to Mashedmusings Facebook page, I will be merging that Facebook page to my new author page at https://www.facebook.com/AmitSharmaAuthor/

This means is that all your likes for mashedmusings on the FB page will be transferred to my new author page and you will keep getting updates on my posts and my novel updates as usual on Facebook.

So, basically you do not have to do a thing to adjust to this new change. I’ll handle everything. 🙂

And, Oh yes! My novel False Ceilings was launched by Lifi Publications in the World Book Fair in Delhi on 12th Jan, 2016. You can know more about the book here –

http://amit-sharma.co.in/false-ceilings/

The Amazon and Flipkart links to buy the book are here –

Flipkart – Click Here

Amazon – Click Here

Hoping for your love and support as usual.

Take Care everyone! See you on the new website!

 

 

Novel Updates – II

Yes, there was a Novel Update – I and it came out in February. You can read it here – https://mashedmusings.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/novel-updates/

My life has always followed a pattern. Every fabulous news is accompanied by a disaster. It is God’s way of telling me that I cannot have it all, that he will never ever let me have a perfect day. For example, if I have decided to take a week-long holiday two months later, there will be a sudden avalanche of work two days before I go on that holiday. It will be God’s way to squeeze out every ounce of pre-holiday happiness out of me. I am sure this happens with everyone but every fucking time?

So, last Friday (two days before Diwali), I was gung-ho about spending the weekend with my family. It was also Anika’s first Diwali. Now add to it the fact that a few days back, I was shocked to see a letter from a publishing house in my inbox stating that they would like to publish my novel. I was eagerly waiting for the agreement letter from the publishing house before they could change their mind. Diwali and an agreement with a Publishing house – now this was too perfect to be true. “Hmmm, let’s do something about it,” God said.

Now my office has an air conditioning system that no own knows how to operate. It stays at 21 degrees and there is no power that can budge it from there. We phone and phone the guys at the facility and they promise to save us from dying. To fulfil their promise, one of them appears with a futuristic machine in his hand to check the temperature (as if we were lying) and once he is satisfied that it is actually freezing, he unsuccessfully tries to increase the temperature.

It so happened on Friday that my wife called me to tell me that the agreement has arrived. I told her amidst chattering teeth that it was a great news and I was not feeling well because of the cold. By the time I reached home, I was coughing and sneezing to glory and had a look at the agreement with watery eyes. Some harsh medicines and a wasted Diwali later, I signed the agreement and sent it over.

You might call me a pessimist. You might say that getting a novel published should have overshadowed everything in my mind. And you are correct. It was just a bloody cold. I just wish that things would have been perfect. I am tired of paying a price for my happiness. Believe me, it is irritating when you have done this throughout your life. Sometimes I am scared of an impending happiness thinking of the baggage with which it will come.

Anyway. Let me stop being a blithering idiot and share my happiness with the readers of this blog. Most of you have already congratulated me on Facebook but those of you who haven’t and those of you who would like to repeat the act, please feel free to use the comment box.

Let me end by saying that all of you have given me courage. I would not have gathered the confidence to write a book if all of you would not have encouraged this blog. I hope my book(s!!!) live up to your expectations and I am able to entertain you. I will keep you updated with the proceedings. Hopefully the book will be out next year. Thank you everyone and I will need your support in this new adventure, to make it perfect despite you-know-who’s alternate plans.

p.s. It gives me joy that I will change my blog header very soon. I am going to strike off that ‘trying to be’.

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Guardian Angels – Book Review

the_guardian_angels_rohit_goreA few days back I was surprised to find a mail from Rohit Gore asking me if I would be interested in reviewing his latest novel. I had no idea how to react. I do not read much of Indian authors because of Chetan-o-phobia. I know I am generalizing here and that is why I read Anita Desai’s ‘The village by the sea’ and ‘Fire on the mountain’ and loved both the books. I also read ‘The blue bedspread’ by Raj Kamal Jha and heaved a sigh of relief that there are authors who can help me get over my phobia.

As soon as I got Rohit’s mail, I checked the reviews of his book on Flipkart and Goodreads. The reviews were majorly positive and so I decided to give it a go. There were reasons that were trying to pull me the other way but I will come to them later.

The book was a surprise. On the surface it looks like a regular story of rich boy meets poor girl and the clashes and the sparks that follow but it is a much deeper study of their relationship. Aditya Mehta and Radha Deodhar meet accidentally when they are in school. Radha saves Adi that day and thus begins their turbulent and absorbing journey. The book takes us through their relationship for the next two decades. Aditya is a son of very wealthy businessman and lives in a 40-story mansion (sounds very familiar?) while Radha is the daughter of a middle class man with strong principles and does not have a very good opinion about the Mehta empire headed by Adi’s parents.

I found the book very engrossing. In fact it is one of the books where I did not notice the passage of time. It is fast paced and there is no stagnation in any part of it. Not only Adi and Radha’s characters but the characters of their parents, Heena, Vedant and Sudha Bapat are also well etched. The set up is believable and well-defined. There is something very grounded about the book. You relate to the upheavals and the life turning events the protagonists go through.

Having said that I was not able to comprehend Aditya’s parents. They are sensible, believe in charity and still live in a 40-story monstrosity. But then we have a real life example of that, don’t we? Also, I was a bit surprised when Radha’s mother insist that she goes to Scotland on a holiday with Adi. I have doubts that this could happen in an Indian middle class family.

Coming back to the reasons that were pulling me the other way. I did not like the blurb at the back. It seemed like a desperate attempt by the publication house to sell it by portraying it as a run-of-the-mill love story which it is not. It has layers, it is deep and it is much more than a college romance. I would have second thoughts about buying the book after reading it. I am not a fan of the cover either. And so, I am glad that Rohit sent me a copy.

Overall, an engaging book and worth reading. I hope someone makes it into a movie. It will be a Bollywood movie I would love to watch if there are no item numbers in it.

Rating – 4/5

Its time I answer some questions

I have been mercilessly tagged and awarded in the last one year. Ok. I was awarded only twice and tagged twice but I like to think that it was merciless. Feels good. And its my bloody blog so I will define what merciless means here.

I ignored the tags and awards for a long time but I had a dream last night in which a Tag and an Award took human forms and tried to strangulate me. They were crying while doing so and thus awoke my conscience. I promised them that I will honor them and hence this post.

I will try not to bore you with my answers.

U.S. Pandey who blogs at One Grain Amongst The Storm gave me the Liebster Award and here are the Q & As –

Top 4 authors, or photographers, you love

Charles Dickens (The first novel I read was an abridged version of Oliver Twist that I won in a debate competition in class 6. I don’t think there is any novel by dear CD that I haven’t read)

Arthur Conan Doyle (Ah! They don’t make them like him anymore. The Hound of Baskervilles and The Sign of Four are my all time favorites)

Orhan Pamuk (There is something very grounded in the way he writes his incredible stories)

J.M Coetzee (The most gifted writers of our times. Read Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace and you will know what I mean)

Top 4 Movies

Ok. That is a crazy question. Anyways, my top 4 movies are – Spirited Away, Pan’s LabyrinthThe Shawshank RedemptionAmélie

Top 4 singers/albums

Kishore Kumar (For the sheer variety), Shreya Ghoshal (For the divine voice), Asha Bhosle (For those seductive punches), Mohammed Rafi (For melting my heart again and again)

What would you do if you were to be stopped from writing?

I will start painting.

Are you in favour of banning books?

God No! Adults write them and adults read them.

Are you in favour of capital punishment?

If we are absolutely sure that the person committed the crime, then Yes. If there is a 0.5% chance of his/her innocence, then No. You can’t bring back the dead.

Are you in favour of veils for women, as in hijab?

I am in favor of  religion not telling anyone what to wear.

Which is the best translated work (or works) you’ve read?

Night train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

Moments you cherish.

My time spent in Manchester. It was the first time I realized that humans are capable of not littering the roads and piss on the walls and not honk and….I can go on and on.

Moments you’d rather forget.

One day I will gather the courage to write a blog post about it.

Is blogging for everyone?

No. Sustaining your creative streak is never easy.

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Tushar who blogs at My Life, My World gave me the same award as USP and here are the Q&As –

1. Why did you start blogging?

I was bored.

2. You are getting an all expenses paid trip for two to a place of your choice? Where will it be and with whom?

I need mountains around and loads of snow. Place doesn’t matter.

3. Dog or cat? And why?

Errr…none actually. I am not an animal person really. I like them though.

4. Half a million dollars for slogging for 6 months year or a week’s peace on the beaches of Bahamas?

Why is that even a question? 🙂

5. What is your deepest fear?

That one fine day, I will wake up to realize that I cannot get up from bed without anyone’s help. One day a nurse will take care of me while I lie on a bed.

6. How did you propose your girl/guy? Or how you plan to do so?

I am married and I didn’t propose. I just asked – So, what do you think? And she replied – Mm..Hm. And that was pretty much it.

7. One ‘Ctrl + Z’ moment of your life? Something you want to undo if you had a choice?

Loads of them. I have a fear that I will leave my zipper open one day. I will jump off a building if that happens.

8. Who is the most ‘marriage-able’ celebrity?

I don’t know. I don’t know any of them personally.

9. One thing that can take you to the ultimate heights of fame?

You mean people-trying-to-grope-me and tearing-off-my-clothes-in-public fame? I don’t want that.

10. Do you follow any sports, team, club or a person? Why this love started?

Hell no! I try not to follow anyone. I am not a stalker.

11. Did you like coming to this blog? And will you visit again?

Too personal! 😛

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Afshan who blogs at The Pensive tagged me a long time back. She gave me 25 questions. 25!!!! Afshan, I can’t answer your questions right now with honesty because I will be lying in most of them. I will pick your tag later when I can give truthful answers. Thank you for tagging me though.

I love this aura of suspense that I have created!

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Reema who blogs at My Random Thoughts tagged me in the Stone Age. Here are the Q&As –

1) Your most beautiful post.

Costa Chatter – Sita and Draupadi – I found this series satisfying mainly because I can go back and read it without cringing.

2) Your most popular post

My most popular post was I am with about 1,25,000 hits. God knows why!

3) Your most helpful post

They were How to shop with a lady and stay sane & Facebook photos uploading etiquettes

4) Your most controversial post

I won’t call it controversial per se but a lot of people did not like what I wrote here – Why SBI is the worst bank of India.

5) A post whose success surprised you

The Hitchhikers Guide To A Sane Life. I don’t know why it was so popular back then and why I wrote it.

6) A post that you thought did not get the attention it deserved

Traffic control gadgets for the ASIRW (Average Stupid Indian Road Warrior). I poured my heart and soul into it and came up with such innovative ideas and no one read them.

7) A post which you are most proud of

I liked the caption posts I did a long time back – Fear and Have you ever…

I would like to thank all those who read the post till the end and if you have scrolled down and this is the first line you are reading then you missed all the gossip from my personal life. Also, I am not tagging everyone because honestly I don’t think there is anyone left.

And for those who awarded me –

funny_award1

image from here.

The Director’s Cut

I am a director. My vision has given wings to stories, flesh to characters and panache to words. I do not have a cinematographer, a costume designer, an art director, a make-up artist, a special effects supervisor. I do that myself. Alone.

Heir of RedclyffeI have the power to dissolved away my surroundings. I have the power to be deaf to tyres scraping on roads, to honks hammering my ear drums, to mouths producing conversations, to songs blaring out of machines. There are times when the car dismantle around me – strips of metal fly away, the seat dissolve beneath me, the humans vanish in fumes – and then I am sitting alone, ready to direct my movie. Ready to be devoured by what I love the most. My private universe.

I open the book and my fingers melt into the pages and then I am somewhere else. I am a time traveler.

The idea was breathing with me. It was not planted but surfaced at the right time. It took time to evolve but soon I was directing books instead of reading them. It started in the 90s. Like the rest of India, I was awestruck by DDLJ and my directorial debut was a Shahrukh-Kajol starrer named The Heir of Redclyffe by  Charlotte M. Yonge. Tears trickled down my cheeks when Guy Morville (played by SRK) dies of a fever leaving a widowed Kajol behind. Yes, such was the magic of my directorial debut. SRK and Kajol played numerous important roles in the classics like The Wuthering Heights (although I replaced them with Hrithik and Kareena in a remake later), Rebecca, Gone with the wind, Anna Karenina, The Scarlet Letter etc. The list is endless. While SRK and Kajol reached the heights of stardom by featuring in my movies, Aamir was as usual sulking. So, I threw an occasional Barnaby Rudge and Jude the Obscure towards him. You might throw a spear of a question towards me asking why were Bollywood actors playing Caucasian roles? It was, dear readers, an alternate reality. It was supposed to be insane.

barnaby rudgeIt wasn’t just the classics where the Bollywood actors were shining. SRK (!), Kajol (!) and Saif came together for The Fountainhead. Who played Ellsworth M. Toohey, you may ask. Nasseruddin Shah. Movies like The English Patient, Sphere, Birdsong, The Bind Assassin, 1984, Life of Pi etc kept coming out with Bollywood actors till the director in me outgrew the SRK-Kajol pair and wanted something more. I wanted to work with Foreign actors. And thus started an era of movies where I worked with Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in A Finkler Question, Japanese actors in Memoirs of a Geisha, Black actors in The Colour Purple and countless other movies.

The_Immortals_Of_MeluhaSoon afterwards, my nation started calling me back and I did The Immortals of Meluha with Hrithik as Shiva. A new idea was germinating. I wanted to go for collaborations. Sometimes blind ones. I picked up The Wheel of Time. It was an epic 14 books fantasy series and a huge star cast was required. I had no idea what the story was and hence I randomly assigned actors. It was a gamble but it created results seen never before on the screen. Katrina was paired opposite Brad Pitt. She almost fainted at the proposition. Kareena became the Amyrlin Seat (after uprooting the wicked Angelina Jolie) with a lost puppy of a Matt Damon trailing her. Yes, who would have thought? Priyanka Chopra ended up as Bradley Cooper’s sister. There were minor hiccups like Aishwarya Rai falling in love with Amitabh’s character, but then we were playing blind, weren’t we?

I had tasted blood.

I read A Song of Ice and Fire Series next and had an equally enchanting star cast lined up. And then The Malazan Book of the Fallen happened. It was strange to see Amitabh and Hrithik playing Gods. It was strange to see Rani Mukherjee and Tobey Maguire together in a scene with A.K. Hangal in the background. It was strange to see Aishwarya playing Empress Laseen talking to Sergeant Whiskeyjack played by Arnold. It was strange to see Ashmit Patel (a slave and a mistake) trying to calm down a weeping emperor played by Johnny Depp. It was strange to see Kareena commanding an army with George Clooney standing next to her as a sergeant and then she goes ahead and kills Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame (they played sisters).

Malazan book of the fallenIn the end it is not just about the actors but about the visualization – the costumes, the makeup, the backdrop, the special effects, the music and the acting. It is about watching a book and enjoying the experience. I assume it is an art we all possess but the limits vary.

This is another reason the movies in the real world never live up to the books. I have already created them in vivid details in my mind. I have already seen them. I have already directed them.

Nothing comes close to the joy of carrying a world at my disposal in my brain. There are moments while turning pages when I forget that I am turning them, when I forget that I am physically outside the book, when nothing exists except the screen.

[images from 1,2,3,4]

Novel Updates

So one fine Sunday, I was able to sort out the jalebis of my life and parcelled my novel to a few publication houses. I was Gung-ho initially but started getting cold feet the moment I inserted fresh crisp A4 sheets in the printer. I turned into Gollum and my twin personalities started fighting.

“It’s not good enough! Give it another reading!”

“Go on. Don’t listen to him. Don’t stop now.”

The good Gollum won and the button was finally hit, printouts taken and manuscripts couriered and e-mailed. It’s all done and the trepidation is nowhere near abatement. I will give it another 5-6 months and if I do not hear anything, I will drink my tears and move to the next lot of publishers.

Now as you all are the elite readers of this blog, it is my responsibility and privilege to give you a sneak peek into the creation of this story and how I went about it. This is how it happened –

  • The story is not entirely fiction. It is derived from reality but is tossed with fictional occurrences. Only the people who were involved can distinguish where one ends and the other begins. Two of them are dead.
  • The story is non-linear. It begins in 2002, then moves to 2064, then to 1930, 1984, 2003, 1952, 1965 and so on. The whole span of the tale is from 1930 to 2064. Baring the main thread, the story is derived from true events till the year 2002. It takes an entirely fictional turn after that. The story is set in Dalhousie and Delhi.
  • Since the story is non-linear, I was bound to make mistakes in the narrative if I was not cautious from the beginning. So, I maintained an excel sheet where I divided the whole timeline in decades (columns) and put major events for each of the characters (rows) in the respective columns with the exact year. This worked as a very helpful reference point for me. Even after all this, I tore off half of my mane writing the synopsis.
  • I gave up blogging to get myself disciplined and took almost a two-year break. It took me around 4-5 months for research before I began writing the book. A major chunk of the story happens in an era I have not seen. I relied on the stories told by my grandparents (which used to be very elaborate) and a lot of material I found online about how people lived in pre-independence India. I cherish those days of research because I found things I had no idea existed; I lived memories which were not mine.
  • Writing about the 50s, 60s and the 70s was a daunting task. I turned to my parents to fill me in. I had elaborate discussions with them about how people lived during those times, what they ate, what kind of movies they watched etc. I also read as much online material as I could find. Internet was a great help. I made elaborate notes.
  • The most painful experience was writing about the partition. I left it for the end. I finished writing the whole book and then went back to it. I saw a few documentaries and was left disturbed for days. What we learn in our school books can never prepare us for what happened that year. I felt completely helpless when I saw an old man crying remembering how his father beheaded his sister to save her. He said he could not forget the sound of the sword striking the flesh.
  • Finally after writing the first draft, I sent it to a few friends for review. Geet read it and liked the story. Poonam Sharma and Sonia Sundaram gave very positive feedback. After that I kept polishing the story for almost 8-9 months till I was completely satisfied with it.

So, that is how, ladies and gentlemen False Ceilings came into existence. I have sent it to a few publishers and the wait time is anywhere between 5-6 months. I will update you as soon as I hear something. And, so I leave you with a could-be-blurb of the story.

It was an enormous owl sitting on Shakuntala’s bedding that brought the bad news and changed her life. Years later, when the nerve ruptured in her brain, it was too late to share her secret. Her open eyes oscillated for seven days.

It wasn’t humans but dancing peacocks and steam engines guarding the horizon that elicited an emotion from Aaryan. He turned into a misanthrope when he was five.

Manohar was almost there when he gave up and crumpled like a detonated building. When he died, his grandson saw him flying because his legs were so thin.

Vinod liked female wrestling and lions hunting deer on Discovery. He had hunted for quails in the jungles of East Delhi and jumped into trams in Chandni Chowk. The adventures had to go on.

Meena sprinted like a horse and won prizes in racing competitions but no one wanted a bride who runs for a living. Marriage was fed into her as an escape to utopia that eventually choked her every dream. In the end, her coffin broke her into two.

Lipi could never make the almirah speak. The almirah had seen it all but it stood in a corner, hiding the secret in its false ceiling. And even after 127 years, the wooden radio still worked. She died listening to it.

Shakuntala, Aaryan, Manohar, Vinod, Meena and Lipi were bound by the secret for 130 years. The secret that devastated their lives as it travelled from Dalhousie to Delhi, as it travelled from 1940 to 2062.

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Just Married Please Excuse

To be honest, enjoying reading modern Indian writers is a bit of a rarity for me. Whisking aside books that have made a big impact worldwide like The God of Small Things, Interpreter of Maladies, Midnight’s Children, The Inheritance of Loss to name a few, I do not enjoy picking up an Indian author. Maybe the fact that they are all too mushy and are mostly about the various shades of love and are largely one dimensional has to do something with it. I have never read Chetan Bhagat and I took great offence when during a brainless game which our office HR made us play, a girl guessed my favourite author to be the said gentleman. I almost burnt her with my gaze. Now before you jump on me to be anti-Indian writers, let me add that irrespective of the country to which it belongs, the story is the real hero of a book. And India is such a vast country that it can never be complicated to find a story that touches you immensely. I am still on this quest and opening up to Indian novels with great caution.

Being utterly romantic myself, I am not against love stories but our cinema churns and throws out a substantial amount of them at us every month. So when it comes to reading a book, I would really not appreciate a nauseating Déjà Vu. In short, I would prefer Life of Pi over Five Point Someone, I would prefer something which gives me a different perspective, something which shows me a world I have not seen before. I did find The Mine by Arnab Ray quite chilling at places and Amish’s first two installations of the Shiva Trilogy decent enough but these were rare cases and not the norm.

So, I picked up Just Married Please Excuse with tonnes of apprehensions and was very confident that I would not be able to reach the conclusion. The story of this book is something a lot of us have experienced and lived. It is about a couple working for a private firm who fall in love despite their opposite approach towards life and family and how they cope with the differences. Maybe because I was not having very high expectations from the book, I was able to enjoy it. Despite having a very thin story-line the book was utterly humorous. Yashodhara Lal has a writing style which will make you smile throughout the book. It is not one of those books that rattle your brain but all it does is tickle you and that I believe was the sole purpose of the writer. As long as you do not compare, you will be pretty much content.

There are incidences like the one where the couple try to buy a piece of land near Bangalore, their ordeal with the maids and their sessions with a counsellor which will make you chuckle. It is difficult not to relate to the book because it reminds us of all such silly and funny incidences of our own life. Even when the writer is not narrating a story which is path-breaking, it does serve a humorous perspective to the everyday life of an urban couple. It might be something not worth mentioning, but I found that the book had a magnanimous usage of Hindi at a lot of places. I feel that this limits your readers. Pick up this book if you like reading light humorous books over a cup of coffee. It is a breeze. It has given me courage to include the untouched galaxy of Indian authors in my Books Universe.

Every time I see a blogger go ahead and publish his/her book, it gives me another boost to finish my own book which I am writing on and off from the last three years. Just Married Please Excuse gave it a final push. I finished the fifth draft of my novel which looked alarmingly mummified since the last time I had touched it. Not to mention that I will be entering the untouched galaxy myself about which I have been so critical. Scary.

[image from here]

Best Eateries for Bookworms – III

It has been ages since I have picked up the Best Eateries for Bookworms series. You can read the last two instalments here –

Best Eateries for Bookworms – I

Best Eateries for Bookworms – II

In the last few years, I have read some brilliant books. I have branched out my interests into fantasy novels (you can blame the unputdownable A Games of Thrones for that) in addition to some modern-day classics of English literature. I am not adding The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire here because they are not a complete series yet. So, without much ado, here is a list of some extremely rich, thought-provoking and heart-rending books that I had the privilege to read.

Everything is illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002)

This book is the most brilliant flash in the world of literature from the current set of writers. Turn a page and your heart will break into a million pieces and turn a page again and tears of laughter will roll down your eyes. Story of Jonathan who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He has a very bad local translator, an almost blind driver and a malicious bitch to take him to his destination. Exceptionally hilarious and deeply moving.

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

The story of a disoriented and unstuck-in-time Billy Pilgrim who can see past and future events of his life in no order whatsoever. Crammed with memorable characters, the novel explores the illogical nature of humans and the idea of free will. The book revolves around the Dresden bombings during World War II and was subjected to censorship and banning upon its release. Now it is ranked 18th in the greatest English language novels of the 20th century.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

The Pulitzer winner of 1988, this novel tells a heart wrenching story of an African-American slave called Sethe who escapes from a plantation where she works. Years later, the ghost of her daughter whom she had killed with her own hands so that she is not enslaved like her mother, comes to haunt her. Written like a dream (and a very bad one) this book will leave you disturbed for a long time.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)

The story of Nobody Owens who is adopted by ghosts in a graveyard after his parents are murdered one night. Nobody is a toddler and he walks into the graveyard that night as the killer search for him everywhere. The ghosts take him under their wing and take care of him as he grows up. Written with an inexplicable freshness, the book is filled with some amazing ghost characters and is quite a magical read.

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (2003)

A clever, cynical and the blackest laugh-out-loud book of recent times. You will love the humour which will jump out from every page. The book tells the story of 15 years old Vernon who runs away to Mexico because one of his friends (Jesus Navarro) commits suicide after killing sixteen schoolmates. Vernon lives in a small town in Texas and somehow the police are suspicious of him after the murders.

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (1999)

This Booker Prize winning book is the story of David Lurie, a South African professor of English living in the post-Apartheid South Africa. As the balance of power shifts in the country, David’s daughter is raped and he is badly assaulted. He has to come to terms with his changing country at an age when he is too old for it. A classic Coetzee novel with undertones of violence and exploitation and exploring the conflicts within South Africa.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (2010)

Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2010, the comic novel follows the story of Julian Treslove, a bland BBC radio producer, his Jewish philosopher friend Sam Finkler and their former Czech teacher Libor. Libor and Finkler are recently widowed. They dine together one night and Treslove is attacked while he walks back home which somehow opens him to a lot of introspection. An uproariously funny and equally complicated book. One of the best that has come out in recent years.

Life and times of Michael K by J.M Coetzee (1983)

This Booker winning novel tells the story of Michael K, who is a gardener during the apartheid era in South Africa in 1970s. Michael is a very simple man and lives in Cape Town when riots break out and he decides to leave for his mother’s native place. The novel depicts his journey through the civil war torn South Africa. The novel does not lean on racism and you will not be able to decipher the race to which Michael belongs. It leans more on the value of human life and the passage of time. A heart tugging story.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

The novel won the Pulitzer in 2007. It is a terrifying story of a father and son walking through the breadth of America. A catastrophe has hit Earth and most of the human civilisation is dead. It is the story of their survival, their coming face to face with other survivors amidst inhuman revelations. It is the story of our possible future if we remain as reckless as we are right now. Terrifying at places, the novel depicts the last desperate bid for survival and the death of humanity.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

Probably one of the greatest American novels, The Great Gatsby is about the ‘roaring twenties’ before the Wall Street crash. Nick, a young Yale graduate, rents a house next door to the mansion of an eccentric millionaire (Jay Gatsby). Every Saturday, Gatsby throws a party at his mansion and the rich come to his doorsteps to indulge themselves. In his heart, Jay is lonely and trying to get back his love that he lost 5 years back. It is the story of a decade before the downfall.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)

The Pulitzer winning novel and one of the most famous works of Hemingway tells the story of an old fisherman named Santiago who has gone without catching a fish for 84 days. He is losing his respect amongst fellow fishermen. One fine day he gets up and leaves for the sea to catch a fish and to earn his respect back. It is a story of courage, bravery and man’s fight with nature.

Have you read any of these books? Do you find any of these books interesting enough to pick up? If you want to read more about them, please click on the Titles.

[images from 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11]

Best Eateries for bookworms – II

Related read – Best Eateries for Bookworms – I

In Part I, I had listed 15 of my favorite books, but since then I have read a number of books which I have found equally unputdownable. So, here is another list of 15 of my favorites in alphabetical order. If you like reading fiction, they are a must read. If you want more information on a particular book, just click on the name of the book. Here goes:

Catch22Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

The story of Yossarian, a bomber in the U.S. Air force set during the later years of the World War II. The reader might find the story a little out of sequence because at times there are same events which are described by different characters at different points of time. The story is dipped in satire and questions touching upon various themes like moral dilemma, bureaucracies, personal integrity and patriotism. The book is considered as one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century.

DuneDune by Frank Herbert

The book revolves around a highly evolved form of  human race scattered across various planets in the universe some twenty thousand years in the future where science and technology has evolved far beyond its present state. The story touches upon various themes like politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion. Dune was first published in 1965 and it won the Hugo and the Nebula awards for best novel in the following year. It is considered the best science fiction novel of all times.

LolitaLolita by Vladimir Nobokov

A book which holds the distinction of being called “sheer unrestrained pornography” and “one of the best novels of 1955” at the same time. Lolita was refused by 4 American publishers because of its subject content before it finally saw the light of the day. The book follows the story of a middle aged literary scholar who is obsessed with young girls and gets sexually involved with a 12 year old girl named Dolores Haze. Lolita now holds the status of a classic and is considered as the most controversial book of 20th century.

lordofthefliesLord of the Flies by William Golding

During an unnamed nuclear war, a plane carrying a group of young boys crashes in a deserted island. There are no adult survivors and the boys are left on their own. The book dwells into the idea of how culture and society created by humans fail even at the smallest level. The boys create group amongst themselves which finally ends up in disaster and they end up being hungry for each others blood. The book underlines the conflict between the “greater good of the society’ and the “hunger for power”. As you reach the climax of the story, you would have completely forgotten that you were reading about a bunch of school kids.

my name is redMy name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

An enriching book by the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. The book was originally written in Turkish and was later translated to English. How difficult the translation would have been can be understood by the complex English sentences. The story is a murder mystery set during the rein of the Ottoman Empire during the late 1500s where a miniaturist is murdered while working on a very special book. Each of the chapter is narrated by a different character and sometimes even by a coin, a color or the corpse of the murdered miniaturist.

night train to lisbonNight Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

One of the most mesmerizing books I have read recently. The narrative flows beautifully even though the book has been translated from German. The book follows the story of Raimund Gregorius, a teacher of Greek and Latin, whose chance encounter with a beautiful Portuguese woman sets a chain of events where he finds himself on a journey to an unknown country to find about the past of Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese Doctor and a writer. My favorite lines from the book are – “Can God create a stone He couldn’t lift? If not, then he isn’t almighty; if yes, He isn’t either, for now there is a stone He cannot lift.”

19841984 by George Orwell

The book which has already been translated into 65 languages, was written in 1944 and contained chilling accounts of how the world might be in 1984. The story is set in Oceania, a super state, where the protagonist Winston Smith works for the ruling party(the term Big Brother was coined for the leader of the ruling party) and who is assigned the work of falsifying political records and history. The book touches upon the theme of Nationalism, sexual oppression and censorship. Thankfully, the world did not end up as the book predicted, except for China.

the blind assassinThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Winner of the Booker Prize in 2000, the novel follows the story of Iris Chase and her sister Laura who commits suicide immediately after the Second World War. The beauty of the book is that there is a story within the story. As the story of Iris and Laura proceeds, the reader comes across another story of a Blind Assassin in a fictional world and his love for a mute girl whom he is sent to kill. This book is a classic example of how a story can be woven to keep the reader glued till the end. An amazing book.

the book thiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a story told by the Angel of Death, the surreptitious soul collector who is haunted by humans and who was very busy during the Second world war. Set in the Nazi Germany, during the beginning of the second World War, the book follows the story of an orphaned girl who is sent to live with her foster parents in a small town. The family hides a Jew in the basement of their house during the war, which changes their lives in many ways. A beautifully written book.

the Color purpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker

The book won the 1983 Pulitzer for fiction and was later made into a movie by Steven Spielberg which introduced Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey to the big screen. The book takes into account the extreme low condition of the black females in the conservative society of the United States during the 1930s. The book is a series of letters and diary entries of a black woman named Celie , a poor and uneducated woman, who at the age of fourteen is raped and impregnated twice by the man she believes to be her father. And yes, the movie is as good as the book.

the-english-patientThe English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

A critically burnt English man, his nurse Hana, a thief and a Sikh Sapper named Kip form the central characters of this beautifully written book which won the Booker in 1992. The book was also made into a movie which won 9 Oscars including the Best Picture in 1996. The story of the English Patient’s past and the love story between Hana and Kip form the two parallel stories of the book.

the kite runnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from a small village in Kabul, who betrays his best friend Hassan, the son of his father’s servant, and lives in regret. The story has the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban as its background. I think enough has been said about the book already. Its a shame if you haven’t read it by now.

The Scarlet LetterThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

First published in 1850, this novel is the story of Hester Prynne, who commits adultery while she is waiting for her husband to return from a journey. She gives birth to a girl and refuses to identify the father as a result of which she is subjected to public shame and a red cloth(in the form of the letter A, which stands for Adultery) is attached to her gown while she is lead out of the town. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt. The book was an instant success and was the first mass produced book using mechanized printing.

secretlifeofbeesThe Secret life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

A beautifully written book, The Secret life of Bees tell the story of 14 year-old Lily Owens whose life is somehow connected to her mother’s accidental death. Lily’s black caretaker Rosaleen insults three white men one day and had to run away to save her life. Repeatedly abused by her father, Lily runs away with Rosaleen and is taken in by three black beekeeping sisters who hold the key to her mother’s past. A moving, must read book.

timelineTimeline by Micheal Crichton

If you want Science fiction with the chills and thrills of a roller coaster ride, Micheal Crichton is the best bet. Timeline remains undoubtedly his best novel, although each of his book has turned into a bestseller. The book tells the story of a group of Historians who travel back to the Middle ages to save a friend of theirs who had already traveled back in time before them. The way Crichton combines the minute Historical details with Quantum Physics and Time travel is amazing.

I hope you enjoyed the list and

p.s. A lot of the information in the post is via wiki.

Night train to Lisbon

Can God create a stone He couldn’t lift? If not, then he isn’t almighty; if yes, He isn’t either, for now there is a stone He cannot lift.

This book was like poetry. Sentences flew out of the book like lyrics of an old forgotten song and I secretly wished for nttl1the book to never end. Translations usually don’t work for me. Reading “Choker Bali” in English was a disaster. Night Train to Lisbon was written in German initially and that was reason enough for me to be apprehensive. But am I glad that I picked it up! It will undoubtedly remain one of the best books I have read. If you have read a few of my previous posts and have been thinking that why the hell have I turned so philosophical, then the reason is this book.

Raimund Gregorius is a teacher of Classic Languages at the Swiss lycée. He is considered as the best teacher by his students and colleagues and is well respected. One day he saves the life of a captivating Portuguese woman. The act triggers a chain of events and brings him to a book written by Amadeu de Prado, a Portuguese doctor. Raimund is completely drawn towards the book and thus starts his quest to know more about the man who wrote it. Raimund, whose life was nothing less than an immaculate timetable, leaves his class in the middle and takes a train to Lisbon, to know about Prado’s life. To know about the man who could weave magic with his words.

It is death that gives the moment its beauty and its horror. Only through death is time a living time. Why does the Lord, the omniscient God, not know that? Why does he threaten us with an endlessness that must mean unbearable desolation?

As Raimund reaches Lisbon and pick up the threads of Prado’s life, he begins to understand the man, his mind and his hardships through the eyes of people who had known him.

He meets Adriana, Prado’s eighty years old sister who had been living with the ghosts of her brother’s existence and kept everything the way he had left it years ago.

He meets Jorge O’Kelly, Prado’s best friend and confidant for years and the only man Prado could bear to be close to. 

He meets Estefania Espinhosa, the woman who had a brain that could carry every minute detail of the plans of the rebellion against the Salazar’s dictatorship; whom Prado fell in love with and had to part with because of the fear of her falling in the hands of the dictator.

He meets João Eca, an active member of the rebellion and the silent spectator who saw Prado both as a successful and an established doctor and then as a crippled man struggling with life; who had his own horror stories written all over his body. 

He meets Maria João, the woman whose kitchen gave Prado the most dangerous ideas to write. Who saw him go through the trauma of his wife Fatima’s death and who again saw him wither away for Estefania.

But when we set out to understand someone on the inside? Is that a trip that ever comes to an end? Is the soul a place of facts? Or are the alleged facts only the deceptive shadows of our stories?

The most beautiful aspect of the book is the way the story constantly switches between the past and the present, which is entwined with the excerpts from Padro’s book. As Raimund completes the jigsaw of Prado’s life through the numerous people he meets during the course of his journey, you can feel the upheavals of his own life and the transitions he goes through. The book would question your philosophies about life and would force you to look at life in a way you would have never seen it before. It would leave you in an upheaval. 

The book was a major hit in Germany that spent 140 weeks on the best-seller list and went on to become one of Europe’s biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years selling over two million copies. 

Highly recommended. Don’t miss it.

Written by – Pascal Mercier.

Rating – 5/5