Books of January

The first one for 2013 was The Postmaster by Rabindranath Tagore. This is a short story collection written while he was still in his youth, mostly from his experiences as a landlord when he had to travel around to collect the rent from tenents. As it says in the introduction, it was the young Tagore all the way, yet those stories seem to extend to eternity, like the wait of that girl in Postmaster, or the presumed meeting of Kabuliwalah with his daughter, and similarly, the people left to themselves in their dilemma. I suppose it was the beginning of his sagely transformation. One could sense some faint hints of disenchantments and detachment brooding in dark corners. The book also packed some poetry as well as fascinating letters he wrote to his niece and friends, brimming with compassionate and wise words. I felt his narrative to be very simplistic and straightforward. I was thinking how apt Tagore's stories are for children for its simplicity.


The second book was The Stranger by Albert Camus. It is a dispassionate first person narrative of a seemingly simple person. He is kind of an outsider to the society and even himself. One might be tempted to call him cold. For instance, he goes to a comedy movie with his girlfriend a day after his mother's funeral. Does that sound odd? Does he not have sorrow? he does. Is it necessary behave so as to show that to the public?, it might appear as misplaced. But here, he loved his mother. Yet, that is what he is. The story takes tragic turns and at each turn we cringe as to why he yield to a prescribed social conduct, even when it is judging him on their misplaced unreason. One might even get annoyed at his complacency. In the afterward, the author tries correlate the protagonist of this story with Christ. But here I didn't feel like he was deliberately acting out that way. I was hoping that author would say that it is perhaps a neural abnormality. A very valid point the story puts through is how someone who doesn't fit into the shoes of the society may be treated with hostility. Rather, it creates panic in the people who follows a certain order, for they know better of its fragility. V (of vendetta) says something interesting as well while tipping off his dominoes.


The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human. Dr Vilayanur Ramachandran is a popular neurologist whose studies on brain and various neural abnormalities have shed light on possible several interesting things that perhaps gives hope in explaining a lot about humanity, and human behavioral and cultural evolution. It also explains several little known aspects of brain. In this book he tries to find how human nature developed in humans, basically through his study on mirror neurons. Also have several interesting writings on Autism, synesthesia, creativity etc. Not only that, he also dwells into things like self-awareness, language, syntax etc, and tries to explain how they all workout in the brain. The book is written in a very humorous way, and I felt non-medical people as well can understand it.


V for Vendetta. "Behind this mask there is more than just flesh and blood. Beneath this mask there is an idea... and ideas are bulletproof." Don't have anything much to say about this book. It was just awesome. Story is by Alan Moore and graphics by David Lloyd. Whatever the words couldn’t express, Lloyd has filled with images. The masked man had created a rave after the book was published, and got more popularity with the movie by Watchowski brothers. What I like about V the most is he is masked; he is anonymous, his thoughts are not corrupted by what he maybe. Like he says, he is merely an idea. He doesn’t have an identity, he is thus free. Although I have watched movie umpteen times, I had the same exciting experience reading it. I might as well buy one for my shelf.


റവന്യുസ്റ്റാമ്പ്‌ Revenue Stamp. This is the autobiography of famous Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam. I haven't read any other works of hers. Besides, from what I have read and heard, her life story is perhaps the best place to start. Incidentally I came across this Malayalam version and picked it up. What is so inspiring is her broad mindedness, and a lively outlook towards life, love, friendship and literature. Her recollection of those love affairs and friendships that fueled her creativity, nonetheless were very inspiring. She also recollects the kind of attitude she had to confront from many other contemporary writers. Perhaps a woman writing openly of her thoughts terrified them, made them insecure. One would wish how beautiful it would be to be in company of people who could only speak in the language of art and literature.


Shadow lines by Amitav Ghosh. I liked this purely because of its introspective narrative. I felt genuineness in the concerns, fears and this whole narration of his life singled around the political violence. Loved each character in this book and the way narrator presented them. A self-styled Intellectual and mentor, his Hermione Granger kind of cousin whom he adore, a towering grandmotherly granny and many other family members makes this a very domestic story of families placed in Kolkata and London.  The narratives shift spaces and time erratically, it was consistently narrated as a memoir of this wide eyed boy who isn’t able to emotionally catch up with the families disintegrating and tragedies that they are all trying to come in terms with.


This is the fictionalized account of real story of two young men who, of disappointment in not finding money they expected to steal, brutally murders everyone of a family. But when their story is told, it turns the whole thing awkwardly revolting. Capote's masterpiece shows establishes what fragile society we live in, which is reluctant to accept the responsibilities of the monsters it creates every now and then. At the end, although trial and execution is over, something still lingers on, like a disappointment at how people could have otherwise nothing wrong, tumble senselessly into the abyss of crime.

This book had created a lot of controversy, on capital punishment, on mindless gun usage and also on giving false hopes to the accused from whom Capote had extracted a big part of the story. In the movie 'Capote', this incident is depicted.