Category: Book Review
A Friend from Pakistan
We became friends in Canada though we as nationalities back home in India and Pakistan were declared enemies – our countries of origin.
A look at life in Canada for Asians seeking riches.
The Girl on the Train-Book Review
Three girls; A perfect couple; an alcoholic; a voyeur on a train. Accusations that ruin lives. How does it all pan out. Read about it in this psychological thriller which has sold millions of copies and has been translated into many languages. Written by Paula Hawkins the book has been made into a movie.
Buy the book here:-
The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav
The Seat of the Soul
If you have heard the song, “Everyday is a winding road” you will understand what life’s journey is about.– Don’t be “a stranger in your own life.” Are you getting a little bit closer to your own self, to your own soul? Are all your life questions still unanswered?
If they are not answered you have to read Gary Zukav’s “The Seat of the Soul.” It is another book Oprah Winfrey keeps by her bedside and reads often.
“Reverence is engaging in a form and a depth of contact with Life that is well beyond the shell of form and into essence. Reverence is contact with the essence of each thing and person and plant and bird and animal. It is contact with the interior of its beingness.”–This is the essence of the book. We have to develop a reverence for the world we live in; each leaf, each tree, each blade of grass, every bird in the sky, the clouds, the stars, the sun and the earth itself; everything has a soul and we have to connect our soul with this soul-world.
Basically Gary giving the example of a friend Hank/Hal asks us to “ consider seriously the deeper meaning of his(our) existence. The pains and the joys that flowed through him(us) did(do) not affect his(our) awareness of who he(we) was(are), or what (we) might become.”
We remain lost or unhappy because we resist introspection and meditation; we do not want to meet ourselves in the soul; we are content writhing in the flesh.
Gary exhorts us to get out of our strait-jacket of examining our world with our fixed five senses– “From the perception of the multisensory human, we are never alone, and the Universe is alive, conscious, intelligent and compassionate.”
“We are evolving from five-sensory humans into multisensory humans. Our five senses, together, form a single sensory system that is designed to perceive physical reality. The perceptions of a multisensory human extend beyond physical reality to the larger dynamical systems of which our physical reality is a part.”
This is the soul of the book and it has to be read by everyone for a life changing experience.
You can buy the book here:–
The Woman in the Window-Book Review
So you long for a book that you can curl up in bed with and read till you finish it from cover to cover. “The Woman in the Window” is one such book. AJ FINN aka (real name) Daniel Mallory has written the ultimate whodunnit this season and it will be so for a long time to come.
It is also a must for Hitchcock and black and white movie lovers. The ambience is just right for a nostalgic dip into classical thrillers.
It is definitely in the genre of “Murder She Said”(4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie) and Rear Window (a definitely definitive Hitchcock movie).
Anna Fox is a very believable protagonist. A very personal thriller crescendoing to a climax. A perfect book for a short vacation or a slight fever and staying in bed like old times to devour a book. Unputdownable. Fifty years back when they did not have digital billboards, the movie hall poster man wrote these three words when he loved a movie-Suspense, Thrill and Adventure! It indeed has been made into a movie now!
This is definitely in that genre Suspense, Thrill and Adventure! Go for it and Buy Here–
Go Tell it on the Mountain-Book Review
Another Daughter Another Book
Book Review-Go Tell it on the Mountain
My daughters are book readers and as I oscillate between the homes of my children I get to read the books they are constantly ordering online. In Bengaluru I got the chance to read Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin. My daughter ordered it on the recommendation of Oprah Winfrey who had Maya Angelou(who called James Baldwin “a friend and brother”) as a guest on one of her web talks.
This just shows how linked our lives have become through the social media.
Literature is really a personal mirror held up to a book. How much of a book like Go Tell it on the Mountain can I understand sitting here in India? Of course I have some Bible beginnings because of my schooling and Gospel music because of my listening habits and Hollywood movies. That is as close I can get to a century old yet relevant story of Harlem, New York of 1918 around which this story revolves. Darryl Pinckney has called the book a “meeting of Henry James, the Bible and Harlem.”
It is a book steeped in African American church life and city life Christianity. A New York book but without the modern trimmings of white life. It is a black dark book full of Christian guilt. A story set in Harlem, a hundred years ago. A story of the early twentieth century. It is surprising to see the on-going misery of African Americans; the white police brutality on blacks. There are no white men in this book except the policemen or the unseen owners of a farm where Esther works. No white men to redeem Christian glory. It fills me with wonder at the thrall Jesus Christ holds for African people of all nature. It is just a tribute to the missionaries, the circumstances of the slave trade and the religion itself. It is disturbing to see how old the poor African American suffering is in US style apartheid. The Church is the only solace for the people of this book. It is surprising to rediscover the love for a fair white Christ in Black people. No wonder the Bible is called the greatest story ever told.
“Go tell it on the mountain” is another Bible novel that anyone with a love for the Book cannot ignore. It is writing of a high spiritual and technical level. The treatment of past and present characters with flashbacks is so ultra modern though it was written more than half a century ago.
“To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
This is also a father-son book and elsewhere Baldwin says, ‘if the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons.’
This is definitely an Our Father story. Very surprising for a man who did not consider himself religious in later life. He accuses Christianity of being a method of soothing the pains caused by white oppression.
This book is truly autobiographical but it leaves us at a spot where the hero still believes in God. This was his first novel and was written in France where he had self-exiled himself from an unfair to blacks America.
If you want to buy the book, click here:-
Look at the hatred here– “She looked out into the quiet, sunny streets, and for the first time in her life, she hated it all-the white city, the white world. She could not, that day, think of one decent white person in the whole world. She sat there, and she hoped that one day God, with tortures inconceivable would grind them utterly into humility, and make them know that black boys and black girls, whom they treated with such condescension, such disdain, and such good humour had hearts like human beings too, more human hearts than theirs.”
Meet the Snow Leopard
Meeting The Snow Leopard
Some books wait like a dream at corners of our lives. One such book is The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. It was waiting for me on a table in the living room of my daughter’s apartment in Dubai. I really have grown too old for new books. I picked up the book with scepticism and whoosh I was away on a soul searching journey with Peter Matthiessen. He is a yogi of the written word. I have read books but not enough to understand the great references made in this spiritual journey journal but I do get the drift.
Sitting in the balcony with the traffic sound like that of a Niagara from the Sheikh Zayed highway and the sun beaming off the glass tops of the buildings facing me and hitting my book like a table lamp’s concentrated rays, I had a feeling of being at one with the world, the Marina down below, the boats gliding over the still water, the sea gulls floating, the parachutists jumping from planes across the bay, the joggers taking life in gulps of fresh air and the boatmen washing the pretty cruisers of the marina residents. The restaurants have yet to open and old men on benches are waiting for the sun to hit them.
I continue to read the book and really begin to have an amused smile at Matthiessen’s tortured desire to nail the eel of existence/life/soul/god/cosmos; don’t we Indians have a perception of the truth instinctively or rather through religious learning through mythology, prayers, Ramayana stories told by mothers, grandmothers both maternal and paternal, Krishna stories, Mahabarata learning, a recital of all the granths while we are passing through streets of cluttered worshipers. Our understanding of Karma, fate and existence is there and we cannot explain it because of any books we have read or any lectures we listened to; to this he sort of agrees in seeing the one learned sherpa–on their quest for the bhural the blue sheep. It is a typical white man’s quest to find primordial universal answers from watching sheep making love. It just goes to prove that reading an extreme number of books does not still qualify you in that childhood party game of pinning the tail while blindfolded. On the other hand a tinge of distrust of Hindus sneaks in with the way he approaches Buddhists with love and rather with a pinched nose when he handles, ‘the Hindu.’
Like everyone else I am enamoured by tales of travelling that lead to self realisation the most classic being the rip roaring success The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is of the same genre but the learning here is in the gems placed throughout the journey by the author on surprising corners of the book. One feels the cold thin air climbing up in the mountains close to the Himalayas through Nepal and Tibet.
I discover the power of OM Mani Padme Hum through Peter Matthiessen’s revelations about his encounters with the Buddhist religion.It was a bit eerie that I had brought Innocents Abroad and My Cousin Rachel as reading material both of which contain journeys of discovery.
(The CIA chose a very sensitive person for once to act as their undercover agent and Matthiessen’s cover was as one of the founders of the Paris Review.)
Whatever the story behind the man, he was a sensitive soul in tune with the Himalayan mountains and Buddhism. I am grateful to him for introducing me to esoteric concepts that I may never have understood if it had not been for his explanations. The book is studded with religious and philosophical gems and glimpses into Tibetan culture and here I leave a few samples:-
“The Holy Grail is what Zen Buddhists call our own ‘true nature’; each man is his own saviour after all.”
Enlightenment or prajna(pre-enlightenment?) for a man or woman is explained thus-’A profound vision of his identity with universal life, past, present, and future, that keeps man from doing harm to others and sets him free from fear of birth-and-death.’
Tibetan Book of the Dead–”a guide for the living, actually, since it teaches that a man’s last thoughts will determine the quality of his reincarnation.”
“As the hand held before the eye conceals the greatest mountain, so the little earthly life hides from the glance the enormous lights and mysteries of which the world is full, and he who can draw it away from before his eyes, as one draws away a hand, beholds the great shining of the inner worlds”–Rabbi Nachmann of Bratzlav.
“When you are ready, Buddhists say, the teacher will appear.”
In the end I learned a great motto which I feel I knew in the back of my mind but now had been verbalised with two words–”Expect Nothing”–’Eido Roshi had warned me on the day I left.’ Click here to buy the book:-
Mannat-Shahrukh Khan’s House in Mumbai-Hitting the Tourist Spots
Travels With Charley–Book Review
Travels with Charley— John Steinbeck
–Book Review—Part I
Having just finished the book Travels with Charley I feel as tired as John Steinbeck when he reaches close to home near the New Jersey turnpike. His home was at Sag Harbor on Long Island which is mentioned several times in Moby Dick. The book is rather a pessimistic and despondent view of America’s future as observed in the 1960s. It is also a long journey of 10,000 miles. The name is inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.
Of course it was an honor to ride with a Nobel Prize winner. He is a great American writer in English. One of my favorites is his “Grapes of Wrath.” I treasure my copies of The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. This book is a worthy component of my Steinbeck library. I found it in one of those wondrous shops that sell old books in New Delhi.
The book attracts because of the secret desire of every person to take off on an explorative expedition of his or her own country. Steinbeck did exactly that despite a reported heart condition which he does not refer to in the entire book. People discredit the book because they allege that a large proportion of it is fiction. A little embellishment should be forgiven and the personal view points of the author on various subjects are very interesting.
The legend on the front page says:–
“The #1 National Bestseller. Now only 75cents.”
Travels with Charley
My copy of the book was printed by Bantam Books in July, 1963 which makes it 52 years old.
IN SEARCH OF AMERICA
It really feels I have been with him searching for the real America of the sixties. He touches upon all subjects in his journey and fills the reader with curiosity and wonder. He has in empathetic awe of things which shines through the pages; I felt it especially when he took me to the Redwood trees in California. He says, ‘The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always.’—-“they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.’
Though the book has a sombre view of America’s future it makes interesting reading. I am sure he would have been surprised by the material progress of the country and pleasantly shocked on seeing Barack Obama as President of the country. He would be dismayed by the suspiciously prejudiced shootings of black people on the streets of America by the police.
It is a lovely journey taken half a century ago in a GMC truck converted into a mobile home named Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse.
I have always loved Steinbeck. Cannery Row and the Log from the Sea of Cortez are two of my favorite books. Grapes of Wrath made me cry at the sad lot of the migrants from Oklahoma and other states during the depression and the dustbowl phenomenon working in pitiable conditions in California. Everyone loves ‘Doc’ based on his marine biologist friend Ed Ricketts.
I remember once I sort of fell into a chat room of a man and a woman discussing Steinbeck on the Internet. They were pondering over the fact that Steinbeck never wrote funny stuff. I interjected without a pardon me that perhaps they should read Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. There was a stunned net-silence and net-raised eyebrows and the gentleman said in a profoundly amazed text which I believe was “thank you kind sir” and the chat room shut down.
Steinbeck discusses everything from coin operated machines to hairdressers and real estate. He describes his coffee drinking bouts with strangers in such detail that I had the urge every time to make coffee for myself; I did not add the whiskey which he seemed to proffer to strangers with or in the coffee. It was the same way with me when I was a small boy reading Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. When the Famous Five went on picnics I quickly made sandwiches to appease my aroused hunger pangs.
He is disappointed by the rapid growth of Seattle. The reader gets the unapproving drift from Steinbeck who wrote, ‘I came out on this trip to try to learn something of America.’ He finds the people of Ohio open and friendly as opposed to those in New England—“The natural New England taciturnity reaches its glorious perfection at breakfast. Early-rising men not only do not talk much to strangers, they barely talk to one another.”
I learned and some extra which I had to Google– like the ‘poor boy sandwich’; ‘ci git’; braceros, mulsed, hame bells and fleered.
He has many things to say about ‘resisting change’ Pg107; Lonesome Harry Pg 139; desert and spirituality Pg 214; Texans Pg 225. ‘what are Americans like today’—Pg 241. The South and Negro issue Pg 245.’Cheerladies New Orleans.’
His aphorisms are amusing—“A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner.”
‘The meanwhile frightens me, sir.’
One of the people he encounters says, ‘I remember a time when Negroes had no souls.’
Elsewhere–“No sir,” he said, “I’ve been practicing to be a Negro a long time.”
“Yellowstone National Park is no more representative of America than is Disneyland.”
“A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a gun.”
“There used to be a thing or commodity we put great strike by. It was called the People. Find out where the People have gone.”
He talks about Martin Luther King and Gandhi while discussing the race issue in America. He wanted ‘passive but unrelenting resistance.’ “There’s improvement, there’s constant improvement. Gandhi proved it’s the only weapon that can win against violence.”
Let’s hope you are right ‘Captain Sir’ as the scared old black man who fearfully agreed to take a ride in Rocinante called you. Let’s hope you are right Captain Sir.
Bill Steigerwald in his comments steered me to this page on the net which makes interesting reading including his book “Dogging Steinbeck” on Amazon.com.
You can buy the book by clicking here:-
Life after Life – Kate Atkinson– Book Review
Book Review of Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
The book Life after Life opens a time-warp into England during the Second World War. The author Kate Atkinson weaves a dreamlike story of Ursula, who dies several times but the author opts to resurrect her again and again, Life after Life. It is beautifully done. Finishing the book, I felt reluctant to leave the world of Ursula her mother Sylvie and sister Pamela. This book is a time machine that bounces even into the private life of Eva and Hitler.
Perhaps this is the best novel about London during the Blitzkrieg.
One has to be patient with good books. Most of them take about 70 pages to create a certain ambience and cast of characters. I got glued to the web of characters in Life after Life somewhere near hundred pages. That is them moment when one really looks at the back cover to read more about the author.
I am cowering now with Ursula in the ruins of a building in London during the night time incessant bombing.
As a writer I feel like a tiny dog perhaps like Jock. I want to bark a good story and run and run around Kate in circles yapping my praise mixed with jealous anger—‘How can you have so much talent?—while we here are eating cake in our literary poverty.
I have also decided that in future any book that I read will henceforth be defaced by me on the last empty blank page with tiny details of the characters as in plays’ cast of characters. That way I will not get lost as I did in A Thousand Years of Solitude with the Antonias and the Buendias.
Sylvie—mother of Ursula.
Hugh – Father of Ursula
Teddy – Ursula’s brother
Izzie – Hugh’s sister.
This listing will make life so much easier while reading great complicated books.
After finishing the book I feel as Kate Atkinson—about the book, ‘everything was ephemeral, yet everything was eternal.’ The book is so English. Kate has the secret map to a treasure of good writing. I am just like the cowboy in the posse who gets shot off his horse right in the beginning. Kate gallops ahead and reaches the gold mine.
Here I am sitting shot and propped up perhaps against a cactus in the desert pulling needles out of my butt as far as I can reach back. The realization of one’s own incompetence is so painful.
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