BibliothequeWas just adding to my list of books recently read, and come to think of it, I did get hold of quite a few interesting ones. A sample:
The English Patient
Wait! What is this doing in a list of interesting books? I found this book utterly bogus. I couldn't understand what was so special about this book and the plot. To compound matters, I had also got hold of the film's DVD (which I waited to finish the book before watching it). I hoped it would be less tangled but this was a effort in vain. For starters, you are told the true identity of the English Patient so early in the film that it robs you of that suspense. Plus the general d-r-a-g that is translated from the book to the screen. Apart from the gorgeous sights of desert filming and Kristin Scott-Thomas (not strictly in that order), I couldn't wait to get rid of it.
I will let Elaine Benes sum it up as she exclaims (in a Seinfeld episode titled The English Patient) after having to watch it again with her boss (who loves it):
ELAINE: (quiet vehemence) Oh. No. I can't do this any more. I can't. It's too long. (to the screen) Quit telling your stupid story, about the stupid desert, and just die already! (louder) Die!!
Just For Fun - The story of an accidental revolutionary
Featuring the life and philosophies of Linus Torvalds. A very interesting book about a nerdy guy who suddenly finds himself in the middle of the spotlight and his efforts to cope. It also details, first hand, the story of Linux which is described with a benign parental gaze without getting too involved. His life has essentially been about doing what he wanted to (and it helped that he was so good at it).
An absolutely delightful read. Oh, and as everyone expects a lot of gyaan from Torvalds, he supplies his one personal take on L, the U & E: that the human life progresses from survival to social standing to entertainment, and that almost everything stems from the succession of these phases.
Death Is Now My Neighbour
This was my second Inspector Morse book. I've watched quite a few episodes of the famous TV show recently and have officially become a fan. Colin Dexter's detective cop is somewhere in between the sanitised Agatha Christie settings and the seedy & noir ambience of American crime writers like Raymond Chandler. You get a liberal dose of literary references, snatches of Western Classical music, crossword puzzles, beer and depressed cynicism in Oxford - all in all, much more believable & likeable.
Incidentally, I also watched a TV version of this story days before I saw the book at the library. Inspite of knowing the plot, I checked the book out simply because there's a lot in the book that is of great merit such as the detailed character development and literary allusions that speaks of careful construction. The denouements are usually satisfying too. Can't ask for more in detective fiction. It turned out that the TV version was slightly different and omitted some of the elements, but the quality of the adaptation was so good that it hadn't mattered at all.
Once Was Bombay
Pinky Virani wrote this book in 1999. It was considered to be one of the earliest "faction" books in India, another notable predecessor being Virani's "Aruna's story". I also encountered the book then, but for different reasons. The film Satya which had released about 6 months before had already become a landmark in the history of Indian cinema, as had the performance of Manoj Bajpai. So it was hard to pass on the chance of seeing this newest acting sensation which a reading of this book at Pune's Crossword Store provided as bait.
Of course, I saw Manoj Bajpai in the flesh (he seemed a completely unassuming man and no, I didn't pick up an autograph) and heard Virani & him read out passages from the book, in particular, the passages where the gangster Pakya asks Virani to help get in contact with "Bhiku Mhatre", "aise hi".
Back to the book. The biggest emotion that hits the reader is of anger. Pinky Virani ko gussaa aata hai jab woh Bambai kaa haal dekhti hai. The book is in segments. In the one with her thinly-veiled autobiographical account of life in a Mazagaon house with her father & sisters, she is the "Loud One" that the father is both infuriated with and scared of. "Who killed Bombay?" she asks. And dedicates it to those journalists who still care about the megapolis. Gangsters and dons like Karim Lala, anonymous actors, Veeru & Ajay Devgan, a traditional Azhar, an airy Shobha De & a miffed Simi Garewal are to be found in the no-holds barred look at the state of the city. And of course the politicians.
The storyline as read from the blurbs & gists was compelling - an account of virus attacks, Bollywood filmstars and paranoid Westerners. Hari Kunzru weaves a global tale, but the tale ends up short of promise. There are great moments of course - Asperger's syndrome obsessed programmers, cliche-spouting Chief.*.Officers and throwaway lines. But on the flip sides, there are the usual stereotypical caricatures of Indian families and film production units. You need to suspend some of your scepticism to believe the pivotal plot element of a virus cooked up at short notice with original internals defying both detection and solution and spreading/mutating at such colossal speeds. It is a little short on believable detail, so unless you look at it as a comedy, you'll be held back.
Still, there's enough to keep one occupied for a while.
I didn't think I'd pick up another Umberto Eco so soon after the laborious effort of finishing "The Name of the Rose", but I did. I'm saving up comments for the Lit Blog that can explain why I couldn't join the rest for last month's Book of the Month.
And as it turned out, despite wanting to stay off Eco for a while, have now with me his "Baudolino" which I only heard about a couple of hours before I saw it staring from the rack at the library.