Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Luminaries - an introduction

This is not a review of the book. I would prefer to call it an introduction. I love reading books and read quite a lot usually, but for now I will just introduce this one book.

The Luminaries

Spread across Eight Hundred and Thirty Two pages this book is a magnum opus of the New Zealand based writer, Eleanor Catton. The Luminaries is the winner of The Man Booker prize of 2013 and looking at the way the plot and characters are built, I would say Catton is an excellent writer and the book deserves a Booker. I started with 3 books when the Lockdown started and in the end this book pulled me to read only this. The other 2 gathered dust on my bedside table.

The novel is set in 19th century New Zealand during the years 1865-66. It is a time when the Gold Rush has started in the coasts of New Zealand. People are flocking the country from all over the world and Mr Walter Moody is one among them.

The crux of the novel is set around 3 incidents that happen on the night of January 14th in 1866 in the town of Hokitika.
Crosbie Wells, who lived a hermit’s life has passed away
The rich Emery Staines has disappeared
The whore Anna Wetherell is found in an unconscious state on a highway and people suspect that it is a suicide attempt.

The story starts 2 weeks from there at a hotel, where 12 men have gathered to discuss these unsolved crimes. Into this gathering arrives Mr Moody, who wants to be a digger and has come to try his luck in Hokitika. Soon Moody is drawn into the conversation by Mr. Balfour, who appears to be the leader of the gang.

These 12 men now go about explaining their side of stories to Moody. From them we find that Crosbie Wells was murdered and an enormous amount of gold is found from his home in the Arahura valley. We also find that Emery Staines has pledged to give 2000 pound to Anna Wetherell and Crosbie is a witness to this unsigned deed. What does this all mean? The interesting aspect of the stories told by these 12 men is that all of their stories are connected to these 3 incidents in a suspectful way. At the end of this story telling, which takes up almost one third of the pages, we wonder if one of those 12 men are behind this. The mystery behind the crimes slowly unravels when we read about the villain of the story, Mr. Francis Carver, Crosbie’s wife Mrs Lydia Wells, politician Alistair Lauderback and gaol keeper Mr George Shepard and comes to a conclusion with the courtroom drama towards the end.

The book is based on the astronomical signs and positions of the stars and planets, and it is interesting to see how much detail has Catton put in the book. The title itself denotes bright planets The Sun & The Moon that emits light. In the character chart it is explained that those are Emery Staines and Anna Wetherell. The 12 men are related to the 12 zodiac signs and the other characters are related to the planets. Crosbie Wells is related to Terra Firma, and he has a hut in the lands of Arahura Valley.

The book is organized in such a way that each part is almost half of the previous part in the number of pages. So you have the first part which runs into 360 pages and then the second which is close to 160 pages and this pattern continues till the end. There is a similarity in the introductions written on each chapter. At the start these introductions are very short and the content is more. As we progress towards the end, you see that the introductions are getting longer and the content is getting shorter. This clearly denotes the lunar cycle which also appears on the front and back covers of the book. We can also consider it as a metaphor which indicates that a murkier story gets more clearer towards the end. The title of each chapter also indicates who are the main characters in that chapter based on their planetary positions.

The Luminaries is a huge book spread across 832 pages. I understand that many people have left this book midway and have not returned to it. I am of the opinion that, if you can get through the initial few pages, then this is a book which does not bore you. It may not be a fast pace thriller, but the intricacies of the stories and the shadiness of the characters will make you turn the page.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Books read in 2019

Last year,
In the span of 12 months,
I was bound by a
Spell of Words

They worked on me
In my journeys,
In my bedside,
In my waits,
In the vestibules,
In the hospital beds,

I read
6874 pages in
35 books

The best in recent times. So here we go

  1. Nilam Poothu Malarnna Naal - Manoj Kuroor
  2. A Room with a View -  E.M. Forester
  3. Appan - S Hareesh
  4. Jeevichirikkunnavarkku Vendiyulal Oppees - Johny Miranda
  5. The Blind Lady’s Descendants - Anees Salim
  6. Manichitrathaazhum Mattu Ormakalum - Fazil
  7. Naalukettu (Serial Screenplay) - M.T
  8. The Plot Against America - Phililp Roth
  9. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
  10. A Streetcar named Desire - Tennessee Williams
  11. Kaadinullil Rahasyamaayi Ozhukunna Nadikal - Ambikasuthan Maangad
  12. Olivile Ormakal - Thoppil Bhasi
  13. Temporary People - Deepak Unnikrishnan
  14. Kusumabale - Devannoora Mahadeva (Kannada translated in English)
  15. Vaank - Unni R
  16. The Radetzky March - Joseph Roth
  17. There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In - Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
  18. Bhoomiyolam Jeevitham - Arshad Bateri
  19. The Man In the High Castle - Phillip K. Dick
  20. Amminipilla Vettucase - G.R. Indugopan
  21. Thousand Cranes - Yasunari Kawabata
  22. Mazyyazhippuzhayude Theerangalil - M. Mukundan
  23. Librarian - C.V. Balakrishnan
  24. Janithakam - M. Sukumaran
  25. The Little Paris Book Shop - Nina George
  26. The Search Warrant - Patrick Modiano
  27. The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter - Shilpa Raj
  28. Notes of a Dream (AR Rahman biography) - Krishna Trilok
  29. Rajalakshmiyude Kathakal - Rajalakshmi
  30. Nooru Simhasanagal - Jayamohan
  31. Susannayude Granthapura - Ajay Mangatt
  32. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
  33. Everything is Illuminated - Jonatha Safran Foer
  34. Sirajunnissa - T.D. Ramakrishnan
  35. Who killed Palomino Molero?  - Mario Vargas Llosa

Favourite Five

  1. The Blind Lady’s Descendants 
  2. The Plot Against America 
  3. The Radetzky March
  4. There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In
  5. Amminipilla Vettucase
  6. Thousand Cranes
  7. Rajalakshmiyude Kathakal 
  8. Nooru Simhasanagal
  9. Susannayude Granthapura

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Books Read 2018

My earlier posts on books read in a particular year always started with the usual complaint that I didn't read enough books :-) This year it will not be, for I have met my Goodreads challenge and even exceeded it by one book. As per Good reads that is 104% (26/25). So you know what I am going to do this year, I just upped it by 5 books.

So here are my books read in 2018 and my ratings.

  1. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller  - Italo Calvino  - 3/5
  2. Varanasi - M.T - 3.5/5
  3. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz - 4.5/5
  4. Strange Pilgrims - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 4/5
  5. Smarakashilakal - Punathil Kunjabdulla - (re-read) 
  6. Kaalam - M.T - (re-read)
  7. Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck - 3/5
  8. Ormachipp - K.V. Praveen - 2/5
  9. Family Life - Akhil Sharma -1/5
  10. The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency - Alexandar McCall Smith - 4/5
  11. Koo - Lasar Shine - 2.5/5
  12. The Last Temptation - Nikos Kazantazakis - 4/5
  13. 84, Charring Cross Road - Helene Hanff - 4/5
  14. Football in Sun & Shadow - Eduardo Galeano - 4.5/5
  15. Ghachar Ghochar - Vivek Shanbhag - 5/5
  16. The Curios Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon - 2.5/5
  17. By Night in Chile - Roberto Bolano - 3.5/5
  18. The Little Town Where Time Stood Still - Bohumil Hrabal - 4/5
  19. The Reader - Bernhard Schlink - 3.5/5
  20. The Thirty-Nince Steps - John Buchan - 3/5
  21. Drishtichaver - Pramod Raman - 3/5
  22. Kanthapura - Raja Rao - 3/5
  23. Rebel Sultans - Manu Pillai - 4/5
  24. Rework - Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson - 4.5/5
  25. Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi - 4.5/5
  26. Ente Priyapetta Kathakal - N.S. Madhavan - 4/5

Personal Recommendations

  1. Ghachar Gochar - One of the best books that have come out of Kannada Literature. I have made almost everyone in Geektrust read this :) 
  2. Persepolis - To know how life was in Iran pre & post the Revolution. I formatted my laptop and gave it the name of this book.
  3. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - To know Dominican Republic. To know Oscar. 
  4. Football in Sun & Shadow - To know the history of football and world cup. Also to know the brilliance of Galeano. The book is poetry in prose. 
  5. The Little Town Where Time Stood Still - If you want to get to know about Hrabal, who was called as Czechoslovakia's greatest writer by Milan Kundera. A book with life & wit.
  6. The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency - For Mma Ramotswe. 
  7. Rebel Sultans - To know Deccan.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A day in the life of a Rahul Dravid fan

I sat there in awe. I am seeing him for the first time. I narrowly missed him at Cricinfo, but this time I was determined. Woke up at 6, ate breakfast, caught the 7.30 bus from my home to Richmond Road and then an auto to the Hotel Lalit Ashok, 35 kms from my place, just to watch Dravid speak. That, on a Sunday morning.

I reached there 1.5 hours before the session started. I strolled around the hotel, keeping a tab on the venue. They were cleaning it. I wanted a closer seat. In between I went to checkout the Atta Galatta book store. It was empty. The proprietor was prepping up the volunteers. He promised them discounts on books and Pizza for lunch. I thought he would offer some to me too, but none came. I buy Hansda Shekhar's "The Adivasi will not Dance"

By the time I came back, the first few rows were taken. I am waiting for Reji Ravindran, friend for 20 years. I meet a few friends from the Twitter world. I am itching to sit. Reji, where are you ? I call him. I'm at Cubbon, he replies. Finally he strolls in, we are lucky to get a seat, not at the back nor at the front. Then Dravid arrives. I catch a glimpse. The crowd roars, for their beloved Bengaluru Son. The Wall. I'm impatient. Shall we go in the side and stand? I ask Reji. That was what we did to catch another giant, the 10/74 Anil Kumble, the previous day.

We don't. Because the session has started.

Prem Panicker is brilliant. He is one sports journalist I have been following for a very long time. He introduces Dravid as an immovable object who is an irresistible force.

Rajdeep pokes, Dravid leaves outside the off stump. Dravid says the cash is good for cricket. He wants players to be authentic to themselves, which makes sense. He talks about a 48 hour train journey where he goes and picks brains of all the great Karnataka players. He also leg glances the Yo Yo test deftly to the fine leg boundary. All laced with good humour. Man, when did he become such an nice speaker. I can listen to him all day.

Then an important question is asked. Will you ever write your story? The crowd cheers.

I wait, because I want to pre-order the book if his answer is yes.

He says - "I want to write a honest book, and I don't want my family to put through that pain."

My hands join for an ovation without my knowledge. I am disappointed a moment later.

Rajdeep pokes again. Rajdeep is romantic. He is worried about kids. Dravid says, they are all fine, I see them in and out. He quips, "I hear about players being too big. Who made them big, yaar? A lot of other people have become rich by players being rich". Rajdeep smiles, but deep down, I think, for him it feels like a Shoaib Akhtar delivery which has grazed the abdomen guard.

Multiple times in two days Rajdeep is hit out of Hotel Lalit Ashok lawns. First by Kumble, now by the gentleman Dravid, who used to show aggression by defending a fast Allan Donald delivery in front foot.

Later greats join in. Kirmani has a compliment for Dravid. "You talk a lot well and humorous now. And you are doing well with the kids; you are the right choice"

Now. It is all over. I run with my copy of Timeless Steel, a book from Cricinfo, for an autograph. I can see a small crowd following someone. Phones are in air. Taking selfies with the player who once batted like God. I can only push, but not progress. I come back.


I am the 17 year old again.