this post is about books

January 15, 2011 § 14 Comments

i just finished reading beatrice and virgil, yann martel’s latest.

what i loved about life of pi is the calm sense of reality that pervades the blase, matter of fact narrative of a boy and a tiger lost together on the high seas. so it picks up these elements – a boy, a raft, a tiger, a man-eating island – makes (patently unlikely) compatriots of them, and stitches everything together so elegantly that you think, well of course, why shouldn’t this happen?

i mean, why stop with just pushing the envelope when you can deny the existence of it? great idea!

so then he wrote beatrice and virgil. it’s supposed to be a sneaky allegory of the holocaust, featuring one donkey and one monkey alone in an unidentifiable country called ‘Shirt’. if that is supposed to intimidate me, dude, your last book’s protagonist was called ‘Piscine Molitor’. you are clearly attracted by weird for the sake of it. well bring it on, i say.

and he did, and dear god forgive him, it was so bad. it was so unutterably clumsy. it is a very thinly disguised apology for a writer’s block and borrows desperately from a hundred classics to try and make up the difference. i challenge you to read the first fifty pages and not have “waiting for godot! this is waiting for godot!” bouncing endlessly off the inside of your skull.

if you read the book, it tells you why the allegory had to be such a roundabout one. it is an excellent reason. unfortunately it is the last instance of clarity anywhere in there.


i went back to the catcher in the rye, i’m re-reading it. i read it once before, and for a hundred reasons, remember desperately wanting to ‘get’ it, but i really didn’t. the thing is an instant stereotype, a handy little cliche, but i never knew how to use it, because i simply could not understand it.

now that i’ve re-read it, i don’t think it is possible to ‘love’ the catcher in the rye. me, i can see myself having an awkward, slightly shifty-eyed companionship with this book; if i smoked, maybe we’d silently share a cigarette in the cold.. but then we’d stub it out and we’d leave. and maybe tomorrow, we’d do it again.

see what i mean?

i think i finally understood.

i recently gifted someone hemingway’s the sun also rises. i never liked his short stories, we read them in school (maybe that was the problem), but i really liked this book. but you know how the books you like really depend on where your head is at that point in your life, and at that point – late high school, yeah, i know – i was feeling very subversive and very unhappy and trapped and reckless, and so i was predictably, obviously attracted to on the road (jack kerouac).

so there were both these books on purposeful directionless-ness, just different enough in the details to be both great reads – and that made me feel free.

i think it is perfectly possible for me to write my autobiography in book titles.

p.s – that boy said “so what do you like to do?” i said “i read, sometimes i write” and he said “oh i would read if i didn’t have better things to do like having fun with my friends”

can we bring eugenics back into fashion?


§ 14 Responses to this post is about books

  • I recently met a boy who said, “You read books? Wow, you must be intelligent.”
    Will wait eagerly for your autobiography in book titles…

  • D says:

    Okay, I thought I was the only one who wrote about books likes this. Even to call them ‘books’ sounds estranging, no?

    • actually while i love books, i love them in a somewhat…removed… fashion. disengaged interest/admiration/contempt is a good description of what i do.

      but i don’t know what i’d do if i didn’t read. not sure i’d recognise myself either.

      there^ is a a lengthy/roundabout answer to your (probably) offhand question :) .

  • Karthik says:

    Brilliant!@”now that i’ve re-read it, i don’t think it is possible to ‘love’ the catcher in the rye. me, i can see myself having an awkward, slightly shifty-eyed companionship with this book; if i smoked, maybe we’d silently share a cigarette in the cold.. but then we’d stub it out and we’d leave. and maybe tomorrow, we’d do it again.”

    Somehow, most of my comments elicit puzzling responses from you, so hereon, I’ll be a silent fan. But do keep writing! :)

    • what, you don’t like my cool obscure-ness? i’ll put my Philistine Pants on next time ;) but sorry i was obscure, i will attempt to be less so in future. i forget to reply as well sometimes, but i do read all comments, so don’t let that stop you if you want to say something.

      • I didn’t quite see your comments as ‘obscure’. Nonetheless, it is not important what I saw it as. Most of the time, I don’t have any very important comment to make. However, I will contribute if I do :) Thanks. I must try Yann Martel. One of these days. Catcher in the Rye and Catch 22 didn’t catch me. They sort of seemed to take off their cover, open wide and invite me to dive in, but when I was finished, it all seemed too contrived and left me dissatisfied.

  • F.S says:

    Eugenics never fell out of fashion. Its just that humans simply are yet to iron out the kinks.China and India thought men are more intelligent than women. Which could have proven correct if they didn’t make so many male babies.Fail.

    England and USA thought white people are more intelligent than black,yellow and brown people. Cut to 9/11,software and Obama. Fail.

    Nazi germany was really close when they realised that jews were the smarter race. And then Hitler decided to kill them all. Epic Fail.

    So there.Evolution sucks. But you can still order identical copies of sheep from scotland. Or identical haggises if you like them like that.

    Also,thanks for the heads up on Yann Martel’s latest.

    • indian men are still finding females, even if it is marriages are a little different than previously contemplated. you say desperate, i say resourceful, and resourcefulness is usually enough intelligence for progress.

      obama is a black man with a WASP education – that makes him grey enough for soul country and jewish bankers. while we’re on the subject, the opinion polls aren’t looking too good either.

      hitler may have killed very many jews, but the few left are doing a great job of looking great, being rich and keeping a straight face while telling very funny jokes.

      beatrice and virgil has its (really good) moments. my overall opinion is largely based on my expectations of it based on life of pi.

  • F.S says:

    I’ve watched that season of southpark as well.Good one. The season, of course.

  • F.S says:


  • kknundy says:

    To think that it took me as long to find your new e-home, or is it i-land?
    I was feeling a bit lonely and decided to go through some of the older posts in your forsaken past, just to be pleasantly surprised to see the better bye following your goodbye post. Not to mention the companionship of your posts and the books this one mentioned that provided solace in a cold winter night, thousands of miles away from home.

    And before I forget, although it’s a bit late in the day, Welcome back.

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