Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Articles

Troubles by JG Farrell

In Books on January 16, 2012 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

It’s a strange book, unconventional perhaps, charming at points boringly dull at others. The narrative is dense, an unseemly mixture of sarcasm, destruction, sexual desire and comic humor. It is a brilliant portrayal of the upheavals in Ireland during the 1920s and the ensuing disintegration of the British Empire. Inspite of all its qualities, the booker prize seems unwarranted. The narrative is inconsistent and lacks the vision necessary for the work to be categorized as a great historic novel; at best it is not the best work of a wonderfully talented writer.

In those days the Majestic was still standing in Kilnalough at the very end of a slim peninsula covered with dead pines leaning here and there at odd angles.  At that time there were probably yachts there too during the summer since the hotel held a regatta every July. As for the regatta, for some reason it was discontinued years ago, before the Spencers took over the management of the place.  And a few years later still the Majestic itself followed the boats and preceded the pines into oblivion by burning to the ground — but by that time, of course, the place was in such a state of disrepair that it hardly mattered.  Read More »

Articles

Hell’s Angels

In authors and stuff,Books on December 31, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , , ,

 

Well. Hmm. A cigarette does a person a world of good. No generalities. It does me a world of good. Clears up the head a little. Focuses ones mind. I find it hard to distinguish whether this mind clearing effect is narcotic or rather a play of my own psyche. But that is secondary. Whats important is that it does me good. Didnt i just start out with this. Focuses the mind ! yeah sure sure.

So anyways just finished reading Hell’s Angels , a chronicle of the marauding losers outlaws jokers petty criminals etc. written by the wild man of American Journalism Hunter S. Thompson. Well that guy does live upto his reputation. The book is as good as promised- frank, real, un-prejudiced and with depth. You see what makes Thompson different from other writers is a set of two things :

1. He doesnt go into anything with pre-nomination or rather a pre formed opinion. Like Holmes used to say , its futile to theorize before you have the facts.

2. Unlike other journalists who tend to stay away from the action and take a bird eye view, Thompson jumps in the pot.

How do you chronicle a gang of killer biker outlaws notoriously famous (or infamous) for their notoriety ? Well its simple. buy a big fuckin bike. Fill it up with gas and spend a year on the road with them partying pleasuring eating drugs. Thats Gonzo Journalism. Hunter S. Thompson founded it in Hell’s Angels. What ends in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins in this book. Its the freewheelin journey of a man out to document the most awesome and shocking phenomenon of the American 60s- The Hell’s Angels.  It takes a man as crazy as the Angels themselves in order to be able to successfully document them.

Well Hell’s Angels are the elite of the motorcycle outlaws the one percenters, outlaws whose Harley 74 is all they own in the world and all they care about.  Living on the bike from one run to another, booze and drugs and occasional visits to the mamas and huge tattoos and the winged skull on the back of their jackets and the mix of human semen grease and sweat characterizing them and with chains as belts holding up the crumpled levis and orgies and scuffles with the police and shows for the ‘squares’ and breaking up peace marches and constant pondering about the world and the feeling of alienation and constant worrying, worrying that the person sitting next to them might just turn around and stick it in their guts and devotion to their president and a healthy contempt about all middle class upper class and all other classes and the protection of their dominion and to being called losers and being seen with awe and shock by the so called citizens and LSD and marijuana and more sex and week long parties with stupors long enough only to sustain the human body and Harleys and road accidents and road rash and characterized by California and beating up the niggers and being petty criminals showcased by the press as professional thugs and being forced to live up to their image and drinking beer instead of water and knowing nothing or no one except their angel brothers and with no money or property or corrections and showing respect for Ginsberg but hatred for the screwed up beatniks and generally inhuman (or human- depending on which side you are on) and the mystic element and beer brawls and then some more beer followed by sex.

Read More »

Articles

The Books of Bokonon

In authors and stuff,Books on December 21, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

Just got up from reading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The book turned out to be typical Vonnegut- full of deadpan humor, bitter irony and tragic satire. It would be a tough quest if one set out to explain or review the book. The book is about life or rather its meaninglessness, the senility of human beings and the futileness of all human endeavors. Its also about the war, the atom bomb, science, midgets , dictators and religion. Take everything around you put it in a mixer turn on the switch and out comes Cat’s Cradle.

Even though Vonnegut’s narration is crazy at best and drivel at worst, the book strikes a chord somewhere deep down. It opens up the box that each of us has kept safely locked up, the box full of Whys.  Why this ? why that ? why iit? why life ? blah blah blah. I wont go on , afraid lest it may turn out to be Confessions 2.0

Anyways the best part of the book is Bokonon – a crazy half negro full of nice little witty sayings. I’ll sum up few of my favorites

Tiger got to hunt,

Bird got to fly;

Man got to sit and wonder,’Why, why, why?’

Tiger got to sleep,

Bird got to land;

Man got to tell himself he understand.

 

A lover’s a liar,

To himself he lies.

The truthful are loveless,

Like oysters their eyes !

 

In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness. And God said, ‘Let us make living cretures out of mud, so the mud can see what we have done.’ And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked, ‘What is the purpose of all this?’ he asked politely.

‘Everything must have a purpose?’ asked God.

‘Certainly,’ said man.

‘Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,’ said God. And he went away.

There are several more. If you liked these then you would love the book. A warning. All of the above are fomas ofcourse. fomas are lies.

I must thank Shriram for lending me In Xinadu. For one I became a great fan of William Dalrymple and ended up reading From the Holy Mountain. On the other it revived my taste for History especially Roman History. All though In Xinadu was splendid in many ways, its epilogue was special. Here’s a snippet –

When Sir Richard Burton left Mecca having spent a year there in disguise, despite having just accomplished one of the greatest-ever feats of exploration he found himself overcome with depression.

The exaltation of having penetrated and escaped the Holy City without damage was followed by languor and disappointment. I had time upon my mule for musing upon how melancholy a thing is success. Whilst failure inspirits a man, attainment reads the sad prosy lesson that all our glories “are in shadows not substantial things……”

Sukrit


 

Articles

The Book Thief

In Books on November 27, 2010 by Vikas Tagged: , , , , ,

After a very long time I am doing a review of a book.

First thing first, this book is narrated by death, but it does not play a major part. Death just provides an omniscient point of view to the story. The first time through, as usual I rushed through it. It is roughly 550 pages and I intend to read it again but this time a little more seriously.

Death has a personality. If something bad is about to happen, Death warns you ahead of time. My favorite part is when “he” stomps on a framed picture of Hitler on his way to retrieve a thousand souls from a bomb raid. Death is trying to understand the human race as much as the humans are. When “his” job becomes unbearable, he watches the color of the sky as he gathers the souls and carries them away. The descriptions of the sky are like nothing I’ve ever read.

And one awesome excerpt from it

There was once a strange, small man. He decided three important details about his life:
1. He would part his hair from the opposite side to everyone else.
2. He would make himself a small, strange mustache.
3. He would one day rule the world.
…Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words.

I do agree to the fact that this is a strong story. It is a fast paced story, but on reading I realized this that it was a good ploy to tell the story through death. Death auspicates constantly, so we know a bit about which of the characters will die. Surprisingly this did not reduce the shock value, rather it heightened the anticipation. I for now thin this is exactly how people would feel during war. They know they will lose some of their loved ones. It is excruciatingly painful to wait and see how it turns out.

All the stories on holocaust are told from the point of view of the oppressed. This is the flip side of the coin. This is a take on the story that focused on the question that were all Germans alike, were even the little girls also members of the hate faction.

It is the story of an orphaned German girl living in Hitler’s birthplace. (SPOILER—>) When Liesel’s adopted father is shipped off to war, however, Liesel creeps through the house to see Rosa sleeping with her husband’s accordian strapped around her waist. Rosa’s changes prove one of the greatest reasons to read good literature– to get insight into the type of people we don’t usually give a second chance.

I would love a sequel, to see how Liesel got from Germany to Australia, and to confirm the guess that she married Max. Come on, Mr. Zusak! What are you waiting for?

If you want a fast read, this book is not for you. If you only like happy endings this book is not for you. If you don’t like experimental fiction, this book is not for you.

If you love to read and if you love to care about the characters you read this book is for you.

-Vikas

P.S:

How does this theme look ?Please do tell.

@sanskar and others: what about goa ? we didn’t talk about it.

Articles

Go Ask Alice

In Books,Music,Physics Stuff on November 10, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

File:Alice par John Tenniel 04.png

First the lyrics of White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving slow
Go ask Alice
I think she’ll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s “off with her head!”
Remember what the dormouse said;
“Keep YOUR HEAD

 

Now ofcourse to the Physics.

LHC has gone from colliding teeny-tiny photons to heavy led ions in just 4 days. The development marks the beggining of the ALICE experiment, which has been designed specifically for heavy-ion collisions and is seeking to recreate the conditions that existed just 10–11 s after the Big Bang.  At this time, the energy in the universe was so concentrated that protons and neutrons could not hold together – instead, space began to be filled with a dense soup of subatomic particles known as quark–gluon plasma. This thick dense atomic soup gaurds the mystrey of the strong force. Go Ask Alice.

Quarks are the constituent of the most stable of the sub-atomic forms the hadrons (protons and neutrons, LHC- Large Hadron collider !, get i now). Quarks come in distinct shape and sizes and physicists characteristically have give the names suiting their personalities – top, bottom, up, down, strange and charm. This is what makes theoretical physics so beautiful. Anyways lets go back to ALICE.

ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) has as its main goal to characterize the quark gluon plasma resulting from the Pb-Pb collission. The force holding the quarks and gluons together is the Strong Force, the force responsible for providing upto 98% mass of the atoms and yet very poorly understood. ALICE will study the particles resulting from the collissions in a hope to better understand this force. To do this, the detector was specifically designed to track large numbers of particles. It can detect up to 15,000 particles per event, which may be produced from the collisions between lead nuclei occurring in the centre of the detector.

CERN has created Mini Big-bangs (to be taken literally). The energy levels have reached 2.76 Tev with the resulting temperature more or less around ten trillion degrees !! Needless to say this has broken all past records. Check out the really cool pics released by NASA.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sukrit

 

Articles

Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade

In authors and stuff,Books on October 27, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

All this happened more or less.

Billy Pilgrim became unstuck in time. Billy Pilgrim is ,was and always will be a friend of Kilgore Trout, kidnapped by Aliens and a prisoner of war who witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden . Billy Pilgrim survived to tell the tale. This is a novel somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of the tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from. Peace.

A review must address the question: What is Slaughterhouse-Five ? Slaughterhouse-Five is not an anti-war book. Vonnegut expounds his position in chapter one, “that writing an anti-war book is like writing an anti-glacier book,” both being futile endeavors, since both phenomena are unstoppable. Slaughterhouse-five is not just science fiction, the author keeps the protagonist rooted in existential reality. It is certainly not funny, how can a massacre be funny? It is a funny book at which you are not permitted to laugh, a sad book without tears. The best way out would be to go and read the book ofcourse. Then why the review?

Why ?

“That is a very earthling question to ask Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”

“Yes”. Billy, in fact had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three lady bugs embedded in it.

“Well here, we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why. “

Vonnegut explores the themes of fatalism and irrationality in his somewhat meta-fictional and post-modern (whatever that means) account. The encounter with the aliens leave Billy Pilgrim more accustomed to “non free will”.

On an average 191,000 new babies are born each day in the world. The population Reference Bureau predicts the worlds’ population will double to 7,000,000,000 before the year 2000.

“I suppose they will all want dignity,” I said.

“I suppose,” said O’Hare.

Most of humanity is insignificant. They do what they do, because they must. That is the way the moment is structured. To the tralfamaldorians everything exists simultaneously. They suffer from wars and tragedies and mishaps just like the earthlings, but choose to concentrate on the happy moments. Human action is irrational. Wars have been and always will be there. There’s one thing thing the earthlings might learn to do , if they tried hard enough. Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.

My favorite character in the book, by far is the author Kilgore Trout. The alter ego of Vonnegut, Trout writes about the craziness of humanity in his own highly fictionalized style. I have this notion that all great works of Science fiction are the ones most deeply rooted in reality (Asimov etc). Pure fiction would be too boring. According to Trout, the Gospels Teach us ­– Before You kill somebody make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected.

The flaw in Christ’s stories said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn’t look like much, was actually the sun of the most powerful being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out again:

Oh boy- they sure picked the wrong to lynch that time!

And that thought had a brother: “There are right people to lynch.” Who ? People not well connected. So it goes.

[From the Gospel From Outer Space by Kilgore Trout]

The destruction and oppressiveness of the war dominates the book. The inhuman sufferings and the widespread destruction, the ubiquitous poverty and deprivation torment the soul of Billy Pilgrim. Amongst all this brutality and suffering, the death of Edgar Derby underlines the bizzareness in our actions. Time is taken to punish one man. Yet, the time is taken, and Vonnegut takes the outside opinion of the bird asking, “Poo-tee-weet?” The same birdsong ends the novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, as the protagonist gives away his fortune to the plaintiffs of hundreds of false paternity suits brought against him.

Billy Pilgrim is depressed and suffers, suffers for his own unchangeable fate, the obscenity pervading the fabric of society, Human desire too rot out all evil in the world by using nuclear bombs. Billy pilgrim never cried during the war. However when he saw the state of the horses transporting the American prisoners of war, he burst into tears. Later on in life, Billy cried very little, though he often saw things worth crying about, and in that respect atleast he resembled the Christ of the Carol :

The cattle are lowing,

The Baby Awakes.

But the little lord Jesus

No crying he makes

In all his moments of torments Billy Pilgrim always found solace in one thing :

God grant me

The serenity to accept

The things I cannot change

Courage

To change the things I can

And wisdom always

To tell the

Difference.

I don’t believe in God. So it goes.

Sukrit

PS:  If you happen to visit Cody, Wyoming , don’t forget to ask for Wid Bob.

Rosewater said an interesting thing to Billy one time about a book that wasn’t science fiction. He said that everything there was to know about life was in the The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“But that isn’t enough anymore”, said Rosewater.

Credits: The italicized stuff is the genius of Vonnegut. The other rudimentary misunderstandings are all mine.

Articles

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

In Books,Movies on October 20, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , , ,

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man

Well, that just about sums it up, sums it all up- the american hippy/pop movement, the drugs, the dope and Tim Leary’s feeble attempt to lead American counterculture into psychedelic drugs. The movie is awesome by the way. If you like me keep an interest for psychedelic music like Jefferson Airplane or rather for Grace Slick, you would totally love this movie. Or ofcourse you are already hooked on to LSD, you would have watched this anyway.

The movie is the journey of an eccentric and looney reporter Raoul Duke with his attorney Dr. Gonzo to discover the “American Dream”. What follows are a lot of drugs, lots of crazy and mind-numbing stuff with some great music. The effects of various hallucinogenic drugs on the human body are duly observed along with the psychedelic effect on the mind. The movie is a journey into the American counter-culture of the 1960s. Counter-culture represented the free American dream, with the use of mind-expansion drugs like LSD to reach a so-called higher level of spiritual development. What started from San Fransisco spread throughout the USA, the chief proponent of the movement being Tim Leary. The movie is the journey of two men to find and be a part of this wave, this wave of freedom and ecstasy where one can lose himself in pure pleasure and forget the troubles of the real world.

One of my favorite excerpts from the movie :

“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run …but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant … History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened. My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket …booming through theTreasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) … but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that …

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda …. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning …. And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ….

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

The movie portrays the helplessness of a crippled generation, promised the land of fullness and purity but finding only the barren desert. A generation crippled with the beliefs of a non-existent movement, a movement over before its time, leaving helpless cripples in its wake. A generation of people rudely woken up to the harsh realities of life from a deep and sound dream. The protagonist and his attorney dont wish to be a part of the American dream, they wish to be lost in it.

The movie is brilliant and i am dying to read the book. Johnny Depp is awesome, his style of smoking and his half nerdy Jack sparrowish way of typing is brilliant. Something must be said about Dr. Gonzo ofcourse. “A man too crazy to live but too rare too die”. The guy has inspired a whole new breed of free and subjective journalism, Gonzo Journalism. With his wild halo of hair and crazy antics he is the perfect poster boy for the movie. He is the dude man. To end i’ll quote my fav passage of the movie-

“We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled that 60’s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling “consciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously… All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sukrit

PS: I just wish i was part of the 60s wave. What i woudnt give for it.

%d bloggers like this: