-A window ajar is a prelude in building to the joy of being limitless! That uneasiness of being familiar somehow, sometime, somewhere.......

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Memes. Such mind masturbations. Disconcerting to collect pieces and divulge, yet pleasurable to indulge.But books are such cherished continents.Was tagged almost a month back. Had saved it for a rainy day! It’s raining and think it’s about time. So let’s do it.

Mr Dewey immortalised in a local library?

Total number of books I own: Well this question is meaningless. It’s like asking someone how many hairs you've got on your head? The answer wouldn’t reflect anything of the responder but only the prejudices of the asker. Besides, given the topic what difference would a number make? You obviously can’t judge someone by the number of books he owns. Anyway just to tick the box, I’ve never counted but I reckon, including my academic ones should definitely make a handsome figure.
Last Book I Bought:Oh! Complicated this.I usually buy about four to six books a month. And that too only after I’ve read them elsewhere and find them worth buying. This time however, my faith in my boys was well rewarded, so have been quite indulgent with books. Should have bought somewhere around 40-60 books mostly in bulks and bushels. To type them out here would be like molesting my keyboard. However if you insist on a few names, I would say Chomsky’s On language, Calvino’s If On A Winter's Night To A Traveller and Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of things past, Concept of man-S Radhakrishnan.
The last book I read:
The British empire - Stewart Binns
My brother’s keeper, James Joyce early years-Stanislaus Joyce

Books I am currently reading:
Architecture, a concise history- Christopher Hocher
Bitter chocolate - Pinki Virani
Essays bookmark now writing in unreaderly times- Kevin smokler.
An introduction to the language in Psychology- Peter Herriot.

Love in a blue time- Hanif Kureishi
Some kind of black- Diran Adebayo

First memory of a book: A dozen of Russian books for my third or fourth birthday. Still have them up the attic! Dont know how, but never quite took up to the comics.Just a bit of Calvin and Tintin in the early teens.So always had to face a huge anxiety in the fictional leg of dumb charades at college, that inspite of a friend's generosity of enlisting and quick profiling all the cartoon charecters like e.g.Weatherby-headmaster, not weatherman! Such shame.

Five books that mean a lot to me:
John Grisham’s The Firm.
Hell !! Kidding !
Five doesn’t even serve symbolism forget justifying any taste. Anyway shall try my best,

Signboard 1:Anti-joyceans take diversion here.

Ulysses- James Joyce
Call me obsessed, but this really means more than a lot. To me, there are books and there is this bible. Was quite young the first time I tried it, coudnt drag beyond page 34. Then after two summers, lots of waters had passed under the bridge and many more truths collected when I picked it up casually at a professor’s place and finished in three days flat.Each word made perfect sense. Rare harmony:that experience of consciousness.
The world became divided into BJ and AJ. Before Joyce and After Joyce. Of the truths if you are bothered, let me tell you this,I wasn’t born a joycean but will die one.That is the truth. Wish to have met him just once. But as I’ve come to learn that is quite a common yearning amongst Joyceans.

It is definitely not your regular novel; it is a sort of chronicle of human civilization. Joyce started this book as a response to his mother’s letter to write 'how the heart feels' and he has successfully done that. What is so impressive is how Joyce has integrated, his judgement of almost everything so effortlessly into his writing here. There are no heroes. Just commonplace life of a day in chapters. Each chapter is based on a theme and motifs run abundant.And within it lies woven the History of humanity.

I know abuses are hurled at it about being a difficult read and overrated et al But I think it’s just a feeling: either you are in or you are out. My later reads of the book were smooth and uniquely feverish. A celebration of simple life!
Let me quote this paragraph from the chapter Scylla and Charybdis
---Upon my word it makes my blood boil to hear anyone compare Aristotle with Plato.
---Which of the two, Stephen asked, would have banished me from his commonwealth?

Unsheathe your dagger definitions. Horseness is the whatness of allhorse.Streams of tendency and eons they worship.God : noise in the street: very peripatetic.Space: what you damn well have to see.Through spaces smaller than red globules of man’s blood they creepycrawl after Blake’ s buttocks into eternity of which this vegetable world is but a shadow.Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.
This is from a conversation in the library; notice how the lines carry so many tangents. If you haven’t read Plato it becomes demanding to pick up and appreciate such references like horse, stream, space, God and then how and why Blake comes in and the ideas of future and past. All put in such sublime parody as Joyce speaks through Stephen.
The book is full of such styles and references.Just to mention this one other chapter called sirens- is a wonderful take on musicians. An understanding of classical music is required to enjoy the chapter as words and sylabbles are placed in chords and such musical themes. Since I have quite a discountable idea of classical music, am still figuring out the intricacies involved.

For its ambition, style and universality, Ulysses is unique and shall stay unparalleled for eternity.

Signboard 2:Welcome back Anti-joyceans

The Great Gatsby- Scott Fitzgerald
What is it of? Some 200 pages? And with every page, every word Scott poisons you with his overpowering madness. Undoubtedly one of the greatest fictions ever to find words, this book belongs to the class which commands you to stop reading midway, to pace up and down and finally crush you with a powerful urge to discontinue reading because you do not wish the book to end! Wistful ache and all maddening beauty, this is the best of the refined wine of words. Amazing how a crazy drunkard can overwhelm anyone with such simple sentiments.

The brilliance obviously lies in how the characters are developed - through the eyes of other characters and by the constant past references, so at the end you realise the characters are just a mosaic of impressions left only to be judged by the reader.
The famous last lines are haunting……
He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past

When I read this book first, went incorrigibly mad for a good three days! That apart, it means much more because this was the book that carried my first letter of love to my first love.

Beyond good and evil-Frederich Nietzsche
Freud described Nietzsche as the only man who knew his mind. Although both were quite mad there is no doubt about the veracity of the statement and this book just proves it. Written by an old, less passionate Nietzsche it dissects the human understanding and life with incredible precision. Mostly assorted in metaphysical aphorisms, it’s a summary of his pitiless quasi-objective observations. The question simply is.. Are you up to it..?
Daring in attack and assertive in defense this book’s only misgiving lies in the demand to be acquainted with the ideology of his earlier works. Although that makes it a lot skewed it’s nevertheless a charming read.
The following excerpts must define what laconism is.
From apophthegms and interludes:
*The belly is the reason why man does not so readily take himself for a god.
* Dreadful experiences raise the question whether he who also experiences them is not something dreadful also.
*A nation is a detour of nature to arrive at six or seven great men.-yes, and then to get round them.(Hegel in one line)
*We are most dishonourable towards our god he is not permitted to sin.

From what is noble:
Every deep thinker is more afraid of being understood than of being misunderstood .The latter perhaps wounds his vanity; but the former wounds his heart, his sympathy, which always says: Ah why would you also have as hard a time of it as I have?

As I type this, I’m filled with memories where friends at college debated these passages all through night. For the treasure of insight it beholds it’s definitely worth it, that, if you look- beyond the Nazi interpretation and a few later passages on feminism with comical indignation. If you have lived your prides, prejudices, convictions, defeats, victories, sit and read Beyond good and evil in one piece.

The English patient - Michael Ondaatje
Michael mesmerizes by feeding lyrical overtures into building the hearts and souls of the characters of his novel. What is striking is the sense of delicate balance in the plot set in the background of the Second World War in its terminal stages. And I cannot recall of any other contemporary novel, portraying such an incisive understanding of a variety of consciences affected by any tragedy.The anger and the confusion swallowed up by the countenance of immunity, drives the novel as a hidden keel all along.Weave to that one of the haunting love stories, captured in the poignancy of Ondaatje’s zephyrical prose and the result can only be a heavy heart!
And of course the suprasternal notch is by now a legend.

She picks up a cushion and places it onto her lap as a shield against him.
“If you make love to me I won’t lie about it. If I make love to you I won’t lie about it”.
She moves the cushion against her heart, as if she would suffocate that part of herself which has broken free.
“What do you hate most?” he asks.
“A lie. And you?”
“Ownership,” he says. “When you leave me, forget me.”
Her fist swings towards him and hits hard into the bone just below his eye. She dresses and leaves.

What is captivating is how amazingly one of my favorite themes- adultery, is treated. I have been always fascinated by women seduced into adultery.Ive come to regard that it must be a powerful all-pervading force that pulls a woman into adultery and caught in the cause and consequences of such a force, the throes of a female conscience is an interestingly wild subject to say the least.
One other melodious example that deserves a mention is Vikram Seth’s the equal music.
English patient is definitely more than a novel. Its a lovely gospel.

The Republic- Plato
Guess it was Socrates who once famously asked..Any man sooner or later has to face the challenge of asking himself how best his life has to be led? It would be only fair to say Republic has answered that in a large sense. Structured in the conversational form Republic is equally humorous as it is remarkable in the analysis of political and social facet of the working truth rather than metaphysical abstractions. So most of the debate here concerns itself with balance of understanding and its application to the practical way of life instead of chasing an elusive concept of truth.
From the popular and exaggerated metaphor of the cave to the astute formulation of the role of philosopher-king’s construct it delicately spells out the need to identify one’s own role in the scheme of things and to act accordingly.
If syntaxes of ancient English are not a barrier, this book is worthy of a detailed read. And several rereads. Also it makes a wonderful reference to understand the dynamics of a meaningful debate. Some ridiculous portions with its myopic visions and a few redundant ideas are pardonable and solely to be blamed on the ancient Greek thought and perhaps wine too!

Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this
world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, --nor the human race, as I believe, --and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing.

I always thought this book was a compromise until I read Nietzsche's aphorisms.On the skin it may come across as social rant but savour it slowly and it shall grow on you.

Books looking forward to be consumed:
(For the benefit of those who wish to show their love)
Soul Mountain- Gao Xingjian
The Argumentative Indian -Amartya Sen

Books that are underrated: I think most of the books authored by Russians are unfairly underrated. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Nobokov are second to none in their efforts to explore the prison house of human consciousness. That they churn out tomes is lame even for an excuse.
Some of the autobiographies are worth more than their money.

E.g. My experiments with truth by MK Gandhi, such a wonderful chronicle of the growth of consciousness, is the world’s cheapest autobiography!

Books that you think are overrated:Books usually tend to find their places in the scheme of things. However some books are exaggerated into something they are quite not. Glaring examples are the works of Ayn Rand and Robert Pirsig. Ayn Rand’s characters are mindless cartoons who talk for lengthy pages. Burning down buildings and hiding in caves? You call that philosophy?
Pirsig has no idea of what he himself is talking forget conveying it to others. He is so popular that I had to reconsider him before gathering a good deal of imagination to declare him a huge waste of time. Agreed that some passages are insightful but passages don’t make philosophy, Hell! not even an engine manual.
A more sophisticated version is Sartre. He is a decent playwright. And that is the end. Existentialism was lived and articulated by Kierkegaard.Perhaps with the exception of Kafka*, The bunch that followed is absolute humbug. Amen.

It took me exactly 83 minutes to type and post this blog and It carried me to memories, friends, disagreements, bargains and the smell of yellowing pages. Books! Such moral suicides!

But count me not as a Samaritan. I shall surely share my syphilis. Thus the Azazel moves…to Sashi,Fuego,Prat,Rajesh and :a: or anyone else who wants to write about books.


PS: *Try the Diaries of Franz Kakfa if you like, you woudnt know who is depressed him or you?


The Box said...

I once ruined my dad's quite passionate telling of Ulysses by asking him why they couldn't just spell Scylla and Charybdis like it sounds.
The last Azazel movie I saw was Fallen by Denzel Washington. And Fuego and Rajesh have dropped by my place before. Scary intelligent, those two :)

Aradhita said...

Sometimes I wonder, if the world is made of two kind of people, those who like Ayn Rand, and those who dont...but then again I need to remind myself of grey-ness and the fact that there lies multiple interpretation of a single truth...and then there is 'singularity'

luz de la luna said...

Whooooooooooooah! Interesting and huge post. Thanks for that Uber! :-)

Of your 5 I have only read "English Patient" and love it. The language used is so lush and lovely. There are many reasons to recommend it. A fine novel.

- Martin

Free Spirit said...

Your long post was such a pleasant surprise and revealed quite a lot about you. All I can say is that I agree with what you've posted. You've pretty much said all there is to say about such books and authors. It makes me thankful for authors and readers alike. It's one of the most interesting memes I've ever come across, to be honest.

Ubermensch said...

Thanks 'the box' for dropping by and sharing.There.Ulysses has to be lived, not told or listened to.
Isnt Fallen, mind holding?
Oh Raj and Fuego those dirty scoundrels:)

I know, it must have been felt bad reading those lines.Truth is definitely open to interpretations yes, but not exaggerations.I think she certainly is agood writer and some of her observations on money and order are comendable.But please do not corrupt them as objectivist philosophy and such like,philosophy is audit of understanding not sensationalism-if it is then dear bollywood would be subjectivist philosphy isnt it?
she is a novelist.Even Tolstoy would think twice before picking up her great works.

First off thanks for going through the misery of the post.yeah talking of books I always get carried away.
Glad you agree English patient is brilliant in treatment and language.

Thanks.Pleased you found it interesting and agreeable.

thecoolestblog said...

Cool blog and cool message

Extempore said...

Mental masturbation indeed but such fun no? :) I read Ulysses when I was too young to understand a word but the very last paragraph of the book is among most beautiful pieces of writing I've ever read.

I agree fuly with your view on The English Patient and Gatsby... you should try The Remains of the Day... truly wonderful. And as for adultery - I sincerely recommend The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Seminal work... the movie is as brilliant.

I should also say that I disagree as heartily about Gandhi. I read the book in the original Gujarati and I did not think that there was anything admirable about it. I apologise if I offend.

This weekend will be dedicated to Joyce, methinks. :)

Ubermensch said...

Thank you for dropping by, im frozen!

Glad you dropped by;yeah since its books it was good feeling I suppose, you wudnt enjoy masturbating on lot other things:)
yeah I think I had posted on ulysses' ending called molly bloom's soliloquy.Do check out.

The remains of the day is very good indeed.The kundera book is neat but I think it has interwoven too many themes into one,hence I feel the adultery part went diluted.The treatment could have been better.
Im always biased towards English patient's treatment.:)

As per yoour views on 'The experiments'-I am not Gandhi.So you dont have to apologise for offence:).I never meant it was excellent bookwise , just it is underrated.As Ive mentioned it portrays his growth in three continents quite well.I wonder how it would be reading in gujurati?
Thanks for the words.

sashi said...


here is my report as the doctor ordered Booked, Book Me


Rajesh said...

didn't see the honor coming my way. Will work on it.

I see a lot of interceptions in your list from my own thoughts on certain books. I am not terribly surprised by any of your choice :)

Books are like milestones with a multitude of memories, friends and certain stages of one's own life.
Thanks Yoss for sharing.

Ubermensch said...

thanks for the write up.Recipe seems mostly paz these days!
To health,love and ink!

Thanks for your thoughts.I shall eagerly look forward to meet ur memories and pals.

k a n u r i t e said...

Is this you, Yosso? You write beautifully! I cant help but see a Jeykll and Hyde transformation in the posts out here and the ones on DSS.. Why?

Ubermensch said...

hi kanu, thanks for dropping by and the kind words. This is not me , just a 'part of me'and so is the rest,and there isnt just two of them!Its is the 'comma' , that carries the beauty.

Anonymous said...

While going down reading your post, I was getting amazed by the diversity of your reading domain...chomsky, Radhakrishnan, joyce, Herriot..and then suddenly i read your comment on ayn rand, and all my awe came down crashing. "Burning down houses"..is it philosophy? If one is noting only this particular event in fountainhead..that too literally..then i am really skeptical about his abilities to understand anything remotely pertinent to philosophy. If one looks the transmogrification of the spanish boy to air in Alchmemist as stupid and unreal then i think he/she is really missing the point.
Believe me, i have read fountainhead 1000 times (since i was in 11th std)and gradually i've moved from "burning housing society" to the concept egoism. Dont take anything literally..my advice to you.
I am not a fervent supporter of rand. I too differed from her on many points, but not on a point such silly as you have mentioned.

Ubermensch said...

Dear anonymous,
Thanks for dropping by. Im pleased the post held your interest.
Thnaks for your appreciation on the eclectic taste, I know of a few whose tongue ranges from insects to Figter planes.

Here, I see you are implying that I should not have based my judgment on a singular event and in the same breathe also say that you found yourself amazed by the post until you were let down ‘only’ by my views on rand.
I cannot speak for inconsistencies outside me, but can surely clarify that I didn’t put that amaze or disappoint anyone.
Im glad if you find yourself in the fountainhead but for me I found no philosophy anywhere near, as I have said some sporadic observations are commendable, its agood novel, that is all.
I find it quite confusing when Roark explains himself to the jury later, when he could have done 300 pages earlier..
And you have mentioned about egoism, to me- I could find more egoism in the portrait of the artist as an young man than this comic hero egoism here.
I don’t see any philosophy in alchemist either, but none has been claimed , save some mysticism.so..
Lastly Im not taking anything literally. I really didn’t burn the book, believe me!
I can live with your skepticism; can you with my difference of opinion?

You claim to have read it a thousand times and yet you are not a fervent supporter, all I wish is I had such readers.
Thanks for dropping by and sharing your views.

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