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Book Nook - 04-09-2017

Monday, September 04, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Mood For Melancholy
Three year’s after his novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami’s has whetted the appetite of his devoted readers, by bridging the gap till his latest novel Killing Commendatore comes out in an English translation, with a collection of short stories, titled Men Without Women.

The seven melancholic stories are about lonely men, written in Murakami’s signature ruminative open-ended style. The men go through bizarre experiences that involve women in their lives.

In the first story, titled Drive My Car, an actor, Kafuku, unable to get over the death of his wife, happens to hire a female driver, when an incident of drunk driving gets him banned from driving. Over a period of time, he and the dour young woman driving his old yellow Saab convertible, get comfortable enough with each other to have a conversation. Her questions make Kafuku remember how he had endured his actress wife’s constant infidelity. He even befriends one of her lovers just be able to talk about her and read his expressions when he speaks of her. It is his strange way of keeping her memory alive in his mind and also, perhaps, to scratch at his own torment like the scab of a wound.

In Yesterday, Kitaru, who keeps failing his exams while his smart childhood sweetheart, Erika surges ahead, wants her to date his friend, the story’s narrator, because, as he puts it, ““I figure, if she’s gonna go out with other guys, it’s better if it’s you. ’Cause I know you. And you can gimme, like, updates and stuff.”  There is something perverse and self-flagellating about his need to give her up, yet control her. The tone of the story is wry, and it is one of the few of Murakami’s stories that actually has some kind of closure.

Scheherazade is a weird tale about a woman who works as the housekeeper, and volunteers to be the lover, of a reclusive middle-aged man; like the character from the Arabian Nights, she tells him stories. One of them is about herself as a young schoolgirl so obsessed with a boy in her class that she breaks into his house to get to know him in an odd intimacy, since he pays no attention to her. The way she narrates that tragic-comic slice of her past, the reader has heart-in-mouth for fear that she will get caught and ruin her life.

If Scheherazade is about a teen’s obsession, An Independent Organ is about what happens to a cosmetic surgeon and confirmed bachelor always playing the field, when he falls deeply in love and cannot discard the woman like he did others in the past.

And so it goes, Murakami creating this dream-like universe of memories, of loves lost and pain hidden, in which he teases, tantalizes the reader with allusions to other writers, his pop-jazz references and his dissections of several hearts to reach the darkness within. The book can be read in one stretch, after which the fan would be tempted to go back and start reading again to savour it better. Murakami’s books demand this kind of attention and admiration.

Men Without Women
By Haruki Murakami
(Translated by Phillip Gabriel & Ted Goossen)
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 228

 

Excerpt of Men Without Women
The call came in after one a.m. and woke me up. Phones ringing in the middle of the night always sound harsh and grating, like some savage metal tool out to destroy the world. I felt it was my duty, as a member of the human race, to put a stop to it, so I got out of bed, padded over to the living room, and picked up the receiver.

A man’s low voice informed me that a woman had vanished from this world forever. The voice belonged to the woman’s husband. At least that’s what he said. And he went on. My wife committed suicide last Wednesday, he said. In any case, I thought I should let you know. In any case. As far as I could make out, there was not a drop of emotion in his voice. It was like he was reading lines meant for a telegram, with barely any space at all between each word. An announcement, pure and simple. Unadorned reality. Period. What did I say in response? I must have said something, but I can’t recall. At any rate, there was a prolonged period of silence.
Like a deep hole in the middle of the road that the two of us were staring into from opposite sides. Then, without a word, as if he were gently placing a fragile piece of artwork on the floor, the man hung up. I stood there, in a white T-shirt and blue boxers, pointlessly clutching the phone.

How did he know about me? I have no idea. Had she mentioned my name to her husband, as an old boyfriend? But why? And how did he know my phone number (which was unlisted)? In the first place, why me? Why would her husband go to the trouble of calling me to let me know his wife had died? I couldn’t imagine she’d left a request like that in a farewell note. We’d broken up years earlier. And we’d never seen each other since–not even once. We had never even talked on the phone. That’s neither here nor there. The bigger problem was that he didn’t explain a single thing to me. He thought he needed to let me know his wife had killed herself. And somehow he’d gotten hold of my phone number. Beyond that, though–nothing. It seemed his intention was to leave me stuck somewhere in the middle, dangling between knowledge and ignorance. But why? To get me thinking about something? Like what?

 

ALSO RECEIVED
My Ships Sailed The Seas But I Stayed Ashore by Captain N.S. Mohan Ram claims to be  “light-hearted memoirs of a naval ship designer.”   The writer, retired from the Indian Navy has given readers a peek into his world. Says the synopsis, “My Ships Sailed the Seas, but I Stayed Ashore is a light hearted look at life in the Services; It is an easy read for just about anyone. Capt Mohan Ram has had amazing experiences that he has captured in his own inimitable style in a book which you can read in one sitting in an airport lounge or during a long journey.

“The book is replete with simple yet profound incidents in the Captain’s life, which he recounts in his own distinctive, always self-deprecating and humorous manner. He seems to have met the most interesting people including a former Finance Minister of India, during his long and distinguished life, whether it be in London, Paris or Vishakhapatnam. He has an engaging and occasionally irreverent way of telling a story, often throwing in life’s learnings as well.“Amidst all the understated anecdotes, let’s not forget that the Captain is a pioneer in Indian warship design and was honoured with the Vishisht Seva Medal in 1977.“It is old school writing with references to Shakespeare and PG Wodehouse, a throwback to all that is beautiful and memorable about the English language that we all adore. Read this book whether you are young or old, from the services or an ordinary civilian. You will love it and recommend it to the world.”

My Ships Sailed The Seas
But I Stayed Ashore
By Captain N.S. Mohan Ram
Published by: Bookventure
Pages: 213



Laila Baishani’s slim collection of short stories are about “"What happens when the love that you are waiting for all your life, mistakes you for someone else? Can a transgender ever have an everlasting love story? How is the life of a 50- yr old woman who requires permission to pee everyday?

“‘Us…Mostly’ is a collection of stories of the life of the ordinary people like you and me. It is the twist of fate, the choices they make, the chances they take, and the intricacies of their emotions that makes these ordinary characters around us live an extraordinary life

“These stories are in between the realms of right and wrong, black and white. It is about those human emotions that cannot be classified into stringent compartments and judged by stereotype moral standards. It is an ode to our love, our desires, our dreams, and our difficulties that shapes each one of us into something we never thought we could become."

Us… Mostly
By Laila Baidhani
Publisher: Leadstart
Pages: 157



In Awaken, which is Book 1 of Ashok Banker’s Shakti trilogy, he writes about : “The Haters are coming to destroy all life on Earth. It is not a question of if, but when.
“The Brahmaand has already rung the warning bell and the awakening of the Preservers has begun. Kiara unexpectedly finds her skin covered with golden fur and her sense of smell extraordinarily enhanced; Saumya is suddenly able to go from Ahmedabad to New York in just a step; and Sia’s songs have the power to do things she had never imagined possible.

“First in the thrilling Shakti Trilogy set in contemporary India, Ashok Banker’s action-packed and brilliantly imagined Awakenintroduces our unlikely heroes who must discover and harness their superpowers before they can protect and preserve the Earth from the wrath of a menacing alien invasion.”

Awaken: The Shakti Trilogy Book 1
By Ashok Banker
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Pages: 192

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