Book Review: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

“The sound of the freezing of snow over the land seemed to roar deep into the earth. There was no moon. The stars, almost too many of them to be true, came forward so brightly that it was as if they were falling with the swiftness of the void.” 

10571801Read: 11th February 2018

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 35 seconds. Contains 719 words.

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My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Shimamura is tired of the bustling city. He takes the train through the snow to the mountains of the west coast of Japan to meet with a geisha he believes he loves. Beautiful and innocent, Komako is tightly bound by the rules of a rural geisha and lives a life of servitude and seclusion that is alien to Shimamura – their love offers no freedom to either of them.

Snow Country is both delicate and subtle, reflecting in Kawabata’s exact, lyrical writing the unspoken love and the understated passion of the young Japanese couple.

What a day it was to read this book, it started with gray undertone in the sky to a storm accompanied by strong winds and hail. As I’m writing this I can still feel the cold damp air coming in through the window and I wonder what destruction it must have caused to those crop laden fields. Now there is silence all around and I can see only one person walking on the street in the dark of the night and as creepy as it may sound I’m sitting beside the window of my room watching him.

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata is a lyrical prose, and as what I have read in the introduction by Edward G Seidensticker, this book is an attempt to infuse poetic form haiku with a novel.

Kawabata in this book beautiful described the nature and landscape of the Snow Country and I think this is the most descriptive book that I have ever read. The theme of this book and the description of the landscape complements each other very well. As far as the story is concerned I thought it was less of a plot-driven story but the story focused more on expressing human emotions and a slice of life that these characters were leading incorporated with nature, I also believe that setting of Snow Country was an integral part that worked well with the theme of the story and also helped the writer to fuse the poetic form with a novel.

The reason I said that this story focus on “slice of life that these characters were leading” is because we don’t get to know the complete story about these characters, we only get to know a part of their life, the one they are sharing with each other.

To be true when I started reading this book, I was confused, it’s only when the writer started dropping names I figured it out. So, in the beginning, I was confused and a little frustrated but then after a while, things started making sense. So, I guess this book needs patience.

I loved the opening scene, but with time I realized there are so many of them and I just enjoyed it as a whole and I must say that the writer never missed a chance to bring out the beauty of the surrounding.

“In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted into a sort of symbolic world, not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the centre of the girl’s face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it.” 

The book revolves around isolation and loneliness, around decaying love and separation. There were several plot developments throughout the book and so many things were left unanswered. Kawabata didn’t really talk a lot about the background stories of these characters neither do I know what kind of relationship was shared by Yoko, Komako and the music teacher’s son nor do I know anything about Shimamura’s family back in Tokyo and what kind relationship does he have with his wife and children. On one hand, I’m not very clear about Shimamura’s character, I found him cold, unemotional and impotent while, on the other hand, I found the character of Komako very interesting and at times I was worried about her for all the possibilities and impossibilities that lies ahead of her to face.

Even if I let alone the story, this book is still worth reading for all the beauty that is contained in it and the imagery that the writer has created.

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Book Review: Demian by Hermann Hesse

“I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me.”

16171233Read: 12th October 2017

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 22 seconds. Contain 875 words.

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My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Emil Sinclair is a young boy raised in a bourgeois home, amidst what is described as a Scheinwelt, a play on words that means “world of light” as well as “world of illusion”. Emil’s entire existence can be summarized as a struggle between two worlds: the show world of illusion (related to the Hindu concept of maya) and the real world, the world of spiritual truth. In the course of the novel, accompanied and prompted by his mysterious classmate ‘Max Demian’, he detaches from and revolts against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances and eventually awakens into a realization of self.

Back when Demian was first published in 1919 it was written under the pseudonym, Emil Sinclair, who is the narrator of the story.

This book is a coming to age novel, and Hesse in this book talks about the meaning of life and celebrating different parts of life and living life under the opposing forces of godly and devilish elements, their interdependence and the idea that both of these elements are necessary.

The protagonist in this book goes through big transitions, from the world where he is safe and secure, where nothing could go wrong, to the world which is harsh and cruel, where he has to fight and protect himself.

“The things we see,” Pistorius said softly, “are the same things that are within us. There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.”

Emil Sinclair in this book is confused about life and where it is going, he tries to find mentors throughout the book in different people that he meets while growing up. Max Demian, Eva, and Pistorius are some of the people that influence Emil in finding his true self and make him learn to look within to find answers to life questions. These characters help Emil to develop self-realization and make him learn to listen to the deepest desire of his soul and not to what society has to say.

Most importantly this book shows how our identities are shaped by the people we encounter and how some of them help us in spiritual and intellectual growth.

“An enlightened man had but one duty – to seek the way to himself, to reach inner certainty, to grope his way forward, no matter where it led.”

In this book, both Demian and Eva can be seen as divine figures. Demian was portrayed as both feminine and masculine figure, he was strong and shows a great care for Emil and ultimately leads Emil to self-realization. I thought of Demian and Eva to be divine because they had all the elements of femininity and masculinity infused together in them, these qualities mark some kind of completion and perfection which I’m not sure how to describe. Both of them are also presented as real characters and sometimes as a figment of Sinclair’s imagination. I really enjoyed the conversations between Demian and Sinclair.

I liked how Abraxas was used as a symbol of both good and evil and to show how good and bad are contained together in this world.

“Our God’s name is Abraxas and he is God and Satan and he contains both the luminous and the dark world.”

Midway through the book Sinclair start seeing himself in Demian and Eva, and we can see that he has attained what he admired in them. And in the end when Demian say that if you call I won’t come, but remember I’m in you. I thought with time he developed something in himself that he was looking up for in Demian and Eva and by the end, their purpose was over and he was left on his own.

It is same in the case of life, people can help you, guide you or show you directions but it’s your final decision that counts and it’s your own intuition that you listen to and need so as to function. Seeking input from others is good but yours is more important because, in the end, you need to make a final decision for yourself.

“Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak… surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that.” 

The last chapter gave me goosebumps it almost felt apocalyptic and the scene, where the goddess figure engulfed people and stars leaped out of her, was magnificent and epic. I did read about it in the introduction, of that scene having a correspondence with mother Earth giving life and taking the dead back to her womb.

There are so many things in this book that I can talk about but it so vast and contain so many different ideas that I feel overwhelmed to talk about all of them at once.

Demian was recommended to me by one of my Goodreads friends and I loved reading it, the story and it mysticism captivated me until the very end. It was a small book so it didn’t take me long to devour it completely.

 

 

Book Review: Post Office by Charles Bukowski

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

38434Read: 16th June 2017

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Contains 476 words.

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My Rating: 4 Stars

I can’t understand Bukowski, not even slightly relatable. I find him disgusting and even after that I like reading him, I mean his books. And when I need some push to work my way through then it is his poem that helps me, Roll the dice. “If you are going to try, go all the way.”(I literally have the whole narration saved in my mobile.)

This is Charles Bukowski’s first book, published in 1971. It’s a story of a man named Henry Chinaski “Hank”, Bukowski’s literary alter ego.

To start with, I found this book quite funny, it has funny moments and very crude at times. His writing is not tender and he certainly doesn’t talk much about feelings.

The main character is not very aspirational and keeps losing everything and most of it because of his own faults. He is alcoholic, a womanizer, screw all the time. He is seriously all about booze, women, and sex. I find him dark and depressive though sometimes funny, most of the time disgusting.

I don’t really recommend his books to anyone because what should I even say, Oh! do you want to read a book by someone who speaks dirty, use condescending language to portray female characters, a misogynist, and takes self-deprecation to a new height, or I would say do you want to read a book by someone who’s writing can be ugly, offensive and violent but truthful, who is hostile towards women but that is not it, he is actually hostile toward humankind.

So would you like to read it? It’s good(But if you can’t take offense don’t blame me.)

Now coming to the good part, even though the character is an alcoholic he is not totally doomed, deep down he knows that he can’t just die homeless as an alcoholic, so he does work even though the work sucks, he did survive, poorly but still.

“the first place smelled like work, so I took the second.”

He does love his dog and shows kindness to an alcoholic ex-lover. He is not all bad but he’s not good either, never felt sorry for this guy.

The character hates bureaucracy and he has to deal with it throughout the book while he works at the Post office and he finds it stupid and pointless.

I skipped the part with betting on horses, I can’t read anything related to fishing and betting on horses, I do the same thing with Hemingway, I can’t stand it. They write about it, I don’t read it. I skip it and I just assume that they just talked about betting and then losing and winning money.

I like this book and I gave this 4 stars also because of my personal bias towards this guy. I recommend it because everyone should read some Bukowski in their lifetime. I like his poems and short stories more than his novels, seriously. Poems are really good.

 

Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

“We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves.”

18143905Read: 15th June 2017

My Rating: 3 Stars

This book is a collection of short stories and essays and a split between fiction and non-fiction.

I liked some short stories and some essay and I didn’t like most of them.

In general I liked the non-fiction part more than fiction. There were shorts stories that I literally skipped, I couldn’t make myself read them, didn’t hold my interest.

I particularly liked Stability in Motion, where she talked about her grandmother’s car which was passed down to her. That was good to read.

And Against the Grain, where she talked about how her mother was particular about her non-gluten diet, I see all the mother in that one essay, I mean how all the mothers are much the same when it comes to their kids, no I’m not talking about the non-gluten diet thing.

I don’t know what I really feel about this book because I really didn’t find anything special in it. But overall I don’t know what is the point of this book, I am only happy that it was a short book because it would not have kept my interest.

Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“It’s terrifying when you consider that every thought we have, every choice we could possibly make, branches into a new world.”

27833670Read: 19th June 2017

Estimate reading time: 2 minutes, 16 seconds. Contains 455 words.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Synopsis: “Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

The idea of this book was really interesting and the plot was really fast paced, it took me nearly 4.5 hours to finish this book.

I don’t know how to talk about this book without giving spoilers so I’ll leave that part.

I really liked the whole equilibrium of the book when it started and so did I like the evolution of the story, I mean the rising action. The author threw me in a different world that I had no idea about and he did create suspense and I had no idea what was going on. The series of events that were happening during this stage of the story gave me chills and it was exciting until it all came crashing down.

For me the story was a tad bit predictable and the first time when he talked about parallel world, I think at that point, he gave away a little too much because I could see where the story was going and when he did disclose it in the latter part of the story it was not surprising and that was a bummer.

The romantic bits were extremely cheesy at times. I felt that the later part of the book was quite a mess and he dragged it a little bit.

There were some deep and bigger ideas in this book(though we might have just read about most of them) and I think the author could have used them more wisely in character evolution, he did put them out there and only used some of them for evolving the story. So even though I can say that the story was moving and evolving with the turn of every page, the characters not so much.

“Life doesn’t work that way. You live with your choices and learn. You don’t cheat the system.”

Though I still think that it was an exciting thriller and I don’t regret reading it. So the conclusion, I loved the first half of the book very much and second half not so much, but it was interesting and kept all my attention.

“Until everything topples, we have no idea what we actually have, how precariously and perfectly it all hangs together.”

 

Book Review: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

“You are all a lost generation.”

3876Read: 14th, October,2016- 19th, October,2016

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 23 seconds. Contains 1079 words

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Book Description: The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

This is the second book that I read written by Hemingway, the first being, The Old Man and The Sea which I liked. But I’m not quite sure about how I really feel about this book, The Sun Also Rises.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway which he wrote in the mid-1920s is a book about Lost Generation or Wasted Generation.

Lost Generation: noun, the generation reaching maturity during or after First World War, a high proportion of whose men were killed during those years.

Ernest Hemingway volunteered to serve in Italy as an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross during the First World War so he himself was a part of the Lost Generation that he talks about in this book. These people lost a part of themselves in the war. The experience of the war deeply changed the way people see themselves and who they think they are. So yes this book is about the generation who faced and suffered during the First World War and Hemingway in this book tries to talk about how the war changed people and how they couldn’t ever be the same people they used to be, and how they could never come back to the society and felt like the outcast.

Now let’s talk about the book.

This book is a beautiful melancholy and it captures the entire generation, the lost generation as I talked about earlier. His characters show that they have dreams, that they want to accomplish, they want to achieve something but they can’t because they lost themselves.

“Going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”

These people were trying to have a good time, but most of it as Hemingway described in this book was booze, women, food, going to places, and hanging out. They were doing many things but nothing was really happening in the book.

“Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?”

Similarly how nothing was happening in their lives(if that makes sense.) They were lost in the modern world.

“This is a hell of dull talk…How about some of that champagne?”

This book was very stereotypical Hemingway.

The book in itself was very calm and slow paced, but most of the things that he wrote seem to me of no importance. A large descriptions about what they drank or how much money they spent on that bottle of scotch, so many details but of no use. I see that he did that on purpose but why I don’t see.

I did start to like this book once they reached Spain and I also liked the bull fight part and did start catching up with what was happening(and I guess that was half way through the book.)

“The bulls are my best friends.”
I translated to Brett.
“You kill your friends?” she asked.
“Always,” he said in English and laughed. “So they don’t kill me.”

I couldn’t really understand their emotions because he didn’t talk about them and none of his characters did.

Brett was every man’s love interest and nothing deep really happened. I don’t even know what they felt and what they felt about each other.

My problem with everything that was happening in this book was that I couldn’t really relate to it, most of the things sounded ridiculous to me. Yes, maybe something more suitable for that generation but not so much to this.

The day I started reading this book, it was late at night around 1 A.M. and I was laying on my bed reading this book on my phone, lights were off and the window was open so that I could enjoy the fresh air and then I came across this passage from Chapter 4 and I loved it because it was so much similar to the setting I was in and it is one thing that got stuck in my mind. I was thinking about my version of Brett and trains were running on the tracks and that is only sound you could hear in the silence of the night. I may have cried a little bit because of the whole situation that was building up and fell asleep as I came towards the end of the passage.

When I think about that moment, I think of it as a moment that I shared with Hemingway, in a way(very cheesy, I know, but it did happen and I’ll always remember it.)

“I lit the lamp beside the bed, turned off the gas, and opened the wide windows, and I sat with the windows open and undressed by the bed. Outside a night train, running on the street-car tracks, went by carrying vegetables to the markets. They were noisy at night when you could not sleep…

…I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn’t keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it went away. I was thinking about Brett and my mind stopped jumping around and started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. Then after a while, it was better and I lay in bed and listened to the heavy trams go by and way down the street, and then I went to sleep.”

“It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night is another thing.”

Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck on Friendship and loneliness.

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

186521Read: 12th, February, 2017

Estimate reading time: 5 minutes, 35 seconds. Contains 1116 words.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Three months back I went to a bookstore and found two book kept side by side, at first I was very indecisive when it came to making a choice between this book and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, I really like both the writers so I ended up buying both of them and reading both of them though I still have to read last few pages of In Cold Blood, I’ll make it happen, I know that and I’ll write about it soon.

So about this book, the book cover says: The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength.

Before I begin I must say that I love John Steinbeck’s books, I haven’t read them all but whatever I have read I always loved it. I really like the profound messages one can find while reading his books and how he can write stories about rookies and ordinary working class people and make them relatable to everyone reading them. Great Depression indeed provided him with a whole lot of subject to write about and it’s worth reading.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck which he wrote in the year 1937 is based on the theme of friendship and loneliness. It’s a story of two drifters in search of work during the time of Great Depression, it’s a story of their companionship and friendship and how people need each other.

“A guy needs somebody―to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”

George and Lennie have no one other than each other in the whole wide world, they don’t have a place to live. But they have a dream, one common dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Lennie asks George to tell him about their dream repeatedly throughout the book because Lennie is forgetful and he likes when George tell him what they both would do when they will have land of their own.

“Everybody wants a little bit of land, not much. Jus’ som’thin’ that was his. Som’thin’ he could live on and there couldn’t nobody throw him off of it.”

George is street smart and wise while Lennie is big, strong and dumb or I may say mentally handicapped(I don’t know how to put it subtly). Lennie likes to touch soft things but since he is strong that most of the times he kills them and creates trouble for both of them.

“Trouble with mice is you always kill ’em.”

George is a good friend he takes care of Lennie though he sometimes feels trapped with him because he thinks he can be so much more if he doesn’t have to take responsibility of Lennie. He constantly complains that if he did not have Lennie then he could have a girlfriend or go down for drinking and build a life for himself but then he takes care of Lennie as a parent and he genuinely want Lennie to stay with him.

“Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.”

When you read this book you can feel emotional appeal and can feel for every character. The undertone of this book is loneliness, every character is lonely, some are so lonely that they long for attention, they are afraid they will lose their partner, won’t let go because they are afraid they will be left alone, be the leader so that they get to have followers and try to stay put with people and what happens to people when they are isolated.

Few things were terrifying for me because I’m someone who tends to isolate.

“A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin’ books or thinkin’ or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets thinkin’, an’ he got nothing to tell him what’s so an’ what ain’t so. Maybe if he sees somethin’, he don’t know whether it’s right or not. He can’t turn to some other guy and ask him if he sees it too. He can’t tell. He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here. I wasn’t drunk. I don’t know if I was asleep. If some guy was with me, he could tell me I was asleep, an’ then it would be all right. But I jus’ don’t know.”

Curley’s wife, although a bizarre woman but yes she longs for attention, she indeed is left alone and she does feel lonely. Candy won’t let go of his dog because he knows that he will be left alone even though his dog stinks and left with no life, Curley always looking for his wife afraid he would lose her to someone else, Slim being the leader so that he can listen to people and be around them.

In Chapter 3 Candy says, I oughtta shot that dog myself, George, I should not oughtta let no stranger my dog.

George from above statement did learn some lesson.

I really like the symbolism of the snake which Steinbeck used twice in the story, once when George and Lennie first came to the ranch and second time towards the end of the story.

“A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shadows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.”

The symbolism of snake bring the forces of evil and symbolizes something bad is to come and here in this story it totally foreshadows death. In the beginning of the book that very snake glides without harm.

This book is straight realism, it’s life and has some kind of sweetness but most of it is heart-wrenching and a bit depressing.

I think I’ll never forget about this book because the way it ended was heartbreaking and completely brutal. I still remember how I felt while reading this book and how the ending completely drained me.