Monthly Archives: April 2014

Disgrace

DisgraceDisgrace by J.M. Coetzee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Disgrace”
The one word that encapsulates it all.

J.M.Coetzee’s Disgrace speaks unemotionally of the disgrace in various notions and symbolisms.

The disgrace of a man to his profession, the disgrace of being old, the disgrace of youth, the disgrace of a nation in throes of stagnation and conflict, the disgrace of animals and the purpose of the life they are supposed to have, the disgrace of humanity in its ability to feel, the disgrace to acknowledge and apologise .
The disgrace that starts from the beginning and carries on till the end.

No character is spared, no event is exempted. Every character is disgraceful and does nothing to ease the repulsion they bring.

Unerring, unashamed and unflinching in stirring thoughts that are shocking, scandalous and shameful, Disgrace not only is unapologetic in what it portrays but also in what and how Coetzee exhibits it to portray.

The post-apartheid South Africa besieged in its conflicts and non-conformity is a nation is disgrace. Though it is ready to accept the wrongs of its past it does so only without any retribution or an apology. A nation calling in for sacrifices and seeking redemption through co-existence and acceptance of truth.

J.M.Coetzee successfully and artistically exposes to its readers a symmetry that runs parallel with the disgrace of a man David Lurie who is subjected to a fall from his profession and that of South Africa that is a nation in ruins and in a state of disgrace subjected to the fall from its standards and hopes.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted or recreants. There are no easy exits and no happy phases to soothe or bring peace.

Lurie, as a 52 year old divorcee is a womaniser and a lecherous professor of English who has no respect for the material he teaches and is therefore looked through by his students. He teaches only to earn a livelihood and is brought to disgrace when he ready to take chances with his career for an illicit relationship with one of his students.


“The company of women made of him a lover of women and, to an extent, a womanizer. With his height, his good bones, his olive skin, his flowing hair, he could always count on a degree of magnetism. If he looked at a woman in a certain way, with a certain intent, she would return his look…. Then one day it all ended. Without warning his powers fled…. Overnight he became a ghost….He existed in an anxious flurry of promiscuity.”

On being charged he consents to being guilty but not to repent. Repentance belongs to another world, to another universe of discourse. He confesses but doesn’t apologise.
What follows is a series of events that take disgrace to another level.

Be ready to be appalled, to be sickened with the underlying lust, to feel disgust and repulsion, to be gripped with this absolute page-turner that wouldn’t let you put it down despite it’s immorally distasteful blatant truths.
There are no corners to hide into. No masks to disguise.
Just the bitter taste of disgrace.

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Categories: Book Review, Man Booker, Nobel Laureates | Tags: | 4 Comments

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of WrathThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As John Steinbeck famously said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags, I don’t want him satisfied”.
And not only does he beautifully succeeds, he leaves you gasping for more!

There are books that only have a lyrical prose and there are books that have only a message.
But, there are only rare books that have both and The Grapes of Wrath is one of them.

My first reaction to what I read was that of awe.
The beautiful imagery of words and the picturesque landscapes that even in their ruin seem to be full of vibrancy and color, the intricate detailing, the emotions, the experiences, the love for land, the simplicity of some humans and the complexity of the system, the hopefulness and the undying spirit combine to create something that is spell binding and redeeming in numerous ways.

Funny thing how it is. If a man owns a little property, that property is him, it’s part of him, and it’s like him. If he owns property only so he can walk on it and handle it and be sad when it isn’t doing well…. that property is him, and some way he’s bigger because he owns it….But let a man get property he doesn’t see, or can’t take time to get his fingers in, or can’t be there to walk on it – why, then the property is the man….. stronger than he is. And he is small, not big. Only his possessions are big – and he’s the servant of his property. That is so, too.”

This book isn’t for someone who isn’t affected by the social issues for it is the issues related to economic hardship and changes in financial and agricultural industries during the Great Depression that make this an exceptional and a soul-inspiring read.
You will be moved by it only if you understand Life. It’s our experiences that build how we understand the world and only an evolved soul, somewhat battered, somewhat enlightened and awakened can appreciate it.

And here’s a story you can hardly believe, but it’s true, and it’s funny and it’s beautiful. There was a family of twelve and they were forced off the land. They had no car. They built a trailer out of junk and loaded it with their possessions….. The people in flight from the terror behind- strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is restored forever.

Set during the Great depression it speaks of the Joads and innumerable families like them that are forced to seek a job in semblance for dignity and future for their families.
From choosing what to take along with them and what to leave behind, the fate of the family members that one by one succumb to the circumstances in death or in not being able to take the strains of the journey, the unity of the people in sharing what little they have and their individual struggles make it an exceptional journey that’s not to be missed.
All they want is a life of dignity and self-sustenance.
Any kind of charity repels them and makes them want to repay. But are they allowed to have it and what happens when the system fails to sustain those who are at the very bottom of it.

And in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

Pick it up to know that often it’s the not-so-privileged, the not-so-affluent that have the hearts of gold, those who know when Life has beaten them, but who still manage not only to sustain and survive but also support others with whatever little they have.
To know that we can’t always be self- serving, you’ve got to give even if you got nothing.

And at last to remember that we aren’t rich, we aren’t poor, we are human beings even with our failures and vices and at the end of the day we are supposed to be just one.

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Categories: Book Review, Classics, Favourites, Life changing, Pulitzer | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What do you say of a book that speaks of grief in such profound sense.
So much so that it reeks in every emotion, every page, every line and every word that its made of.
The grief that comes through it and surmounts our emotions, rises to imperceptible heights within us, drawing us into it and filling our every pore, extinguishing in our sense of existence and leaving us devoid of souls.

The grief that’s almost tangible and engulfs the silence of irreparable souls, that speaks volumes.
That flows like a river and makes us cringe inwardly for the indestructible quality of human spirit that always tries to find a way irrespective of how much we want to hang on to our losses.
We are damaged, broken, lost.
We are scared of allowing ourselves to feel and our lives are never the same again.

We as human beings are fragile and are continuously overwhelmed and affected by what happens around us as much as what moves us from within.

Oskar is an 8 year old who perceives and understands more that what some normal adults would. He picks up emotions from thin air and reverberates with comprehension that many lack or are incapable of feeling.He loses his father to 9/11 and its resolving the mystery of a key which he finds that he supposes will bring him to peace.

His journey with his loss and grief is impalpable enough to give him heavy boots as he says for a heavy heart. He gives himself bruises probably to silence the noise of his loss that fills his guts and shakes him from within.
Its his immense understanding of human emotions and the world around him that make him a child prodigy of sorts. And in his understanding of what a child like him isn’t supposed to go through he takes on a journey to find the answers to his questions.
Its not just his story but also those of the other broken souls around him who are dealing in their own way with the tragedy that has struck their lives and surmounts every other emotion that they have that makes this story complete.

The tears will come and flow unceasingly and a lot many times(that’s a sure for any thinking soul), but they will not be a burden but rather an easement to the lives that we all live, lightening our heavy hearts, unloading our baggage that we carry.
And what will be left will be a space for brightness to enter our souls through all the tiny cracks that we have in our hearts.

Your forever will be diluted and will be replaced by the acknowledgement that Life is ever changing and ever evolving. Nothing is guaranteed and permanent.

Personally I wish if there was an option of ‘Erase and Rewind’. To be able to erase a few things, people and even experiences from our lives and going back to the happy days.
That would make Life somehow bearable if not a fairy tale exactly.
But, sadly, we haven’t been privileged to change the course of Life according to our whims and fancies or even needs. But, to accept it with whatever it brings us.

What is to be understood is that Life is not about hanging on to the past or chasing the future but to live in the present with all that it shoots us with.
Our fears, our losses, our happiness and learning all a part of the big mess.

We will keep changing, maybe even be scarred.
But, somehow if we change our scars to stars we may have a chance to happiness.

I like the ending with Stephen Hawking’s acknowledgement of Oscar’s letters. Its another way of Life showing us a way of hope and light when we have been disillusioned with the realities of Life. That sometimes all we can have is memories to keep us afloat and moving on is the only option.

Life is nothing if not a kaleidoscope of endless hope and innumerable opportunities.
And we all must enjoy it to the best we can.
Living it to the fullest, giving it another chance.
Never stopping to LIVE, LOVE and NEVER LETTING GO!

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Categories: After Death, Book Review, Favourites, Life changing | Leave a comment

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