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Archive for February, 2011

Word-Alchemy

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I have to tell you that I don’t believe in death, I don’t experience the time as limited. I know it is, but I don’t feel it. I could live three hours or I could live thirty years, I don’t know. Time doesn’t pray on my mind. It should, but it doesn’t. I don’t know yet what this will all add up to, and it no longer matters, because there’s no stopping. And this stuff is not going to matter anyway, as we know. So there’s no sense even contemplating it, you know? All you want to do is the obvious. Just get it right, and the rest is the human comedy: the evaluation, the lists, the crappy articles, the insults, the praise.

Philip Roth

 

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In the Memory of Charles T. Powers

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

‘In the Memory of the Forest’ is a touching novel set in a village in Poland. Sadly, the author Charles T.Powers is no longer with us. But wow, what penmanship he shows with this book! Would have loved to read more from him.

The book starts slowly and builds with a murder of a local boy. Initially, you feel the author might struggle with a plot that is restricted to a small town in Poland with simple characters. However the lyrical and evocative prose keeps you going. This is one of the gems that are liberally scattered throughout the book.

“And life went on, in its wheel of colors and seasons, the mud of winter passing to the green of spring, summer’s yellow, the old gold of autumn, and in this time I found Jola, or she found me, glimpsed first in the village street, then in the forest at the edge of a field. Perhaps it was only time, but it seemed that the air of loss or grief dissipated and a new existence commenced, that life had a forward tilt and a future, even if I could not see through all its turns and new complications”

Once you progress beyond the initial chapters, the story takes on pace. One is pulled into murder investigation by victim’s friend (Leszek) and victim’s father (Poweirza), Leszek’s love for a married woman and the village politics between the communists and the church. However, the book moves up number of nothches as it makes the transition from the aforementioned issues to the more larger issue of fate of jews in Poland and the community’s response and memory of the event with passage of time.  The conversation between Leszek and his grandfather and the sermon by Father Tadeusz  near the end are the highlights of this book.

This is a highly recommended book and one of my favorite reads in recent times.

Rating: 4/5

Have a great Wednesday!

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Word-Alchemy

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty… you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.

—- J.D.Salinger

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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Its a New Beginning!

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Good Luck to the people of Egypt and kudos to the protestors and citizens of Egypt for believing in democracy and standing up for their rights!!

Hats Off to the power of masses!

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All of Life is Negotiation

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Once every few weeks, I like to pick up a non-fiction book dealing with people’s experiences in different fields. It is a wonderful way of ‘living’ something which one might never try or ever get to experience.

I picked up a copy of ‘Stalling for Time – My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator’ by Gary Noesner and it turned out to be a quick but educative read. The author has a good knack of explaining his philosophy and learnings while describing real hostage negotiations he went through. Since some of the incidents are famous in US law enforcement history, the author tries to maintains a balanced approach in dishing out criticism or praise  where its due. It is fascinating to read about the patience and the empathy that a negotiator must show in volatile situations while dealing with dysfunctional and dangerous individuals.

I think the concluding para of the book captures the essence of this book very well. I quote :-  

“If I’ve gained any wisdom in my FBI career, it  has come from recognizing the degree to which everyday life can mirror the dynamics of the destructive standoffs I faced in my FBI job. Each of us is called upon to negotiate stressful situations in business, social encounters, and family life time and again. From what I’ve observed, the happiest and the most successful people tend to be those who are able to remain calm at these difficult times and put aside emotions such as pride or anger that stop them from finding common ground. We all need to be good listeners and learn to demonstrate our empathy and understanding of the problems, needs and issues of others. Only then can we hope to influence their behavior in a positive way.

You might even say that all of life is negotiation”.

Rating: 3/5

Have a great Weekend!

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Gastronomic Wonderland in Words

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

‘Secret Ingredients’ is an anthology of articles from The New Yorker on food and drink. This is probably some of the best writing on food that one will get to read.

This one from the article titled ‘A Good Appetite’ by A.J.Liebling (1959) really whetted my appetite.

“In the heroic age before the First World War, there were men and women who ate, in addition to a whackling lunch and a glorious dinner, a voluminous souper after the theatre or the other amusements of the evening….In the restaurant on the Rue Saint-Augustin, M.Mirande would dazzle his juniors, French and American, by dispatching a lunch of raw Bayonne ham and fresh figs, a hot sausage by crust, spindles of filleted pike in a rich rose sauce Nantua, a leg of lamb larded with anchovies, artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, and four of the five kinds of cheese, with a good bottle of Bordeaux and one of the champagne, after which he could call for the Armagnac and remind Madam to have ready for dinner the larks and ortolans she had promised him, with a few langoustes and a turbot – and , of course, a fine covet made from the marcassin, or young wild boar, that the lover of the leading lady in his current production had sent up from his estate in the Sologne. “And while I think of it,” I once heard him say, “we havent had any woodcock for days, or truffles baked in the ashes, and the cellar is becoming a disgrace – no more 34’s and hardly any 37’s. Last week, I had to offer my publisher a bottle that was far too good for him, simply because there was nothing between the insulting and the superlative”

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The Catcher in the Rye

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger – On Page 22, while on books, Holden Caulfied says “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it”.

On reading this book, I feel the same about J.D.Salinger. It is difficult for me to articulate my impressions about this book. I finished it this weekend and suffice to say it affected me deeply. It resolved a few doubts of mine and left me with lot of thoughts to ponder on.

The one thing I can say with certainty is that this will be a novel I will remember fondly as one of my all-time favorites.

I had read a few reviews on this book where people mention this as a growing up story. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is way too deep to just be a growing up story. I think the reason Salinger used a 16 yr old protagonist (Holden Caulfield) is because it is an impressionable age (and rebellious to an extent)so that the ‘phoniness’ of the world has not taken over a personality. Hence, a sense of despondency of living in such an environment can be fully felt and maybe addressed.

One of my all-time favorite character in a TV series is Tony Soprano from ‘The Sopranos’. I have always wondered why I have found that character so fascinating inspite of his inherent non-violent nature, his self-doubts, his depression and his dysfunctional life. Well, Catcher in the Rye answered it for me. Its probably because Tony Soprano is a ‘true non-phony’. All his characteristics and obsessions are real and there is nothing phony about that guy. I love this book and I love that series!

On thought that kept coming to my mind all the time while reading this book was – What would happen if Holden Caulfield met Howard Roark (from The Fountainhed)? Still trying to figure that one out.

Rating: *****

Have a great weekend!

P.S – Cannot believe it took me all of 35 years before I read this one!

Book Junkie

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