Monday, 27 January 2020

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck- a slim book capturing the ambiance and human nature perfectly.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck is said to be his ode to California, the state he spent a memorable amount of time in. And his nostalgia brims in the first few pages where he describes Cannery row, an atmospheric one at that. With his appeasing words he makes it so easy for the reader to visualise this street lined with sardines canneries, the characters and their state of mind;

The book takes us to Cannery Row, a small and close-knit community like place where some fellas(Mack and others) plan to give the doctor (Doc) a party as he is a very humble and good person at heart. This party transpires into a big fiasco gradually and the series of events that lead to it being so can be described as mishaps and comedy of errors. In his very captivating manner, Steinbeck not only frames a brilliant story around the Great Depression-era but highlights human nature eloquently. Some very wise words hidden in the form of dialogues amidst a conversation are a clever way of putting substantial content across. The writing is very crisp, ambient and engaging. Interesting characters and situations peppered with wit make this slim novel very flavorsome.
A sliver of his writing below: (my most favourite excerpt from Cannery Row by John Steinbeck)

“It has always seemed strange to me”, said Doc. The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitant of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

In 2020 I plan to read books by Steinbeck, majorly the known one’s. Cannery Row proved to be a good start for this journey. Looking at Of mice and men next.

My Rating:

Sunday, 26 January 2020

The collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang- A very insightful attempt to educate us about a terrifying state a mind can reach and thrive in.

The collected Schizophrenias is a collection of personal essays holding in its depth immense information about mental traumas, mental health in general and laying bare everything about Schizophrenia. It talks about how it affects the victim and the people around them. The kind of life they lead and the gruesome accidents that happen. It can sometimes feel like living in delusions and illusions, very easily losing track of what is real. The thought itself is very harrowing and when it is supported by real-life stories, it isn’t very easy to stomach these facts. While the author talks about her own schizophrenic disorder journey from first being diagnosed, she puts into consideration other people’s accounts of surviving and sailing through the same. With a nuanced narrative, the essays feel extremely personal. Very effortlessly Esmé slips into her prose important questions like- is heavy art, creativity, and success often accompanied by lunacy? Can appearances mislead taking into account someone’s mental state? These questions stem from the fact that our author here is a fashion enthusiast and a geek brainy individual. She talks about her time in Yale and how she was made to leave it, about Stanford and her lectures on this terrifying disorder. I carried ‘A knot in my chest’ throughout this book, some incidents shook me. I had to put down the book after I read about the children who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and similar such traumatic mental health issues. The book demands time to be read. It needs to be absorbed at one's own pace as there are several topics that might come across as triggering. Nevertheless, It is intelligent, thought worthy at times spiked with some good wit.

Non-Fiction that reads like a memoir is brilliantly authored as Esmé records her own feelings of hallucinations, delusions, therapy sessions and how catastrophic a psychiatric hospital can be. She says it is the worst place a person with such disorders can land into and how they do nothing to improve the mental health of the victim. Calling them and reading them as victims gives me a heartache but succumbed and in full control of a severe disorder can only be called a victim.

With factual writing and placing apt sometimes satirical references of the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ the author tries to bring us face to face as much as possible with schizophrenia. Though complex and heavy with medical terms, the book doesn’t take away its essentiality to be read. The writing had my heart, really. Armed with a pencil I couldn't stop myself from writing in the margins and highlighting my favourite paragraphs and excerpts. The emotions crack open through the substantial content just like sunlight splits in through gaps in window beams. It gives you hope and rips it off too, gut-wrenching but informative this is a book one must read at some point in their life. Here was my bleak attempt to review this book. I do not know how best it can be done as it is not our “quintessential” piece of non-fiction. It is definitely something more.

My rating:

I made a mental note of rewatching the movie - A Beautiful mind after reading the book. Highly recommended, both the book and the movie (A beautiful mind).

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Cost of Living, the second part memoir with a feminist voice and piercing words. Deborah levy, up close and personal.

Cost of Living by Deborah Levy is the second in her memoir part series after the blue book- Things I do not want to know, which by the way is phenomenal. While the blue focussed a lot on her earlier part of life and struggles, as a child and further dealing with writing struggles accompanied by low mental health the yellow book is a compilation of personal essays which talk of her later life- after marriage, her separation, kids and her thoughts as a writer working in a shed which sprouted the concepts for her books Hot Milk, first memoir and Swimming home. It also speaks of how affecting Levy’s mother’s death was. A loss she wasn’t able to recuperate from for a long time.

Levy’s way of authoring is not only varied but stupendous. A familiarity which lingers reminding you it’s all “her”. With her memoirs you see her writing in new light. It is different because it is welcoming and similar because solid wordplay is something her prose is never deprived of. Strongly worded yet showing her vulnerability in tough times and solitude. Cost of Living shows Levy’s fans the correlation of her book projects with her life stories. It is endearing and impressive. Her feminist thoughts propagate well through her skilfully framed sentences. I personally loved those parts where she hammers men who call their wife as just “wife” as if they have no names and only this identity to carry. “My wife”- they’d say! Her bothersome past as a young girl comes back to us in this yellow book in the form of memories, of her own and her mother's. I enjoyed the author and book references she brings up in her conversation with us, citing them and fitting them in the most appropriate stanza.

While I might not recommend this as a first book to be read by her, it is nothing short of being declared as a delectable piece worth savouring. Pick it up after you have absorbed her other works(atleast 2) so the after taste of the yellow remains longer and stronger.

My Rating:

Goa- A new revelation. All credits to this dainty place- Literati Bookshop Café   The ceiling-high bookshelves I was in Goa last m...