A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Posts tagged ‘books’

Who does the Bhagavad Gita belong to?

DP and MG

It has taken me the better part of two years to complete my first reading of Devdatta Pattanaik’s “My Gita”. I am sure that I will go back to it time and time again, for it is a treatise on the Bhagavad Gita, that ultimate “lifestyle” manual. The current remarkable obsession with “self-exploration, self-examination, self-actualization”, and, apparently, “selfies”, may have had its beginnings in the “self-realization” discussed in the book, through the millenia spanning the composition of the “Bhagavad Gita”.

I have often picked up a “Gita” I purchased while still a fledgling in the thoughtful world, (I still am), but have not got beyond the first verses. It’s heavy Sanskrit text and lumbering translation kept the book on my bedside stack, always as a to-be-read.

Devdutta Pattanaiks’s “My Gita” is not a translation or transliteration of the Bhagavad Gita. Instead it is series of 18 essays on what Pattanaik considers to be the 18 themes of the Gita. It does not cover the Gita sequentially, as the themes he has identified are not isolated by chapter, but rather sprinkled within multiple discourses through the whole collection or “song”. It is important to remember this while reading the book, as it gives it a very different experience to reading the Gita.

To my mind, this book has been about understanding the value of the Gita in my 21st century hectic, and often seemingly rudderless existence. On days I have felt the buzzing of restlessness, the pages have soothed me. On days I felt calm, I have had moments of eye opening wonder.

I am delighted that I can come back to this book time and again in order to calm myself, and experience more moments of blinding understanding. I might even attempt the Sanskrit version again, one day. I just need to understand that I do not need to read either in a linear, consecutive manner. I can open them to any page, and attempt to absorb the wisdom they contain.

Ultimately, while this book is Pattanaik’s take on the Bhagavad Gita, the original, as seen in these essays belongs to all.

Hopefully the few editing oversights have been corrected in future editions of the book.

Arjuna_and_His_Charioteer_Krishna_Confront_Karna,_crop

pictures from the friendly World Wide Web –

  1. Scroll.In
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita

 

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Adults: Young and Not So Young

I have recently discovered BookTubers . This YouTuber family is by no means new, it is just that I have arrived late to the party.

Since I came upon BookTubers via my guilty secret (beauty YouTubers), and since a large percentage of beauty YouTubers are in the early twenties age range, all the BookTubers I initially discovered were also similarly aged. Amazingly, or not so amazingly, this group of YouTube enthusiasts seems to review and read Young Adult Fiction overwhelmingly often. Even though not exclusively, it seems to be that much of the Book Reviews, To Be Read videos, Book Hauls etc. I have watched since discovering this genre, has involved Young Adult Fiction, Graphic Novels, etc. I know that Graphic Novel aficionados would all scream in frustration and fall in a heap, because some Graphic Novels are NOT Young Adult Fiction. E.g. “The Arrival”, by Shaun Tan. Oh dear, I have done it again. “The Arrival” is not a Graphic Novel, it is a Picture Book. Both of which are different to Comics. Sigh.

I remember back to my “freshly twenty” age, and the number of girls around me reading “Mills and Boon” or other such similar romances. I was guilty of sneaking a romance or two into my TBR (to be read, in modern parlance), myself. Most of the time, even at that age, my reading was heavily censored by my parents, which meant I read more classics than romances. Many of my friends were also reading Camus, Sartre, etc and making the atmosphere dense with their (surely half baked?) discussions of such thinkers and their work. Maybe they got those authors. I did not, which does not entitle me to cynicism. I did read a book or a half by such philosophers with no understanding whatsoever, but for the most part, satisfied my parents’ wish of my being a “serious” reader with less demanding books. Many of my compatriots at that age, though, were reading much lighter, romantic novels, which today would definitely be classified as YA. So there has been no generational “dumbing down”. People are reading as before, it is just that in today’s world of room to Internet to fame after a fashion, it is easy to get a very skewed view of what is actually happening in the world.

It has also occurred to me that I originally viewed the term Young Adult differently to what it is probably meant to be. I thought Young Adult meant the more “advanced” book for those who are too young to be called adult. The “Twilight” saga having being called YA probably added to this delusion, for I could not imagine that any adult could seriously digest these books. Amazingly, more than a few adults have, and with love. But YA fiction is aimed at those who are young adults. Who would have thought? Right?

Before I turned away from BookTubers and their vlogs, to more “intelligent” pursuits, because it is a very long time since I have been a young adult, I realised, that, Ariel Bissett, BookTuber, crazy, funny, adorable, and twenty years old, has been chosen by the Man Booker Prize people to be a “Man Booker Prize Vlogger”. OMG, right? This is her (along with four other BookTubers) official task: “This year, the Man Booker Prize will be running its own vlog book club, featuring five popular, literary vloggers in the UK and Canada. The ‘Man Booker Vloggers’ will chat about all things Man Booker from long list stage onwards, posting videos discussing the books and authors in contention for this year’s prize”.

What is the Man Booker Prize, other than being a prestigious award that can make an author’s career jump from the doldrums into the firmament? It’s aim is “to increase the reading of quality fiction, and to attract the intelligent, general audience.” I looked through the list of recent years Man Booker Prize winners, and the closest I have come to reading any of them is having the “White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga on the family bookshelf for a couple of years. I have not read it, another family member has. So, it is time I step off my high horse about BookTubers, and embrace them all.

Cute, Mad Ariel 

Very Insightful Rincey Reads       DeathtoStock_Clementine2

Sanne, whose name is as commons in The Netherlands, as Sarah is in the UK.

Only some of my new discoveries.

Photo Credit: http://deathtothestockphoto.com

The Witch Who Flew in from the West

Wicked: distressing, mischievous, evil, mean, depraved, immoral…

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years #1) by Gregory Maguire

When I picked up the book at the library, I was excited. Having been the inspiration for a musical, I was expecting it to be quirky, saucy, funny, clever. I thought it would give a story of how the Witch from the West became Wicked. There was always this niggling thought at the back of my mind, “mmnngh! Don’t know whether I will relate to a book that excuses Wickedness due to life’s hard hits.”

But that idea of a musical  loomed large in my mind and I decided to give it a try.

I found it quite Tolkeinesque in its descriptiveness and slow, meandering narration. I believe that is what kept me going. I kept expecting the adventure to start. In Lord of The Rings so much happens it is hard to keep track of everything. I soon realised I had done Tolkein a grave injustice by comparing Maguire’s style to his.

NOTHING EVER HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK!

We have a green baby girl whose first word is “horrors”. She grows into a green teenager who is extremely clever, intelligent and in spite of being an outcast because of her skin colour, extremely kind and loving. She grows into a green woman while the reader waits, and waits and WAITS for her to do SOMETHING.

She never does anything, achieve anything, or really learn anything. Growth never occurs. She always is what she always was. Strong, fiercely independent, well read, with a brave and realistic though sometimes incredibly naïve outlook to life, she makes a few half hearted attempts at political activism, and most of the time just seems to wait around for something to happen. Why Wicked? There is not a single wicked bone in her body! Neither is she mischievous. She is so earnest in all her dealings, it is surprising that she does not project prudish. No one who knows her ends up believing her to be wicked. They mostly love her. So, it all remains a bit of a mystery.

Losing himself in myriads of descriptive passages and relating in minute detail what the Witch feels, Gregory Maguire never surfaces long enough to actually make a hero of his protagonist. He never commits the solecism of making his protagonist Wicked due to horrible life circumstances, he shows her capable of rising above every petty evil thrown at her, but neither does he ever take her on an heroic journey.

There are those who will tell you this is a book  with political references, socio-philosophical lessons. There are those who will discuss long and hard about how this book is a political satire. As you can tell, I am not one of them. Please do read it if you are an academic who likes reading obscure references. You may also want to read it if you are incredibly clever in finding meaning in everything.

The others may just want to watch the musical, which I am told, is a hoot! 

Love

PS:Another one of those rare books I did not finish. I read up on what happens at the end, and stopped a few chapters short.

Reading “The Casual Vacancy”

Two Positive reviews. Sort of.

One.

Two

And a negative one:  Sort of.

Caution: All of the above reviews, especially the last, contain some Spoilers. So please peruse only if you feel Spoilers will not affect your reading of The Casual Vacancy. Also, if you do, Parminder is not Pakistani. She is Sikh, of Indian descent.

By now, anyone who is interested in Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Modern Literature, anything under the Sun, knows that The Casual Vacancy, or TCV as it is lovingly called, is a novel written for adults, and not really “as good as” Harry Potter. Of course, there are those who would not be seen dead with a Harry Potter book, but even they know that TCV is not really that good (See multiple reviews on multiple websites, if you want, after the ones above). So, while they were too adult to read a “book about magic” they are too literary minded to read TCV. Yes, I know, the Harry Potter books were not really about magic. But, in spite of all of that TCV has been sold a few million times over. Not too bad.

This article is also not a review. It is a reading moment. My reading moment. If you want to really know TCV, read it. Do. The only opinion that matters to you, is yours.

I finished the book in two sittings. On Saturday I read through the afternoon, and made myself put it down at night. I read again next day, from mid morning to mid afternoon. All 503 pages of it.  That in itself, is telling. It is a book that is easy to keep reading.

Contrary to advertisement, I teared up only once, at the end of the first third of the book, and never again. I did not cry at the end, I believe people have been crying then. But I was gripped with strong emotions throughout. I was not expecting to fall in love with any of the characters, as I had already been warned by the Jennifer Byrne interview with JKR. But I did not expect them to be quite so disgusting. Or most of them. Or at least most of the adults.

TCV is a look into the lives of some of the most unlikeable characters in a small English town, and one is left wondering how come they are all concentrated there. The people we meet daily are all a mix of loveable and  not so loveable characteristics. And most of them seem to have something that redeems them. We can find something about each person that we can take note of and say, “See? There, they are not so bad after all”.

But JKR does not allow us that luxury; taking us to peek into each person’s minds she tells us that all is not well, anywhere. Then, there are the adolescents. Each with their own private hell, and each struggling to get the better of it.

I will not go into a dissection of the only character people have bonded to, in the book – Krystal Weedon. JKR mentioned that she was the best character/person, and that, in a way, this story is about her. I can see why she said so, and why people end up loving her. I was not even allowed that luxury, in my mind. Even Krystal with her courage, and her mindfulness and her love failed to make me love her. But I will write about that later.

I liked this book so much that I will read it again. When I am not feeling so raw inside about it. Now that I know what happens, I will pick each sentence apart, and dig into the whys. I will pace myself out, and think about it as I go along. I am sure, I will discover many new things. There, in my mind, lies the excellence of “The Casual Vacancy”. It is a book you can read again.

Love

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