I read two novels recently- Summertime by JM Coetzee (my favorite author, by the way) and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
Summertime is a 2009 Booker Prize Finalist. I chanced upon the novel while perusing through the New Arrivals section at Barnes & Noble. I sat on a plush couch for more than 2 hours and read 100 odd pages. I had a feeling that the store associates will probably kick me out for reading the book for free. Of course, nothing of that sort happens in the US. India, yes. Anyway, I went to the Saint Louis County Library the next day and got a copy of the novel and spent the next couple of hours absorbing each word. Coetzee manages to transpire me to a state of bliss every time. My first book by Coetzee was _Disgrace_- early 2000, probably. Summertime is semi biographical and the third installment of the series; the other two, Boyhood and Youth, I haven’t read. Coetzee comes across as a detached and an intellectual person in the novel. Someone who is not capable of loving anyone. Someone who is very personal. The book is set in 70s for the most part- a time in his life when he had just returned to South Africa from the States, when he was still struggling to find a foothold as a writer. He projects himself as a single man in the novel. In real life, he was married with two kids. (Got to know after doing a quick Wiki check). The book doesn’t disappoint me one bit. Again,this might be because I read a Coetzee novel after a gap of 5-6 years.
The White Tiger was an interesting read. Unfortunately, it didn’t teach me anything about India that I don’t already know- how corrupt the entire system is, how drivers employed by middle class families back home hoodwink their masters, how poor their families are etc. Adiga’s execution is brilliant though. There is a twist in the story and that is what sets this novel apart from many others. Did it deserve to win the Booker? I don’t know. In a match between Summertime and The White Tiger, Summertime wins hands down for me. Of course, Coetzee (two time Booker winner, Nobel Prize in Lit.) versus Adiga (one time Booker winner, budding author) is not a fair race. I guess I’m just mad at the Booker committee for only shortlisting Summertime. I can see why they did that- they do not want to give the general public the impression that they are biased towards one author. They probably want to give new writers a chance. But shouldn’t the slate be wiped clean every year? Shouldn’t each book be judged entirely on its own merit and not on the merit of the author? Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful to the Booker Committee for introducing me to great pieces of Literature. I do wish that the ultimate winners were a little more worthy though. I think Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things was a very well deserved Booker Prize Winner. The White Tiger is not. The book is witty and entertaining even though it is not a literary masterpiece. Something is lacking though. It leaves much to be desired. I have Adiga’s latest work, Between the Assassinations lying on my bookshelf. I will return to him after reading something else.
1) What author do you own the most books by?
Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood and J.K Rowling
2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I maintain only one copy for each book.
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
No? Didn’t even notice.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
Harry Potter series and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I don’t remember. Probably something by Enid Blyton or one of the Nancy Drews.
7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Not to sound pompous, but I never pick up a book that I know I won’t like. I read extensive reviews before choosing my reading material.
8) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
The Trial by Franz Kafka. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is good too. I even enjoyed The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. The Stranger by Albert Camus and Leviathan by Paul Auster.
9) If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be?
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood or Arundhati Roy? I’m heavily biased. Sorry.
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
The God of Small Things again. This meme is getting boring.
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
The Blind Assassin by Atwood. It would be incredibly difficult.
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I seriously don’t remember. I do remember this dream I had in which I was starring with Imran Khan.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Ugh..that shit by popular writers like Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Danielle Steel etc. I used to read these when I was in my early teens…not exactly an adult.
15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Disgrace by J.M Coetzee
16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I’ve seen only Macbeth enacted on stage- this was when I was in school and I had free passes for a play that had been organized by Rotaract Club.
17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
What kind of a question is this? How is this related to books? I have some Russian friends and they are wonderful people. Never befriended any French person, but I’m sure they are nice too.
18) Roth or Updike?
I don’t really care.
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Has to be Milton
21) Austen or Eliot?
T.S ELIOT!!! I am in love with “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Has to be the previous 3 years because I’ve been very caught up with academics and my work life.
23) What is your favorite novel?
Same as #9
Haven’t read too many. Dunno what to pick.
Anything by Pablo Neruda or T.S Eliot.
I’ve read some really good ones by Paul Auster and Salman Rushdie. Difficult to choose one.
27) Short story?
O. Henry stuff.
28) Work of nonfiction?
Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said.
29) Who is your favorite writer?
J.M Coetzee, Arundhati Roy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, George Orwell, Paul Auster, Naquiz Mehfooz…so many.
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
31) What is your desert island book?
The Little Prince
32) And… what are you reading right now?
A lot of graphic novels…weird that this meme didn’t ask me for a name. I would highly recommend Blankets by Craig Thompson.
Got this meme from here. Feel free to tag yourself.