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Archive for May, 2010

I read this beautiful passage in the book I am reading now.

On Christmas Eve, Dad took each of us kids out into the desert night one by one. I had a blanket wrapped around me, and when it was my turn, I offered to share it with Dad, but he said no thanks. The cold never bothered him. I was five that year and I sat next to Dad and we looked up at the sky. Dad loved to talk about the stars. He explained to us how they rotated through the night sky as the earth turned. He taught us to identify the constellations and how to navigate by the North Star. Those shining stars, he liked to point out, were one of the special treats for people like us who lived out in the wilderness. Rich city folks, he’d say, lived in fancy apartments, but their air was so polluted they couldn’t even see the stars. We’d have to be out of our minds to want to trade places with any of them.

“Pick out your favorite star,” Dad said that night. He told me I could have it for keeps. He said it was my Christmas present.

“You can’t give me a star!” I said. “No one owns the stars.”

“That’s right,” Dad said. “No one else owns them. You just have to claim it before anyone else does, like that dago fellow Columbus claimed America for Queen Isabella. Claiming a star as your own has every bit as much logic to it.”

I thought about it and realized Dad was right. He was always figuring out things like that.

I could have any star I wanted, Dad said, except Betelgeuse and Rigel, because Lori and Brian had already laid claim to them.

I looked up to the stars and tried to figure out which was the best one. You could see hundreds, maybe thousands or even millions, twinkling in the clear desert sky. The longer you looked and the more your eyes adjusted to the dark, the more stars you’d see, layer after layer of them gradually becoming visible. There was one in particular, in the west above the mountains but low in the sky, that shone more brightly than all the rest.

“I want that one,” I said.

Dad grinned. “That’s Venus,” he said. Venus was only a planet, he went on, and pretty dinky compared to real stars. She looked bigger and brighter because she was much closer than the stars. Poor old Venus didn’t even make her own light, Dad said. She shone only from reflected light. He explained to me that planets glowed because reflected light was constant, and stars twinkled because their light pulsed.

“I like it anyway,” I said. I had admired Venus even before that Christmas. You could see it in the early evening, glowing on the western horizon, and if you got up early, you could still see it in the morning, after all the stars had disappeared.

“What the hell,” Dad said. “It’s Christmas. You can have a planet if you want.”

And he gave me Venus.

That evening over Christmas dinner, we all discussed outer space. Dad explained light-years and black holes and quasars and told us about the special qualities of Betelgeuse, Rigel, and Venus.

Betelgeuse was a red star in the shoulder of the constellation Orion. It was one of the largest stars you could see in the sky, hundreds of times bigger than the sun. It had burned brightly for millions of years and would soon become a supernova and burn out. I got upset that Lori had chosen a clunker of a star, but Dad explained that “soon” meant hundreds of thousands of years when you were talking about stars.

Rigel was a blue star, smaller than Betelgeuse, Dad said, but even brighter. It was also in Orion – it was his left foot, which seemed appropriate, because Brian was an extra-fast runner.

Venus didn’t have any moons or satellites or even a magnetic field, but it did have an atmosphere sort of similar to Earth’s, except it was super-hot – about five hundred degrees or more. “So,” Dad said, “when the sun starts to burn out and Earth turns cold, everyone here might want to move to Venus to get warm. And they’ll have to get permission from your descendants first.”

We laughed about all the kids who believed in the Santa myth and got nothing for Christmas but a bunch of cheap plastic toys. “Years from now, when all the junk they got is broken and long forgotten,” Dad said, “you’ll still have your stars.”

– From ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls

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I read a book by Yoko Ogawa earlier this year called ‘The Housekeeper and the Professor’ (You can find my review of it here). I loved it. So, when I saw another Yoko Ogawa book during one of my trips to the bookshop recently, I couldn’t resist getting it. It was ‘Hotel Iris’. It was a book which one could finish in a day. I finish reading it today and here is the review.

Summary of the story

I am giving below the summary of the story as given in the back cover of the book.

In a crumbling, seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet, seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother fusses over the off-season customers. When, one night, they are forced to eject a prostitute and a middle-aged man from his room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man’s voice, in what will become the first gesture of a long seduction.

The mysterious man lives quietly as a translator on an island off the coast. A widower, there are murmurs around town that he may have murdered his wife. Mari begins to visit him, but as he initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure, she finds herself also attracted to his earnest young nephew. As Mari’s mother and the police begin to close in on the illicit affair, events move to a dramatic climax.


What I think

I had a mixed feeling about ‘Hotel Iris’ after I finished reading it. On the positive side, Yoko Ogawa’s prose is soothing and as beautiful as ever – like the early morning breeze or like the music of a quietly flowing river. Because of Ogawa’s prose the pages keep flying and reading the book was a breeze. There are also beautiful lines which come up in the book time and again which are a pleasure to read. From this perspective I really enjoyed reading the book.

From the perspective of the story, it looks like this is one of the books that Ogawa wrote in her earlier years as a writer when she was probably in a mood to experiment. One of the things that a new author struggles with, is to decide on whether to give an erotic theme to a story or not and how much she / her can push the boundary and still stay on the side of literature rather than venturing into the side of soft-porn. It is a difficult decision as the dividing line between the two sides is really thin and it needs a really talented author to pull it off. Writing a novel is also an act of rebellion. Aspiring writers or newly published writers tend to ignore the market and write what they want about the things that are close to their hearts or about things which showcase their freedom as writers or about things which will make a controversial point. Some writers might want to write about rebellious things in their books, which probably they wouldn’t talk about in real-life. To me, Ogawa, seems to have done that in this book – by trying to write a literary novel, with erotic scenes and straddling the fine line between literary fiction and soft-porn. Many of Ogawa’s fans would say that the book stays firmly on the side of literary fiction, while others might disagree with this. I have to say that Ogawa manages to do it pretty well and straddles the fine line quite confidently (though the book depicts a sadomasochistic relationship – which is filled with love though – and has quite a few BDSM scenes). The book must have caused quite a controversy when it was first published in Japan. What is it about Japanese writers (with my limited experience of reading Natsuo Kirino, Haruki Murakami and now Yoko Ogawa) that they want to take risks and straddle this fine line, sometime in their careers?

The book also has only a few characters and most of them don’t have names – the typical way in which Ogawa tells her stories. I also felt that the ending of the story was sad.

I read a review of this book in NPR (you can find it here) which went like this – Hotel Iris, Yoko Ogawa’s tale of sadomasochistic love, is mercifully short. I say “mercifully” because this is a novel you find yourself reluctantly transfixed by. Ogawa is a writer capable of seducing readers against their will…”. Very beautifully put and very true.

Excerpts

It was difficult for me to choose passages from the book, because of their explicit content, but here are some that I liked.

I tried to imagine the goddess – slender, neck, full breasts, eyes staring off into the distance. And a robe with all the colors of the rainbow. One shake of that robe could cast a spell of beauty over the whole earth. I always thought that if the goddess of the rainbow would come to our hotel for even a few minutes, the boy in the fountain would learn to play happy tunes on his harp.

This was the first time I noticed the exquisite movement of his fingers. They were not particularly strong – almost delicate, in fact – spotted with moles and freckles; the fingernails were dark. But when they began to move, they bewitched anything they touched, casting a spell that demanded submission.

More than the pain, it was the sound that captivated me. It was high and pure, like a stringed instrument. The whip played these notes on my body, contracting the organs or bones concealed beneath the skin. I would never have believed that I could make such fascinating sounds, as though the whip were releasing wells of music from the deepest cavities in my body.

Final Thoughts

If you have seen the movie ‘Secretary’ and liked it, and if you like reading books where the writer is experimenting with a risky theme, you might enjoy Ogawa’s ‘Hotel Iris’. If the theme of the book makes you uncomfortable, it is better to avoid it.

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I read the book ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ by Pascal Mercier sometime back (You can find my review of it here). I loved the book. It made me think of German literature in general and how little of it I have read – except for Herman Hesse. So I thought I will ask fellow book blogger Bina, for recommendations. She was kind enough to introduce me to some wonderful German authors and books and one of the books that she recommended was ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Süskind. I started reading it a few days back and finished reading it yesterday. Here is the review.

Summary of the story

I am giving below the summary of the book as given in its back cover.

Patrick Süskind’s Perfume follows the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, abandoned at birth in the slums of eighteenth-century Paris, but blessed with an outstanding sense of smell. This gift enables Jean-Baptiste to master the art of perfume making, but one scent evades him : that of a virgin, whom he must possess to ensure her innocence and beauty are preserved. Laced with sense and suspense, this is a beguiling tale of lust, desire and deadly obsession.

What I think

I had a problem with the subtitle of the book, because eighty percent of the book was about perfumes and only the last twenty percent involved murders. Even that last twenty percent was predominantly about the main character’s search for a legendary perfume. But aside from this minor complaint, I really enjoyed reading ‘Perfume’. Patrick Süskind’s prose is beautiful, exquisite, delightful and is a pleasure to read. The book can be read just for the prose and for the sensory descriptions of scents and fragrances. I encountered beautiful lines and passages in every page that I couldn’t stop highlighting. I couldn’t stop thinking that if the prose was so good in translation how it would be in the original. I am jealous of readers who have read it in the original 🙂

One of the other things that I noticed about the book was that it had very less dialogue. One of the things that is taught in creative writing classes is that aspiring writers should learn how to write dialogue, because it makes it easy for the reader because the pages fly while reading dialogues between characters. But I have seen many masters being positively indifferent to dialogues – like Jose Saramago, Roberto Bolano, Cormac McCarthy and now Patrick Süskind – and who just told a story with minimal or no dialogue (even Michael Crichton in his first book ‘The Andromeda Strain’ avoided dialogues and stuck to narration). It is interesting to see how what is taught in schools is different from what is practised by the masters.

I didn’t have much affection for most of the characters in the story except for maybe, Antoine Richis. I felt sorry and sad for the main character Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who doesn’t see any genuine human warmth or love or affection throughout his whole life – everyone whom he meets since birth try to push him away or use him for their own selfish ends. It is no surprise that someone like him ends up being cynical about the world and people and ends up being passionate for his art of perfume-making and is ready to do anything to master it. I would say that it is a sad commentary on the community in which Grenouille was born and in which he lived.

The book also raises questions on what lengths one can go if one is passionate and obsessed about one’s field and tries to invent something new or wants to attain glory. It is an interesting question.

I also found the first passage of the book quite interesting. It goes like this :

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name – in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade’s, for instance, or Saint Just’s, Fouche’s, Bonaparte’s, etc. – has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succintly, wickedness…

I found it interesting that Napolean Bonaparte has been bracketed with Marquis de Sade and is called arrogant, immoral, wicked 🙂 Some people might wince at that.

Excerpts

I am giving below some of my favourite passages from the book.

What does a baby smell like

‘…now be so kind as to tell me : what does a baby smell like when he smells the way you think he ought to smell? Well?’

‘He smells good,’ said the wet nurse.
‘What do you mean, “good”?’ Terrier bellowed at her. ‘Lots of things smell good. A bouquet of lavender smells good. Stewed meat smells good. The gardens of Arabia smell good. But what does a baby smell like, is what I want to know?’
The we nurse hesitated. She knew very well how babies smell, she knew precisely – after all she had fed, tended, cradled and kissed dozens of them…She could find them at night with her nose. Why, right at that moment she bore that baby smell clearly in her nose. But never until now had she described it in words.
‘Well?’ barked Terrier, clicking his fingernails impatiently.
‘Well it’s – ‘ the wet nurse began, ‘it’s not all that easy to say, because…because they don’t smell the same all over, although they smell good all over, Father, you know what I mean? Their feet for instance, they smell like a smooth warm stone – or no, more like curds…or like butter, like fresh butter, that’s it exactly. They smell like fresh butter. And their bodies smell like…like a pancake that’s been soaked in milk. And their heads, up on top, at the back of the head, where the hair makes a cowlick…there, right there, is where they smell best of all. It smells like caramel, it smells so sweet, so wonderful, Father, you have no idea! Once you’ve smelled from there, you love them whether they’re your own or somebody else’s. And that’s how little children have to smell – and no other way.’

The Smell of the Sea

The sea smelled like a sail whose billows had caught up water, salt and a cold sun. It had a simple smell, the sea, but at the same time it smelled immense and unique, so much so that Grenouille hesitated to dissect the odours into fishy, salty, watery, seaweedy, fresh-airy, and so on. He preferred to leave the smell of the sea blended together, preserving it as a unit in his memory, relishing it whole. The smell of the sea pleased him so much that he wanted one day to take it in, pure and unadulterated, in such quantities that he could get drunk on it. And later, when he learned from stories how large the sea is and that you can sail upon it in ships for days on end without ever seeing land, nothing pleased him more than the image of himself sitting high up in the crow’s nest of the foremost mast on such a ship, gliding on through the endless smell of the sea – which really was no smell, but a breath, an exhalation of breath, the end of all smells – dissolving with pleasure in that breath.

The Mysterious Scent

…the wind brought him something, a tiny, hardly noticeable something, a crumb, an atom of scent; no, even less than that : it was more the premonition of a scent than the scent itself – and at the same time it was definitely a premonition of something he had never smelled before. He backed up against the wall, closed his eyes and flared his nostrils. The scent was so exceptionally delicate and fine that he could not hold on to it; it continually eluded his perception, was masked by the powder-smoke of the petards, blocked by the exudations of the crowd, fragmented and crushed by the thousands of other city odours. But then, suddenly, it was there again, a mere shred, the whiff of a magnificent premonition for only a second…and it vanished at once. Grenoiulle suffered agonies. For the first time, it was not just that his greedy nature was offended, but his very heart ached. He had the prescience of something extraordinary – this scent was the key for ordering all odours, one could understand nothing about odours if one did not understand this one scent…
…He tried to recall something comparable, but had to discard all comparisons. This scent had a freshness, but not the freshness of limes or pomegranates, nor the freshness of myrrh or cinnamon bark or curly mint or birch or camphor or pine needles, nor that of a May rain or a frosty wind or of well water…and at the same time it had warmth, but not as bergamot, cypress or musk has, or jasmine or narcissi, not as rosewood has or iris…This scent was a blend of both, of evanescence and substance, not a blend, but a unity, although slight and frail as well, and yet solid and sustaining, like a piece of thin, shimmering silk…and yet again not like silk, but like pastry soaked in honey-sweet milk – and try as he would he couldn’t fit those two together : milk and silk! This scent was inconceivable, indescribable, could not be categorized in any way – it really ought not to exist at all. And yet there it was as plain and splendid as day. Grenouille followed it, his fearful heart pounding, for he suspected that it was not he who followed the scent, but the scent that had captured him and was drawing him irresistibly to it.
…Strangely enough, the scent was not much stronger. It was only purer, and in its augmented purity, it took on an even greater power of attraction.

The Power of Scent
…people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.

Coaxing the fragrance

Jasmine season began at the end of July, August was for tuberoses. The perfume of these two flowers was both so exquisite and so fragile that not only did the blossoms have to be picked before sunrise, but they also demanded the most gentle and special handling. Warmth diminished their scent; suddenly to plunge them into hot, macerating oil would have completely destroyed it. The souls of these noblest of blossoms could not be simply ripped from them, they had to be methodically coaxed away.

Chaining scents and preserving their freedom

There are scents that linger for decades. A cupboard rubbed with musk, a piece of leather drenched with cinnamon oil, a blob of ambergis, a cedar chest – they all possess virtually eternal olfactory life. While other things – lime oil, bergamot, jonquil and tuberose extracts, and many floral scents – evaporate within a few hours if they are exposed to the air in a pure, unbound form. The perfumer counteracts this fatal circumstance by binding scents that are too volatile by putting them in chains, so to speak, taming their urge for freedom – though his art consists of leaving enough slack in the chains for the odour seemingly to preserve its freedom, even when it is tied so deftly that it cannot flee. Grenouille had once succeeded in performing this feat perfectly with some tuberose oil, whose ephemeral scent he had chained with tiny quantities of civet, vanilla, labdanum and cypress – only then did it truly come into its own.

On a Beautiful Girl

She was indeed a girl of exquisite beauty. She was one of those languid women made of dark honey, smooth and sweet and terribly sticky, who take control of a room with a syrupy gesture, a toss of the hair, a single slow whiplash of the eyes – and all the while remain as still as the centre of a hurricane, apparently unaware of the force of gravity by which they irresistibly attract to themselves the yearnings and the souls of both men and women.

On Waiting

…it had always seemed to him that you stayed awake not so that you could take care of these occasional tasks, but because being awake had its own unique purpose. Even here in this bedchamber, where the process of enfleurage was proceeding all on its own, where in fact premature checking, turning or poking the fragrant package could only cause trouble – even here, it seemed to Grenouille, his waking presence was important. Sleep would have endangered the spirit of success.
It was not especially difficult for him to stay awake and wait, despite his weariness. He loved this waiting…it was not a dull waiting-till-it’s-over, not even a yearning, expectant waiting, but an attendant, purposeful, in a certain sense active waiting. Something was happening while you waited. The most essential thing was happening. And even if he himself was doing nothing, it was happening through him nevertheless. He had done his best. He had employed all his artistic skill. He had made not one single mistake. His performance had been unique. It would be crowned with success…He need only wait a few more hours. It filled him with profound satisfaction, this waiting. He had never felt so fine in all his life, so peaceful, so steady, so whole and at one with himself – not even back inside his mountain – as during these hours when a craftsman took his rest sitting in the dark of night… waiting and watching. They were the only moments when something like cheerful thoughts formed inside his gloomy brain.

The Movie

I saw the movie version of ‘Perfume’ after reading the book. The movie was faithful to the book, with respect to the overall story, but in many places the finer details of the story were changed a bit so that the story could work better in the visual medium. Also, some of the minor characters and subplots were dispensed away with, which was sad. Also, some of the characters in the movie looked very different when compared to the way they were depicted in the book – for example, Giuseppe Baldini was very different in the movie when compared to the book and so was Dominique Druot. Ben Wishaw, who played the role of the poet John Keats in Jane Campion’s ‘Bright Star’, plays the role of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and does well. The movie also brings 18th century France to life, quite realistically and beautifully. I felt that one of the limitations of the movie was in translating the olfactory experience described in the novel to the visual experience on screen. I felt it didn’t work so well in the movie as it did in the novel – maybe that is a tribute to Süskind’s genius. But the movie, seen as a standalone, is quite good. Renowned film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars (out of four) and so it must be something.

Final Thoughts

I liked ‘Perfume’ very much. (Thanks Bina for recommending it :)) I think I will add it to my list of favourite books and I will read my favourite passages in the book again. I will also try to get hold of other books by Patrick Süskind (especially ‘The Story of Mr.Sommer’) and read them. If you want to explore German literature and like exquisite prose, you will love this book.

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More beautiful passages from ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Süskind 🙂 I am loving Süskind’s prose!

The Smell of the Sea

The sea smelled like a sail whose billows had caught up water, salt and a cold sun. It had a simple smell, the sea, but at the same time it smelled immense and unique, so much so that Grenouille hesitated to dissect the odours into fishy, salty, watery, seaweedy, fresh-airy, and so on. He preferred to leave the smell of the sea blended together, preserving it as a unit in his memory, relishing it whole. The smell of the sea pleased him so much that he wanted one day to take it in, pure and unadulterated, in such quantities that he could get drunk on it. And later, when he learned from stories how large the sea is and that you can sail upon it in ships for days on end without ever seeing land, nothing pleased him more than the image of himself sitting high up in the crow’s nest of the foremost mast on such a ship, gliding on through the endless smell of the sea – which really was no smell, but a breath, an exhalation of breath, the end of all smells – dissolving with pleasure in that breath.

The Mysterious Scent

…the wind brought him something, a tiny, hardly noticeable something, a crumb, an atom of scent; no, even less than that : it was more the premonition of a scent than the scent itself – and at the same time it was definitely a premonition of something he had never smelled before. He backed up against the wall, closed his eyes and flared his nostrils. The scent was so exceptionally delicate and fine that he could not hold on to it; it continually eluded his perception, was masked by the powder-smoke of the petards, blocked by the exudations of the crowd, fragmented and crushed by the thousands of other city odours. But then, suddenly, it was there again, a mere shred, the whiff of a magnificent premonition for only a second…and it vanished at once. Grenoiulle suffered agonies. For the first time, it was not just that his greedy nature was offended, but his very heart ached. He had the prescience of something extraordinary – this scent was the key for ordering all odours, one could understand nothing about odours if one did not understand this one scent…

…He tried to recall something comparable, but had to discard all comparisons. This scent had a freshness, but not the freshness of limes or pomegranates, nor the freshness of myrrh or cinnamon bark or curly mint or birch or camphor or pine needles, nor that of a May rain or a frosty wind or of well water…and at the same time it had warmth, but not as bergamot, cypress or musk has, or jasmine or narcissi, not as rosewood has or iris…This scent was a blend of both, of evanescence and substance, not a blend, but a unity, although slight and frail as well, and yet solid and sustaining, like a piece of thin, shimmering silk…and yet again not like silk, but like pastry soaked in honey-sweet milk – and try as he would he couldn’t fit those two together : milk and silk! This scent was inconceivable, indescribable, could not be categorized in any way – it really ought not to exist at all. And yet there it was as plain and splendid as day. Grenouille followed it, his fearful heart pounding, for he suspected that it was not he who followed the scent, but the scent that had captured him and was drawing him irresistibly to it.

…Strangely enough, the scent was not much stronger. It was only purer, and in its augmented purity, it took on an even greater power of attraction.

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I found this nice passage in a book I am reading now.

‘…now be so kind as to tell me : what does a baby smell like when he smells the way you think he ought to smell?

Well?’

‘He smells good,’ said the wet nurse.

‘What do you mean, “good”?’ Terrier bellowed at her. ‘Lots of things smell good. A bouquet of lavender smells good. Stewed meat smells good. The gardens of Arabia smell good. But what does a baby smell like, is what I want to know?’

The we nurse hesitated. She knew very well how babies smell, she knew precisely – after all she had fed, tended, cradled and kissed dozens of them…She could find them at night with her nose. Why, right at that moment she bore that baby smell clearly in her nose. But never until now had she described it in words.

‘Well?’ barked Terrier, clicking his fingernails impatiently.

‘Well it’s – ‘ the wet nurse began, ‘it’s not all that easy to say, because…because they don’t smell the same all over, although they smell good all over, Father, you know what I mean? Their feet for instance, they smell like a smooth warm stone – or no, more like curds…or like butter, like fresh butter, that’s it exactly. They smell like fresh butter. And their bodies smell like…like a pancake that’s been soaked in milk. And their heads, up on top, at the back of the head, where the hair makes a cowlick…there, right there, is where they smell best of all. It smells like caramel, it smells so sweet, so wonderful, Father, you have no idea! Once you’ve smelled from there, you love them whether they’re your own or somebody else’s. And that’s how little children have to smell – and no other way.’

– From ‘Perfume : The Story of a Murderer‘ by Patrick Süskind

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I never thought that I will get around to read Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ series, because I have been daunted by the size of it. I watched the first part in the movie version and liked it. So I was hoping that I would let the novel be and just watch the movie series. But when I saw the graphic novel version of the series at the bookshop recently, I couldn’t resist it. I finished it today and here is the review.

Summary of the story

I think everyone must have read the book or seen the movie or atleast heard the outline of the story and so I think this is redundant here. But let me do what I normally do and give the summary of the story as given in the inside flap of the book.

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…


What I think

To add more to the above summary (you must be knowing this already and if you don’t I have to warn you that this is a spoiler), Bella discovers that the mysterious Edward is a vampire, but she cannot help falling in love with him. What happens when a normal high school girl falls in love with a vampire forms the rest of the story.

Now about the graphic novel. The book is a fast-paced read. I have heard that in the original novel, the prose could have done with some more editing, but because the graphic novel is predominantly about pictures, it doesn’t suffer from this problem. The artist, Young Kim, is Korean and so we can see the influence of Manga in the book. It sometimes looks like a Manga version of ‘Twilight’, with glossy pages. Most of the illustrations are in black-and-white but there are some pages in colour. It reminded me of some of the old movies, which were made in black-and-white, with some scenes produced in colour (for example, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, ‘Nadodi Mannan’ and ‘Portrait of Jennie’). Bella and Edward look quite different from the way they look in the movie, but it works fine in the graphic novel. One of the things I was disappointed about, in the graphic novel, is that the story ends somewhere in between. I remember seeing more things in the first part of the movie series (for example, Edward introducing Bella to his vampire family, all of them going on a weekend picnic etc.) which is not there in the graphic novel. It looks like each part of the ‘Twilight’ series has been split into two graphic novels and so this first volume of the graphic novel is just half of the first volume of the actual novel. The cynical side of me says that the publishers are doing this to milk the cow for the longest time – I hope that is not true.

Excerpts

I am giving below some of my favourite scenes from the book. (Please pardon me for the quality of the pictures).

Introducing the Cullens

Beautiful Bella

(Note : Isn’t Bella’s hair so beautiful!!)

Edward’s Secret

“I reached the edge of the pool of light and stepped through the last fringe of ferns into the loveliest place I had ever been...”

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed reading the first volume of the graphic novel version of ‘Twilight’. If you are a ‘Twilight’ fan you will love it. If you are thinking of reading ‘Twilight’ sometime, but are daunted by its size, the graphic novel version would be a good place to start.

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I stumbled upon ‘We’ by John Dickinson by accident, when I was browsing at the bookshop last week. I read the blurb on the back cover and found it quite interesting. I decided to get the book. I finished reading it today. Here is the review.

Summary of the story

I am giving below the summary of the story as given in the back cover of the book.

In the furthest, coldest, darkest reaches of our solar system, Paul Munro is on a mission from which he can never return. A desolate ice-covered moon will be his home for the rest of his life. and only from here can he see what humanity has become.

A thriller to freeze your blood.
To absolute zero.


What I think

To add a little bit more to the summary above, ‘We’ depicts a time on earth, when networking technologies like the mobile phone and the internet are integrated and social networks are sophisticated and people keep in touch through their networks. It is also a time when there are manned space stations elsewhere in the solar system, where scientists are sent on permanent missions to do research. Our hero, Paul Munro, is sent to one such manned station, which is on a moon of a planet in the outer edges of the solar system. He is sent there to replace another scientist who has died, and to also investigate a communication problem. How the relationship between Paul Munro and the other members of the space station evolves, and what secrets he discovers form the rest of the story.

I liked ‘We’. The setting was authentic and very real – when the book describes a world which is networked and people not speaking much but using their networks to communicate, it looks eerily like our own world a decade or so from now. The description of the scientific elements of the story is also very authentic, from what I know. The plot wasn’t sharp enough to my liking – not many twists and turns and though there is some suspense it doesn’t really come as a big surprise (atleast to me). But inspite of all that, I liked the book, because the story was interesting, it kept my attention engaged and the setting looked so real.

Excerpts

I am giving below some of my favourite lines from the book.

The doctor’s eyes focused. He bent to look closely. His face wore the detached concern of one who knew he would never suffer as the person before him was suffering. His pupils tracked.
‘It is Tears,’ translated the Talker. ‘Just Tears. They are…’
She hesitated. The information the doctor was giving her had far outpaced her ability to put it into speech.
‘They are normal,’ she said.
It was not a good choice of word. Tears were not normal. None of them could remember crying. But it was the best she could do.

In his darkness he could hear a voice saying something. It was a woman’s voice.
There was something strange about the words. They were like nothing he had heard in his training classes. They were drawn out, and some of them changed in pitch as they were uttered. There was music in them. Of course he remembered music. There had been days when he had set it to run through his head continuously. He had not heard it made from a human throat before, because there were better and easier ways of doing it. But he knew it was possible. There was a word for it.
The woman was ‘singing’.

She stopped and looked at the floor. He knew what she was doing. It was something he did himself, all the time now. She was hunting for words.

Her words sank inside him, turning and turning like objects falling into deep water, bumping into nothing. Nothing would stop their descent until they rested on the muddy floor of his soul.

The silence after he broke the link was like a corpse tumbling gently in a low gravity field.

There was no way that a computer program could be made to suffer. But at least he would have confused it.

Final Thoughts

I have to say that this is an odd thing – by some quirk of fate, I haven’t read many science fiction novels. If I discount the Jules Verne novels and the stories by H.G.Wells, I have read just five science fiction novels – one by Isaac Asimov (‘Foundation’), two by Arthur Clarke (‘Rendezvous with Rama’ and ‘2001 : A Space Odyssey‘) and one by Ursula Le Guin (‘The Lathe of Heaven‘). I don’t know why I haven’t read more, because I like science fiction and have enjoyed watching science fiction movies. I enjoyed reading ‘We’ too. I think I will use this as an inspiration to read more science fiction in the future.

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