I was drawn to this book by the catchy title and book cover at the library. Yes, I judge books by it’s cover, too.
When I don’t judge the book by it’s cover, which is most times, I read the blurb/synopsis to decide if I want to explore it further. If the blurb does not convince me fully, I randomly read pages to see the author’s writing style to decide if I want to take the book home and spend precious and finite time on it.
“Why such selectivity, hesitation?”, you may ask and say , “Its just a book. Especially when borrowing from a library there is no material investment. Just put it down if you don’t like it”. That’s because of my almost obsessive compulsive need to finish a book that I bring home and start to read. When I start a book, I treat it like a promise I made to the author, that I will listen/read to the end and hear him/her out fully. A promise that no one can or does enforce, except me.
This quirky trait of mine has led to moments , where I curse my commitment to an author I have never seen(and may never see) and soul-searching wondering what stops me from putting the book down….and moments where I am glad that I stuck to the end without which I would have missed that gem of a book.
In that way, this book “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of Pilgrimage” by Japanese author “Haruki Murakami” tested my commitment at times but didn’t disappoint me at the end. The story is about the loss of friendship , especially one from the formative years before adulthood, and the impact on one’s psyche. It’s about the passage of time that shows how it changes us in many ways and doesn’t change us in other ways.
A personal anecdote … my husband has the habit of asking me while I’m immersed in a book, interrupting me mid-flow in reading , “How is the book? Is it really good. You are so engrossed”. I don’t know if it’s Murphy’s law or something…he always seems to pick those moments while my commitment is being tested.
It maybe Murphy’s law or maybe that’s because I have branched off from the road often travelled and been pushing myself to read a variety of genres and authors of different ethnicity and other boundaries. A conscious decision to stay out of my comfort/pleasure zone of reading that I find myself testing my resolve nowadays, all the time. And that leads me to the next book by Noble Prize for Literature winner (in 2014) Patrick Modiano: “Missing Person” translated from French to English by Daniel Weissbort.
This book by Modiano makes me crave a book club group to sit down and discuss. To ensure that I understood the author…and to see what I missed…hear what others explain. The story is about an amnesiac who is trying to discover his true identity in post war France. The perfect plot for a good thriller/mystery/novel where you expect a climatic end …but wonder as you get to the end of the book if some pages where ripped off at the end , denying you the chance to get closure.
I wondered why the author got a Nobel prize in Literature and if the Nobel judges where in a Amsterdam ‘coffee shop’ when they made the decision…. And then it sinks in a day or two later when your sub-conscious, your better half of your brain, processes it…the author wants to evoke the same sense of drifting and non-closure that the main character is dealing with….We become the protagonist losing ourselves in the fog. Very clever indeed!
The author doesn’t explicitly tell us about the scars that the Nazi occupation has left on France with the gory details and the heart break of its victims and spectators…but it’s there in the backdrop ..in the words unspoken. Just enough references to the time line of the events that we fill in the details from our memory of history. The book seems like an allegory for the amnesia of an entire population that survived the Nazi occupation who either chose to forget or are afraid to remember. Again very subtly clever.The Nobel prize for literature grantor/judges did know what they were doing!
All that darkness from the above books..maybe I should delve into something lighter. Grey maybe….according to this author there are about 50 shades of them. I’m talking about the best selling book by E.L. James of the ’50 Shades of Grey Trilogy. I read the first of the Trilogy. I had to if I wanted to understand what buzz was all about.
This series is about a handsome ultra rich young man meeting a not very attractive woman and they have apple pie a lot. On almost every page they have apple pie ,sometimes while sitting , while standing ,while trapezing under a circus tent, sometimes with a spoon , at times with a fork, several times right after eating one whole pie and washing the dirty dishes they start having apple pie all over again. Only twist the man asks the woman to sign a contract that she will have apple pie with him whenever and where ever and however he wants. (‘Having apple pie’ is an euphemism here ….and if you think I exaggerate read the book!)
And then I started the second one: Fifty shades darker. To see what else can be written on the story. Now this is one book, I returned to the library half-read. Well I skipped to the end and read the last chapter. I may have missed reading about 20 to 30 orga…sorry pages but I’m sure I got the gist of the story. If you are wondering why I broke my promise to the author I assure you it’s not because I don’t like apple pie.
Its because I couldn’t stand the subliminal message that the book sent …that all women want in life is a handsome , rich and young guy who:
– showers them with gifts somehow divining what exactly she likes and wants..
– protects them from nefarious characters ,
– is vulnerable , needs her emotionally and pursues her with religious fervour
…yes the list goes on…
-has a dead mother who is not a saint
-has an adopted mother and father who adore his choice of bride and are so grateful to her for choosing their adopted billionaire son.
– wants to marry her and live happily ever after faithfully.
Wait I forgot ..
-an ex girl friend who is so evil that the devil will look like an angel in comparison.
– who bosses over her.
How could I not mention this last detail …
–a man having an unending supply of apple pie.
If all men were like the hero of this story until they die then Pfizer (the pharma company) would go bankrupt (the little blue pill they make gets them billions in revenue).
Somehow continuing to read the book was like breaking my unarticulated promise to those millions of women before me ,who worked hard for what women really need: respect , equality, to be able to have an education, have a career , to innovate and compete in this world , to stand on their own two feet head held high….and be recognized for their accomplishments… The promise that their efforts and sacrifice would not be in vain. The book helped me realize how the ridiculous ‘wants’ of some women and the stereotypes that they propagate jeopardises the ‘needs’ of women.
Maybe I also put the book down because it held up a mirror to show that I’m guilty of at least wanting some of those listed ‘wants’….I will leave it to you to guess what those are…