Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I had picked this book long time back. I only got around reading it recently. After I finished it, I felt nothing has changed. A woman is still dubbed a scarlet one if she has a child outside of marriage while the man goes free. People are as fond of gossip now as they were ever before. It still interests people, who is sleeping with whom.

The novel is set in the 17th century. It was written by Hawthorne in 1850. A touching human story of a time that makes us wonder how far religious and moral extremes could take us.

The novel opens with Hester being led to the scaffold where she is publicly shamed for having committed adultery. Hester is forced to wear the letter "A" on her gown at all times. Hester carries Pearl, her daughter, with her. On the scaffold, she is asked to reveal the name of Pearl's father, but she refuses. Though her husband comes to the town, he tells her not to let it be known that they are related in anyway.

Hester moves into a cottage near the woods where she lives with her daughter Pearl. She redeems herself in the eyes of the village people by her austere and virtuous living. She with her quiet behaviour goes on about her work as a seamstress who mainly stitches funeral gowns initially. Though she goes on loving the man with whom she had the child, she cannot name him as he is a man of repute who holds a great esteem in the eyes of the people. Hester’s husband, a cold-hearted man described as “having successfully turned himself into a fiend by taking on the office of one,” moves forward with his plan of revenge.

Hawthorne’s writing is very refreshing and real. Making good use of magic realism and vivid imagery, he portrays the Puritan mindset so well that we are drawn into the world of 17th century New England complete with witches who fly on broomsticks, people who meet the Devil in the woods and a scarlet letter “A” imprinted in the flesh of Hester’s secret lover.

Despite its gloomy message, The Scarlet Letter is also a story of passion and the will to survive. In Hester, we find a woman of great courage. Who bears her punishment with fortitude. Her very exclusion from her town is as much a blessing as a punishment. Marked as an adulteress, she no longer needs to abide by society’s rigid expectations and strict morality. Her lover, on the other hand, is forced to deny his desire, his needs and even his humanity because he would not choose Hester’s fate.

This book contains a message that is as relevant and poignant as the day it was written. It’s as much about the abuses of women in a society too rigid in its moral and religious ideals to still be human as it is about two people’s will to survive. With the vivid imagery, magic realism and the profound symbolism, The Scarlet Letter is a must-read for anyone concerned about society, values and the right to be human.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Strange Pilgrims is a collection of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, written over a period of eighteen years.These short stories depict the day by day mystic and beautiful expediency that has made the Nobel Prize-winning author so engaging. All the twelve stories involve Latin American characters that are peripatetic throughout Europe. While some stories may strike the reader as being quite peculiar, others will flummox while demonstrating the splendour of the human spirit. The stories take us on a journey of sort. A whole gamut of emotions and feelings run through us while we reading the unusual stories.

A father moves with the body of his daughter who is just beautiful in death as she was in life, for her to be declared a saint. It’s father love at the ultimate. Then there is an ex-president who is expected to die and is looked after a couple who have little money to spare. A young sent to an asylum for no fault of hers. A panicked husband rushes his wife to a Parisian hospital for treatment of a cut finger, but never sees her again. A man on an overseas plane flight preoccupied in thought about the beauty of a lady passenger as she soundly sleeps next to him. An elderly prostitute trains her obedient puppy to weep at her grave because she has a haunting premonition about her own death and has no one other than the dog to cry at her death. In one story, two little boys experiment with light flowing as water.

Marquez displays his penchant for bringing to mind curiosity in the reader through his use of colourful description and captivating characters. Strange Pilgrims proves, once again, that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the greatest storytellers of our time. The title of the book is apt as the reader indeed feels as if he is embarking on a pilgrim albeit a strange one.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The first books that came into my mind after I was tagged for this "Book Meme"

I have been tagged by lotus reads for this book meme. I usually do not play for tags. But this one I will play along. Only because I read hell of a lot. My compulsive buying of books is more than my reading power. Too many books lying around to be read. Here I enumerate the first ones that come into my mind. I know I will not be able to do justice to this. But what the hell!

1. One book that changed your life?

Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. After reading that book, I quit thinking one person cannot change the world. One single entity can if she/he is determined enough. I read it the first time when I was 17 years old. I was half in love with Howard Roark for a long time afterwards. Maybe I am still searching for him. A must read book. I feel one must read all of Rand's book like I have done.

2. One book you have read more than once?

There are too many books, I read more than once. Three men in a boat by Jerome K. Jerome takes the cake though. I must have read it numerous times. I simply cannot get over it. It's too hilarious to be put down after you start it.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It sustains interest throughtout and is a great story of courage and survival. I need to read it yet again. What better place than a desert island?

4. One book that made you cry?

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It brings tears into my eyes even if I pick it up now. Very powerful touching kind of book.

5. One book that made you laugh?

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller is a satire of the times which has the power to make us laugh at human foibles and failings. Very intellectual kind of book with underlying humour and irony!

6. One book you wish had been written?

About how not to follow religion blindly by Pope Benedict! For obvious reasons!

7. One book you wish had never been written?

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus by John Gray. It is too cliched for the likes of me! One book I wish I had never bought. If I ever see John Gray, I will kill him with my bare hands.

8. One book you are currently reading?

Infact I am reading three books all at the same time. I always do.

The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishguro.

The unbearable Burden of Lightness by Milan Kundera. It is my 5th book by Kundera. It is as interesting as the others that I have read.

The scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I got this book for a long time now. I got around to reading it now. As they say, better late than never.

I plan to write reviews for all three after I finish those.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

The original version of Kamasutra by Vatsayan. Too many copies circulating. I want nothing but the best! Mind you, it's not a book on sexul positions. It is a treatise on love and sensuality.


These are just a few of the books I have read, am reading and mean to read. I left out most of the non-fiction, political commentaries and silly detective novels(that I simply love!). Not to forget poets. I can only write so much here!

I enjoyed doing this. How could I miss a good thing? Thanks for tagging me, Lotus!

Am I supposed to tag too? Let me think! Ok, I tag homo escapeons, within without, jon aristides, Ghost Particle, frontier editor and david Israel. Hope you play it. If you don't it's ok with me!

But do indulge me!