Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Catcher in the Rye - Depressing, Insightful and Brilliant

"If a body catch a body coming through the rye..."- J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.

There are 3 things I knew about The Catcher in the Rye before I read the book - It is entirely about Holden Caulfield, Holden Caulfield is a prized douche bag and Holden Caulfield is real.

Set in the 1950s, The Catcher in the Rye is about an unstable boy probably 16 or 17 in age who has been unable to last for long in schools. The story begins when Holden Caulfield is expelled from Pencey School and is set to return home for Christmas in 5 days time. However, frustrated by the pretentious people in his school, he leaves in the middle of the night, planning on spending the 5 days in New York. The story follows Holden shuffling between poor motels and bars, visiting museums and the central park and meeting old acquaintances.

When I say Caulfield is real, I mean his cynical, judgmental and distant personality is something you may have seen somewhere, in a friend maybe or worse, yourself. Caulfield is also, as it becomes steadily obvious, depressed and borderline suicidal. You can imagine two sides of Holden, one complaining about anything anyone does and the other doing those exact things he dislikes about others. And as disagreeable as Holden can get, most of the times you simply want to reach out to him.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Animal Farm - Where animals can do so much more than talk.

"...God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner have had no tail and no flies." - Animal Farm, George Orwell.

Imagine this - a farm full of animals and not just talking animals from a child's storybook; no, animals capable of complex actions and thoughts, like a running a farm. That is the story of Animal Farm.

The animals of Manor Farm, fed up with the brutality and insufficient rations provided by Mr. Jones decide to revolt and take charge of the farm. Led by the pigs, the animals learn to read and write (in varying degrees), to look after the fields, the dairy, to construct a windmill and run a farm. 

The brilliance of Animal Farm is that is can be read and enjoyed by readers of all ages, from 10 year old kids to my 75 year old grandfather, and each reader will draw their own meaning. For a child, it will be the story of some animals while an adult will in all likelihood, connect the dots.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

"History is raw onion sandwich, sir" - The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes.

The one thing I severely dislike about 'The Sense of an Ending' is the misleading summary. After convincing you that there is an illegal mystery of some sorts involved (a letter from a lawyer), the book proceeds to follow the self exploration of a man in his sixties. 

Tony Webster (explicitly attracted to Adrian) is friends with Colin (pretentious), Alex (pretentious and philosophical) and Adrian (pretentious, philosophical and serious). The summary makes their clique appear Dead Poet's Society - esque when in reality they are just four friends who consider themselves superior to the rest, like every friend circle does. 

Tony dates Veronica (cold and smug) in college wherein begins the real plot, everything previous to that only serving to build context and draw parallels in the later chapters.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Spud - The madness continues

"Fatty shook Mad Dog’s hand and asked, ‘Why did you come back?’ Mad Dog shrugged and said, ‘For this.' " - Spud, The madness continues, John van de Ruit.

Here's the thing about sequels, no matter how hard you try not to, you will undoubtedly compare it to the original. And by god! If it so happens to not be on par every good memory associted with the original is tarnished. 

Spud: the madness continues is the sequel to Spud, 2nd book in the series of four and if you haven't read Spud, I suggest you finish that first for obvious reasons (and this review may contain spoilers for Spud).

'Spud: The madness continues' on the surface doesn't match up to the first part. The humor element is relatively low and a lot of merciless bullying is presented as comedy (not funny). However Spud 2 has done a brilliant job dealing with bullying, manipulation, the need to fit in, spending time alone and of course, madness.