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Book Cover: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This ain't no Slumdog Millionaire. That book showed the poverty, degradation, bigotry, oppressive systems, and selfish bullies of India, up close and in technicolor - just as this one does. But in Slumdog Millionaire, dozens of coincidences concatenate into incredible good fortune and a happy ever after ending. The God of Small Things travels in the opposite direction.

As a novel, Arundhati Roy's debut has a lot to recommend it. It won the Booker Prize, and it sold 6 million copies, as it deserved to. It has power, craft, lush language, intensely human characters, and a fresh and vivid Indian setting.

As a cosmic tragedy, this can be a hard book to enjoy. Or at least, so bitter that it takes a lot of chewing to get through. I found myself empathizing strongly with the characters - but I disliked most of them, and despised a few. There were only six characters who were really likable, mostly innocent of selfishness and malice: every one of them dies or is devastated by the end of the book. This is less of a spoiler than it seems. The hints of foreboding accumulate with every chapter, and the central funeral occurs three pages in.

The God of Small Things is very honest and brave. It has so much wonder, joy, humor and humanity bubbling through it that I never quite gave up on it. But it was often emotionally overwhelming - as, I think, it meant to be.

It didn't matter that the story had begun, because kathakali discovered long ago that the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones that you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don't surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover's skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don't. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won't. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn't. And yet you want to know again.

That is their mystery and their magic.

To the Kathakali Man these stories are his children and his childhood. He has grown up within them. They are the house he was raised in, the meadows he played in. They are his windows and his way of seeing. So when he tells a story, he handles it as he would a child of his own. He teases it. He punishes it. He sends it up like a bubble. He wrestles it to the ground and lets it go again. He laughs at it because he loves it. He can fly across whole worlds in minutes, he can stop for hours to examine a wilting leaf. Or play with a sleeping monkey's tail. He can turn effortlessly from the carnage of war into the felicity of a woman washing her hair in a mountain stream. From the crafty ebullience of a rakshasa with a new idea into a gossipy Malayali with a scandal to spread. From the sensuousness of a woman with a baby at her breast into the seductive mischief of Krishna's smile. He can reveal the nugget of sorrow that happiness contains. The hidden fish of shame in a sea of glory.

He tells stories of the gods, but his yarn is spun from the ungodly, human heart.

"the ungodly, human heart". That is the beating center of Roy's great work. She sees clearly the systems of society, with their rules and unspoken boundaries. She measures the perspectives of all her actors and observers. So when her accidents occur, when it's time for dreaming, hunger, violence, love, sex or death, Roy swims deep into the mystery and darkness, and we feel the currents on our skin.

The God of Small Things is semi-autobiographical; this helps explain how true it feels and how bitter it tastes. Roy is now an activist, continually stirring up trouble among the Powers That Be in India. Growing up, she saw the soul-crushing injustices of India, and lived through the fear and damage that bullies and manipulators wreak. A part of Roy was choking on all the bile she had swallowed. The God of Small Things was a place to spit it out, to give it shape and meaning, to fashion it into acid truth. I hope some of her bullies read her book, and felt cut down.

I've been watching and listening to interviews with Arundhati Roy. She is warm, eloquent, mercurial. The moment an interviewer sticks a label on her, or an explanation on her work, Roy jumps across the net, and expresses another view.

I particularly like the blend of toughness and tenderness I see in Roy. The God of Small Things is built upon rigorous thought and craft, then brought to life with intimate feeling and spontaneity.

When Roy began writing, she found herself stuck in one scene, at a level-crossing. She could not see how to fit all the different parts of her story into any kind of flow. But she had trained as an architect, which gave her a eureka moment. She spread out her old instruments, and worked out the plot and time-line as an architectural drawing.

The story has been smashed into pieces, and put back together as jumbled mosaic. Our main perspective is through the eyes of Rahel, but we jump back and forth from her at 7 in 1969, to her as a 31 year-old. We hop in-between, into family history, and sideways into other characters. I never found it hard to follow. Well, once I mistook Rahel's great-aunt for an aunt. Despite the seeming jumble, this weird pattern is a perfectly-woven tapestry, to tell this story. Roy threads us through events, inner-worlds, and relations, until we inhabit every character, and feel the entire significance of Roy's pattern and all her characters' fates.

That was the structure, the rigorous thought and planning Roy needed to map out such a large and multi-dimensional world. The tenderness is in her comprehensive empathy for each of her characters, and in her love of precision and exuberance in language.

There's nothing that pleases me more than a beautiful sentence.                                                                                                                       - Arundhati Roy
Roy's spontaneity, originality and invention shine from her language, but also permeate every aspect of her book. I felt she was reinventing the Novel from the ground up - as most great novels do.

Some people find The God of Small Things verbose, ornate and overdone. But Roy didn't forget herself here - every word is deliberately chosen. Roy surely has a lot of passion and poetry in her heart, and this poured out all over her first novel. For me, this exuberance fits the world she is showing us.

Roy is brilliant at taking us into the wide-eyed wonder of a 7 year old Rahel. Young Rahel's world is magical and tastes completely fresh. Roy is also showing us an undiscovered side of India, and needs it to sound like her youth, not like Kipling, Forster or Rushdie. She drops a lot of Malayam words into her text (e.g. kathakali and rakshasa in my first block quote). Since I'm the kind of reader who likes to comprehend every iota of the text, this bugged me a little - I'd look words up in the dictionary, only they weren't there. But Roy wanted her readers to face the mild confusion of an alien country; and was careful to provide enough context that we always half-know what her word meant.

Arundhati Roy is an admirer of James Joyce, and shares some of his joy in wordplay. She likes to fuse two words into a synergy of meaning. So we get a "steelshrill police whistle", and a baby bat roused in church becomes a "furrywhirring". A boy who has a most unpleasant Orangedrink Lemondrink experience, and gets nauseous, has a "green-wavy, thick-watery, lumpy, seaweedy, floaty, bottomless-bottomfull feeling".

There is a lot more to this book, but those are the aspects which most struck me. The characters were almost all compelling, and I found myself caring strongly for (or against) them. The one who is The God of Small Things was such a lovely man, comfortable with children and animals, close to nature and the gods. Then I realized he was also a carpenter, and wondered if the Christ-parallel was intentional. The one most responsible for the worst of the tragedy was quite demonic, very easy to hate; indeed, the blame is so expressly underlined that I think this one must have been based on someone who injured Arundhati Roy, or someone she loved, purely out of envy and spite.

There were many insights into India's bigotry of caste, color and gender in this book. If you follow Rahel's mother Ammu and uncle Chako through the book, the way their family and society react to their sexual peccadilloes, turning a blind eye to Chako's and punishing Ammu's severely - well, I can see why Arundhati felt so much bile at the injustice.

For a tragedy, The God of Small Things didn't quite reach catharsis. When I put the book down, I felt so much sympathy and grief for the victims, and such anger at the villains. Roy must have felt the same, as she quit fiction and became a determined activist. But, selfishly, I'm glad that after a decade of activism, Roy is now working on her second novel.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 05:17 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar & (43+ / 0-)

    Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:

    DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
    SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
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    Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
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    TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
    alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
    alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
    Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
    WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
    Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
    Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
    THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
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    alternate Thursdays (on hiatus) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
    FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
    alternate Fridays 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
    Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
    SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
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    Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 04:09:41 PM PST

  •  Coming Soon to Books Go Boom! (17+ / 0-)

    Dreamsongs, volume I   -   George R. R. Martin

    Snow Country   -   Yasunari Kawabata

    Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays   -   Zadie Smith

    Fathers and Sons   -   Ivan Turgenev

    Lamb: the gospel according to Biff, Christ's childhood pal   -   Christopher Moore

    The Tin Drum   -   Günter Grass

    Ready Player One   -   Ernest Cline

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 05:20:07 PM PST

  •  Thanks Brecht. This is a lovely (15+ / 0-)

    diary. I love The God of Small Things, especially for its very inventive use of language.

    I found out while talking or leading book discussions on this text that I kind of cringed at the Western response--so eager to pigeonhole India into pre-conceived stereotypes, so I started to refuse invitations to lead discussions about the novel, and generally stopped talking about it.  

    Thank you for making me re-think my earlier determination.  

    It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

    by poco on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 05:38:19 PM PST

    •  "Western response--so eager to pigeonhole India (11+ / 0-)

      into pre-conceived stereotypes"

      It is the Western, the intellectual, the information age way. We discover something new and unusual, and see how quickly we can stick a label on it. But there are too many new and unusual flavors, so the labels get smaller. We end up with African Literature reduced to Things Fall Apart in the Best Of lists. Come to think of it, why are we even reading The God of Small Things - isn't Midnight's Children enough already?

      Arundhati Roy saw this problem. She supervised the cover of the book herself, determined that it wouldn't be just "tigers and women in saris".

      That long block quote above continues:

      The Kathakali Man is the most beautiful of men. Because his body is his soul. His only instrument. From the age of three it has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of storytelling. He has magic in him, this man within the painted mask and swirling skirts.

      But these days he has become unviable. Unfeasible. Condemned goods. His children deride him. They long to be everything he is not. . . .

      In despair, he turns to tourism. He enters the market. He hawks the only thing he owns. The stories that his body can tell.

      He becomes a Regional Flavor.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 07:03:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Boom, indeed! (14+ / 0-)

    This will get me to read the book. Last year, I read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, who won a Pulitzer for it, and it was harrowing. I'd like to see how a gifted writer of fiction sees India after reading that and seeing Slumdog Millionaire.

    And Lamb!. A student of mine gave me that. I'm eager to see how you react to it.

  •  This was a particularly (13+ / 0-)

    difficult book club read for me a couple years ago.  I wasn't in  a place to settle much mentally on reading but we had a good  group discussion.  Our last book was The Orphan Master's Son which is very different but also viscerally poignant.  It is written by Adam Johnson about fairly recent North Korean life.

    You're right, as I recall, the use of language was unique and compelling.

    "You want to be a bit compulsive in your art or craft or whatever you do." Steve Martin

    by Kristin in WA on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 05:53:20 PM PST

  •  What a Coincidence! (12+ / 0-)

    TGoST just happens to be a title I've brought w/ me on my road trip (coming to you from Atlanta tonight -- it' s cold!)  Your beautiful diary is added incentive for me to get started on it.  Thanks!

    Love how serendipity and R&BLers so often go hand-in-hand.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 06:35:06 PM PST

  •  Yes, an amazing book. (13+ / 0-)

    As someone married to a woman of Kerala ancestry, and having traveled Kerala's backroads fairly extensively, I came into the book holding the naive belief that "Kerala is different" - it prides itself upon being the most educated, tolerant, progressive and non-misogynist part of India ("feminist" would be overstating it).

    Each of these cliches gets hit hard in the belly by Roy, a half-Malyali herself (seems to have gotten the fighting spirit from her mom).

    The ills of India exposed in this book, engulf the entire Subcontinent from Pakistan to Sri Lanka.

  •  I could have sworn that I read that book (8+ / 0-)

    because I was deep into Indian writers a few years back and have a full shelf of their books.  But when I read your summary, I wondered "whaaa?"  Then I checked my shelf and there was no "God of Small Things."  Memory is an elusive thing, as I am increasingly discovering.  

    Unlike many of the well-known Indian English-language writers,  Roy is not part of the "diaspora" of Indians into the West.  She has remained in India and focuses a lot of her attention to political matters.   I believe she still lives in Delhi.

    I hope her second novel will be up to the mark.  One of my most favorite novels is "The Death of Vishnu" by Manil Suri.  His second novel was a dreadful disappointment and now there is a third (he said he was writing a trilogy), but I haven't ordered it yet.  


    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 07:09:54 PM PST

    •  Roy hit an unexpected jackpot with her first novel (9+ / 0-)

      She said she expected it to sell about 500 copies. But she got everything right, she poured so much of her soul into it, and then had luck and the zeitgeist on her side.

      Because of that, she might get the full-court press from her publishers, on her second novel. But it's extremely unlikely that it'll create the same stir and buzz that her first did - and I'll bet there are plenty of critics who'll be happy to be underwhelmed by it, so they can let a little air out of her reputation.

      She has lived a lot since then, and learned, and she's got a lot of craft. So she is capable, I think, of writing an equally good second novel.

      I'll look for The Death of Vishnu.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:10:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I loved The Death of Vishnu, (5+ / 0-)

      and resolved to read more of Suri, but I heard, as you did, that his second novel was not nearly as good.

      Also loved The God of Small Things, and I'm thankful that Brecht has subjected it to analysis. It's so intense, like being caught up in a hurricane, that when you get out, you feel like asking, "What happened?"

      "You can observe a lot just by watching." ~ Yogi Berra

      by dandy lion on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:27:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I actually read the second novel (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brecht, poco, RiveroftheWest, bookgirl

        The Age of Shiva and that was a big mistake.  It was poorly put together and told in the first person which did not work at all.   The third one is out but I haven't heard much talk about it.  It may be another disappointment.  I might get it at the library one of these days.  

        OTOH, "The Death of Vishnu," is one of the most polished, clever, funny and deep pieces of writing about India that I have ever read.  I think it resides on the top of my list of favorites.  

        It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

        by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:44:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  "so intense, like being caught up in a hurricane" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Radiowalla, poco, RiveroftheWest, bookgirl

        Just so. As if you're dressed for the hot weather, but gradually the breezes and the rains build up, until you're caught in an earth-pounding monsoon:

        It was raining when Rahel came back to Ayemenem. Slanting silver ropes slammed into the loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:33:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry to hear Suri's second novel is not up (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, RiveroftheWest, Radiowalla, Brecht

      to the level of Vishnu. I did enjoy that one a great deal.

  •  Thanks for a great review (9+ / 0-)

    Some books with a setting in India that I have enjoyed:

    The Space between Us by Thrity Umrigar

    Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

    A Passage to India by E.M. Forster (It was a long time ago shortly after the movie came out so I should re-read)

    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.  This is a hard book to read though I liked many of the characters.  The ending for one character seemed inexplicable and is probably why I have steered clear of God of Small Things.

    The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye is a huge book, but I admit it was the romance I enjoyed most.

    A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.  I am trying to work up my courage for a re-read.  It is a tome.

    Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

     short stories:

    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

    I liked her book, Namesake, but that was mainly set in the US.   I suppose it might count.

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:08:13 PM PST

    •  oh, and (7+ / 0-)

      The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre which was hard to read, also, and it was so long ago, I should do a re-read.

      Laurie King set a mystery there with Mary and Holmes called The Game and I liked a somewhat light weight, but interesting story, Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson.  I doubt that these should count, though.

      Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:19:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I went through a Forster phase, and after a while (7+ / 0-)

      it felt like he was playing with a recurring set of themes and characters - except for A Passage to India, where he stepped up to another level of work.

      A Fine Balance gets a lot of praise, and is on my TBR shelf. The Inheritance of Loss has equal or more buzz, but I haven't got to it yet.

      A Suitable Boy is daunting in size. I'll probably get there, one day. I did enjoy Golden Gate.

      I've enjoyed the Jhumpa Lahiri I read. Roy reminded me of Lahiri, in how she wove together seeming accidents into immense car-crashes of fate; well, generally, in all the subtle connections between the small details and the important events, and how she wove many threads of story into such convincing three-dimensionality.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:20:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "A Suitable Boy" is most suitable (7+ / 0-)

        for when you are in need of a long escape.  If you are on house arrest or recovering from a broken leg or broken heart.  It is not great literature, but it has a story that will take you out of yourself and keep you there for a long time  (the paperback version is over 1400 pages!)

        I think I heard that there is a follow-up in the works called "A Suitable Girl."  

        It took me a long time to gather the courage to read it, but I'm glad I did.

        It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

        by Radiowalla on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 09:17:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I reckon between the name change and the complete (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          poco, Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest, cfk

          new look, they're not going to catch me to arrest me any time soon.

          A Suitable Boy is a novel by Vikram Seth, published in 1993. At 1349 pages (1488 pages softcover) and 591,552 words, the book is one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language. A sequel, to be called A Suitable Girl, is due for publication in 2016.
          No doubt it's very lyrical, and has a wonderful story. But wouldn't you say, if I'm stuck in bed for a month, that I should just read the first half of Proust's mammoth instead? Ha, because I know you would.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 01:49:21 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'll surprise you by saying that it would depend (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            poco, Brecht, RiveroftheWest, cfk

            on your state of mind while you are on bed rest.   Sometimes the mind needs to rest as well and in that case Vikram Seth will do nicely.  Proust requires more concentration to navigate his meandering sentences and long-winded asides.  

            It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

            by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 07:57:21 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes. If I were stuck in bed, fully mentally alert, (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Radiowalla, poco, RiveroftheWest, cfk

              but physically not ready to stand on two legs, that could be ideal for Proust. Instead of buzzing like a bumble-bee trapped inside, I could gather pollen from the various meadows of Proust's world.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:42:52 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (9+ / 0-)

      has been the hardest book for me to read. It is an unbelievably great and amazing book, but dear FSM the blows are just unending!!

      I read it soon after reading Beloved by Morrison and the combination just about did me in. I took to my bed for a week after that--the unrelenting misery that these two books depict -- every time a tiny shoot of hope rises, the reader gets invested in it, and then the shoot is whacked off -- was too much.

      I have absolutely no desire to be like Marianne from Sense and Sensibility, but Beloved and A Fine Balance are books meant to to make you face the horror of politics which you'll happily sugarcoat, just to be able to participate and try to ameliorate in some way. But the chokecherry tree on Sethe's back and the castration during Sanjay Gandhi's coercive "family planning" just stop the breath in your lungs.

      Both of these books are absolutely brilliant and absolutely devastating.  

      It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

      by poco on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:30:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have read most of these (8+ / 0-)

      (I have checked my shelf and they are there!), but missed the Rumor Godden and Far Pavillions.  

      I mentioned upthread "The Death of Vishnu" by Manil Suri which I highly recommend.  

      A more recent work that is full of wild satire and very keen observations of India is "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga.

      A nonfiction work by VS Naipaul was quite mesmerizing to me about 10 years ago when I was preparing my first trip to India.  It is called India, A Wounded Civilization .   "An Area of Darkness" was also worthwhile.  He is a fierce critic of modern India, BTW.  

      One of the first works to cast a spell on me was a collection of short stories by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala "Out of India".
      Everyone knows her from her screenplays and collaboration with Merchant-Ivory, but she was married to an Indian professor and  lived most of her adult life in India.  She died last year at age 85.

      Then there is the whole area of fiction about the Raj.  The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott is probably the best known because it formed the basis of "The Jewel in the Crown" , the famous British TV series.

      It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by Radiowalla on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:37:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think I've read most of the titles mentioned -- (5+ / 0-)

    -- I put A Fine Balance at the top of the fiction list.

    I'd like to recommend a documentary film for those of you as mesmerized and horrified by literary India as I am:  Blood Brother

    It's as powerful as anything you've read.

  •  Fabulous review. Thank you. (5+ / 0-)

    I used to be a voracious reader in my youth & as an adult, obsessed with the likes of Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Orwell, & even Rita Mae Brown, but I seem to have given up reading books for many years now. I have been stuck on an unread Dostoevsky that has traveled across continents with me several times, yet I've never gotten past the first 50 pages. I also have a stack of books by Kerouac, Tolstoy, London, & Hemingway on my shelf just waiting to be read.

    I still read, but now I read lots of news & blogs - almost all non-fiction & kids books to my son - even though I don't derive the same pleasure & satisfaction from them as with good fiction.  I miss that feeling yet I can't seem to jump back into fiction or any long form books.  I tried easing back into novels with a short Steinbeck that I had really enjoyed - The Moon is Down - and although I enjoyed it again immensely, it didn't re-ignite my obsession for books.

    Your review tempts me to try Roy, but I thought I'd ask if you/anyone has suggestions on how to rediscover the lost world of books?

    Thank you.

    •  Ah…what a question! (7+ / 0-)

      I have had times in my life when I have been paralyzed with indecision.  One after the other, I pick up books and then put them down.  Weeks can go by and I just can't commit to a book.  My periodicals and blogs are a tremendous distraction as is cable news.  

      My advice, since you asked, would be to put the Dostoyevsky away.  It is not speaking to you.   Pick up something lighter in tone.  Maybe a Willa Cather?  Maybe a novel set in a period or place that you love?  You might look for suggestions in the archives of this Group.  

      Sometimes we fall in and out of love with various writers and genres.  At one point in my life I enjoyed mysteries.  Now I hardly ever read one.  I think you will find your way back to enjoying books but they may not be the same ones as before.

      It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:17:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What wonderful advice (7+ / 0-)

        This happened to me recently when a death in the family played craziness with my ability to concentrate.  I especially could not read substantial, literary fiction, and instead retreated to simple mysteries, lots of dvd watching, etc. because they did not require the type of energy my brain needs when I am involved in a book where you must pay emotional as well as intellectual attention.

        Even a year later, the process has been slower than I expected, but I am slowly beginning to have the desire to tussle with great literature once again.  Brecht's reviews and bookgirl's diaries are part of the inspiration to keep climbing back.

        R.I.P., Amy Winehouse

        by jarbyus on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:51:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, yes. I've been there. (6+ / 0-)

          Grief demands its share of attention.  I remember reading an essay by the mother whose son was killed in the Pan Am terrorist bombing.  He was her only child.  She buried herself in P.G. Wodehouse.  

          It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

          by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:03:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's a pearl of a comment, considering the dark (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest, poco, bookgirl

          grain of sand at the heart of it. I'm sorry for your loss, jarbyus. I have lived just what you say here:

          retreated to simple mysteries, lots of dvd watching, etc. because they did not require the type of energy my brain needs when I am involved in a book where you must pay emotional as well as intellectual attention.
          I won't dwell on my own darkness: it would do no good, and we have each suffered very much alone. But thank you for your last line, and it fulfills me if I have shone a little color into your life.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 04:13:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the reply. I think you're right, it's.. (6+ / 0-)

        ..time to set The Brothers Karamazov free.  I never heard of Willa Cather before, so I guess I should look her up...maybe she'll give me the kick in the pants I need :)

    •  I know how you feel, LizForPrez. I gradually (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Radiowalla, Brecht, LizForPrez, poco, bookgirl

      dropped fiction for non-fiction and just can't get back into it. I recognize that there's much of value to be gained from good fiction, but somehow the history and online current events push it to the bottom of the list.

      I still enjoy a good novel once in a while, but right now I just can't regain the excitement of tackling big books or a series .

    •  I was slow to reply, because I have a whole diary- (7+ / 0-)

      worth to say in response. I will shorten it here. But it is merely the answer I stumbled into accidentally, and probably not one you can or should imitate.

      I grew up in a bookish family, and always read: childhood, teenage, college. Gradually life, jobs, responsibilities got in the way, and less books got finished. Then I found a whole internet full of articles, delicious morsels of info and amusement. Four years ago, I was getting through only a few novels in a year. At most. Then my computer died. Through depression, lack of funds, sheer Luddite perversity, I left it so.

      I had plenty of unread books on my shelves. But it was very hard to get all the way through a novel. Mostly because my attention span was shot. I had become an internet reader. So I'd open a novel, but I'd feel antsy after half an hour. I missed that continual morsel-all-gone satisfaction.

      I went a couple of years before I got another computer (partly waiting for the next generation of iMac). After a few months I could stretch out my mind, and enjoy a few hours in a row of immersive reading. Then I found I was a much better reader than I used to be. Perhaps - as I've sometimes found with video games - just not reading much for a few years allowed me to get better. I like the counter-intuitiveness of that. More likely, decades of life-experience, of reading books and people had wrought a larger, subtler, more focused awareness in me. Or I was at a stage of life where I hungered to swim in books.

      I never used to reread books, because there were so many more books waiting. But, on a whim, I picked up The Great Gatsby, which I'd read as a teenager. I found so much more there, than I'd seen the first time.

      But I can't recommend that you smash your computer, or that you suffer through the life-experiences which prepared me to focus a larger comprehension more intensely on novels. Right now, novels are practically a religious experience for me: that's why I pour so much of myself into these diaries.

      All I can say is approximately what Radiowalla said above this comment: Find books you really love and hunger for; some sunny day, when you have no pressing business on your mind, curl up in a comfortable chair and treat yourself. Were I in your shoes, I'd start with some excellent fantasy, as I love to be swept into a whole nother dimension.

      I hope you get as lucky as I did.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 04:42:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, Brecht. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco, Brecht, bookgirl, Radiowalla, LizForPrez

        You’re right about the shrinking attention span. I’ve gotten used to thinking and working in bite-sized pieces, and reading whole books takes more time than I’m willing to spare these days. Between my job, my new business, and a vast bunch of chores that I’ve already put off far too long, extensive reading feels like a self-indulgent hobby these days.

        And yet I know from experience that many of those books I used to read were very much worth the time and concentration I put into them. I’ll get back to them someday (well, I will if I live to be 95, like my mother!)

        In the meantime it’s fun to see what others are reading and thinking! I’m very grateful to all the fine writers who post their lovely diaries here, and all those who contribute to the wonderful discussions. At least I don't feel quite so much as though I'm living like a hermit in a cave!

        •  We draw a stick figure of the mind, and say either (5+ / 0-)

          it's tall = smart, or it's short = stupid. But the mind has many facets, flows and interwoven parts. IQ is one axis, and quickness of uptake is easy to spot and applaud. But the longer I live, the more I esteem willpower, focus, self-awareness.

          Attention span has so much more effect on what you actually accomplish in the world. But attention span to read a book for pleasure is one small part of it. There's command of your attention so that you can stop worrying about things beyond your control. And there's the smartness I most need to develop: paying attention to your priorities for the next week, and month, and several years.

          Sorry, I drift from your points to my own ruminations.

          Reading novels is not important in the wide world - it is something that may or not be important to any individual. What is important, in terms of attention span and being in charge of your life, is keeping enough focus on your primary needs that you're pushing those balls forward every week. Taking care of what you most need.

          You do what you must do, and you do it well
                                                                                   - Bob Dylan
          I have no idea why, at this place in my life, I need to dive into so many novels, soak them up, and then capture as many of their flavors as I can in essays. It just seems to work for me.

          I'm glad you enjoy the flavors I spread on this market stall. When you eat them up, you do me a favor. I see the clean plate on my stall, and you licking your lips from my snack - and I grow hungry for the chase, so I dive into another lake, looking for my next diary's fish.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 06:58:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps short stories would be more (6+ / 0-)

          suitable for you right now.

          As an omnivore, I'm all for dipping into various genres and styles and lengths to see what suits at the moment.

          You never know when you're going to find the book that is just right at the perfect time. Whenever that happens to me, I'm grateful for such a gift.

          •  Short stories might work better, but, y'know, (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            poco, Radiowalla, Brecht, bookgirl

            I already have these stacks of books waiting! I'm trying (not too successfully) NOT to buy any more! Thanks for the kind suggestion though....

          •  "As an omnivore, I'm all for dipping into various (5+ / 0-)

            genres and styles and lengths . . ."

            It's a funny education we find, writing weekly book diaries. OK, fortnightly, in my case. Still, we dig and dig into plot, character, language . . . and somehow we keep finding more.

            I'm concerned, lest my diaries get too similar, lest I find one furrow that works and just keep plowing it. I'll try to find some new spins on my approach. As for the fields I plow, I'm in this sort of holding pattern of diverse novels.

            But I plan, when autumn comes, to mix it up. Throw in more short story collections, and books of literary criticism. And look further afield: the big Romantic Poets, Shakespeare Plays.

            My Books Go Boom! will always be 50%+ novels, I think. There are just so many things going on in a good novel, so much to look at and touch. It's quite stupendous how there are 88 aspects of reality you can attend to when world-building in a novel - but if you can get any 8 of them about right, that will fill your readers' attention, and they won't notice that you haven't once mentioned, e.g., the weather, meals, fashions or sounds of neighbors. If you find enough vitality to convince yourself of your world, your readers will buy it too (if you're meant to be a novelist).

            But that's just world-building in the frame of a novel. For other planes (of language, thought, feeling, perception) short stories, plays, poems, non-fiction of every stripe offer so many more ways to stretch and understand.

            So let us dig and dig . . . and somehow keep finding more. I like digging in the field next to yours, bookgirl. I study your plants. Sometimes I "borrow" a few seeds, late at night, when the clouds hide the stars. It's okay, you have plenty.

            "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

            by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:04:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  One of the things I enjoy most (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Radiowalla, Brecht, poco, RiveroftheWest

              about your diaries is that you are going where the reading leads you. If it takes a turn toward short stories or a classic or a subset of authors, you're seeking the truth of what is on the page.

              What you say about world-building is interesting as it applies to a genre novel I'm reading now. It's got a layer of steampunk but is basically a thriller with heavy romance elements. (Quite a bit of romance for a spell actually were thrillers with heavy romance elements -- discovering and stopping the villain is at least as important to the story, if not more so, than when the heroine and hero discover their undying devotion to each other.)

              Where this novel is failing is not in the world-building, which is quite involved and vibrant, nor even in the creation of the spunky heroine, but in the plot. The writer has typed herself into a corner and had to do a reset with less than 30 pages to go out of more than 400. My disbelief won't get back up there and be suspended now. To equate it with an old TV show, Bobby just walked out of the shower and the previous season of Dallas was all Pam's dream.

              Anyway, any seeds I have are always there for you to use.

              •  How aggravating that must be. (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                poco, Brecht, bookgirl, RiveroftheWest

                I hate it when a novel comes to a thud at the end.  You have to wonder where in the hell the editor was.   Or maybe it was the editor who pushed for the ending?  Either way, it is such a waste and such a cheat for the reader.  

                It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

                by Radiowalla on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 07:40:46 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I think the big-picture shaping of a novel is one (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest, bookgirl, poco

                of the hardest skills to master. Anyone who adores language can let their purple feelings flow, and achieve some of the linguistic exuberance we find throughout The God of Small Things.

                But it tickles and wows me, the way Roy made an architectural drawing and came up with this fractured timeline/multiple perspective storytelling, that is so deftly woven and intuitively ordered we don't even balk at its piecemeal nature. The ending is pure power and grace. Bloody amazing for a first novel.

                I find something along the lines of:

                The writer has typed herself into a corner and had to do a reset with less than 30 pages to go out of more than 400.
                in a lot of novels.

                "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                by Brecht on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:25:43 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  This seems an appropriate moment (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              poco, Brecht, RiveroftheWest, LizForPrez

              to tell you how much your diaries are appreciated by me!  However you choose to present them, they are invigorating.  
              Whether I know the book in question or have never heard of it, I learn so much from stopping by.  So, thanks, Brecht!

              It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

              by Radiowalla on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 07:44:49 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  What comes around goes around - (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest

                at least, it does with you. Thanks for bringing all your knowledge, experience and opinions on books (and India and everything else) into such fertile comment threads. I always enjoy our conversations, and I keep learning more from you.

                Thank god I discovered R&BLers. For years I mostly hung out in I/P diaries, and had a very different experience of Daily Kos. There's the obvious difference in emotional temperature; but also, I so thrive in this corner of our site, where kossacks really care about words and expressing things creatively and precisely. People who love books have such subtle, complex conversations.

                "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                by Brecht on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:15:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for sharing. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco, Radiowalla, Brecht, RiveroftheWest

        I too have been seduced, conquered, and paralyzed by the Internet and often feel that my attention span is completely wrecked. Obviously, I haven't yet reached that next level where I could "stretch out my mind."

        I really love your suggestion:

        when you have no pressing business on your mind, curl up in a comfortable chair and treat yourself.
        Maybe I'll print it and hang it up on my refrigerator, because it's a great reminder that good books really are a luxury to be savored.

        You certainly should write a whole diary about this.  I'm convinced that there's an massive epidemic of Internet paralysis which really needs to be understood, diagnosed, and treated. So, I would most definitely encourage you to write a diary on the subject, if not starting a whole (internet-based?) support group for it (does Internet-holics Anonymous already exist?). I trust you would write in a thoughtful way which people can use (like your diary & comments here) rather than another throwaway Top 10 list which is often so popular around the internet.  If nothing else, your own escape from its clutches would be encouraging for others like myself.

        In another comment you wrote:

        What is important, in terms of attention span and being in charge of your life, is keeping enough focus on your primary needs that you're pushing those balls forward every week. Taking care of what you most need.
        Perhaps you intended to use the power of suggestion rather than beating us over the head, or maybe I'm just dense, but I read that and immediately equated the two subjects(?) of the sentence, as in, losing attention span is losing control of your own life. Perhaps it's analogous to a milder form of Alzheimer's which might be just as powerful in changing the course of one's life. It certainly feels that way sometimes.

        Anyhow, thanks again and please keep writing.

        •  Life is usually too much happening all at once (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, poco, LizForPrez

          so we fasten onto a few vital plot lines, and otherwise form habits and go with the flow. A necessary compromise to keep our heads above water. Though some days we yearn for the wonder of a child on a summer day, walking out the door and harkening to the loudest yearning of the instant.

          I think attention span is strongly connected to being in charge of your life: we mostly get caught up in the day-to-day living, and don't grab the tiller and set a course for our future. Self-awareness is also key - the whole Serenity, Courage and Wisdom to know the difference prayer. And self-awareness takes some delving into the dark and hidden parts of ourselves, to feel our living needs. Then the hardest part is mustering the Willpower to battle demons, make hard choices, and stick at tasks which aren't rewarding us at the time, but our spirit has faith in.

          So that whole paragraph is just a gloss on a sentence from my previous comment: "the longer I live, the more I esteem willpower, focus, self-awareness."

          I'm pretty sure I'll write a Why I Read Novels diary, many moons from now. It's one that I'd like to get just right, so it will take a lot of thought and craft.

          Thanks for your comments. You really got me thinking.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:31:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The daughter freezing the moth of love in the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, poco, RiveroftheWest, bookgirl

    mother's heart. Was it a moth? It can be frozen a little at a time.

    That is what I keep thinking about

    Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

    by 88kathy on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:46:08 AM PST

    •  It's a powerful image, and Roy haunts us with it (5+ / 0-)

      The moth was originally the one Rahel's grandfather discovered, but didn't get credit for - that left bitter resentment sitting in his heart, which his family paid for.

      "D'you know what happens when you hurt people?" Ammu said. "When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less."

      A cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel's heart. Where its icy legs touched her, she got goosebumps. Six goosebumps on her careless heart.

      A little less her Ammu loved her.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:55:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  How could I have forgotten RK Narayan? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, poco, RiveroftheWest, bookgirl

    Really, I am losing my mind!

    RK Narayan is considered by many to be the father of English-language Indian literature.  He created an imaginary village called Malgudi and wrote dozens of books about the life and travails of its inhabitants.

    They are gentle works, infused with Hindu sensibility, love of nature.  They can be wildly humorous and touchingly sad, all at the same time.  My first encounter with Narayan came with the charming "Painter of Signs" and continued with many titles such as "The Vendor of Sweets" , "The Financial Expert" , ""The Guide".

    Narayan stays clear of the immense social problems of India, does not delve into the seamy side of life.  For this he was derided by VS Naipaul who otherwise admired his craft.  He died in 2001, at age 94.  

    Critics have compared his works to Chekov.  I think that's about right.  

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:11:06 AM PST

    •  I love good books that have their own sense of (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, poco, bookgirl, Radiowalla

      humor; and, as you've inferred by now, I'm always looking for new flavors of fiction. I have perused the half dozen Narayans my library has a few times. I look forward to diving in, one day.

      Following on from the individual humor and an earlier comment of yours, I have A House for Mr. Biswas on my TBR shelf.

      Thanks for bringing so many tasty titles in your comments here, and taking the time to explain them, too. You are a very welcome bee, and I'll make honey from all this pollen.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 04:05:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you ever read "Biswas," (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brecht, RiveroftheWest, poco, bookgirl

        let us know how you like it.  I had it around for years and finally gave it away without ever reading it.  I'm told that it is Naipaul's great masterpiece, but I just have a block on reading his fiction.  I tried A Bend in the River and The Enigma of Arrival and couldn't finish either one.  There is something in his style that just doesn't click with me.  His nonfiction about India, however, is riveting.  Go figure.  

        It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

        by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 05:10:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I will. I read 'A Bend in the River' in college (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, poco, bookgirl, Radiowalla

          (assigned), and enjoyed it. But they say Biswas is bursting with life. It had a lot of his own life (and father) in it; also, I think his ego hardened and he became less flexible as his career advanced. Now he's so pompous it's risible:

          VS Naipaul finds no woman writer his literary match – not even Jane Austen.

          Fair enough, Austen never won a Nobel Prize.

          80% of the books I read are novels. But more and more I'm finding I want to read great authors' non-fiction (whether it be Naipaul on India, Morrison on writing, or Baldwin and Zadie Smith on everything under the sun). Because there you can drink in the refreshment of magnificent prose, without trying to fathom all the layers of some grand design. Toni Morrison's brilliant, but she's always doing so many things; it'd be nice to read something straightforward and linear by her. Mind you, I've heard her last one (Home) is more sparse and direct.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 05:43:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not surprised (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brecht, RiveroftheWest, poco

            about Naipaul's attitude towards Austen.  It is typical of his attitude towards women.  He's like Charles Tansley in "To The Lighthouse" who sneered "Women can't paint, women can't write."

            Maybe one of these days I will try "Biswas" again.  It's hard to pass it by when so many people rave about it.  

            It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

            by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:23:35 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  One drawback of perpetually growing TBR lists is, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest, poco

              anything that makes me less than sure of a title becomes disqualifying - or at least, greatly postponing. I rarely give them away, as you did with Biswas, but I sure neglect a lot of them.

              Did you ever open Biswas, and try the first page? Or did it just never call your name quite loud enough?

              Well, if I get there first, I'll tell you all about it.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:11:38 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  No, I gave it a try. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                poco, Brecht, RiveroftheWest

                On several occasions, I read the first few pages and then stopped.  His style just didn't beckon me and, frankly, I think I was daunted by the commitment of actually choosing the book.  It is close to 600 pages.  I was glad to get it off my shelf so it wouldn't scold me as I walked by.  

                It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

                by Radiowalla on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 07:49:59 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  "I was glad to get it off my shelf so it wouldn't (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Radiowalla, RiveroftheWest, poco

                  scold me as I walked by." Ha ha.

                  I know what you mean about the commitment of several hundred page books - especially since I want to finish and then diary most of the books I read. I could hardly justify reading a 600 page book if I didn't get a diary out of it.

                  "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                  by Brecht on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:05:15 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

        •  I loved, loved "Biswas." I really think it is a (4+ / 0-)

          great book, and as Brecht says, deals with some events in Naipaul's own life. It is caustic and tender, mordant and hopeful, with characters bursting with life. It has been years since I read it, but I still remember the scene where an Indian salesgirl gives black stockings to an Afro-Caribbeaan woman customer who had asked for "nude" or was it "skin-color?" stockings. The salesgirl gave it to her with a smirk, and the customer exploded with outrage. It was a very funny scene but also rife with undercurrents of various forms of oppression and racism.

          I have never liked any of his other novels, and in that I totally agree with you. But, I find his non-fiction almost unreadable for all his Islamophobia and his pucca sahib contempt for the third world. In fact, and I know you will completely disagree with this, Radiowalla, but Naipaul's non-fiction arouses nothing but contempt--he is racist and casteist and communalist in the worst way.


          In "At Last," a scathing poem about Naipaul published in the 1976 collection Sea Grapes, fellow Nobel laureate Derek Walcott wrote, "You spit on your people,/ your people applaud,/ your former oppressors laurel you./ The thorns biting your forehead / are contempt/ disguised as concern."

          More recently, in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, Edward Said reviewed Naipaul's second book about Islam, Beyond Belief, and dismissed the writer as "a man of the Third World who sends back dispatches from the Third World to an implied audience of disenchanted Western liberals who can never hear bad enough things about all the Third World myths--national liberation movements, revolutionary goals, the evils of colonialism--which in Naipaul's opinion do nothing to explain the sorry state of African and Asian countries who are sinking under poverty, native impotence, badly learned, unabsorbed Western ideas like industrialization and modernization."

          It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

          by poco on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 06:37:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, I don't disagree with your assessment of his (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brecht, RiveroftheWest, poco

            attitudes.  In later years, he became really irrational about certain topics, particularly the Hindu-Muslim divide and wrote with much contempt for Muslims.    The nonfiction I was referring to were the books he wrote about his first discovery of India.  Because he was so thoroughly Western in his education and his mindset, his arrival as an adult in his ancestral homeland was fraught with shock and full of contradictions.   I have never read, nor would ever read,  any of his books on Islam.  
            I really didn't know much about him when I first read "India: a Wounded Civilization."  It did help me identify a few of the many cultural dissonances that I was soon to confront myself.

            As the years went by, Naipaul became an even nastier man.  He was a first-class misogynist and very ill-tempered.  I don't believe he has many friends.  He had a famous falling out with Paul Theroux who wrote a pay-back memoir about him.  

            So, no, I don't admire Naipaul, but his books on discovering India were eye-openers.  

            It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

            by Radiowalla on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 09:16:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  great book (6+ / 0-)

    i donated mine to our local library and kind of regret it.but i can always pick up a used copy.

    In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

    by lippythelion69 on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 11:31:54 AM PST

    •  I get most of my reading out of the Santa Monica (5+ / 0-)

      Public Library these days, primarily because my bookshelves are already full. I have many books and DVDs which I bought to enjoy, but will never get around to a second time. Makes me feel materialist, spoiled and foolish.

      I'm sure I'll get a Kindle eventually. But the SMPL is very well-stocked, and I feel like part of the community patronizing it. And nowadays, when I do treat myself to a new book, it's more of a special occasion.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 04:00:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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