A Fine Balance — Rohinton Mistry

Song of the Day: ‘Ma jeunesse fout le camp’ by Françoise Hardy

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Some time last autumn, we were walking around uptown Whittier (one of those little towns sprawled across Southern California, one drives by but hardly ever visits) and happened upon a second-hand bookstore. It was such a cute little shop, the books on the shelves haphazardly arranged into some form of an ordering semblance. I found the entire place quite charming. Anyhow, browsing about and wondering what to get — it’s almost second nature, I walk into a bookstore and I have to buy a book — one of my friends suggested A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. ‘You’ll love it A.!,’ he said. ‘It’s a wonderfully written human story.’ I wanted to ask if other books weren’t human stories but decided that it was best to not start that debate.

Months later, looking for a new read, I found the book under a pile of other yet-to-be-read books. And in hindsight, I’m glad that I made that choice. I must admit, though, that the density of the book combined with Mistry’s style of writing meant that I took my sweet time reading this book. There was just so much to take in.

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The Metamorphosis — Franz Kafka

Song of the Day: ‘I Feel So Smoochie’ by Kurt Elling

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“A novella about a man who finds himself transformed into a huge insect, and the effects of this change upon his life.” That was the summary on the back of the copy of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka I recently checked out from the library to read for the purpose of this review. Now with a summary such as that, I can hardly see why one would pick up such a book in the first place. However, I read this book years ago, actually a few months before I read Nikolai Gogol’s short story, The Nose, and at the time I was struck by the similarities of both, and was left wondering why two men, a century apart were both fascinated by the idea of a man transforming into something less than human: one into a giant bug, the other reduced to a nose.

Our protagonist, Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he’s become a near human-sized beetle (probably of the scarab family, if his household’s charwoman is to be believed), and not a particularly robust specimen at that. His reaction is understandable. He is confused, bemused, and thinks that it’s a momentary delusion that will soon dissipate.

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Five Fascinating Facts about George Orwell’s 1984

1984 by George Orwell has always been one of my favourite books. A wonderful post full of little gems by “Interesting Literature”. Quite an enjoyable read.

Interesting Literature

1. George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on this day, 8 June, in 1949. But this wasn’t the original title of the novel. According to the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, Orwell initially planned to set the novel in 1980; this then became 1982, and finally 1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the title is usually rendered).

Orwell12. Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room in BBC Broadcasting House. In this room, during the Second World War, he had to sit through tedious meetings when he worked for the Ministry of Information. Indeed, the Ministry also served as the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth, where the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works. ‘Room 101’ has, of course, entered wider linguistic use as a term for something containing one’s pet hates or worst fears. Although the novel also popularised the terms ‘thoughtcrime’ and ‘thought police’, these…

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Post-Modernism – Wriggling in the Crushing Grip of Reason

Song of the Day: ‘Across the Universe’ by The Beatles

‘Postmodern art’ – Calvin and Hobbes (By Bill Watterson)’

There are some conversation staples that almost always occur. Minus the weather, politics, pseudo-economics, pseudo-philosophy, words such as ‘existentialist’ and ‘post-modern’ will find their way into even the most mundane conversation. The scenarios, the definitions, the examples, and even the concepts themselves are never cohesive.  Sure enough, before you know it that very mundane conversation has evolved into a passionate diatribe about nothing of substance and everything of fluff. Continue reading “Post-Modernism – Wriggling in the Crushing Grip of Reason”

Sometimes … Literature ≥ Philosophy

Song of the Day: ‘Down on you’ by Dems

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There are parallels to be found in so many fields, and literature and philosophy are not any different. There is a dialogue between literary and philosophical studies. That is, there is always a constant source of fresh, stimulating ideas in the aesthetics of literature, theory of criticism, philosophical interpretation of literature, and the literary treatment of philosophy. Great literature is often deeply philosophical, and great philosophy is often great literature, sometimes in the form of fictional narrative. Perhaps we can learn many of the same lessons from philosophy and literature. Continue reading “Sometimes … Literature ≥ Philosophy”