Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid

Date Published: November 27, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 252
Source: Review Copy provided by Random House India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis:¬†From ‚Äúone of his generation‚Äôs most inventive and gifted writers‚ÄĚ (The New York Times) , intimate and sharply observed commentary on life, art, politics, and ‚Äúthe war on terror.‚ÄĚ

Mohsin Hamid‚Äôs brilliant, moving, and extraordinarily clever novels have not only made him an international bestseller, they have earned him a reputation as a ‚Äúmaster critic of the modern global condition‚ÄĚ (Foreign Policy). His stories are at once timeless and of-the-moment, and his themes are universal: love, language, ambition, power, corruption, religion, family, identity. Here he explores this terrain from a different angle in essays that deftly counterpoise the personal and the political, and are shot through with the same passion, imagination, and breathtaking shifts of perspective that gives his fiction its unmistakable electric charge.

A ‚Äúwater lily‚ÄĚ who has called three countries on three continents his home‚ÄĒPakistan, the birthplace to which he returned as a young father; the United States, where he spent his childhood and young adulthood; and Britain, where he married and became a citizen‚ÄĒHamid writes about overlapping worlds with fluidity and penetrating insight. Whether he is discussing courtship rituals or pop culture, drones or the rhythms of daily life in an extended family compound, he transports us beyond the scarifying headlines of an anxious West and a volatile East, beyond stereotype and assumption, and helps to bring a dazzling diverse global culture within emotional and intellectual reach.

Buy it here –¬†Amazon India¬†| Flipkart |¬†Amazon US¬†| The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: To tell the truth, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was because the author was famous for having written The Reluctant Fundamentalist which went on to become a major motion picture. Otherwise, a book with a title like that would have been easily glossed over.

The book has been divided by essays into three parts – Life, Art and Politics. It’s difficult to choose which part I liked the most. But yes, I found the first two parts more easy to read and interesting while the final one was heavy and dry on the palate.

I liked the way the essays have been structured. It starts with giving us a glimpse into the author’s life which makes it easier to appreciate what comes later on. We see the world through his eyes and experiences and it lends itself a different voice than the world might see from their side of the spider’s web.

The author’s journey through his career changes, his personal life and travel within the three countries makes for an interesting narrative. In seeing the world-view through his eyes, one finds oneself wondering at the objectivity and its absence in all things meaningful.

The essays in the Art section also made for a gripping read. With my interest in all things related to books, I could identify where the author was coming from. His essays about rereading books, likeable characters, Murakami, great American novel and the change of reading experience through ebooks found a resonance within me. They made for a page turning read.

Let me now talk about the Politics section. Frankly, I have zero knowledge and/or interest in politics. But every so often, with the help of books like these, I try to keep myself abreast of the goings-on in the world. And that’s precisely where this section stepped in. The essays give a plethora of events to think about, to reflect upon. Looking at the drones and war from an insider’s perspective lends it an air of honesty and raw brutalism that makes one shudder. It’s easy to read about it in the news than to hear someone who has been through it and knows the ins and outs. It would be easier to side with the US on its drones and air strikes when its labelled as a fight with terrorism but when you hear it from the horse’s mouth do you realise it carries within it so much more than just that. The essays give a refreshing albeit¬†heart rending stance to the whole situation. Frankly, it was difficult to go through it. It was unsettling¬†and as is easier, one tends to pass by what is uncomfortable or¬†evokes disturbing emotions. But I needed to know the bird’s eye view of things and not just what the newspapers tell me and hence I read it, every single word of it. It didn’t help settle my perturbed emotions but surely helped me realize that one can never see the panorama from just one side. And now that I have touched on the philosophical, let me give it a rest. And you go read the book.

Highly influential and well-written. Would definitely be trying the author again.

4/5 stars РI liked it. 4 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)

Huge thanks to Random House India for providing the review copy.

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The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Date Published: April 5, 2014
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 337
Source: Local Library
Format: Hardback

Goodreads Synopsis:¬†Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

Buy it here –Amazon India | Flipkart |¬†Amazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: The author’s ‘The statistical probability of love at first sight‘ has been on my to-read list since forever. In fact, I think it has been more than 2 years since I bought it but I still need to get to it. But surprisingly when I saw this one sitting on a library shelf, I decided to read this one first. You know how it goes, you borrow books from library and they are the ones actually getting read while the ones on your own shelf sulk away. Oh, well.

As usual, I went in this book blind, no back cover reads, no reviews gone through. Just straight dunk-in. So what did I find? To begin with, I had a feeling this might be getting somewhere but then after another few pages, I thought maybe not. This seems like one of those cliche’d, been there-done that read.

I truly found love for this book in the second half. I can see you nodding your head there. You know me too well, don’t you? Wherever travel comes in a book, I am all for it. And I gobble it up like it’s my very favorite food. Well, actually, it is! Even though I would have wanted some more of that travelling and descriptions but I realized the book wasn’t about that.

As I go through some of the reviews now, I realize a lot of people didn’t like this one for it being cheesy and cliche’d and almost unbelievable. Okay, I would agree it is a bit cheesy and cliche’d and unbelievable. But then isn’t this what books are for? Sometimes life doesn’t give you what a book does. You get to believe and hope and make those dreams¬†come true. That’s not heard of in real life. And that’s what got to me. It’s what made me love this book. The little thoughts, the similar thinking styles of the main characters. That’s not possible, I know! But still I loved it. I gorged on it¬†like anything. It gave me my breath of air, my unfulfilled dream came to fruition. Umm, okay, I know you are thinking I have probably lost it by this time.

Some of the writing in there is truly worth savoring and I read few sentences multiple time just to let all that beauty sink in.

Perhaps it could be the stage of my life from where I’m looking at it that this book makes absolute sense. It makes me see how this book is believable, how it can happen. It makes me want to fall in love and stay there, even at a distance but still in love. Ahh, the feeling.

I think Ms. Smith has given us a fresh concept albeit with the help of some cliche’d story line and instances. I believe this is one of those books that had it come at any other time, I might have given it a pass and commented on it being cheesy but right now, it means the world. It means everything. And someday I would like to send that postcard and ‘wish you were here’.

4/5 stars РI really liked it. 4 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)