Slightly late but continuing the post about 10 best reads I have come across.
6. Anything written by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is like the God of fiction for me right now. His writing is very unusual, magical, but all the same ring true. For example, a rain of fish in Kafka on the Shore seemed like the most natural thing to happen. I encountered Murakami thanks to a review of his by a Tibetian writer whose name I forgot. For a long time, I didn’t know if I should get a Murakami at all because I couldn’t determine if I loved the review or the recommended book more. Anyway, I took a chance with Norwegian Wood and there has been no looking back. Norwegian Wood is one of the most lyrical books about growing up and accepting loss. After NW, I read his other more fantastic works. To read Murakami is lose yourself in a landscape of an unpredictable science-fiction with philosphical overtones. There is an intuitive logic to the seemingly out-of-the-world experiences his characters undergo. My favourite remains Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I can never forget the unicorn skulls that contain dreams in the other world that he described. He actually created the profession of dreamreading in the other world!
7. Isaac Adamson’s The Billy Chaka series. Adamson admits Murakami among other writers influenced him a lot. To me, where I first encounter a book leaves a lasting impression. On one of my more generous days I offered to buy my brother anybook he liked. He picked up this book called The Hokkaido Popsicle by Isaac Adamson. The neon green cover with a funky guitar and Oriental charaters reminded me of Manga (Japanese comics). On reading it, I realised what a find it was. The Hokkaido Popsicle, I later found out was Book 2 in the series. Book 1 Tokyo Suckerpunch and Book 3 Dreaming Pachinko were found at a sale in the neighbourhood bookstore. Book 4 Kinki Lullaby is yet to reach India. All of them bear the same stamp of the writer – an erratic but lethal mix of martial art movies, manga, detective fiction, especially the Sam Spade-ish character, the lone detective at loggerheads with the law himself but excellent with cases which are very exotic because it happens in Tokyo both during the business days and neon nights. Most of the time, Billy Chaka, the detective and lead protagonist gets into trouble for his unique investigation methods and a rather odd set of friends who include fisherman warrior poets, one armed wrestlers, incredibly stupid but gargatuan twin bodyguards, dangerous and charismatic Geishas, recluse cult filmmakers who turn up dead, and many other characters that you thought were too fantastic to be inside a book. Reading Adamson’s books open up your mind the way hallucinogenic drugs do but legally.
8. Pablo Neruda’s poetry. Neruda came quite late into my life. But I am glad he did come at all. I kind of knew that Neruda was like a great poet when I was growing up but to come face to face with greatness was something else altogether. I must admit I haven’t read everything that Neruda wrote but to me – romantic that I am – his love poems appeal the most. I can read his poems again and again and would love to read them out to someone in the future. The poems ooze beauty and have a rare soul that not many poems evoke in the reader. Reading Neruda is like getting lucky with lottery albeit a poetry one.
9. Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Biswas. Way back in college this was one of the books prescribed on the syllabus. Now, usually any book prescribed on the syllabus has to be shunned. But this one was an exception. The story certainly was. The author Arun Joshi was one of those unrecognised genuises. The story of Billy Biswas who goes to America to ostensibly to study medicine but shifts over to anthropology without the knowledge of his family. After 4 years he is a changed man; he comes back home only to himself a misfit with nothing to look forward to. His anthropology background leaves him unprepared to earn a living in India. On a trip to a forest, he is strangely attracted towards a certain tribe. Soon after, he goes missing leaving his wife and family. Years later some people find him but he has by then become a tribal himself. I found this novel to be a very different. The idea of going ahead and doing what you want to do despite of family and soceity opposition appealed to me then and even does now. Beyond that, the theme to me was a human being looking for himself and his identity. So what if he found it in the middle of the forest far away from civilization?
10. Vikram Seth’s writing. I say Vikram Seth’s writing because almost ALL what he has written has appealed incredibly to me. I mean his prose and verse. I know I have raved about A Suitable Boy before but I’m saying it again: Seth is great. I have read his travelogue, his poetry, and even tried writing something on those lines. I haven’t read Two Lives yet but I hope to soon.Seth’s classicism is very old-school and yet it feels incredibly post-modern. He can be very witty and amazingly sophisticated with his writing. To read Seth is to constantly challenge your ideas about everything. And he does that without lapsing into fantasy. He glides into genres like some literary Superman and works his magic in it. And best of all he can laugh at himself. In A Suitable Boy, he created one character who was just like him: Amit Chatterji the poet and one of the suitors. It’s difficult to think that he is Mathematics student who left his Ph.D midway to write. Well, thank god he did! The world is richer for it.
That’s it! My completed list. This is not a tag but if any of you want to list your favourites, go ahead.