Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Metroland and How I read


I bought this book on a whim around a year ago from Blossoms.

My reading is dictated more by my guts than grapevine for the simple reason that I started doing some serious reading only after college. In college, we exchanged the odd copies of Ayn Rand and Godfather and rarely went beyond that. I dabbled with Tushdie, Marquez but that was it.

The eyeopener was a course I undertook on modern literature under Neelkanthan that introduced me to Joyce, Woolf, Fitzgerald and Saul Bellow.

But the real push came from Tarun; if a mighty heave off the cliff of ignorance can be called that.

But still as work separated us and even our tastes started diverging just that very little bit, I have had to rely more and more on my instincts and the odd reviews. I had the phase where I read everything I could lay my hands on about Holocaust, the Ishigoru omnibus and anything in the top10 of either the NY or NDelhi. The only cases of indigestion have been the Chetan Bhagats and the (Very) Mediocre but (very) arrogant.

So coming back to Metroland, isn't it wonderful how books like apples just ripen for you at the right time? One year ago, I tried to read the book by force but couldn't go beyond 3-4 pages in an hour of the struggle of the will against timing. yesterday, I picked the book again and reall all but the last 30 odd pages in the space of 3 hours.

Metroland is a delightful discovery: delving into the childhood and adoloscence of an intelligent being. Intelligence to the point of insolence. I think that's why I disliked the book at first attempt - my own insecure, underachieving and far-from-satisfying childhood made me resent the smugness of the author and Toni.

Nishith loves to say "You can either be meaningful or relevant"

To explore this phrase, Chetan Bhagat is relevant, Upamanyu Chatterji is meaningful. The greatest work spans both - Catcher in the Rye, To killing a Mocking Bird, Shame, Midnight's Children, Tin Drum...

Further, Pawan says that a book should have quotable quotes. More than literally, he means that there should be that odd line that catapults your reading experience to a catharsis or epiphany or, at least, a happy sigh.

Metroland does that while remaining incredibly funny.

It does not have the emotional pull of Of Human Bondage or even a Dickensian childhood, but it is full of clever insights nevertheless. In fact ,a portion of the text where the author tries his first "position" actually brought tears to my eyes from laughter (I think the first author to do taht to me since Thurber).

Sample one of those- I just turn to a random page and quote -
"Still, the larger the question, more the naive it always sounds"
and the SST measure of the desirability for a girl - Soul Suffering... Tits


I think ultimately why I still won't classify this as a great book is this - this is not an out and out humor like Thurber. Hence, though it makes me laugh, want to salute the author for passages of clever insights and an overall crisp style, It does not make me empathize that much.

3 comments:

The Darkling Thrush said...

doesn't enjoying a book, by itself, qualify for a good read?

quotables or not.

me thinks if a moving image popped in your head while reading, that's good enough.

and i totally agree with the whimsical buying. nothing like discovering strange things.

books are lovely things. and rediscovering them is something else.

Bland Spice said...

hmmm

quotables, perhaps. but i am still thinking about the meaningful or relevant... enjoying a book might imply taht there is some meaning or relevance taht you can identify with there.

thinking...

rama said...

Hi, I read Metroland in 1983. I was living in London, and it helped me to sense so many things still embedded in the city's environment and life. Another phrase I remember from the book is - "the cigarette after"!