25 Nisan 2016 Pazartesi

Book Review X: The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

Goodreads on the Book:

The Illicit Happiness of Other PeopleOusep Chacko, journalist and failed novelist, prides himself on being “the last of the real men.” This includes waking neighbors upon returning late from the pub. His wife Mariamma stretches their money, raises their two boys, and, in her spare time, gleefully fantasizes about Ousep dying. One day, their seemingly happy seventeen-year-old son Unni—an obsessed comic-book artist—falls from the balcony, leaving them to wonder whether it was an accident. Three years later, Ousep receives a package that sends him searching for the answer, hounding his son’s former friends, attending a cartoonists’ meeting, and even accosting a famous neurosurgeon. Meanwhile, younger son Thoma, missing his brother, falls head over heels for the much older girl who befriended them both. Haughty and beautiful, she has her own secrets. The Illicit Happiness of Other People—a smart, wry, and poignant novel—teases you with its mystery, philosophy, and unlikely love story.

My review:

A very surprising and unputdownable book…
I was not very sure to read it for a while just because I did not want to dig in a mysterious case of a suicide of a boy. You know that subject is not the best one to read nowadays… Frankly speaking, the fact that I run out of my English written books last week gave me the primary reason to read it and once I started reading it, I got amazed with the book and the style of the writer to tell the story. I just caught me at the very beginning and never left until the last page.
It is not necessarily about the specific reasons for the death of a boy. It is a comprehensive study of abnormal psychological conditions of people that change lives even end them. Thanks to the fact that writer is very much well prepared to make an in-depth psychological analysis of his characters, the book provides readers fascinating story in which anyone could find something similar from his own observation of others or even from himself/herself. Psychological matters discussed in the book are not only about life and death but also about fear, expectations, striving for success, sexuality, social taboos etc. So, I consider that the writer dwells upon psychology matters within the main plot very successfully.
The book provides the readers with a lot of references to the philosophy as well. To illustrate, those who are interested in discourses of Ludwig Wittgenstein may remember his consideration of the language as a limitation. He famously quoted that “the limits of my language means the limits of my world”.  Similarly, the book make some bold statements about the limitations of the language when trying to discover the delusions of the main characters.  
Last but not least, readers find very interesting pieces of information about the life in India, culture, social relations, family affairs and struggle of students and obsession about math.

After all, well written indeed. Go and read it without any hesitation…

22 Mart 2016 Salı

Book Review IX: Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Goodreads on the Book:

Cat's Cradle by Kurt VonnegutTold with deadpan humour & bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon &, worse still, surviving it ...
Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding 'fathers' of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he's the inventor of 'ice-nine', a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three ecentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker's Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh...

My review:

The book starts with a reference to Jonah from Bible and the way it is told presents a parallelism with Ishmael of Moby Dick. The book start with saying Jonah is forced to stay in certain place at certain times. A satire of religion, not necessarily specific to Christianity but all religions, makes up the main plot of the book which, in turn, comes up with its self-created religion namely Bokononism. The book repeatedly brings sarcastic criticism to the alleged lies of religion(s) by a high level of absurdity of Bokononism. Factitious religion is composed of its own rules, principles and terms organized in several books makes the reader feel like reading a religious book but gives the impression that religions only makes people feel better in unscientific teachings. The image of Bokonon and references of its self-claimed teachings mock the search for truth in this life. In this context, conversion of the main character from Christianity to Bokononism is an interesting (sub)plot for the readers.

On the other side of the coin, it is a scientific fiction that introduced the element of ice-nine and invention of atomic bomb. One should be evaluating the book by taking into account of the fact that it was written in early 60s when the tension of Cold War allegedly reached its peak during Cuban crisis. It includes some references to the well-known approaches of the US foreign policies and spying of USSR. However, writer does presents his criticism to politics and the roots of Cold War in an otherworldly plot while devoting some meaninglessness to them. The reader needs to pay attention to the scene that Dr Felix Hoenikker, the inventor of the atomic bomb, was making a cats’ cradle when it was dropped in Japan. It highlights some arbitrariness in life but also involves an ironic view of high politics and pointlessness of some coincidences. From this perspective, the reason behind selecting Cat’s Cradle as the name of the book becomes more striking.

Furthermore, the relation between politics and religion in the country of San Lorenzo with full of absurdities provides a strong ground for the writer to bring forward some bitter criticism of politics and religion that plays the roles of the good and the evil in the vicious circle of lies. It also has a reference the Holocoust while referring to one of the doctors in the book.

Overall, it is a book of criticism of politics, religion and some human behaviors linked to this context. The strongest part of the book is the power of the writer in using a continuous satirical and ironic approach that make the reader to keep reading whether like or dislike it. The readers needs to be aware of the fact that the book says nothing in this book is really true. However, I found an interesting truth which the Bokononism refers in his utopia of Republic; "Let us start our Republic with a chain of drug stores, a chain of grocery stores, a chain of gas chambers, and a national game. After that, we can write our Constitution”. Brilliant mockery and well done indeed.

The question remains for me whether I like it or not. Frankly speaking, I would prefer to read it in an enlightenment class rather than reading it in the middle of drudgery of daily life. So, that was a strong advice as well.