There was a nice spread of books at the BYOB Party in May.
Akshay talked about Rushdie’s magical realism in Haroun and the Sea of Stories. To enjoy Rushdie’s writing, a minimal understanding of political and social realities is a must. He uses magical realism to present controversial ideas. “There was a wave of magical realism in India in the 80s and 90s,” Abhaya said. “Rushdie was for magical realism the way Chetan Bhagat was for the campus novel. He started a trend and he was by far the most successful.”
Haroun and the Sea of Stories is about a professional storyteller called Rashid who lives in the saddest of cities. There are a great many stories and diverse characters. For lovers of this genre, the book is a treat.
Vishal found Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate riveting. It’s a book written entirely in verse- 690 sonnets, in fact, with the rhyming scheme a-b-a-b-c-c-d-d-e-f-f-e-g-g. The story revolves around John, a Silicon Valley exec; Janet, an artist and musician; Ed, a character confused by religion; and Phil, a scientist. The story deals with love, homosexuality, anti-nuclear protests, and don’t forget personal ads- one of which Vishal read out.
Vishal gifted the book to a friend who was leaving to San Francisco. In fact, the book resonates more with those who live in that part of the world. Jaya found the verses a little hard to digest and an idea popped up about whether a prose version of the book would make the book more appealing to those who could not read the entire book in verse.
Books in verse are not new. The epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayan, the Illiad and Odyssey and many others were all originally in verse. Reading the poetry version is always better than reading the prosaic version, some readers opined. Metaphorical meanings will be lost otherwise. Another book by Vikram Seth that reflects his expertise poetry is An Equal Music, not to mention the Table of contents in verse form in A Suitable Boy.
More books in Part 2.