Monday, March 06, 2006
Don't even want to think about my work right now. Badly need a break. So, till the time I am finally able to take that break that I've been promising myself (going to the Himalyas for a week and doing nothing except reading and drinking), I think it is a good idea to try and keep writing. One of the best stress-busters I know of! So, what should I write about? In her comment a couple of weeks ago in response to the list of my favorite movies, AFJ had suggested that I write about my books. Now I don't usually write about them, because I think books are a very personal subject, much more so than movies for example. But I think I'll write something nonetheless, hopefully writing about my love will make my mood lighter! Let me tell you about my affair with the fantasy genre. Read on...
Long years ago, in a galaxy far far away...I read my first comic. It must have been a Phantom or a Mandrake, though I obviously don't remember which comic it was, but definitely Indrajal! Went on to discover other superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman and He-Man(him through TV, not books)! This, I believe, was the foundation stone of this affair which has lasted a lifetime! Unlike other kids my age, I did not graduate to Enid Blyton after that (unfortunately, since I discovered the joy of reading Blyton many years late), but moved straight to Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew and Co. The next few years were spent in reading classics and thrillers and stuff. Also, the fantasy genre was not that popular in those days, and so I was never exposed to classics like Lord Of The Rings. An exception was CS Lewis - I got 'The Magician's Nephew' of the Chronicles of Narnia as a prize in school (I came first in Class IVth, I am ashamed to admit), and fell head-over-heels in love with it. It became my dream to get my hands on all other books in the series. Two factors were a hindrance to this: No access to a bookshop which had those, and more importantly, no money! So, I suppressed my desire and kept on reading whatever I could borrow from my friends, from the school library, or the Delhi Public Library, of which I was a member.
Anyways, to cut an already long story short, once I reached the stage where I had access to book-shops, and had the money, and the time, I went berserk, and actively started collecting books from this genre. Some of these, which are extremely close to my heart, are:
Harry Potter - The complete series: 'The boy who lived' was already a global phenomenon by the time I discovered him in early 2001. I generally avoid books/movies with too much hype around them, so I started reading The Philosopher's Stone with a certain amount of scepticism. But boy, was I in for a surprise or what! A compelling story of good vs. evil, set in a magical world, with characters you can relate to, and great take-outs like fidelity, bravery, integrity, and most importantly - FUN!
Lord Of The Rings: As the great Lord Budhha said, "The English speaking world is divided into two halves - those who have read the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and those who are going to read them." Its as cult as cult can be in this genre. Again, an extremely simple story of good vs. evil, and heroes who do not have extraordinary superpowers, but have their own weaknesses and chinks in their armour. But when it comes to the crunch, they stand up for what is right!
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy: Discovered it quite late, around an year ago. Had read a lot about Pullman, but never came across it. One day at Crossword, it almost literally fell into my lap... and is still there! In terms of take-outs from a book, this is probably the book that has influenced me the most, after 'Godfather'! A story of friendship, of the ills of organized religion, of love, of doing what one believes in.
The Hitchihiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The entry on earth in this freaked out masterpiece has two words : Mostly Harmless. The answer to the ultimate question on The Life, the Universe, and Everything is: 42! Need I say more about this classic?
The Chronicles of Narnia: Finally bought all the 7 books around 2.5 years ago in Bangalore. That was when I was finally able to read the other 6 books, including The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. A magical world, with a strongly Christian message according to critics, including Pullman. But if we do not get into all that mess, it is still an extremely feel-good and magical series, and if Good-will-finally-triumph-over-evil is a religious message, why should I have any issues with it?
The Bartimaeus Trilogy: Jonathan Stroud's trilogy about a djini called Bartiameus, and his master 'Nathaniel'. A book that speaks volumes about the dangers of an elite aristocracy(in this case - magicians) ruling the ordinary citizens.
Ashok Banker's Ramayana: For those who have not yet tried reading this, my sincere recommendation - pls read the 1st 10 pages of the 1st book in the series. A story that we've all read when we were young, we've seen it on TV, but this version actually leaves one speechless. Banker attempts a feat which seems stupid and impossible, but succeeds against all odds. Brilliant storytelling, makes the world of that era come alive, in a way which we never thought possible.
Artemis Fowl - The Series: Eoin Colfer's rogue Hero Artemis Fowl is a criminal mastermind, having inherited his father's crime empire at the age of 12. Imagine a 'hero' for whom stealing paintings, money, fairy technology...is a passion, not just business. But deep underneath, he has a heart! Reminds you of someone? Yup, Bollywood heroes have been like this for a long time now, so you know why I love this series!
The Gameworld Trilogy: I bought the first part of this trilogy (The Simoquin Prophecies) when I read that its author - Samit Basu, wrote it at the age of 23, and dropped out of IIM-A to write it. I somehow felt that it was my duty to supprt him, so bought the book without too many expectations (My experience with Indian authors hasn't been too great, but that's another story). But I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer madness of the book, and how, despite being inspired by many sources including The Ramayana, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and even The Matrix, this was still an original work. Just finished reading The Manticore's Secret (part 2 of the trilogy), and found that it was much more evolved than the first part... and equally great fun.
Besides this, there is a lot of stuff that I keep on buying and stashing away - like Eragon, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel, The Lightening Thief, Inkheart, works by Tom Holt...
Sometimes, I start wondering if reading so much fantasy stuff means that I am an escapist, and want to turn my back to reality? Then, I stop thinking and get lost in this magical world, a world where good triumphs over evil despite all odds, a world where qualities like integrity and honesty are not extinct yet, a world where I can believe for some time that the basic goodness of human nature will always come out tops!
May the Force be with you.
p.s. Phew! Finally wrote, and a loooooong one at that. I told you its a good idea to write about books, even though it took me 6 hours (with long breaks ) to complete this novella!
Before my school going cousin told me about Harry Potter (this was before the first movie was made) I did not knw that he existed!! :(
Excellent post! One of your best, I'd say.
Rita: As is apparent, I am bigtime into it, though not as much as I would like to be. Wish I had more time...
AFJ: I know you can relate to this post more than most, being a fantasy freak yourself. And what if people think we are crazy? This life is ours to live the way we want to, I am certainly not going to change my reading habits to suit the tastes of the so-called 'mature adults'!
And btw, thanks for suggesting that I write about books :-)
lazy leo: Yup, Mr. Potter and his adventures are extremely addictive. Such is the power of the written word, when used by a great story-teller!
Out of your list, i have just tried Harry Potter and after reading the first book, it didnt take much time to finish off the series and now i m waiting for the next book to come.
But after reading your list, i guess i would love to check out the rest of them but the issue is that in Japan, they dont sell much of "English books". So i guess i ll have to wait for some more time to get my hands on this stuff.