One of every kind

Having read the responses of The BikeProf and Danielle (again!), I was tempted to answer the ten questions posed in the One Book Meme. I tried going as far back in the tagging tree as possible to get book recommendations. I wasn’t tagged, but I’ll put in my two (or ten) cents anyway! Here are my answers:

  1. One book that changed your life: Carl Sagan’s Cosmos was the book that changed the way I looked at science. Luckily, I was reading it at just the right time – during my final higher secondary school examinations. Sagan’s rare amalgam of skepticism and wonder about the universe, its secrets, and the people who have tried to decipher them through the ages, was an eye-opener for me. I dreamt of meeting Sagan if I ever got the chance to go to the US, but that was not to be. Sagan died three years before I first arrived here for my studies. In 2001, I watched video tapes of the TV show Cosmos and lived it all over again.
  2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. When one is in the late teens, there are few books that can make as strong an impact as this one. I still like to read the book in spite of its huge size and its incredibly long monologues, but it does not have the runaway impact on me any more. The philosophy is so problematic and the characters in the novel are so idealized that I cannot apply them in my daily life.
  3. One book you’d want on a desert island: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. If one is marooned with nothing to do, one might as well take something that is going to last long and be enjoyable. I spent two placid summer months reading this, to the great detriment of my research. I loved the characters because they became real as the book progressed. I can identify with them, their manners, their cities, their trains, their joys, their anguish, their faults. For me, this book is a huge slice of home, which is something I would want on a desert island ;).
  4. One book that made you laugh: That book in which by a stroke of pure dumb rotten luck, Arthur Dent finds himself in a spacecraft with a man with two heads and three arms and an android that is disilluioned at the state of the universe.
  5. One book that made you cry: None, really. I don’t recall having physically cried over anything in a book – other than high-school physics problems. There have been numerous devastating books, but my response to the sadness in them has always been internal. This is probably not a very good thing. I don’t wish to feed the “Boys don’t cry” stereotype, but it happens to be true in this case.
  6. One book that you wish had been written: This is difficult. I guess I would like to know what Isabel Archer did after the The Portrait of a Lady ended. Sequels usually do not live up to the promise of the original, but I would have picked this book up in a flash. I spent a long time wondering, “What will she do?”, the exact question that Ralph Touchett had asked himself about his promising cousin at the beginning.
  7. One book that you wish had never been written: One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. Seriously. Sometimes, it appears that there is nothing else worth reading. The bar has been set too high.
  8. One book you’re currently reading: Love in the Time of Cholera. See no. 7 above.
  9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. This was gifted to me by a good friend, along with The Name of the Rose. I finished the latter and loved it, but I find Foucault.. too difficult. I have to first buy a good dictionary, since Foucault.. has a lot of strange vocabulary and I can’t be visiting Dictionary.com all the time.
  10. Now tag five people: In the spirit of the first 9 questions, I shall tag only one blogger: Swati. Go run with it, little monkey 😉 .
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7 thoughts on “One of every kind”

  1. I started a Suitable Boy, but didn’t finish it–not a reflection on the story or the writing–just bad timing for me. I do want to pick it back up again eventually. I am terrible about sequels. They never live up to the original to begin with. And I am always leery of sequels written by different authors. I went through a big Garcia Marquez phase–I would love to reread Love in the Time of Cholera, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, too–but that one was more of a challenge–all those repeating names!!

  2. Danielle: Yes, I would suggest reading A Suitable Boy only when there is enough time to read it at a stretch. I finished half of War and Peace about six months ago, then had to abandon it because of work, and now I might need to look at a Cliff’s notes-style recap just to start reading it again.

    Work rarely allows me to read two big novels back-to-back, but I think I might have just enough momentum to read Love in the Time of Cholera before drowning in work all over again.

    From the family tree in Solitude, the part that I found most exasperating and also funny-in-a-strange-way was 17 Aurelianos. However, García Márquez (or Gregory Rabasa, the translator?) is always specific about which Aureliano/Arcadio he is talking about, so I didn’t find it too problematic.

  3. Cas: Good to know that you enjoyed Foucault. I’ve had one friend read it who thought it was very nice. She stuck with it for many weeks, even though English is not her first language. I take inspiration from that.

    When I read The Name of the Rose, I was at home with my parents, so a big version of Mirriam Webster’s was always at hand. I am amazed at the number of new words that Eco writes per page.

  4. frances: I’m still 40 tantalizing pages short of the end of Love in the Time of Cholera. I can’t wait for end, but I know what you mean. I felt that way about the ending of A Suitable Boy. In the middle of the book, I longed for a conclusion, for some sort of closure for Lata. But, when the book ended, I recall thinking of an empty space that had suddenly been created in my days.

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