Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “Of Mice and Men”

by John Steinbeck

“The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.”

Set in the world of the Great Depression, this classic novella presents a powerful story of happiness, love and dignity fighting to survive in an overwhelmingly bleak and prejudiced world.

Following a crucial section in the lives of Lennie Small and George Milton, and told entirely though conversations held between all the characters, this is the story of a mentally disabled man who only ever wanted to own a farm and tend to rabbits, an aging ranch handyman whose sole friend is an old and smelly dog, a woman who is, symbolically and most poignantly, not even granted a name in this tale, and a stable-hand who is relegated to a demeaning corner of the world based on the colour of his skin.

Steinbeck's brutally honest narrative style, which has no patience for either prettified reality or glorified language, made this a powerful write and a memorable read. With each interaction, a new hope is expressed, with each conversation an old dream is crushed. There is a darkness to be submerged in here, there are layers to be uncovered here ... This is a Classic for a reason.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Rashmi bookmarks “World War Z”

by Max Brooks.

Presented as a series of interviews with survivors of The Great Panic, “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” is a record of an apocalyptic war with the undead that almost completely wiped out civilization on Earth.

As a United Nations Postwar Commission agent speaks with survivors of the zombie plague, we get to see such a wide range of viewpoints from across the world - and that, to me, was the most fascinating feature of this book - more than the terror of zombies, more than the horror of the plague, more, even, than the unique concept of interviews ... the fact that we get to hear the stories of everyone from a former White House chief of staff to a woman who has the mind of a four-year old. Different ages, occupations, and nationalities come together to create an immensely rich story filled with widely differing perspectives.

Of course, the overall point that cannot be missed is that this is a profound comment on how this world would react to a large-scale calamity. Yes, there would be the medical field hurriedly cashing in on the tragedy with a randomly generated placebo. Yes, there would be the political arena using the threat to further its media positioning; the media, in turn, making the most of the opportunity to sell news. And yes, there would be the nameless fellow-hideout co-inhabitant, who would risk her own life so that a complete stranger may live.

From trying to deal with 'quislings', the people who act enough like zombies that you can no longer tell the difference, to fighting an enemy that needs neither food nor rest; from living in a country that is so confident in its superiority that it hides the truth till the very end, to living in a country that would gas its citizens just to see who would re-animate, the terror of the plague is fully realized precisely because of the multi-layered background of the speakers. Their stories terrify, inspire, sadden and give hope - but they always, always intrigue.

A fantastic read ... that most poignantly ends on a note of finality, when survivors are left to live out the rest of their lives after having been "... afraid for so long, fighting and killing, and waiting to die..."