Just Out of The Coma

*treads lightly*

*trying to find my footing*

*stumbles, gets up*

*starts over again*

Clearly, I’m feeling a little lost. Like I’m trying to relearn something that was familiar but feels so strange now. Which isn’t far from the truth, of course. Anyway, here goes.

Sometime when I was in high school, I read about Alex Garland’s The Coma in a magazine.  And, immediately added it to my mental to-read list. The basic plot goes something like this: it starts with the protagonist being attacked by a group of men, one night, following which he falls into a coma. The rest of the book is just him and his consciousness talking, trying to make sense of reality and dreams. I’m sure the magazine must have put it in a much more interesting way, but, well, you get the idea.

It took almost ten years for me to get hold of that book but I finally read it a few days ago. And absolutely loved it, by the way. But then, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I can’t seem to take up another book because I’m still sort of stuck in The Coma. And I felt compelled to write about it, atleast as a way of closure if nothing else (I love books that do that to me!).

When I started off with the book, I remember wondering why it wasn’t made into a movie, considering it deals with a gripping subject. You know, with all the talk about conscious and subconscious, it could neatly fit into the same category as Stay, for instance. However, as I read on, I realized why it couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be a movie.

From the start till the end, all you know about the character is his name (Carl). You don’t know where he is from, what his profession is, what he looks like or even what the other people in the book look like! Much like in a dream, the places and situations just keep shifting constantly, leaving you feeling disoriented. And intrigued. This vague, hazy plot definitely couldn’t be a movie. And, even if it were made into one, it would make absolutely no sense (I’m still trying to understand the ending, in fact).

And. yet, I loved the book. Why? I really don’t know. The first thing that struck me as interesting was that the pages weren’t numbered. It may not seem like a big deal but then, it takes off the sense of order that page numbers could give (and that works perfectly for the dream-like sequences), adding to the confusion. Maybe I loved it because it’s so unconventional. Or, perhaps, because it makes sense and yet doesn’t. Because there’s no right or wrong by which you can judge what Carl goes through. And, because, in a lot of ways, it made me question my own perceptions of reality, consciousness and life. So much so that, at a certain point, I looked up from the book, glanced around and wondered if the place and situation I was in were real or a dream (not kidding!).

If I had to pick out a favourite part (like I always do at the end of a book-rant), it would be this one, where Carl sums up how we’re all basically consciousnesses in a void:

“..if I were to lose an arm in an accident, I’d still be me. They wouldn’t say, he used to be Carl, then he lost an arm, now he’s John.

And, if, in another accident, I lost the other arm, the same would be true. Likewise with my legs, my sight, my hearing, my speech, my sense of touch. You could keep going, keep stripping me down, until I was only a consciousness, suspended in a void.

But, take away the consciousness, and suddenly I’m gone. Carl is no more. And take away the consciousness but leave the body, leave the full complement of arms and legs, and I’m still gone.”

PS: I found this interestingly similar review online – Consciousness in the void – Business Standard

Dear Library…

Come Sunday, I’ll be in a place I call ‘home’ in every sense of the word! The mere thought makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I badly need the change of scene.

Last night, while on the verge of falling asleep, I remembered something that I had wanted to write about. I read something a couple of months ago and made a mental note to blog about it whenever I found time. But then, I got busy (like always) and the ‘note’ was pushed off to some corner of my mind. Only to resurface as a half-conscious thought, last night.

I came across this article in The Guardian about libraries – how they were ‘in danger’ and about a campaign that invited readers across the globe to write “love letters to their favourite libraries”. The idea had an instant connect with me and I knew that I wanted to write one, too.

My love-letter is to a very special library, one that does not exist anymore. Sometime in 2004, when I was in 8th standard, our school campus was relocated. While the library was, technically, shifted to another place, it wasn’t the same as the one we had in the old school. That library will always be a part of my fondest and most cherished school memories, for reasons more than one.

So..here goes!

Dear Library, 

You might not remember me but I could never forget you. They say you always hold your first love as a dear memory. I think that applies for libraries as well. Atleast for a bookworm like me. 

You were my very first library (and love)! I remember getting a glimpse of your interior sometime when I was in 1st or 2nd grade. Since then, I couldn’t wait to get inside and check out all those books. Finally, when I did enter the room, a year or so later, I was on cloud nine! It was love at first sight!

Dimly lit, with a mysterious air that hinted at all the treasure troves (read: books) waiting to be discovered, you had an old world charm about you. I loved spending time there, amidst shelves and shelves of books. We used to have a Library hour once every week and I remember waiting for it so eagerly. Waiting to meet you, to explore all that you had to offer me. Crossing your threshold was like entering into an entire new world, a space where everything else ceased to exist. It was just me, you and books. Even the air smelt of books, old and slightly tattered, adding to the magic. 

You introduced me to Enid Blyton. I couldn’t get enough of Famous Five and the Five Find-Outers. I kept yearning to see more of you, and read more. You helped me take the first step into ‘Bookwormland’ and guided me along the journey, delighting me with the beautiful classics you held. I remember those years as a blur of Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, E. Nesbit (to name a few) and gems like Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna and Jane Eyre. 

I could never thank you enough for all that you have done for me. In so many ways, you made me what I am today. Hell, you might very well be the reason I write! Even though we had to part ways, I’ll never forget the time I spent with you, the happiness you gifted me. I know I never told you, but I love you; I always will. I believe you knew it all along. Every time I see the present library, or any library for that matter , I think of you and miss you. This is my way of trying to give back atleast a tiny bit of what you’ve given to me. 

Yours,

An ardent reader/admirer

Let’s Talk Books

Hasn’t it been quite a while since I last did some book-talk? Considering my love for ranting about books, I reckon it has been far too long. So, here goes. I read two books in the past nearly-two-months. ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown and ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry.

For anyone who has read the earlier books by Dan Brown, Inferno won’t be particularly impressive, I believe. The twists and revelations lack impact. By the end, even the basic plot seems a little vague and over-the-top. Also, unlike his other books, I felt this one had some parts which just didn’t make sense to me.  Inspite of the fact that it is an action-packed thriller which takes you through a beautiful city (Florence), always offering new bits of information and keeping you engaged, I have to say that I didn’t feel an affinity towards it. One possible reason might be the repetition in the main elements that define a Dan Brown book – the 24-hour time span, the action, the narrative, the basic thread of the plot, the interweaving of history, art, places and facts and even the outline of the main characters. Some of the situations failed to excite me solely because of their repetitive nature. Inferno is definitely not going to be on my list of favourites.

Coming to ‘The Secret Scripture’ (a critically acclaimed novel by Sebastian Barry) , it’s a book that surprised me. When I started off, I instinctively knew that I’d find it slow, intense and a tad complicated. Not an easy-breezy read, that is. I wasn’t wrong. I found it sort of dull. I kept expecting it to wear off. But, even when I was halfway through it, the dullness persisted. The book failed to draw me into it; I just didn’t feel that urge to go on reading, to know what was going to happen. That’s when the surprising element of the book came into play.

Sometime towards the second-half, the characters started ‘coming to life’, their situations gaining an intensity I hadn’t perceived till then and I could sense myself feeling for the characters. Towards the end, I was very deeply into it. So much that I couldn’t help feeling a bit reeled by the climax, taken aback by the sudden developments. When I began reading The Secret Scripture, I had my doubts about liking it. But, now, I still think about the characters and their lives, long after having finished the book. Do I need to add that I absolutely loved it?

“It is very difficult to be a hero without an audience, although, in a sense, we are each the hero of a peculiar, half-ruined film called our life.” 

[A note, in case you decide to read it: Have the patience and perseverance to go on reading even if you find it slow initially.]

The book I’m currently reading is the latest book by Khaled Hosseini – ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. It’s amazing, so far. It is emotionally intense, bit more than the previous two books. Or maybe it’s just because I’m too deep into it. Anyway, Hosseini has outdone himself, once more! Another thing I loved about it is that there is a change in the narrative, the way the story is told. More about it, once I finish.

What have you been reading?