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A Christmas Carol

I believe that the books that we have read as a child do have much to offer if looked at again with adult eyes. There are things, for example, friendship, brotherhood, love, treachery, heartbreak, misery, war, and most of all death, that a child has yet to encounter. As far as adults go, we have had a fair share of these either it being a personal experience or from other people’s lives.

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A Christmas Carol was first published in the year 1843 and today we are in 2017. This very fact, that two people, the writer and the reader, can come in contact, have a conversation, and momentarily, share a period of time long gone, is a testament to the power that books hold.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Ebenezer “Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” on whom “External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.”, and on top of all that, he hates Christmas.

This is the first time I am reading Charles Dickens as far as I recall (I may have read his work as I child), and his writing style took me by a pleasant surprise.
When he mentions the death of Scrooge’s partner and friend, Jacob Marley, this is how he describes his condition.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

The flow, the usage of words, the craft, I loved every bit of them and I am sharing direct quotes from early on in the book so that you may get a taste of it.
Your mileage may vary.

Scrooge’s nephew comes to his house to invite him to Christmas dinner which you may have understood by now he refused.
He the turns away two men who came seeking donation for the poor, and gives his clerk, Bob, a hard time when he asks for a day’s leave on Christmas.  Later that night, Marley’s ghost pays him a visit and when he comes to terms that something haunted is coming his way, he says, “It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge. “I won’t believe it.”.

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I will not say more as it will be a major disservice to you, the reader.
Though I will add that Marley’s ghost isn’t the only ghost who pays him a visit.

This is a story of great inspiration and heart about how we as person change over the course of our lives, be it for the good or the bad, and how life gives us a chance to reflect on our life and mend it before it gets too late.
I highly recommend this book to any lover of Classics.

Also, I take great pleasure in informing you that this novella is the first book that I have started (7/2) and finished (15/2) in 2017. As I have stated in my article, The Stranger, 2016 was not a productive year for me when it came to both reading and writing.
I am currently reading two non-fiction books, The Prince and Meditations.
Both of them require a good amount of brain juice and are not suited for just picking up and reading. For this reason, I started A Christmas Carol. I read it on my tablet through Google Play for free. This is a public domain book and you can easily find it for free, like on Gutenberg.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the City. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!”

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The Stranger

“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.”

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This is an apt quote to give you a glimpse of the kind of book this is.
The Stranger is the story of a man, Meursalt (which will be called M in the following article) . To be honest though I have recently (by which I mean 24,  August 2016, Yeah,  2016 was not much of a productive year when it came to reading and writing) finished this book I had to google the name of the main character, not that the character or the story was not interesting, it is a fascinating book and a short read. It’s just that the other characters in M’s life are so interesting, and his life’s philosophy is so absorbing.

I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God.

The story develops slowly,  if you venture to read it I recommend that you keep patience and give it some time to open itself to you.

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.

Story begins with M visiting the countryside where his mother who has recently passed away who lived in what you may consider an old age home. The way he carries himself in the situation is very unconventional and bewildering to say the least.

The following stays true for most of what you will read in this book, his moral compass seems to be skewed but that’s just the way he thinks.

“I didn’t like having to explain to them, so I just shut up, smoked a cigarette, and looked at the sea.”

From the wiki on Absurdism –
“The absurdist philosopher Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence while also defiantly continuing to explore and search for meaning. Absurdism shares some concepts, and a common theoretical template, with existentialism and nihilism.

Then there are the other characters of whom I will not give any further information. It’s a great book, a short read full of a particular kind of philosophy expressed in a fascinating way, something that I didn’t agree to on many levels but still I would recommend it to anyone who likes to read quality material and thoughts that even are, Absurd.

Algyojha

Quite a few years back, while strolling in Landmark, a book store which was one of the few good places to spend your time when visiting that particular shopping mall, I picked up a collection of Munshi Premchand stories and novels. Was it in Hindi or English, I don’t remember, neither do I remember as to why I didn’t buy it. What one does remember is, Munshi Premchand.Munshi Premchand

If you have had the opportunity and blessing of getting educated in India, chances are that you have met this man. Premchand was a prolific Hindi writer, holding the title: “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”), and has dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories to his name.

There are many things that one can not see clearly and need to be reminded about. Our indifferent attitude towards Hindi as a language does not fall under that. If only one notices in his or her life, how we flow through the days and weeks, and count how much proper interaction we are having with Hindi the indifference should be pretty clear.

I picked up this short story ‘अलग्योझा’ for the very simple reason that I wanted to read something in Hindi and having liked his writing style and stories as a kid, Premchand seemed the right choice.

The story premise is basic and one that we Indians have seen, heard, and read countless times. The classic tale of a child losing his mother at a young age and coming to terms with having a stepmother.
Don’t let the words basic premise fool you. This is Mr. Premchand’s work that you will be reading. There is great drama in it. Brotherly love, compassion, envy, care and nurture, sadness, moments of sunshine and humour.

As usual the work touches on many of the social issues that we have ourselves come to know and see. For one the fractioning of house from a joint family to separate nuclear units and how the relations that were once cherished get estranged. The title itself references to that.

I would leave the rest for you to discover and enjoy.
I read this story using this app on my tablet. You can also read it directly on this website.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Reading some classics now and then is a great joy in itself, they are from an era long gone, but the message still connects with people. As mentioned in an excellent article that I read on The Art of Manliness, “This is partly what turns great books into classics. They ultimately speak to the most basic truths of humanity in story form.”, and this book truly stands out in this regard.

I read the book through the Kindle App on my Nexus 7 (2012), started reading it around 2nd or 3rd Jan and finished it today. It had been on my reading list for a while. I first found it on the 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library, many of the books on this list are on my next to pick up list, and some of them I have already read. The best part is that a good number of the books mentioned here are available for free on Kindle Store and Project Gutenberg.

Note that this is not a review or critique of the book, rather my thoughts and what I felt while reading the book, and this may contain spoiler, depending upon how sensitive a reader you are.

The-Picture-of-Dorian-GrayThe book is written in an exquisite manner and wit oozes out of its chapters. The story by Oscar Wilde was first published in the year 1890 and the language is of that time. Though not many people care for dense phrases and complex sentences, the book is an easy read, the plot though quite known,  a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, upon seeing a portrait of his made by his painter friend, in pursuit of vanity, wished that he always remain as young as the picture in front him, and that the portrait bears the signs of his age. And so it happens.

“How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June…. If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that—for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

There are two more important characters in the story and it is around them that the plot moves and the narration flows.

The painter, Basil Hallward, an individual with deep rooted moral beliefs, finds Dorian to be a great inspiration that has helped him find his best form as an artist.

The painter’s friend, Lord Henry, an eloquent cynic, and a firm promoter of  hedonistic thought and way of life.

While I was reading the book, a hadith (saying) of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) came to my mind. ‘A man is upon the Deen (way of life) of his close friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.’. One of the axiom that I have always held on to is that “It is better to be in good company than to be alone, but, it is better to be alone than to be in bad company”.

I read a good chunk of the book today, the last eight chapters, and another thought came to my mind.
‘So when the devil wants to dance with you, you better say never
Because a dance with the devil might last you forever’.
This piece of lyric is from the song “Dance With The Devil” by Immortal Technique, a song that sent a shiver down my spine, you can read the lyrics here and I don’t recommend listening to the song.

The strange part is that I remember reading this book in the form of a short story as child in my early school days, though what a dark tragedy it is, not many could guess. In some sections, I was able to see what was going to unfold next but there were also some dreadful moments that I didn’t perceive.

This book is also a goldmine in terms of quotes and epigrams,

“He says things that annoy me. He gives me good advice.”
Lord Henry smiled. “People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.”

“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”

“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”

“You like every one; that is to say, you are indifferent to every one.”

“It is the stupid and the ugly who have the best of it in this world”

“They get up early, because they have so much to do, and go to bed early, because they have so little to think about. ”

few of the many gems that you will find inside.

I highly enjoyed reading this fascinating book and recommend it to my fellow readers. It will make you chuckle, it will make you sad, but most importantly, it will make you Think, Ponder, and Reflect.