A random set of readings in this blog post…

something-rich-and-strangeAmshuman read Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash, an esteemed author and poet and winner of many awards. His writing is evocative of the gloomy Virginia landscape and his short stories chronicling the grief of an illiterate state rife with meth- addiction assume a universal aspect. The landscape permeates the population of Rash’s stories and defines the nature of their lives. The grief Rash describes illuminates the soul, rather than bringing it down “It’s not the grief of a death in a Harry Potter novel, It is a beautiful sadness. Kind of like the sadness you feel when you watched the series True Detective,” Amshuman said.

A discussion ensued on the question of the necessity of grief in literature. Be it ‘Sadness’ as a crucial character in the movie ‘Inside Out’ or how grief can be plotted in an unappealing way as it seemed for Apurba when she read The Lowlands by Jhumpa Lahiri, grief is an essential component of the cathartic aspect of art and writing. Grief can also be featured in a graphic novel as is the case in the book Safe Area Goražde by Joe Zacco, which is an account of the Bosnian War. Another book that carries grief in a way that is not overbearing is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

sherlock-holmesSunny preferred to get away from the sadness of it all and spoke about The Complete Sherlock Holmes:All 56 Stories And 4 Novels by Arthur Conana Doyle. The novels in this collection are The Valley of Fear, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four and A Study in Scarlet. The 56 stories have been divided into five books: the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the Return of Sherlock Holmes, the Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes and His Last Bow.

Everyone knows about Sherlock Holmes and his adventures. Sunny spoke about how Holmes managed to solve mysteries with his remarkable observational skills in spite of being a victim of addiction (can’t help comparing the idea of addiction as reason for grief in Ron Rash’s novel and the way addiction is not viewed as a hindrance by Doyle). It is simply impossible to judge Sherlock Holmes and the reader is left to let him be Holmes with his own ‘Holmish’ skills, inimitable and capable of making the whodunit aspect of Doyle’s work take a backseat. Conversation veered to who the better Sherlock Holmes was- Robert Downey Junior or Benedict Cumberbatch? Incidentally read this about the Cumberbach-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle connection.

fooled-by-randomnessAnurag spoke about a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb called Fooled by Randomness, a standalone book from his Incerto series. The book talks about his favorite subjects-chance and human error, and demystifies the idea of luck. Success, for instance, is greatly over-rated, and patterns are often gleaned where there really none. Randomness, of course, leads you to think about what makes a Youtube video go viral. The book is a find if you are inclined towards understand economics in a day to day set-up. Anurag also mentioned how he benefited from the book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt.

More books in Part 7.