Reader Interview of Piya (The Regular) and Roheet (The Newbie) @ BYOB Party in May 2018

Since we had a mother-son duo at the BYOB Party in May, we thought we would speak to both of them.

The Mother:

Tell us about your love story with books.

Piya: It started early right when I could read. I don’t remember the first book I read but I do know that I started very young. I would read anything- newspapers, periodicals, children’s magazines and books in Bengali and English, particularly my parent’s books which were not necessarily child-friendly. There was a lot of encouragement from home to read. At school, I was mostly in the library as sports was not my thing. I read Metamorphosis by Kafka in class 7.  Back then, I thought it was absurd and funny but every time I revisited the book, there was a new takeaway. I keep revisiting books I’ve read before.

I’ve been amazed by your picture-perfect memory of the plots of the many books you have talked about. How do you remember all the books that you’ve read?

It’s not that I have a photographic memory but there are two things that I remember from every book that I’ve read – one is the basic storyline and the second most important is the emotion it left with me and how I connected with the book.

Of late, I’ve been indiscreet about the books I’ve been choosing. So now I do my homework before I start a book so that I don’t invest my time in books I will not enjoy. This is what I enjoy about book clubs and this BYOB Party in particular. I get to find books that are good reads in genres I usually would not pick on my own. Book clubs expand your horizons or you get bogged down by one kind of genre. The BYOB Party is a great place to meet all kinds of readers as well. I always wondered who would read self-help books but now since visiting BYOB parties like these, I realize that there is a huge market for this genre.

The Son:

Tell us about your book journey.

Roheet: I’m a humanities student, so when I want to understand more about something I go to books, particularly historical pieces so that I have a better understanding of that time frame. This has helped me piece together things that I would otherwise have found hard to understand. Now my reading has evolved from just historical novels to writers like Murakami, so different from what I am used to.

It’s my first time at the BYOB Party and I’ve already found so many books that are genuinely interesting, so I think I would really like to come for the next BYOB Party.

What is your take on the reading habits of the student community? Is it catching up or falling behind?

Roheet: There’s a huge divide in the college space, but I fall into the category of book lover.

Favorite books?

I liked Sylvia Plath’s confessional style in The Bell Jar and Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

How has your mother influenced your reading choices?

Roheet: Initially, I used to read some of her books and I did not necessarily understand her complicated collection. When I reread the books, it made sense. She has a great taste in books.

Piya: In fact, most of our fights are about books. I don’t want him to take my books as I am very possessive about them. I don’t want a single dent in them.

So how do you arrange your books? Do you separate them on the book rack or is it on the same shelf?

Piya: Unfortunately, it is, so every time he takes my books he has to take permission.

Roheet: Even if there is a slight mark on a page, she does not take it too well. Her books are like her children; she has such a strong connect with them. So I try not to borrow her books to avoid the pain.

Piya: Fortunately, now we have a Kindle each, so that has lessened these arguments. I resisted Kindle for the longest time but then it worked for me when I was traveling; particularly when I wanted to read two or three books simultaneously, the Kindle was a good choice. And then there is the added bonus of not having to repeatedly worry about spoiling the book. Plus it good for the environment.

Roheet: But there is something special about reading a hard copy.

Piya: I agree there. Sometimes the hard copy is convenient, particularly when you want to go back to what you have read before. It’s ideal for rereading. You have the option to bookmark in Kindle if you want to go back to a certain page but it’s too much of a hassle. And the worst part is that you lose reading time if you haven’t charged your Kindle. Hard copies don’t have batteries and that is a good thing.

I also vouch for audiobooks. I was initially skeptical about how one could concentrate while listening to a voice being streamed into your head but it has been an enjoyable experience in the instances I have tried it. I would like to explore that route a bit more.

Thanks, Piya and Roheet! Was a pleasure talking to you both.

The Bipolar, the Surreal and the Light @ BYOB Party in July 2016 (Part 3)

emandthebighoomBasav Biradar, a playwright in Bangalore, shared a book that we have heard a lot about at our BYOB Parties. Em and the Big Hoom is the story of Pinto’s parents and inadvertently a powerful gaze at mental illness. His mother ‘Em’ has bipolar disorder and his father is the ‘Big Hoom’. The book has been awarded the Hindu Literary Prize and recently Pinto was awarded the Windham-Campbell prize. The book was first published by a small press in India and what stands out about the book is the humor that runs throughout its pages. Basav read out a passage from the beginning of the book that revealed the affection that Em really had for the Hoom. Hearing the passage made me want to buy it instantly.

theelephant vanishes

Archana talked about her love- hate relationship with Haruki Murakami. We’ve spoken about Murakami before as well and noticed that there are two kinds of people in the world- those who swear by Murakami and those who cannot understand him. Archana is neither- she loves the short stories he wrote in the book The Elephant Vanishes , yet she fails to understand his long and surreal novels. “I understand the things he talks about in his short stories like being trapped in a lift, but his novels are so very boring.”

The group came to the conclusion that Murakami fans had to be Gen Y; maybe books about lifts, cats, earthquakes and the strange subterranean inner life of Murakami characters were too outlandish for older people.

I was introduced to Murakami by a much older person, so I guess with Murakami no conclusions are adequate. Another comparison was made between Chetan Bhagat and Murakami’s writing style, both being very simple and easy to follow. But with Murakami, the story delves into the inner lives of the characters, and the language is repetitive in an almost hypnotic way. Chetan Bhagat writes simple sentences as he believes his readers do not need to be burdened; so I don’t think a comparison is warranted.

the adventures of tom and huckSunny has a penchant for light reading and this time he brought along The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Everyone is familiar with the adventures of these two immortal characters. Most of us have read Twain as part of our primary school curriculum, though Twain’s books are devoured in equal measure by adults. Tom has everything that Huck Finn doesn’t and yet he envies the freedom of this son of a drunkard. Their adventures together are modeled on Twain’s own experiences. “There’s nothing existential about this book at all and there’s a bit of suspense to add to the thrill. I enjoyed the book as a child but rereading has been more enjoyable,” Sunny said.

Rereading a book that you had read as a child can be an enlightening experience. Archana talked about how she regretted rereading Doll’s House, a play by Ibsen. It isn’t her favorite play any longer. So the experience differs from person to person.

More books in Part 3.

Short Book Review: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Strange LibrarySBR: I. Don’t. Get. Haruki. Murakami. There is magical realism, but I don’t get it at all.
The most interesting part of The Strange Library are its illustrations which entwine with the text in interesting, quirky ways.  Good production quality enhances the appeal. So a print edition is preferable over a Kindle one (I had a hard cover print edition).
At the end of the day, however, I don’t get it.
To read or not to read: If you are a Murakami fan, go right ahead. If not, read at your own risk. The story is very short, though; so you don’t have to worry about the time spent. The production and illustration might be worth it for those visually inclined. Pick up the print edition.