Grief, Holmes and Randomness @ BYOB Party in December 2016 (Part 6)

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.

Slums, Swans and the story of Dr. Sen @ BYOB Party in February, 2016 (Part 1)

It was the eighth anniversary of, the company that Jaya and Abhaya first founded. Last year at approximately the same time, we had our very first book party. The rules are still the same. Unlike conventional book club meets, we don’t discuss only one book. Everyone who comes over talks about a book that they like, and if it’s fiction no spoliers please!

ravan and eddieShruti Garodia, a content writer who has frequented several of our parties, talked about Jaya’s favorite author Kiran Nagarkar’s books.  Ravan and Eddie is a book that she really liked. This book has two sequels: The Extras and Rest in Peace.  Nagarkar explores the lives of slum dwellers, and goes beyond the stereotype. “What’s amazing is how he sustains his idea throughout all his volumes. He understands the essence of people who live in the slums. They are not appalled by their lives as we would be by bad sanitation and lack of basic things. There are no existential questions for them,” Shruti said.

life is an attitudeBaraa Al Mansour, a writer from Syria, who is also doing her PhD in horticulture, likes books that explore philosophy. Life is an Attitude-How to grow forever Better is a book that helped her understand more about the power of self-observation. “When we observe our thoughts, we gain control over our lives and we can separate ourselves from external circumstances.” This statement led to a debate on the efficacy of mindfulness. Have the experts got it wrong again?

notes from undergroundNitin Shukla works as  Application Developer at Maxim Integrated Inc.  He used to live in Delhi and has now moved to Bangalore where books have turned out to be his best friend.  A book that influnced him greatly was Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. “ The book is all about finding patterns and it urges you to go after reasons,intuition, cause and effect.” Another writer he discovered who used the premise of reason excessively well was Dostoevsky. He had been reading Notes from Underground. Jaya advised him to read another reason-obsessed Russian writer, Tolstoy’s  War and Peace. The conversation meandered to Kabir, the Periodic Table and the Russian book festival in Jaipur, with a treasure trove of great science books, a reason for many to celebrate at the party.

the curious case of binayak senSudharsan from Vantage Circle  read The Curious Case of Dr. Binayak Sen by Dilip D Souza, award winning writer and journalist. The book shocked Sudharshan and he recommended that everyone who had a conscience read it.  The book is about Dr, Binayak Sen who is a pediatrician, public health activist  and civil rights activist. He has been accused of sedition and is currently under life imprisonment. Dilip D’Souza has charted out the trajectory of the fall of an individual and the failure of the system. The questions that were discussed were existential in nature. Why is taking a stand wrong? What is the plight of a journalist who dares to tell the truth? Why should one have to take sides when it is impossible and is there more grey than black and white? Why has sensationalism and propoganda replaced the obvious truth?

More books and their readers in Part 2.