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.

Moriarty, Assassins and Dyslexia@BYOB Party in May (Part 2)

exit sherlock holmes

For all mystery fans, Conan Doyle is a favorite. If Sherlock Holmes is not enough, there are many spin-offs of the Conan Doyle series out there. For Ramesh, one of the readers at the BYOB Party,  Exit Sherlock Holmes by Robert Lee Hall is by far the most special.  The book has retained the London fog and cab flavour and is loyal to the original. It gives answers about the elusive equation that Holmes and Moriarty share and ends it with a massive twist in the ending.


the shotSunny got a book that he felt was a light read, a book called The Shot by Philip Kerr. The story revolves around an assassin called Tom Jefferson. His mission? The assassination of Fidel Castro. The book carries a 60s flavor with all the political  elements of the day. Light is thrown on the mental preparation an assassin needs to make to gun his target. This pseudo historical thriller is a fun read.

David and GoliathManjari bought along a book by Malcolm Gladwell called David and GoliathGladwell is a compelling writer and he starts this book with the story of the shepherd boy who defeated the enormous Goliath against perceivable odds. Gladwell roots for challenges and calls some challenges desirable as opposed to some which are undesirable. So disability, being an orphan, being at the brunt of mediocrity could actually be the scripts for success stories. Conversation veered to the number of successful people who have dyslexia and the problems with getting an accurate diagnosis of ADHD.

Can dyselxia be a formula for success?, a question arose.

“Gladwell is a genius at storification,” Jaya said, “but we all know how business books whitewash nuances and build stories without taking into account the whole picture. This doesn’t take away the fact that Gladwell is a good writer.”

More from the BYOB Part in May in Part 3.