Tuesday’s with Morrie

Tuesday’s with Morrie

But the world did not stop, it took no notice at all, and as Morrie pulled weakly on the car door, he felt as if he were dropping into a hole.

Now what? He thought.

ABOUT

Morrie did to Mitch what life could not—he got Mitch to cry.

Tuesday’s with Morrie is a potpourri of a dying man’s aphorisms; an archive of his days before the deadly ALS finally gets him. As Morrie awaits death with the finish line in sight, he reflects on what’s important in life.

Fresh out of college, Mitch is terrified of being left behind, of losing out to others. He indulges in a relentless pursuit of money and fame, not understanding what he wants from life…until he’s reunited with his dear professor Morrie, sixteen years after he left college. Mitch and his dying professor take up one final project before the curtain draws in on Morrie’s life—this book—which not only gives Morrie a mission to fulfil in his final days, but also pays his medical bills.

UPSIDE

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Morrie, dear Morrie

It’s a naive, but delectable view of human experiences. Tuesday’s With Morrie is very, very touching and it made me cry. It’s now my go-to book when life gets hard.

The way Mitch intersperses the main line of story with snippets from his college life and random thoughts make the narrative dreamy. It also provides the reader with a more wholistic view of Mitch’s relationship with Morrie. In my view, one couldn’t have asked for a better layout.

The tone of the book is emotional and the writing extremely simplistic. While reading the book, I lived through Morrie’s gradual, inevitable decay. And when he died, I cried as I would’ve had for any other loved one. Like Mitch, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. At times, I felt like a fly on the wall, tuning in to one of the usual Tuesday conversations between student and professor, astonished by the latter’s courage in face of a disease as debilitating as ALS.

Morrie’s courage and resilience and his love for life shine right through Mitch’s words. As my eyes soaked up the book one line at a time, I became aware of Mitch’s love and admiration for his dying professor.

I thought about all the people I knew who spent many of their waking hours feeling sorry for themselves. How useful it would be to put a daily limit on self pity. Just a few tearful minutes, then on with the day. And if Morrie could do it, with such a horrible disease…

“It’s only horrible if you see it that way.” Morrie said. “It’s horrible to watch my body slowly wilt away to nothing. But it’s also wonderful because of all the time I get to say goodbye.

He smiled. “Not everyone is so lucky.”

I studied him in his chair, unable to stand, to wash, to pull on his pants. Lucky? Did he really say lucky?

Someday, I wish to find my Morrie.

DOWNSIDE

Tuesday’s with Morrie perhaps lacks the WOW factor because it brings nothing new to the table. There’s nothing in here that you do not already realise or know.

To some readers, Morrie’s ideas may sound excessively utopian and his way of life may seem impractical and unattainable. That is okay, because Tuesday’s with Morrie is not a self-help book, but a tribute to Morrie Schwartz. You may not agree with all that Morrie preaches, but you will surely recognise that he’s a courageous man with a heart of gold.

I would say…

If you plan on reading this one, do so with an open mind. Do not expect Tuesday’s with Morrie to solve life’s greatest mysteries, because it won’t. It will, however, inspire you to create the life that you will truly love. And perhaps as a reward, you’ll be reminded of someone who helped change your own life.

Morrie, wherever you are, may you find happiness and peace.


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Lolita

Lolita

I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.

– Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

About

Perhaps in a strange, fateful way, Humbert’s inherent singularity and diabolical obsession with Lolita began with his child-love Annabel.

Humbert Humbert, a European scholar and college professor in America, is haunted by the memory of a lost adolescent love. A surprising turn of events upsets and ultimately wrecks his life when he disgracefully falls in love with Dolores Haze (nicknamed Lolita), the twelve year old daughter of his landlady. Obsessed and totally consumed by her thoughts, he’s ready to employ any grotesque scheme to posses his Lolita forever.

 Upside

Nabokov weaves a delicate net of lyrical prose to enthral his readers; Lolita is deeply expressive and intensely poetic. The story is told in first person, by Humbert himself, when he was held captive in jail. Such is the power of Humbert’s soulful utterances, that more than once the reader will nod in a scandalised affirmation of  Humbert’s vile desires.

It is disturbing to note that Nabokov’s obsessed pedophile isn’t entirely revolting or disgusting, but is someone you want understand. Humbert cleverly fools himself and the reader into believing that he is a caring, passionate lover who wants to protect his Lolita.

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His justifications, his reasons and his outrageous declaration that it was Lolita who seduced him are nauseating to the reader’s human mind. Humbert is a sinful planner. He systematically secludes his prey and fills her with self-doubt and fear and robs her of a normal childhood. Inspite of this, the reader is unable to truly hate the pedophile.

While the reader is tempted to sympathise with Humbert’s sad past, Lolita almost always comes across as crass, and unworthy of much compassion. As distasteful it seems, at one point I was almost tempted to believe that Humbert and Dolores were part of a tragic love affair that just couldn’t happen for a million reasons.

Clearly, Nabokov is a master of deception. He has the reader hooked, confused, shocked- gasping for more. Lolita is a brilliant, brilliant character study.

Downside

Nabokov’s Lolita asks disagreeable questions.

To justify his conduct, Humbert directs the reader’s attention to the fact that in many tribal cultures, it is acceptable for a grown man to marry a 12 year old girl. He pleads that before he ever laid his dirty man-hands on Dolores, the precocious nymphet had already had sex with another boy. He desperately wants the reader to believe that 12 year old girls are ready to mate and cites numerous examples where young girls are sold by families in exchange of land, cattle, gold and whatnot.

While this may make the reader uncomfortable, I wouldn’t go so far as to classify this as a drawback of reading Lolita. Being compelled to tackle these questions of morality in today’s modern society is a part of what makes this book a great read.

I would say…

Pick this one up! I’ll give Lolita a full five stars for its creative world play. I cannot recall any other book that simultaneously evoked such conflicting feelings of disgust and charm in me. I will gladly recommend Lolita to anybody who’s willing to challenge his or her sanity.


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One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mother gives birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.

-One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcìa Márquez


About

The Buendía family is condemned to a hundred years of solitude.

The story takes the reader through the lives of the seven generations of the Buendía family as it explores incestuous relationships and sufferings. Through the dramatic rise and fall of the fictitious town of Macondo, the story recounts coming of the European ideals of development capitalism to Latin America and the effect it has on native ties and people.

Macondo is a town far removed from science and technology. So much so that to the naive inhabitants, things as dull as ice and magnets seem miraculous, and they believe wandering gypsies to be harbingers of progress. It’s only when ‘outsiders’ begin settling in the town that the native populace is exposed to development. The proliferation of science is like magic to this simple town. By the end of the story, Macondo has seen everything: from war and anarchy to dilapidation and emptiness.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is as much about politics and government apathy as it is about human relationships and magic. And in the end, all is revealed in the old, unintelligible manuscript that JosĂ© Arcadio Márquez’s friend MelquĂ­ades the gypsy wrote a hundred years ago…


Upside

In a word, it’s magnetic. One Hundred Years of Solitude whisks you away to a far off fantasy land where extraordinary is ordinary. The reality that this book attempts to create is anything but real, and that makes it all the more enchanting.

In the veiled land of Macondo, it isn’t unusual to see one’s dead ancestors lurking around.  It isn’t odd for a man to give his 17 sons from 17 different women the same name. Macondo is where it’s unsurprising to be alive for a century and a half. And it is where priests levitate to prove the existence of god. The simplicity of the story is so unreal that it leaves the reader gasping for more.

The realism that Márquez weaves into his fiction is hard to resist: One Hundred Years of Solitude is poetic. If you read closely, it will sing to you.

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Perhaps this is what Macondo looks like

Downside

There’s very little dialogue; the characters hardly speak with each other. The story doesn’t stay with any one character long enough for the reader to be fully acquainted with it. Lack of conversation among characters makes it tough for the reader to get into the characters’ heads and decipher their psychology. That makes the reader feel like an outlander, not an integral fragment of the story.

This isn’t much of a downside, but the long and twisted sentences make it a demanding read. It is by no means an easy book, and requires great attention.


I’d say…

Despite its limitations, One Hundred Years of Solitude is charming. For me, it was challenging and very different from anything that I’ve read so far. Magic-realism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely worth my effort and time. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s willing to go beyond convention.


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(Image taken from Google)