Vintage Sapience

Conscious Avant-Garde Cogitation.

Wise Words Wednesday 28.6.17

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Haiku: All Over Again

Morning washes you off
Nights of fervour
Ready to welcome you into my arms again.

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Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

This Hemingway book is considered a classic fable, because of its hallmark pains and gains story. It revolves around an aged sailor, Santiago. After going 84 days without hooking a decent fish, he sails far out and hooks a 18-foot long swordfish. The battle begins then, and the fish drags the small boat and Santiago far out to sea. For two days this continues, and Santiago wins that battle, but eventually loses the great fish on the way home to the scavenger sharks who find him easy prey. He returns home, and his young apprentice brings him coffee and the football scores that Santiago loves so much and promises to sail with him always.

The Old Man and the Sea is a magnificent story. On one side, it is the tale of a man and a fish, and yet, it is a story of man versus nature, AND, the story of the culture of manhood, courage, bravery in the face of existence. Hemingway celebrates the courage and raw guts of this old man, even recounting a time in Casablanca when he had spent an entire day in an arm wrestling match with a much larger man in a seaside tavern. Hemingway celebrates a concept of humans as beings who go it alone, fierce, brave, courageous without even thinking about it, oozing strength from the nature of the best of the species.

The story is told with an incredible economy of words and description, yet nothing is sacrificed which drives home the power and inner strength of this man, who just takes it as what he does, what it is to be a serious fisherman.

There is a side story as well. This great individual, the man who stands alone, is not alone completely by choice. He has developed a friendship, a working relationship, a love with a young boy who began fishing with him when the boy was only five. Now the boy has moved on to another boat, a more successful one, at his parents’ behest, but he pines to work with Santiago, and when the battle with the great fish has been engaged, Santiago pleads over and over and over: “I wish the boy were here.”

Hemingway’s world is not our world. And the culture of today has little place left for the radical individual whom Hemingway celebrates and Santiago portrays. Yet the power of Hemingway’s telling is such that I couldn’t help but be on Santiago’s side, to admire him, to ache with his loss in the end to forces greater than he. But Hemingway forces me to remember and acknowledge the individual, the struggle for the most basic existence, the battle with nature for survival itself. But most importantly he makes one acknowledge the importance of the individual and the magnificence of courage, skill, art, and endurance.

Story: 3.8/5

Simplicity: 4.5/5

My other reviews:

1984, by George Orwell

The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

Imperfect Devotions

Pixels for clarity
Denim on denim
Haze of your scent
A devoted pilgrim
Bowed in emotion
Fighting friction
Divine faith
A heavenly unison.

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Wise Words Wednesday 21.6.17

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received — hatred. The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.”
― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

The will to seek our goal, and follow our vision keeps us alive. We need only need the strength to go forward and the right kind of friends and family to support us in our quest for happiness. Dream on, and have a great day everybody.

Book Review: Animal Farm, by George Orwell

Why Animal Farm can potentially be your favorite book too!

Animal Farm is a very short, very interesting book from the get-go. In the 97 pages of its quirky story, you will clamor to read more and more until the last page. And you live for the last line of the book. It is probably why the book was written in such a manner. Very rarely will books give you a concrete conclusion about what it is trying to say, than what George Orwell does in the ending for this one of his masterpieces.

In the story, the animals on the Manor Farm lead a life of utmost difficulty. They are made to work a lot, and given meager food, just to keep them alive. So, one day, the Old Major, an old pig tells all the other animals about a dream where animals live free of the tyranny of their masters and teaches them the song, “Beasts of  England” which goes on to become their anthem when they are led to rebellion. Two pigs, Snowball and Napolean take charge, hold a rebellion, throw out their owner Mr. Jones, and rename their farm as Animal Farm. All the animals start farming, milking cows, etc all on their own and life is better for a while.

But soon it starts to change because the pigs who took leadership try to disproportion the food, and get better amenities for themselves.  George Orwell has used this allegory in a magnificent way to explain how communist utopia can convert itself into a totalitarian dystopia. It is a take on how an economy function and the impact of the political framework on the well-being of citizens.

It is interesting to see that even though the book was published in 1945 and it mainly attacked the Stalinism prevailing in Russia, it finds enough relevance in contemporary world. It outlines the power corrupt political system by showcasing similar situations we face in the real world in fancy symbolism! Orwell’s deep mistrust of any political power is easily visible through in this fable. This book is a critical look at anyone who would want to keep us down ‘for our own good’. It ends with a hair-raising warning to all its readers as to how bleak the state of affairs can be if there is such a totalitarian government. It emphasizes on Lord Acton’s popular saying “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Storyline: 4/5

Simplicity of thoughts: 5/5

Writing style: 4/5

Politically Correct: Not at all, which is why you’ll love it!

Some of my other Reviews:

1984, by George Orwell

The Hypnotist, by Lars Kepler

Wise Words Wednesday 14.6.17

“Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.”

Karen Marie Moning

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Short Stories

So, I lied. The list of short stories includes some very good ones that I couldn’t trim the list to include just 10.

  1. This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You
    Jon McGregor (2012)11866341

The best short stories should haunt you for days and weeks. The stories in McGregor’s collection have stayed with me for months on end. They are linked by a unity of place – the fenlands of Norfolk and Cambridge – and by precise, elegant prose that elevates everyday occurrences into small, perfectly rendered pieces of art. As Maggie O’Farrell put it in her Guardian review: “The stories wrap themselves around the wholly disconcerting premise that catastrophes can rear up in anyone’s life without warning.”

2. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?
Raymond Carver (1976)

Possibly the most economical short story writer in this list, Carver, with his precise, punchy prose, conveys in a few words what many novelists take several pages to elucidate. In stories such as “Fat” and “Are You a Doctor?” he writes with flat understatement about suburban disenchantment in mid-century America. The collection – shortlisted for the National Book prize – was written during what Carver called his “first life”, when he almost died of alcoholism. His “second life” started in 1977, when he gave up drinking with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

3. Tenth of December
George Saunders (2013)51ps93aotdl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Winner of last year’s inaugural Folio prize for fiction, Saunders is, according to Entertainment Weekly, “the master of joy bombs: little explosions of grin-stimulating genius that he buries throughout his deeply thoughtful, endlessly entertaining flights of imagination”. Stories such as “Victory Lap” demonstrate his deftness of touch in mixing humour and humanity, as well as showcasing his technical brilliance, incorporating several different points of view in a contained space. And “Sticks”, little over a page in length, is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever read.


4. Runaway
Alice Munro (2004)

The Canadian writer won the Nobel prize for literature in 2013 for her extraordinary work as “master of the contemporary short story”. She also won the 2009 Man Booker International prize for her lifetime body of work and has been called a modern-day Chekhov. Runaway is among her best collections and displays all of Munro’s mastery: the effortless shifts in time, sometimes across decades; the ability to convey an entire life in a few pages; the exploration of complex truths in uncomplicated language.

5. Interpreter of Maladies
Jhumpa Lahiri (1999)a12056

This debut collection of nine stories won the Pulitzer prize shortly after it was published in 1999 and was named the New Yorker’s debut of the year. The stories, written with what Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times described as “uncommon elegance and poise”, deal with the diversity of Indian-American immigrant experience and the curious alchemy of love and relationships. My particular favourite in this collection is “A Temporary Matter”, a beautiful mediation on grief, love and loss as a couple try to come to terms with the stillbirth of their child.

6. That Glimpse of Truth
David Miller (ed) (out 23 October 2014)

Some of the best short stories contain unexpected moments of felicity on which the plot pivots. And so it was that, just as I was compiling this list, I received a giant package containing this doorstep of a book. It might be the most comprehensive collection of short stories… ever, featuring an all-star cast including Angela Carter, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl and more, selected by David Miller, a literary agent.

7. Pulse
Julian Barnes (2011)8608089

Barnes is best known as a novelist and won the Man Booker prize in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending. As a result, his short stories are rather overlooked and shouldn’t be. Pulse is Barnes’s 17th book and is a masterclass in the shorter form. He is brilliant at evoking social nuance and has an unfailing eye for the tiniest detail that will shine light on the whole. Two particularly wonderful examples from this collection are “Complicity”, about the delicate beginnings of a love affair, and “East Wind”, about a relationship between an estate agent and a foreign waitress.

8. For Esme—with Love and Squalor
No list of short stories would be complete without the work of J.D. Salinger, and “For Esme” is one of his finest. First published in 1950 in The New Yorker and anthologized two years later, the story takes place in England during World War II and involves a soldier who meets an adolescent girl during a church visit in Devon. A year later, the soldier suffers a nervous breakdown in the weeks following V-E Day, but a letter from Esme, the young lady, inspires his recovery. This beautifully written story sings with a message of redemption.

9. The Three Questions, by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy is the recognized master of epic novels, but few appreciate his skill with the short story. This story was first published in 1885 and is written in parable form. A king seeks answers to the three questions he considers most important in life and after receiving inadequate responses from the educated men in his kingdom, he looks to a wise hermit in a neighboring village. In an ironic twist, the king learns the answers to his questions as he helps the hermit care for a severely wounded man who shows up at the hermit’s hut. This story is classic for its timeless answers and masterful way they are revealed.

10. A Good Man Is Hard to Finda-good-man-is-hard-to-find
In this 1953 story, Flannery O’Connor tells the tale of a manipulative grandmother and her son, his wife, and his children, who encounter a dangerous escaped criminal after their car overturns on a journey from Georgia to Florida. It is a stunning and disturbing story that deals with universal themes of cowardice, selfishness, redemption, and grace—and coming to terms with a person’s true self. The controversial final scene is the subject of endless scholarly debate and will be indelibly stamped in your brain once you’ve read it.

11. To Build a Fire (1908) by Jack London
A classic Man versus Nature story set in the Yukon Territory in Northwestern Canada. “The dog did not know anything about thermometers” but it had the sense to know “that it was no time for travelling.” A brilliant story to read in the depth of winter when a freezing spell is in the forecast or gripping your region.

12. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890, 1891) by Ambrose Bierce

A short story masterpiece: This a suspenseful story about a Civil War soldier, Petyon Farquhar, who has been captured by enemy troops. The story opens in a dangerous predicament, with the soldier about to be hanged, “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama … A rope closely encircled his neck.” Will Farquhar succeed in his effort to make a daring escape?

13. Lorry Raja by Madhuri Vijay


One of the newest voices on this list, Vijay tells the story of Indian children mining the ore used to construct Olympic stadiums in China with remarkable poise and vision. While the inherently political nature of the story is certainly important and the writing is ruthless in its detail, to approach “Lorry Raja” in only that way is to miss the quiet power of Vijay’s prose, as well as its ability to look honestly into the subtleties of family and the scales of desire without denying beauty where it lurks.

14. Painted Ocean, Painted Ship by Rebecca Makkai

This humorous, deceptive story, loosely descended from Coleridge’s most famous poem, follows an unreliable English professor as a single compound error (mistaking a bird, then a student) births another and another, eventually threatening her potential marriage, job, and fate. The best part, however, is the turn at the very end, which reveals the entire story to perhaps have been something different all along, a sneakily stunning mediation on the limits of self-awareness, guilt, and penance. Originally published in Ploughshares, curious readers can find it in the pages of the Best American Short Stories 2010 anthology.

If you have some more recommendations, I’d love to know. For now, this is your weekend sorted. Some of these are so moving that they’ll leave you pondering about a lot of things for a long time. Happy Tuesday!

Flashback Friday: Lay Bare

Get me a pale blonde bob,
And suede boots in grey charcoal.

Make me look a little different,
But separate from my soul.

Claw at me with your suspicion.
Try me, I will still be more!

I’m now two souls, incorrigibly different,
I am not the ME you’re looking for.


Learning to love yourself normally takes a while. To accept your flaws, to embrace your quirkiness and celebrate the qualities of oneself come with age. And, till then we try to present a different front to the world.. an artificial, made-up version which conflicts with our true image. If that persists for long, we become two different people, looking perfect but feeling almost empty with our rendition of ourselves.

This was posted in June 2016, and I am reposting this under Flashback Fridays so a lot more people can see this now, leave likes, comments and make my day. 😛

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