A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

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A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:48 am

this thread is a diary and this post is rather long because it is not about the book. the rest of the posts, if any, will be about the book. i have not started reading this book with any grand expectations. i am reading it only because of recommendations and because it is a classic. i've read other classics too and hated many. you don't have to like what someone else likes even if you like the like-r. what is good for the goan may not be good for the samoan. this is why different voices are encored in literature -- they all have a place.

after college i stopped reading. i read only for a few months after returning in which period i demolished all of what coraghessan boyle had written (and that prolific and profoundly gifted writer has written twice as much since -- you can't stop that genius; my god, what does he eat or smoke?). but trapped in mumbai in 1999 (note the digits), ten years after my return from college, alone in a hotel for a month (i did not philander), i picked up ghosh's in an antique land and found myself drunk (and seduced and i orgasmed). after returning to kolkata, i was desperate to share the experience or the joy of reading the book. i wanted to discuss it with someone, anyone: a cat, a dog, a chair. i had stopped keeping my journals long ago. i returned to them and wrote:

Here is my bit for ‘In an Antique Land’

An immensely readable book. Part novelistic, part travelogue; dipping effortlessly into worlds of anthroplogy, now language, now political history, now academia -- where frivolity seems to have a rank seriousness about it -- and weaving a seamless text so behooving of today’s confusing times where most things are multifaceted. It reads like a quick detective story ...

and i wrote two paras and stopped. this was not sharing i felt. no one will read my journal. i wanted to share and discuss. i searched the net and found an indian literature discussion board. i joined it. it is actually then that i joined the net. then i joined sulekha and now i am here.

after reading/listening/seeing any great work of art, a person immediately wants to share and discuss it. it was easy in college. later the net would make it easy for me. sometimes you meet art; sometimes art meets you. uncannily thus i saw the most elegant prose in the least expected of places and i will describe them. and through this thread i will also quell my thirst to "share" as i read the book.

(to be continued)

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Jeremiah Mburuburu on Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:25 am

Huzefa Kapasi wrote:...ten years after my return from college,... after returning to kolkata, i was desperate to share the experience or the joy of reading the book. i wanted to discuss it with someone, anyone: a cat, a dog, a chair. i had stopped keeping my journals long ago. i returned to them and wrote:... i wrote two paras and stopped. this was not sharing i felt. no one will read my journal. i wanted to share and discuss. i searched... after reading/listening/seeing any great work of art, a person immediately wants to share and discuss it. through this thread i will also quell my thirst to "share" as i read the book.
this is an amazing revelation, indeed a confession. is she still illiterate?

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:39 am

what you goin' on about old man? be clear. much comprehension problem on line. over and out.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Impedimenta on Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:48 am

oh, HK bhaiya, i have a condition so bear with me. is this a different thread?

mine ships soon. yes, i will wait the first 100 pages out:-) see, i read responses, sometimes.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:24 pm

the secret of being a bore is to say everything -- voltaire

the book starts with the ^ quote. it is a nazar utarna, which is an old hindu superstition or practice dating to the time of the epics. it is a rubbishing of the book by the author himself -- an act of humility by the author to keep his inflated self-worth in check while warning the reader that this book might disappoint you. and in the next page there is a gentle persuasion by seth: "buy me before good sense insists / you'll strain your purse and strain your wrists."

i have heard than in valmiki's ramayana there is a scene. the ramayana is self-referential -- valmiki appears in the epic. in the scene, valmiki is writing the ramayana in the jungle (i'm not sure if they "wrote" then but anyway). and then valmiki takes a leisurely walk in the forest to break away from the strain of writing the epic. he chances upon hanuman. hanuman is also writing something he realizes. not wishing to disturb him, he tiptoes to where hanuman is sitting and begins to read what hanuman writes, from over his shoulders. to his horror he finds that hanuman is also writing the ramayana. and it is wonderful, so pure, so divine, so magical. he feels dizzy and collapses. when he wakes, he is at hanuman’s feet. sense returns to him and he clutches hanuman’s feet, weeping, begging him to destroy what he wrote. hanuman smiles and destroys ramayana. and the ramayana springs into being – the most beautiful, poignant work of poetry to the hindu mind. it was born out of a bit of crassness or nazar utarna.

i am 5 pages in. the prose has a certain lightness or breeziness about it and a subtle humour. i don't think the details will inundate me.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:25 pm

it starts with the wedding of her sister, right?

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:38 pm

Impedimenta wrote:oh, HK bhaiya, i have a condition so bear with me. is this a different thread?

mine ships soon. yes, i will wait the first 100 pages out:-) see, i read responses, sometimes.
ha ha ha! the key is in "sometimes." rashmun had referenced an old sulekha post here and therein i found a post of mine addressed to you. here it is: http://forums.sulekha.com/forums/coffeehouse/dedicated-to-eelam-tamils-a-lovely-song-951415.htm#951511

you have still not changed! there is a cure for ADHD impy. why do you keep suffering? i'm so overwhelmed by you and your continued suffering. you should try xanax with zoloft and a bit of lithium as an adjuvant. it will cure you! consider adding kerala, ayurvedic massage to it for better results.

you join in whenever you get your book. i will keep posting but i will be mindful of spoilers or will give a "spoiler alert" if required.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:40 pm

Natalia Romanova wrote:it starts with the wedding of her sister, right?
yes. Smile

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:43 pm

there's a character that comes much later in the book. sometimes, some behavior of rashmun reminds me of him. let's see if u can guess that correctly later.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:30 pm

Natalia Romanova wrote:there's a character that comes much later in the book. sometimes, some behavior of rashmun reminds me of him. let's see if u can guess that correctly later.
Smile i likes!

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:18 am

Huzefa Kapasi wrote: uncannily thus i saw the most elegant prose in the least expected of places and i will describe them
back in college, '85/'86 thereabouts, i had the habit of spending all day, some days, in my college's butler library: in the remote section that housed indian literature; more particularly the stacks, that had rows and rows of books and papers and i'd be alone on that floor all day for no one else stepped into that section. using my satchel as a pilllow, i'd read obscure stuff. i read vikram seth's poetry there before he published his TGG. as a young boy, he had contributed in p. lal's writers workshop, a periodical published from kolkata. i read pritish nandy's poetry in it too. p. lal was like a patron saint for those budding artists. few years later, another vikram, vikram chandra, would haunt butler, collecting material for his REAPR.

in butler i came across an essay. i don't know what it was: a paper or a thesis? it was 100 odd pages i think. it was not bound as a book. i don't know how it landed in butler. it was written by an IAS officer, a civil servant. it traced the history of a remote village in MP or bihar. the author presented himself as a man with anthropological leanings, a hobbyist, and was thus pursuing his hobby. he had decided to chronicle the history of a village: changail or chandel. he investigated, he enquired, he retraced, he reconstructed. he found how several generations of tribes, cut off from the thundering highway, the indian civilization that coursed nearby, had encountered repeated incursions by brahmins into their territory. slowly, slowly, like a hyena might eat an elephant, the wily, literate brahmins, who knew law, ate the illiterate tribals and swallowed their land. it was a very realistic and factual account. the tale was gut wrenching. the author's clinical, dispassionate voice was frustrating. why did he not betray any emotions? why were there no adjectives expressing chagrin or moral statements? in the penultimate para of the paper, the author drops the shocker. he reveals that he is a descendant of that tribe. and he closes the book without shedding a tear. but i, as a reader, could not help but cry for him. this book, this quest, had been the author's lifelong quest. this is what made this field his hobby.

i tried searching for pointers to the paper several times later through the net but always came back empty handed. i tried searching for it again today. to my surprise, it has finally been published, in 1996, by penguin: http://books.google.co.in/books/about/Changel.html?id=uK9uAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by MaxEntropy_Man on Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:54 am

Huzefa Kapasi wrote: few years later, another vikram, vikram chandra, would haunt butler, collecting material for his REAPR.

this book is very unapproachable. i started reading it and the first chapter drew me in quickly, but after that it was downhill. it has a labyrinthine plot with too many nested stories and one soon loses track. i suppose if you sat down not doing anything else other than reading this book it's possible to finish it, but for someone like me who reads a bit every day, this is not a fun book.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:12 am

MaxEntropy_Man wrote:
Huzefa Kapasi wrote: few years later, another vikram, vikram chandra, would haunt butler, collecting material for his REAPR.

this book is very unapproachable. i started reading it and the first chapter drew me in quickly, but after that it was downhill. it has a labyrinthine plot with too many nested stories and one soon loses track. i suppose if you sat down not doing anything else other than reading this book it's possible to finish it, but for someone like me who reads a bit every day, this is not a fun book.
+1

i had exactly the same experience. though i enjoyed his rich prose and the mini stories in it, after 100 pages i did not feel motivated to keep carrying on.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:26 pm

Huzefa Kapasi wrote: uncannily thus i saw the most elegant prose in the least expected of places and i will describe them
(since my active reading-life was during my college days, most of my reminiscences about reading/writing relate to those years.) in college, i quite enjoyed reading philosophical texts. even though some were profoundly boring, and i detested reading them, others were interesting and some prosaic. among the prosaic ones was being and time by heidegeer. it was a fat tome (and only a part of his never finished work) and replete with german words that the translators, in their infinite wisdom, had left in the original form for they thought them untranslatable. his treatise on phenomenology grappled with abstract ideas, abstract states of human existence, of "being," than appealed to me, and the author tried to explain his idea, that he was convinced of, as evident by his language, in a carriage (to quip, mien) that required undivided attention. this was evident even in the translation. the air of authority was unmistakable and it was bewitching.

heidegger's being and time was followed by sartre's being and nothingness. sartre was a master of fiction too to boot (he is known for both -- philosophy and fiction). his text too was voluminous but this genius weaved prose and didactic in his tome. obviously i fell in love with his book and him (i read all his works of fiction).

i was to be surprised yet again when i'd read the philosophy of g. e. moore. such elegant prose it was. it was a breath of fresh air! the remarkable thing about moore was that he eschewed rhetoric. he wrote in simple text that even a 6th grader could understand; yet he played with abstracts ideas in the realm of "philosophy of language" in his text and succeeded at what he did! he taught me that the boundaries of prose (and language!) was limitless. that was also, in a sense, the central thesis of his philosophy. after reading the highly prosaic philosophy of moore, i understood that i was attracted essentially to prose and everything else was either a substitute or was being used as a surrogate by me.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Jeremiah Mburuburu on Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:27 pm

Huzefa Kapasi wrote:uncannily thus i saw the most elegant prose in the least expected of places and i will describe them
i read your description. the next time you get the urge to describe anything, curb it.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:52 pm

Jeremiah Mburuburu wrote:
Huzefa Kapasi wrote:uncannily thus i saw the most elegant prose in the least expected of places and i will describe them
i read your description. the next time you get the urge to describe anything, curb it.
JM, wanna read some erotic fiction i wrote long ago? no saris or eastern european beauties though.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:04 am

Huzefa Kapasi wrote:...this genius weaved prose and didactics in his tome.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:32 am

page 13.

brahmapur is patna? purba pradesh means eastern province. it is not calcutta as he confesses. seth spent a part of his childhood in patna when his mother was a judge in patna high court.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:15 am

Huzefa Kapasi wrote:page 13.

brahmapur is patna? purba pradesh means eastern province. it is not calcutta as he confesses. seth spent a part of his childhood in patna when his mother was a judge in patna high court.

oh I always thot it was calcutta, coz many parts of the novel circles around bengali-marwari bias. The book is loosely based on his parents (well from his mom's perspective) love story. When reading Two Lives, it was so interesting to connect the dots on which uncle/aunt was what character in the novel.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:43 am

no it is not calcutta. at the wedding, arun, lata's brother, rues that this (brahampur) is not calcutta and there is no whiskey or white sahibs at the party. i think it is patna because there is mention of a large cantonment (danapur army cantonment, a shouting distance from patna, is a major army HQ) in brahampur.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:58 am

it is danapur! i just googled. seth's family lived in danapur for some time. brahmpur is a fictional town between patna and benares. danapur fits the bill.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Guest on Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:59 am

Huzefa Kapasi wrote:it is danapur! i just googled. seth's family lived in danapur for some time. brahmpur is a fictional town between patna and benares. danapur fits the bill.

oh ok, in that case, i think the story will take them into calcutta at times...

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Idéfix on Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:19 pm

Huzefa Kapasi wrote:page 13.

brahmapur is patna? purba pradesh means eastern province. it is not calcutta as he confesses. seth spent a part of his childhood in patna when his mother was a judge in patna high court.
Correct, that was my guess too.

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Re: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Post by Idéfix on Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:20 pm

Natalia Romanova wrote:
Huzefa Kapasi wrote:it is danapur! i just googled. seth's family lived in danapur for some time. brahmpur is a fictional town between patna and benares. danapur fits the bill.

oh ok, in that case, i think the story will take them into calcutta at times...
Yes, Calcutta is quite prominent, and at times feels like more than a setting, almost a character in the novel.

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