Month: June 2016

A Bunch Of Thoughts I Had While Reading Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Disclaimer: This is not a review.
rain-and-a-book-raymond-carverIf you follow me on Instagram, then you probably know I was really excited about this book.*

Every time someone tells me he/she is a voracious reader, then proceeds to gush about the latest 100-buck newsstand bestseller, I groan inwardly. Then they ask me if I have read it, and I say no with a polite smile, while snootily thinking how I’m “used to better literature” I ask myself if I am turning into that horrible person called a book snob.

Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love has proven to me without a doubt that I am not. I am still sighing with relief.

I’d recommend this book to fans of Haruki Murakami. Dark, magical realism? Haha, no. Just mass confusion. Like I said after I’d read Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, I did not get the purpose of these stories. I like my stories to be contained in well-defined plot-lines. Sometimes I even like open-ended stories if they are satisfying in other departments. I like anything that does not make me go, “Yeah, so?”

On the other hand, master storyteller, Mr. Carver has left me baffled, and feeling, if I may say so, quite unsophisticated. It appears to me I do not appreciate the fine art of sparsely constructed sentences or, erm, episodic stories or vignettes about boring individuals. While the stories in Murakami’s book had some creepy elements, Carver’s stories have an undercurrent of bitter grimness. Old couples who seem unwilling to go on with their grating, lonely lives, drinking their way through it all, bored and cynical.

And here I am, just, you know, yawning.

Whether Carver’s stories are an acquired taste or not is not for me to decide. He seems madly popular (this book has a rating of 4.24 on Goodreads, if ratings mean anything to you) and I feel like someone the bouncer kicked out of a club. No doubt, the sparse narrative and conversational dialogue adds to its appeal, and are perhaps the reason the critics love this one, but I hate it when I turn the page over and see something’s ended when I was most definitely expecting more.

What am I missing?

Goodreads | Amazon

*I’m weeping; I feel like my book instinct cheated me.

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Carrie, by Stephen King

You don’t call yourself a fan of the King and then wait an eternity before reading his first book.

carrie-stephen-king-sreesha-divakaran-rain-and-a-book

Carrie is the story of a sixteen year old girl with telekinetic powers. Her mother, a religious fanatic (of the maniacal, giving-all-believers-a-bad-name kind), is convinced that the girl is a witch, and that her powers must be suppressed. Her mother almost killed her when she was a baby, because she saw her lift up a rattle without even touching it.

The other side to this story shows how bullied Carrie is in school, because she keeps to herself, does not have friends and is generally considered weird and unpopular. The novel begins with Carrie getting her first period in the gym shower, and all the girls in her class throwing tampons at her while jeering at her. A traumatized Carrie has no clue what to do, and is convinced she is about to die. Back home, her mother says the devil is calling to her and inviting her to sin.

We learn as we progress through the story that Carrie has destroyed the entire town in a fit of rage on her prom night.

What I liked most about the book was the format it was written in. I am not sure of the technical term here for this format, but the book uses excerpts from fictional books titled The Shadow Exploded (which is meant to be a nonfiction piece chronicling the events of the night Carrie did what she did), My Name Is Sue Snell (which is meant to be the autobiography of Carrie’s classmate Sue, who survives the prom; she is also the only classmate who shows some sympathy to Carrie), and We Survived the Black Prom. The actual story, from the POVs of Carrie, Sue, Margaret (Carrie’s mother) also finds its way between these fictional excerpts. It is interesting that some of the more recent works that I’ve read seem to follow a variation of this format, most notably, Luckiest Girl Alive and A Head Full Of Ghosts. I wonder if they were inspired by Carrie.

I would classify it as Fantasy, rather than Horror. It was not scary, and this is something I have said about every Stephen King I have read (because I have not yet had the courage to pick up The Shining). On the other hand, I also say that tattoos don’t hurt, and encourage people to get them, and they come at me with pitchforks afterwards. To me, Carrie did not seem scary. Great story, great writing, but in the Fantasy genre. The cover is definitely scarier than the story. Gore? Little bit. Way too little compared to some other works of Stephen King that I’ve read. Maybe he did not wanna go all out in the first book?

Do I recommend it? Yes. For the interesting characters (especially Margaret White. Her brand of fanatics have turned into a literary cliche now, but still worth reading), for the setting, and most of all, for the format.

Goodreads | Amazon