Tuesday October 23, 2018

Love, Romance, and fiction

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By Vikas Datta

It is that time of the year again when love and its expression is on everyone’s minds – and makes for a range of spectacles ranging from the touching to grotesquely ludicrous from both those who celebrate Valentine’s Day and those who deride it. But this is a fairly recent social phenomenon, and any serious, fairly wide-ranging reader has already come across any aspect of love that can be conceived – and they don’t have to be aficionados of the romantic genre.

Let alone its role in real life, love, taken here in its most conventional sense of romance, is a fundamental force in literature – and can be seen in various guises and stages that would bewilder the most amorous of us. It often drives the plot (or subverts it), and accounts for quite a bit of motivations of characters and their choices, actions and decisions, even if they are not those directly involved, and can be driving a totally different genre.

Not only the most famous detective in fiction, Sherlock Holmes is also the most noted bachelor, always making light of love – one who “never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer”.

But of the dozen stories in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1892), eight have a motif or motivation of love right from the first (“A Scandal in Bohemia”) to the last (“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches“), especially “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”, in which Holmes figures out a mystery which is actually a complicated love story but also displays understanding, though being unsuccessful in placating the distressed party.

Holmes can also simulate love well enough when needed, once ending up engaged – to a housemaid – but with an ulterior motive. (“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton“).

Love can even crop up unexpectedly, and help the protagonist achieve the outcome they were striving for. Was it apparent that a bachelor of the most regular habits and schedule, who embarks on a most singular adventure after accepting a bet at his club, would end up hitched at the end? This also enables him to find out that he has not lost his wager.

Phileas Fogg finds he had succeeded in traveling “Around the World in 80 Days” (Jules Verne, 1873), when he decides to marry Aouda, an Indian princess he had saved from being ritually immolated with her dead husband during his eventful journey, and tries to fix an appointment with a clergyman for the wedding.

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” says a character in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a break-up between love partners – and the eventual (but not always) reconciliation, is a common component of love stories, and is frequently melodramatic. What if it comes in a way that leaves you in splits?

Say, the hero has left the supposed villain sweltering in a Turkish bath to rescue the heroine he suspects is confined against her will but she doesn’t appear grateful, or the parties make up in a cupboard in which they have been sent as a punishment by their former nurse, who still believes (and treats them) they are children.

For this, we must dip into the hilarious corpus of P.G. Wodehouse. These stories – “A Slice of Life” and “Portrait of a Disciplinarian” respectively – figure in “Meet Mr Mulliner” (1927), where you can also find what atypical actions love can lead you to do in “The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer”.

And then who is the most successful love champion you could find in fiction? Going by the sheer number of carnal exploits, it is that arch-scoundrel, a cad and lecher, Sir Harry Paget Flashman, a bit player from “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” who gets his own series courtesy George Macdonald Fraser.

At one stage, Flashman, who gets embroiled in almost all major events of the 19th century, counts up his sexual conquests, “not counting return engagements”, and reaches a total of 478 – and at the moment is a dungeon in Gwalior during the 1857 Indian revolt! Since he is is just at a little over a third of his long and eventful life, it must have been considerably augmented, and would include two Indian maharanis, queens of Ethiopia and Madagascar and an imperial concubine who would later become the empress of China. The fictional ones range from assorted noblewomen, African-American slaves, and a daughter of Apache chief Mangas Colorado.

You could find much more extraordinary happening – to paraphrase Shakespeare, there is more in books and stories that can be dreamt in your philosophy. So celebrate Valentine’s Day as you like, but include reading a book. (IANS)

See these excellent collection of Romantic fictions from Amazon

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Copyright 2016 NewsGram

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5 Must Read Books For This October

Here are the five books that we can't wait to read this October:

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Five books to look forward to in October 2018

International titled book by acclaimed authors will once again rule the roost in October, along with a biography of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and a splendid story for children, woven around the life of late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

There will be other significant releases during the month, primarily “The Girl in Room 105” by Chetan Bhagat; an “Intimate Portrait of Jahangir” by Parvati Sharma; the final book from the late Professor Stephen Hawking; and John Grisham’s “The Reckoning”.

Here are the five books that we can’t wait to read this October:

1. Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami (Penguin)

In “Killing Commendatore”, a 30-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a strange painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a strange ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious 13-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors.

Billed as a “tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art — as well as a loving homage to “The Great Gatsby” — this book, the publisher said, is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.

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The Book Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami.

2. Every Breath, by Nicholas Sparks (Hachette)

From the No.1 bestselling author of “The Notebook” comes an unforgettable tale of enduring love this October.

“Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she’s been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family’s cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future. Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother’s early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable… but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.”

The publisher said that the novel illuminates life’s heart-breaking regrets and enduring hope, and explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties — and asks the question: How long can a dream survive?

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The Book Every Breathh, by Nicholas Spark

3. Bridge of Clay, by Markus Zusak (Penguin)

This is a story told inside-out and back-to-front by the author of the popular “The Book Thief”.

“The five Dunbar brothers are living — fighting, dreaming, loving — in the perfect squalor of a house without grown-ups. Today, the father who walked out on them long ago is about to walk right back in.” But why has he returned and who have the boys become in the meantime? At the helm, the publisher informed IANS, is Matthew, cynical, poetic; Rory, forever truanting; Henry, the money-spinner; and Tommy, the pet collector who has populated the house with dysfunctional pets, including Achilles the mule and Rosy the border collie. “And then there’s Clay, the quiet one, his whole young life haunted by an unspeakable act.”

From a grandfather, whose passion for the ancient Greeks still colours their lives, to a mother and father who fell in love over a mislaid piano, to the present day, where five sons dwell in a house with no rules, “Bridge of Clay” is said to be an epic portrait of how a ramshackle family, held together by stories and by love, come to unbury one boy’s tragic secret.

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The promotional picture of the book ‘The bridge of clay’ by Mark Zusak

4. Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief, by Kingshuk Nag (Rupa)

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power at the Centre since 2014, there is growing interest in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is perceived as the power behind the throne. Is this true? How much does RSS influence the government of the day? How does it use this influence? Is policymaking in the government dependent on the diktats of the RSS or is the reverse correct? More importantly, what role did RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat play in bringing the BJP and Narendra Modi to power? With the 2019 election not too far away, what is the critical thinking in the upper echelons of the Sangh? How does it propose to forge an alliance that will propel the saffron party to power again?

“Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief”, the publisher said, looks incisively at the Sangh and its world view, its inner workings, and how it has moulded the Indian mind-set. It also focuses on Mohan Bhagwat and examines what propels him to spread the influence of the Sangh across the nation.

Also Read: Ten Inspirational Quotes by APJ Abdul Kalam on His Second Death Anniversary

5. The Adventures of Young Kalam, by Stuti Agarwal (Juggernaut)

And finally, why should adults have all the fun? Meet Kalam, perhaps you know him well already! He is the cleverest little boy in his school, perhaps even in his town, Rameswaram. He is annoyingly curious, full of crazy ideas and up to mad innovations. Everyone around him thinks he is bonkers and best avoided — all except his dad, two best friends and Professor Ramachandran, the science teacher in whose little laboratory he tests all his inventions. But when the school’s most horrid teacher, Punnakai, spreads lies about the professor’s experiments and plots to throw Kalam out for his latest creation, the two have to find a way to fight back.

The book casts an iconic new character like Chhota Bheem by weaving a fictional narrative for children around India’s late President A.P.J. Kalam. (VOA)