When Hemmingway puffs one of his cuban cigars chatting with Ezra Pound and the silhouette of Scott Fitzgerald scribbling on his notes, appears in the smoke, you are thrown back to an iconic time in bohemian Paris. The Latin Quarter in Paris is my favourite part of the city and a renowned bookstore here has the most claim to fame. Shakespeare and Company is one of the finest english language bookstores and is truly an exceptional little part in the heart of the left bank of the city.
Call me a romantic at heart but how enthralling is the idea of traveling through treacherous regions, navigating through miles and miles of sand in search of elusive lakes? In the modern era of adventure tourism, the word adventure is so loosely used that a bungee jump in a super safe place is categorized as adventure; where could I read of authentic traveler accounts with genuine adventures? My first introduction to such a swashbuckling adventurer was Peter O’Toole riding a camel in the vast expanses of the Arabian deserts with his beautiful agal in the movie Lawrence of Arabia fancied after the great British explorer T.E. Lawrence.
Yayati was a powerful and handsome king of the ancient times. On being cursed with premature old-age by a sage, Yayati loses all that his youth had been giving him – pleasure, fame and riches. He approaches his dutiful son Puru to exchange his youth for his old-age, to which the boy readily agrees. Thus Yayati indulges in excessive passion for over a thousand years. Eventually Yayati realises the fruitlessness of lustful excesses and returns his youth to his son and renounces worldly pleasures and turns into an ascetic. This story from mythology is a beautiful depiction of the futility of youth if not constructively used.
I recently bought myself a copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It is a massive book and I haven’t read it yet (a shame I know!). A colleague across my table quipped to me “There’s only so much description of a tree I can take”. I like big, massive books. I mean books that take time for the reader to settle in. I mean books that don’t allow you to get into the story until you’ve read the first 80 or 100 odd pages. These books aren’t to be read on a Kindle. The hard pages as they brush across your thumb and forefinger as you turn the pages form important tactile memories and these big books also stroke my ‘reader’ ego, I must admit.
When I first read Somerset Maugham’s book ‘The Razor’s Edge’ almost a decade ago, I recall to have been quite affected by it. I was perhaps enchanted by the rich prose and the style of writing. Over these years I have read a lot of books but some characters have just managed to stay in my mind, like Larry in Maugham’s book. In this era when it so much easier to purchase a book online, I decided to test how much of a hold this book would have now and I must admit that this time, it has been an overwhelming experience to read the book for reasons beyond the literature aspects.