When I started reading Pico Iyer’s Cuba and the night I had not expected it to be one of those books, I would read a few pages of and then finish a whole other book before coming back to it. His other book, Lady and the Monk which read in a similar vein – a sort of fictional love story – was an engrossing read from start to finish. This book is engrossing too but there is just something missing in the endless agonizing of the protagonist in sorting out his feelings for his lady love. Move on and stop being such a first world bastard, you feel like screaming.
The first diversion was with the late Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The book’s reputation had reached me before the book. The cover also tantalizingly promised that it was several layers more complex than the ordinary thriller. Which it definitely is, with its patiently drawn out story, characterization and a potent female protagonist that made me wonder when was the last time I had come across such a powerful, disturbed female character. Personally though, I thought that Larsson’s real skill is in describing. With every word, he managed to paint vivid images of Sweden in my head till I could feel the cold in my bones and see the blond heads bobbing in the street. A good read for a long rainy weekend.
The next meandering was into John Grogan’s Marley and me. The book chronicles the life of Marley the dog, who becomes a valued member of the Grogan family. It made me smile a lot and also secretly thank heavens for never having been tempted to own a dog. It is just too much effort! The only complaint was the long drawn out chapters on Marley’s last years of suffering, something incongruous with the cheerful tone of the rest of the book.
This was followed by a few more pages turned in Cuba and the night before jumping into Samanth Subramaniam’s excellent debut novel Following Fish. The essays cover a range of experiences associated with fishes – be it eating it for pleasure, or consuming it as a medicine or having it as an aside while drinking alcohol. For a country with a coastline as large as ours and a fish eating culture as predominant as our, I don’t remember having come across a book covering this topic. That and Subramaniam's ability to suddenly delight with a neat turn of phrase, makes this one quite charming.
I suspect I will leap into a couple of more books before finally wrapping up Iyer. I must admit though that I have quite enjoyed the parlay into all the books and somehow the guilt from knowing I am ignoring Iyer is making the interludes all the more delicious.