Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Dream Merchants [1949]

Harold Robbins would perhaps rank as the most notorious of all popular writers. He is regularly dismissed by the puritans as a sleaze-ball, to put it mildly, and that’s a damn shame in my opinion. The books of even the likes of Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain were once regularly dismissed in a similar fashion, qualifying them as nothing but cheap pulp fictions. Robbins was a far better writer than he is given credit for. He was a first-rate storyteller, and his sophomore novel, The Dream Merchants, bears ample proof to that, as do a number of his other books like The Carpetbaggers and Memories of another Day, to name a couple. For someone like me, who loves cinema, it was easy to fall in love with this fascinating chronicling of the early years of the motion picture industry in America. But the book was not just about giving a slightly fictionalized history of the film industry. A number of Robbins books have dealt with the theme of a guy’s journey from “rags to riches”, only to squander it all – if not monetarily, at least at the personal level; he also liked having two timelines run in parallel; this novel is no exception to either of them. The novel has two strands – in the present, Johnny Edge, now the President of a big production house, must ensure that nasty boardroom politics don’t take him down; the elaborate flashback sequences, which aptly juxtapose the present, tell us about his tumultuous journey through life, his stormy relationships & heartbreaks, his complex friendship with Peter Kessler (the man who founded the studio he now heads), and of course the creation of the company itself. Filled with memorable characters and the universal themes of love, friendship and loneliness, this brilliantly-written and briskly paced book sure packs one hell of a punch to keep the readers hooked to it till it’s very last page.

Author: Harold Robbins
Genre: Drama/Showbiz Drama/Roman a Clef
Language: English
Country: US

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Neuromancer [1984]

Neuromancer was William Gilbson’s debut novel, and, over the years, it has gained a permanent place in the pantheon of visionary and influential science-fiction novels (in general) and in the genre of “cyberpunk” (in particular). Come to think of it, this was the book that made “cyberspace”, among others (ICE, or Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics, is now popularly referred to as Firewall), a part of daily vocabulary. Its postmodernist ideation was way ahead of its times, and yet its themes of urban loneliness, memory and what it is to be human, coupled with its atmosphere that of grime and grunge, have lent it an air of universality. The novel’s principal protagonist is Case, a perennially doped and washed out former “cyberspace cowboy” whose ability to interface with the “Sprawl” was destroyed when he had double crossed his employer. Now, a mysterious guy called Armitage is offering him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redeem himself by committing the mother of all cybercrimes. And he has at his side a “street samurai” by the name of Molly who has glass lens for her eyes and retractable blades under her nails. The novel, which forms the first part of Gibson’s “Sprawl Trilogy”, is mindbending to say the least. Therefore, suffice it to say, it isn’t an easy read by any stretch of imagination. The novel is filled with jargons (most of them concocted by the author himself), and nothing has been served on the platter, thus making the reader work in order to decipher a lot of the logic and wordplay that the author has made ample use of. It wouldn’t be honest of me to say that I immensely enjoyed this bleak and visceral book, but the fact that Time magazine included it in its list of 100 Best English-Language Novels of 20th Century, further reiterate its place in popular culture.

Author: William Gibson
Genre: Thriller/Science-Fiction/Cyberpunk/Modernist Literature
Language: English
Country: US


I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book. ~Groucho Marx

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved reading books. My choice of books has changed over time, so much so that the kind of authors, genres, styles of writing, artistic quality, subject matter, etc. of the books (novels, novellas, short stories, graphic novels, comic strips) that I’ve read over the years could even be used to elucidate my journey as a person through various stages of knowledge, opinion, belief and maturity, and the ensuing evolution of my thought processes. Suffice it to say, books of all possible kinds would find a place here, ranging from English to Bengali (as also other languages translated to either English or Bengali), conventional novels to graphic novels, classics to contemporary fictions, blistering dramas to farcical satires, high-brow to pulp, glee to grunge.

I’d begun my association (and hopefully a life-long one at that) with blogosphere with my movie blog Cinemascope. And now with Biblioscope I’ve decided to enter the world of literary-blogs or lit-blogs as well (if there’s such a word, that is). Given that it is difficult to read books at the same pace as watching movies, I won’t be able to update this blog with the same frequency as my movie blog. So, to keep the blog ticking, instead of just reviewing the books that I would have read after the creation of this blog, I’ve planned to review, from time to time, some of the books that I’ve read earlier as well – ones which have found a place not just in my dusted book-shelves but also a permanent one in my overstuffed mind.

To cut a long story short, I’ve found yet another activity to keep myself occupied, as if there weren’t enough already.

So without further ado, I present to you all… Biblioscope.

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all. ~Abraham Lincoln

Monday, August 1, 2011

Catalogue of Book Reviews at Biblioscope

  1. The Adventures of Augie March (1953) - Saul Bellow
  2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) - Lewis Carroll
  3. All the King's Men (1946) - Robert Penn Warren 
  4. American Pastoral (1997) - Philip Roth
  5. The Anatomy Lesson (1983) - Philip Roth 
  6. Aranyak (1976) - Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay
  7. Aranyer Din Ratri (1968) - Sunil Gangopadhyay
  8. The Armies of the Night (1968) - Norman Mailer 
  9. As I Lay Dying (1930) - William Faulkner 
  10. A Study in Scarlet (1887) - Arthur Conan Doyle 
  11. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977) - Mario Vargas Llosa
  12. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) - Gertrude Stein
  13. The Basement Room (1936) - Graham Greene 
  14. Bech: A Book (1970) - John Updike 
  15. Bech at Bay (1998) - John Updike
  16. Bech is Back (1982) - John Updike
  17. The Big Clock (1946) - Kenneth Fearing
  18. The Big Kill (1951) - Mickey Spillane
  19. The Big Nowhere (1988) - James Ellroy
  20. The Big Sleep (1939) - Raymond Chandler
  21. Black Spring (1936) - Henry Miller
  22. Bleak House (1852) - Charles Dickens 
  23. The Book of Daniel (1971) - E.L. Doctorow 
  24. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979) - Milan Kundera
  25. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) - Truman Capote
  26. Brideshead Revisited (1945) - Evelyn Waugh 
  27. Casino Royale (1953) - Ian Fleming
  28. Chaturanga (1916) - Rabindranath Tagore 
  29. Chokher Bali (1903) - Rabindranath Tagore 
  30. City of Djinns (1993) - William Dalrymple
  31. Closely Observed Trains (1965) - Bohumil Hrabal
  32. Cogan's Trade (1974) - George H. Higgins
  33. The Cold War (2005) - John Lewis Gaddis
  34. The Comedians (1966) - Graham Greene 
  35. The Counterlife (1986) - Philip Roth
  36. Crime and Punishment (1866) - Fyodor Dostoevsky 
  37. Curfew (1986) - Jose Donoso
  38. The Day of the Locust (1939) - Nathanael West 
  39. The Dean's December (1982) - Saul Bellow 
  40. Desolation Angels (1965) - Jack Kerouac
  41. Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) - George Orwell 
  42. Down There (1956) - David Goodis
  43. The Dream Merchants (1949) - Harold Robbins 
  44. The End of the Affair (1951) - Graham Greene 
  45. Exit Ghost (2007) - Philip Roth
  46. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) - Ray Bradbury
  47. Farewell, My Lovely (1940) - Raymond Chandler
  48. Fear of Dying (2015) - Erica Jong
  49. Fear of Flying (1973) - Erica Jong 
  50. The Feast of the Goat (2000) - Mario Vargas Llosa
  51. Fiesta: The Sun also Rises (1926) - Ernest Hemingway 
  52. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974) - Philip K. Dick
  53. Focus (1945) - Arthur Miller
  54. The Ghost Writer (1979) - Philip Roth
  55. The Glass Key (1931) - Dashiell Hammett 
  56. The God of Small Things (1997) - Arundhati Roy
  57. Goodbye to Berlin (1939) - Christopher Isherwood
  58. Gorky Park (1981) - Martin Cruz Smith 
  59. Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) - James Baldwin
  60. The Great Gatsby (1925) - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  61. Heart of Darkness (1899) - Joseph Conrad 
  62. The Heart of the Matter (1948) - Graham Greene
  63. Herzog (1964) - Saul Bellow
  64. The Honorary Consul (1973) - Graham Greene 
  65. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) - Arthur Conan Doyle
  66. The Human Factor (1978) - Graham Greene 
  67. The Human Stain (2000) - Philip Roth
  68. Humboldt's Gift (1975) - Saul Bellow
  69. If This is a Man (1947) - Primo Levi 
  70. I Married A Communist (1998) - Philip Roth
  71. I Served the King of England (1983) - Bohumil Hrabal 
  72. Jagori / The Vigil (1945) - Satinath Bhaduri
  73. The Joke (1967) - Milan Kundera
  74. The Killer Inside Me (1952) - Jim Thompson
  75. The Last Picture Show (1966) - Larry McMurtry
  76. Liquidation (2003) - Imre Kertesz
  77. Lolita (1955) - Vladimir Nobokov
  78. Lonesome Traveler (1960) - Jack Kerouac
  79. Love and Garbage (1986) - Ivan Klima 
  80. Maggie Cassidy (1959) - Jack Kerouac
  81. The Magic Lantern (1990) - Timothy Garton Ash
  82. The Maltese Falcon (1930) - Dashiell Hammett 
  83. The Man in the High Castle (1962) - Philip K. Dick
  84. Mendelssohn is on the Roof (1960) - Jiri Weil
  85. Miami Blues (1984) - Charles Willeford
  86. The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) - James Thurber
  87. The Ministry of Fear (1943) - Graham Greene 
  88. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017) - Arundhati Roy
  89. Moby-Dick (1851) - Herman Melville 
  90. Monsignor Quixote (1982) - Graham Greene 
  91. Mottled Dawn (1948-1955) - Saadat Hasan Manto
  92. Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) - Christopher Isherwood 
  93. Mr Sammler's Planet (1970) - Saul Bellow 
  94. Mrs Dalloway (1925) - Virginia Woolf
  95. My Life and Hard Times (1933) - James Thurber
  96. Neuromancer (1984) - William Gibson
  97. Our Man in Havana (1958) - Graham Greene 
  98. Naomi (1924) - Junichiro Tanizaki 
  99. Pedro Paramo (1955) - Juan Rulfo 
  100. Pick-Up (1955) - Charles Willeford
  101. Portnoy's Complaint (1969) - Philip Roth 
  102. The Power and the Glory (1940) - Graham Greene
  103. The Prague Orgy (1985) - Philip Roth 
  104. Prajapati (1967) - Samaresh Basu
  105. The Quiet American (1955) - Graham Greene
  106. Rajkahini (1905) - Abindranath Tagore
  107. Ravelstein (2000) - Saul Bellow 
  108. The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (1984) - Mario Vargas Llosa
  109. Red Harvest (1929) - Dashiell Hammett 
  110. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) - Mohsin Hamid
  111. The Rosie Project (2013) - Graeme Simsion
  112. Sabbath's Theatre (1995) - Philip Roth 
  113. Seize the Day (1956) - Saul Bellow 
  114. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) - Kurt Vonnegut
  115. Starshoop Troopers (1959) - Robert A. Heinlein
  116. Stasiland (2001) - Anna Funder
  117. The Tenth Man (1985) - Graham Greene 
  118. That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (1957) - Carlo Emilio Gadda
  119. The Thin Man (1934) - Dashiell Hammett 
  120. The Third Man (1949) - Graham Greene 
  121. The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) - John Buchan 
  122. To Jerusalem and Back (1976) - Saul Bellow
  123. To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) - Harper Lee 
  124. Too Loud a Solitude (1976) - Bohumil Hrabal 
  125. Travelling with Che Guevara (1978) - Alberto Granado
  126. Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962) - John Steinbeck 
  127. Travels with My Aunt (1969) - Graham Greene 
  128. The Trial (1925) - Franz Kafka
  129. Tropic of Cancer (1934) - Henry Miller 
  130. Tropic of Capricorn (1938) - Henry Miller
  131. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) - Milan Kundera
  132. V for Vendetta (1982-1989) - Alan Moore & David Lloyd
  133. The Wall Jumper (1982) - Peter Schneider 
  134. Ways of Escape (1980) - Graham Greene 
  135. Wiseguy (1986) - Nicholas Pileggi 
  136. Without Feathers (1975) - Woody Allen
  137. Zinky Boys (1989) - Svetlana Alexievich
  138. Zuckerman Unbound (1981) - Philip Roth