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. Black Spring (1936) - Henry Miller
  21. Bleak House (1852) - Charles Dickens 
  22. The Book of Daniel (1971) - E.L. Doctorow 
  23. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979) - Milan Kundera
  24. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) - Truman Capote
  25. Brideshead Revisited (1945) - Evelyn Waugh 
  26. Casino Royale (1953) - Ian Fleming
  27. Chaturanga (1916) - Rabindranath Tagore 
  28. Chokher Bali (1903) - Rabindranath Tagore
  29. Closely Observed Trains (1965) - Bohumil Hrabal
  30. Cogan's Trade (1974) - George H. Higgins
  31. The Cold War (2005) - John Lewis Gaddis
  32. The Comedians (1966) - Graham Greene 
  33. The Counterlife (1986) - Philip Roth
  34. Crime and Punishment (1866) - Fyodor Dostoevsky 
  35. Curfew (1986) - Jose Donoso
  36. The Day of the Locust (1939) - Nathanael West 
  37. The Dean's December (1982) - Saul Bellow
  38. Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) - George Orwell 
  39. Down There (1956) - David Goodis
  40. The Dream Merchants (1949) - Harold Robbins 
  41. The End of the Affair (1951) - Graham Greene
  42. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) - Ray Bradbury
  43. Fear of Dying (2015) - Erica Jong
  44. Fear of Flying (1973) - Erica Jong 
  45. Fiesta: The Sun also Rises (1926) - Ernest Hemingway
  46. Focus (1945) - Arthur Miller
  47. The Ghost Writer (1979) - Philip Roth
  48. The Glass Key (1931) - Dashiell Hammett 
  49. The God of Small Things (1997) - Arundhati Roy
  50. Goodbye to Berlin (1939) - Christopher Isherwood
  51. Gorky Park (1981) - Martin Cruz Smith 
  52. Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) - James Baldwin
  53. The Great Gatsby (1925) - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  54. Heart of Darkness (1899) - Joseph Conrad 
  55. The Heart of the Matter (1948) - Graham Greene
  56. Herzog (1964) - Saul Bellow
  57. The Honorary Consul (1973) - Graham Greene 
  58. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) - Arthur Conan Doyle
  59. The Human Factor (1978) - Graham Greene 
  60. The Human Stain (2000) - Philip Roth
  61. Humboldt's Gift (1975) - Saul Bellow
  62. If This is a Man (1947) - Primo Levi 
  63. I Married A Communist (1998) - Philip Roth
  64. I Served the King of England (1983) - Bohumil Hrabal 
  65. Jagori / The Vigil (1945) - Satinath Bhaduri
  66. The Joke (1967) - Milan Kundera
  67. The Killer Inside Me (1952) - Jim Thompson
  68. The Last Picture Show (1966) - Larry McMurtry
  69. Liquidation (2003) - Imre Kertesz
  70. Lolita (1955) - Vladimir Nobokov
  71. Lonesome Traveler (1960) - Jack Kerouac
  72. Love and Garbage (1986) - Ivan Klima 
  73. The Magic Lantern (1990) - Timothy Garton Ash
  74. The Maltese Falcon (1930) - Dashiell Hammett 
  75. Mendelssohn is on the Roof (1960) - Jiri Weil 
  76. The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) - James Thurber
  77. The Ministry of Fear (1943) - Graham Greene 
  78. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017) - Arundhati Roy
  79. Moby-Dick (1851) - Herman Melville 
  80. Monsignor Quixote (1982) - Graham Greene
  81. Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) - Christopher Isherwood 
  82. Mr Sammler's Planet (1970) - Saul Bellow 
  83. Mrs Dalloway (1925) - Virginia Woolf
  84. My Life and Hard Times (1933) - James Thurber
  85. Neuromancer (1984) - William Gibson
  86. Our Man in Havana (1958) - Graham Greene 
  87. Naomi (1924) - Junichiro Tanizaki 
  88. Pedro Paramo (1955) - Juan Rulfo
  89. Portnoy's Complaint (1969) - Philip Roth 
  90. The Power and the Glory (1940) - Graham Greene
  91. The Prague Orgy (1985) - Philip Roth 
  92. Prajapati (1967) - Samaresh Basu
  93. The Quiet American (1955) - Graham Greene
  94. Rajkahini (1905) - Abindranath Tagore
  95. Ravelstein (2000) - Saul Bellow 
  96. The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (1984) - Mario Vargas Llosa
  97. Red Harvest (1929) - Dashiell Hammett 
  98. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) - Mohsin Hamid
  99. The Rosie Project (2013) - Graeme Simsion
  100. Sabbath's Theatre (1995) - Philip Roth 
  101. Seize the Day (1956) - Saul Bellow 
  102. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) - Kurt Vonnegut
  103. Starshoop Troopers (1959) - Robert A. Heinlein
  104. Stasiland (2001) - Anna Funder
  105. The Tenth Man (1985) - Graham Greene 
  106. That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (1957) - Carlo Emilio Gadda
  107. The Thin Man (1934) - Dashiell Hammett 
  108. The Third Man (1949) - Graham Greene 
  109. The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) - John Buchan 
  110. To Jerusalem and Back (1976) - Saul Bellow
  111. To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) - Harper Lee 
  112. Too Loud a Solitude (1976) - Bohumil Hrabal 
  113. Travelling with Che Guevara (1978) - Alberto Granado
  114. Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962) - John Steinbeck 
  115. Travels with My Aunt (1969) - Graham Greene 
  116. The Trial (1925) - Franz Kafka
  117. Tropic of Cancer (1934) - Henry Miller 
  118. Tropic of Capricorn (1938) - Henry Miller
  119. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) - Milan Kundera
  120. V for Vendetta (1982-1989) - Alan Moore & David Lloyd
  121. The Wall Jumper (1982) - Peter Schneider 
  122. Ways of Escape (1980) - Graham Greene
  123. Zinky Boys (1989) - Svetlana Alexievich
  124. Zuckerman Unbound (1981) - Philip Roth