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