These days my reading habit is back with a vengeance and the past three days I have finished off some three books (not from start to end, but more like books that were already close to being finished) and have already started on a new one.
The first of the lot is Soul Mountain by Gao Xinjian. I have struggled to finish this one for a very very long time now. The book has kind of aged with me since I started with it in 2007 when I was spending a lot of time shuttling between Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore. The memories of flying back into Delhi on a late evening flight, reading through the hard-to-bite text still remains fresh in my memory. And it is one hard book to read, with the Gao trying at every turn to throw you off his trail.
The second one is Murakami and the music of words by Jay Rubin. Haruki Murakami has in the past two years become my outright favorite author. It is interesting to read a well-written book about the man whose books I really enjoy reading. It is easy to see the tremendous enjoyment Rubin has derived from the work. The research and the references are meticulous and the dots are amazingly well connected all over the book. I may just wind up reading The Windup Bird Chronicles again as a result of this. And I don't remember ever reading a book twice or wanting to do that with any other book.
The last one is Life Is Elsewhere, by Milan Kundera. I have tremendously enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being, written by him before this. While Murakami can often mix in a lot of surrealism and fantasy to explain things and connect the dots, Kundera is deals strictly in the very real and often very abrasive version of it. There is only one part, the Xavier episode, where Kundera leans on fantasy to make a point. It is not an easy read and it will put you through the wringer with the detailed examinations of people and their connections.
And the book that I have started on is Doris Lessing's A Briefing for Descent into Hell. I tried reading this book over ten years ago during my college days and it entirely freaked me out. It is very rarely that a book does that to me and when I saw this book, after so many years, in the store I had to pick it up. Reading the first couple of pages it is easy to understand why it still scares the life out of me. But this time, I will persist.
With Gao and Doris, things have sort of come full circle for me. I have never taken over two years to finish a book, which has been the case with The Soul Mountain and I have never before walked away from a book because it has scared the crap out of me, which has been the case with the Lessing. In a manner of speaking, this is kind of closure. Now to get on with the reading.