Chasing Rabbits

A place for my thoughts, important and unimportant. Just indulging myself. For my news blog, visit: http://bit.ly/1Xr1tgM

Category: Books

Fight Club

Fight ClubFight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book is a complete descent into madness. Darkness. Oblivion. At the end of which you feel saved.

Ha! I am a big fan of the movie. I have seen it countless times and I finally got down to read the book yesterday. I’d been delaying it primarily ’cause I heard from sources, Palahniuk himself being one of them, that the movie is better. Also, I tried reading Invisible Monsters a long time ago and I couldn’t cut through Chuck’s prose. His prose is one-of-a-kind.

Anyway, to come to the first real opinion you might be looking for: I found the book better than the movie.

Is the book better than the movie? That’s for you to decide. As of now, I will only tell you why I think what I think.

(Spoilers Ahead) First of all, the book is in itself, GREAT. I hope you’ve seen Taxi Driver. If you haven’t, you won’t get what I am trying to say. Imagine a Taxi Driver novel narrated in first person where you are digging through Travis Bickle’s sick, demented, cancerous mind one word at a time, one paragraph a minute. The experience is bound to be dark, trippy and is going to make you question your sanity at the end of it. Reading Fight Club was something similar. With the movie, you all saw the events unfold through a, how do I put this, jazzed-up, glossy, distant medium. But the actual matter of this story, the insides of Jack/Tyler’s brain is so f**ked up, while you are reading and finally when you finish the book, it gives you an entirely different kind of psychological jolt that you cannot expect from the movie. Sure, the movie and the book share the same themes, the same ideas and it’s the ideas and the quotes and the cool stuff that fans of Fight Club, casual or not, to this date talk the most about, but as far as I am concerned, the juice of the book lies in Jack/Tyler’s growing, slow-burning insanity and exactly how Chuck writes it and it’s bloody fantastic!

Simply put, the book is as much a spirited, passionate meditation on insanity and depression as it is about anti-consumerism, masculine identities, anarchism and what have you.

Another reason I loved the book more than the movie is because of the endings. With the book, the way it’s progressing, Tyler reaches his inevitable end. It’s beautiful. It’s brilliant – all the support group people coming together calling out to him, him ending up in the mental institution he calls heaven, with the space monkeys surrounding him, promising that his dreams of ending civilization won’t fail… The book from start-to-middle-to-finish is perfect; there is not a single jarring note, there is not a single thing I disapprove of, all in all – Tyler reaches where he’s supposed to reach.

Whereas, in the movie, we end up with an abrupt twist (after the first obvious twist) – Jack shoots himself, Tyler disappears or rather Jack reconciles between his two selves and now both are one and they can equally handle Marla, the monkeys and himself with equal ease. People say Fincher makes dark movies but the ending is a true cop-out. It’s a forced hopeful, happy, sweet-muffin ending which in all likelihood, given the circumstances, the crazy, f**ked up circumstances, is the last thing that’s supposed to happen. A person SO mentally ill cannot recover just like that. He just cannot. You have to read the book to realize the level of insanity Jack/Tyler has drowned into and the movie kind of didn’t really capture the sickness of the novel. Nevertheless, it’s one of the greatest films ever made without a doubt, but yeah, the book is definitely a totally different animal, better than the movie in my opinion and obviously, highly recommended.

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Torso

Image
Written by
: Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko
Art and Lettering by: Brian Michael Bendis
Published by: Image Comics

I first got to know about Torso when news of David Fincher planning to adapt it hit me a few years back. Finally got around to reading it. The story is about the ‘Torso Killer’ who was active between years of 1934 and 1938. He was called so because all he left of his victims were their torsos. Then Cleveland Safety Director, the infamous Elliot Ness was on his trail along with his team of two very competent detectives – Walter Myrlo and Sam Simon.

The case, to this date, remains unsolved.

Yet again, like the Green River Killer, the artwork is B/W. But while the Green River Killer’s artwork was bland (in a good way), very direct and simple, Torso’s is really trippy and it gets under your skin. What’s more interesting is, real B/W photographs of the crime scene and the investigation are often spliced into the artwork, lending an overall eerie effect. You get the feeling of ‘Whoa, I am THERE right now!’. The artwork coupled with the writing was so intense I felt like I was watching a movie. They just complemented each other so well! The characters are brilliantly written and it is ripe for a film adaptation.

Also, unlike the Green River Killer, Torso is strictly noir. The shadows are dense and dark. There’s a sinister quality to the entire look of the book.

Torso Killer is probably the creepiest serial murderer I have ever been aware of till date and it’s a pity he was never formally charged and convicted. Brilliant work by Brian Michael Bendis nevertheless.

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story

Image

Written by : Jeff Jensen
Illustrated by: Jonathan Case
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story is a true crime graphic novel based on the infamous American serial murderer of the same name, who was highly prolific throughout the 80’s and 90’s. He was convicted of 48 murders but later confessed to having killed twice the number. All his victims were women, mostly prostitutes. The story follows the gruelling manhunt to capture Gary Ridgway, the killer, for over two decades.

The best thing about the book is how the story is told. The narrative leaps from one point to another between the time Gary first stabbed a young boy to “know what it felt like to kill someone” and the final day at the courthouse. Now, non-linear narrative in both cinema and books can often appear to be just a gimmick, but here it really works. The characters are believable, the violence is ‘measured; there is nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb. The artwork is not all that fancy. It’s black-and-white, very basic and grounded which adds to the documentary like realism of the book. All in all, a good one.

A Wild Sheep Chase

I finished the book exactly four hours ago, after which I wrote two severely soul-sucking articles on top ten Brazilian nightspots and shopping complexes, and so the details are a little fuzzy. My first reaction upon finishing the book was an intense “What the fuck did I just read?”. Since then, that feeling has been subsiding bit by bit. All I can say at this moment, with the book beside the keyboard and my eyes on the cover, is that this is one special book – one of my most magnificent reads ever, as magnificent as the mutant sheep with the star-shaped birthmark in this novel that can ‘enter’ people and control their minds. Yes.

But that’s not all the weirdness of this book. We have here a protagonist who runs a small advertising business, just as cool and jaded as the guy from Norwegian Wood (the only other fictional work of Murakami that I’ve read) but funnier, who loses his wife to his friend (who plays better guitar than him) and then gets morbidly attracted to a picture of ‘ears’. He seeks out the owner of these ‘ears’, and after he finds her, they start dating. The girl is also a bit of a clairvoyant quite possibly because of her magic ears.

Anyway, our protagonist suddenly encounters a strange man in a suit who gives him an assignment to hunt for a particular sheep from a photograph, the one I talked about earlier, and if he fails to find it in a month, he and his business are done for. So he goes out on the search for this one sheep with his girlfriend, and things get weirder and weirder ultimately culminating in, shall I say, a soulful conclusion.

HM-AWildSheepChase(UK)PaperI loved reading it. So much so that I completed it in less than a day in three sittings between which I took two solid power naps. After I finished it, I couldn’t really make head or tail of the plot but I knew I loved it – because of its delicious writing – almost intoxicating, it lures you in and grips each and every one of your nerve and just doesn’t let you go. If not for anything else, the book should simply be read for its beautiful writing; Murakami describes ‘silence’ in at least fifteen different ways in the book, each as vivid, unique and completely original as the other.

Then there’s the philosophical, metaphysical musing. I particularly liked:
Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.”

And the last line of the second paragraph (I have to quote both the paragraphs here or it will seem out of context, the context being a dream the protagonist sees where a cow asks for a pair of pliers):
There are symbolic dreams – dreams that symbolize some reality. Then there are symbolic realities – realities that symbolize a dream. Symbols are what you might call the honorary town councilors of the worm universe. In the worm universe, there is nothing unusual about a dairy cow seeking a pair of pliers. A cow is bound to get her pliers sometime. It has nothing to do with me.

Yet the fact that the cow chose me to obtain her pliers changes everything. This plunges me into a whole universe of alternative considerations. And in this universe of alternative considerations, the major problem is that everything becomes protracted and complex. I ask the cow, “Why do you want the pliers?” And the cow answers, “I’m really hungry.” So I ask, “Why do you need pliers if you’re hungry?” The cow answers, “To attach them to the branches of the peach tree.” I ask, “Why a peach tree?” To which the cow replies, “Well that’s why I traded away my fan, isn’t it?” And so on and so forth. The thing is never resolved, I begin to resent the cow, and the cow to resent me. That’s a worm’s eye view of its universe. The only way to get out of that worm universe is to dream another symbolic dream.

The book is filled with stuff like this. Existential navel-gazing. There are rich, strong, impressionist descriptions of physical phenomena as poetically profound as rain and snowfall to something as commonplace as cigarette smoke disappearing into thin air. Many people claim the book is an allegory and is symbolic of a number of things. I don’t care much about what other people say. The book is beautiful for what it is and to me it is a story of a man’s physical and emotional journey more than anything else (sheep, ears, rats, secret organizations etc.). Highly recommended. I am unsure of whether to read Dance, Dance, Dance after this, which is its immediate sequel or Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which is supposedly ten times weirder. I have a strong itch for the latter.

Knock! Knock! Who’s There?

This was my first James Hadley Chase book. I got it for 30 bucks from a second-hand book store in Free School Street (now Mirza Ghalib Street). I got to know about the place just a week ago and it has the most oddball collection of books I’ve ever seen anywhere, in any book shop. There’s actual Russian Dostoyevsky, there’s Philip K Dick, there’s a bunch of cheap pulp paperbacks by writers I have never heard of. There was even a 1st Edition copy of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. Anyway I got this book for two reasons – 1. I was looking to buy a really cheap but good book. Didn’t have much cash but couldn’t really resist going into the place and walking out with something and 2. I got fascinated by ‘James Hadley Chase’ when I saw the protagonist reading a Chase book in Johnny Gaddar. Apparently, the 2007 pop culture pastiche was an homage to cheap pulp crime novellas like Chase’s books (among other things like Johnny Mera Naam and R.D Burman).

jameshadleychaseknockknockSo the book. I won’t say it was gripping. Particularly because the characters were all one-note. They were all caricatures whose only job was to do exactly the things that were needed for the plot to progress and the story to reach its predestined conclusion. They didn’t seem to have a mind of their own and whatever personality they had were just means to an end. But I guess that’s how this kind of books are.

But from what I read about Chase and his style of work from Wikipedia, Knock Knock! pretty much matches the description of a typical Chase tale.
“In several of Chase’s stories, the protagonist tries to get rich by committing a crime” – check.
“But the scheme invariably fails” – check “and leads to a murder” – check “and finally to a cul-de-sac, in which the hero realizes that he never had a chance to keep out of trouble.” – check.
“and the final denouement echoes the title.” – Check! And while reading this part, I was mentally grinning to myself wondering how exactly the man wrote his stories. He clearly thought of the title first and then cooked up a really steady plot that would inevitably reach the conclusion he had in mind, the conclusion which inspired the title of the story – or to be precise, it was the title that inspired the story. Wikipedia also says his books were misogynist which was a big reason the American market didn’t warm up to him. Well, I have no reason to argue. The women in this book are horny and only want to fuck. Each of the male characters, at least once, refer to them as ‘whores’. They are pushed about, threatened, slapped, insulted, even raped (of course, she likes it and praises her rapist for being ‘all man’) – you get the idea. But in spite of the one-note characters and the clichés, I really did have a fun time reading it. I am looking forward to reading some more Chase books.

Oh and I was pleasantly amused by how admirable an homage Johnny Gaddar is to Chase. If you have seen the film, you will know how its story matches Chase’s style to the tee.

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