A conversation between a small girl (Scout) and her father (Atticus) from To Kill A Mockingbird:
“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening.
“Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.”
“ ‘s what everybody at school says.”
“From now on it’ll be everybody less one.”
I’m not much of a fiction literature guy. In fact, you could say I’m fictionally illiterate. When I read blogs with prominent bookshelves, or ‘Literary Experiments’ in the tag line, I get an inferiority complex. My Unquiet Mind has to confront the reality that I’m pretty much a moron when it comes to ‘literature’. Discounting Ayn Rand, my involvement with fiction is pretty much limited to Ludlum, Asterix, and Three Men In A Boat. The only reason I’ve heard of T. S. Eliot is because of the graffiti that it is an anagram of Toilets. In order that I don’t need to use one when educated folks discuss literature, I occasionally read friend’s posts of Book Memes, or better still, browse their real bookshelves.
I was thus perusing Asuph’s impressive library, seeing if there was any chance there might be something I would consider myself worthy of actually reading. After some time, the only book I could request to borrow was an old, decrepit, Perry Mason. But being the good friend that he is, he thrust Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music in my hands, saying “you’ll be able to appreciate this, as it deals a lot with music”. I hesitated, but he goaded me on. That’s one of the reasons friends are for, isn’t it? They lead us to explore new avenues, ultimately enriching our lives, and we feel so grateful in the end.
So, without further ado, here’s my first attempt at writing a book review.
Music, such music, is a sufficient gift. Why ask for happiness; why hope not to grieve? It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music – not too much, or the soul could not sustain it – from time to time.
An Equal Music is narrated by Michael Holme, a second violinist in a Quartet based in London. It is a nicely woven braid of his love of music and his love of Julia, with whom he studied music in Vienna. He has lost her when he ran away from Vienna to escape his autocratic mentor. The story is about his tenuous reunion with Julia, who is married with a family of her own, and about Michael and his Quartet’s struggle in the European classical circuit.
His past haunts Michael to such an extent that the story progresses as if walking forward while continuing to look backward.
The strongest element of the book. It acted like a glue holding the story and characters together, and my interest till the end. Seth indulges in the works of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Haydn, offering a unique glimpse into the world of chamber music. The interpersonal dynamics of the Quartet that influence their performance. Their approach and method of rehearsing. The commerce of instruments. The business of a Quartet.
Throughout, I enjoyed the intimacy with music and identified with the characters. The almost sub-conscious habit of thinking of the great composers as if they were living acquaintances. The fascination and romanticizing of specific works. Michael has a less laborious pursuit to obtain a rare Beethoven Quintet than I did in search of a Mozart Divertimento.
The weakest aspect of the book is the shallow character development. Michael is so strongly influenced by his past that his nostalgia, his obsessive brooding, make you realize that he will never shape his future. Why exactly does he leave Vienna abruptly? He comes across as a nervous wreck and in other matters, incredibly stupid. He needs a 101 on relationships, finance, and professional networking skills. He loves deeply, but I could not empathize with his love for Julia.
Other than her ability to play well, why is she so lovable? Why does she suddenly sleep with him again? What influences her decisions as she deals with the conflict between a family life and an extra-marital affair?
Zone of Silence
Julia’s progressive deafness may be considered as a hackneyed plot device by some readers, but Seth handles this challenge extraordinarily well. He engages us in the ‘zones of intersection of the world of soundlessness with those of the heard, mis-heard, and of imagined sound’. Recollections of Immortal Beloved are but natural.
I doubt if musically uninitiated readers would enjoy this book. If you’re not amused by likening three tall and one short persons in a group to Beethoven’s Fifth, you will miss the most enamoring aspect of the book: the profound love of music that permeates throughout. Seth lives and breathes music.
PS: Connect on Shelfari if you’re a real, non-fiction (a tautology?) lover. Many thanks to Asuph. Oh yes, and I did read the Perry Mason first.
A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.
- Jerry Seinfeld
For the past several weeks, I have been mulling over adding a “Reading Room” widget to my sidebar where I can list the books I’ve just read and plan to read in the near future. I firmly believe you can tell a lot about a person by the kind of books the person reads.
Even in real life, I’ve found that talking about the books one has read helps me connect with people. If you’ve read the same kind of books, you can make excellent close friendships with people, which otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
While I was contemplating this for a while, I received an invite from a friend to join Shelfari, an online book-sharing site. Then, I came across Ergo’s post sharing his bookshelf. I too think it is a great concept and a great idea. Much better than adding a widget listing just a few books!
Think of Shelfari for books as what Bloglines is for Blogs, or Delicious is for bookmarks. Just as we like to share the blogs we read with each other through our Blogroll, we can share the books we read through Shelfari.
So, here is my Shelfari bookshelf. Feel free to add me as a friend, if you decide to sign up, so that we can share.
Note that all the books on my bookshelf are those that I’ve read and personally own. I’ve not yet gotten around to adding everything I’ve read! In some cases I chose hardcover editions as they had a title picture, whereas I actually own the paperback editions (which were without a title picture). Needless to say, the list is not exhaustive – I have several books without even an ISBN number that I did not find in Shelfari’s database. Also, a couple of tries to search for books using ISBN numbers didn’t succeed. Otherwise however, the site does a good job, as far as I’ve seen.
India, a land of ancient knowledge, has the largest collection of manuscripts in the world dating back thousands of years, covering different areas including religion, philosophy, science, medicine, arts and literature. Composed in various ancient and contemporary Indian languages and scripts like Hindi, Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, and Tamil, these manuscripts were written on diverse materials such as birch bark, palm leaf, cloth, wood, stone and paper.
Unfortunately, these manuscripts are lying in various corners in utter neglect in libraries, academic institutions, museums, temples and monasteries, and private collections; and were never complied into a single repository until now. Realizing the need to restore these invaluable manuscripts, the Department of Culture took upon itself the task and established the National Manuscript Mission (NMM) in February 2003. A five-year project, NMM does not only locate and preserve manuscripts but is also engaged in spreading awareness. The mission has already created an electronic database for one million manuscripts even as it has estimated that there are five million manuscripts in India.
How serendipitous then, that this article also ends with a quote citing Google:
As N Balakrishnan, IISC professor rightly said: “Since everything today points towards an Internet-dependent world, one is not wrong when one says, you are in this world only if you are on Google.”
Heartening to see the government in action! Read the full article here.
“To see the greatness of a mountain, one must keep one’s distance. To understand its form, one must move around it. To experience the moods, one must see it at sunrise and sunset, at noon and at midnight, in sun and in rain, in snow and in storm, in summer and in winter and in all other seasons. He who can see the mountain like this comes near to the life of the mountain, a life that is as intense and varied as that of a human being.“
Words from Lama Govinda, a 20th century holy man, quoted by Richard Blum, one of the three editors of National Geographic’s book, “Himalaya: Personal Stories of Grandeur, Challenge, and Hope“.
Some say the book is worth buying for the photographs alone (more than a 100 from some of the most accomplished photographers in the world). But the 40 short essays accompanying them are what gives this book its real meaning.
“What the collection of writings in Himalaya does is take those experiences among the tallest mountains of the world and bring them back to where they most touch people that spend time in the Himalaya, which is in your heart.”
“Conrad Anker, one of the world’s most talented climbers, writes in his Himalaya essay, the mountains he had gone out to first ascend in Nepal and Tibet, had faded into the shadows next to the people that lived there. “The mountains have taught me humility, but the people who live in the shadows of these mountains have taught me acceptance, respect and kindness.“
The words of the world’s foremost wildlife biologist, George Schaller, in a voice light on science and strong on feeling: “Standing at this convergence of snow and sky, I lift my face and feel afloat like a passing cloud. Spirits soar in such infinite space, one feels euphoric in the cold clarity of the peaks, and the silence speaks to the soul.“
Himalaya approaches this from so many different directions, from the Tibetan monks who live in the high monasteries, to Jimmy Carter on a trek, to climbers scaling the heights. Yet a consistent theme runs through each essay, and if we approach this book as we approach the Himalayas, looking for it to give us something, ultimately we come away with a greater sense of self and what we too could achieve.”
Sounds like a great addition to my library…:-)
This is a follow-up to my earlier post about the MBTI personality type – iNTj Rational Mastermind.
I want to move further and explore how MBTI contrasts with InQ, the Inquiry Mode Questionnaire, more popularly known as “Styles of Thinking”. The InQ was developed by Allen Harrison and Robert Bramson, who wrote a book on it: ”The Art of Thinking“.
The fountainhead of the InQ is the premise that most people tend to think, most of the time, in only one way. And it has been proven empirically:
- 50% prefer a single Style of Thinking
- 35% prefer two Styles of Thinking
- 2% prefer three Styles
- 13% show no preference
The Five Styles of Thinking
Synthesists are integrators. They delight in finding relationships in things which, to others, have no apparent connection. In a group discussion, they are likely to champion an opposite point of view, and are therefore valuable in avoiding “group think.” Synthesists tend to be highly creative people, very interested in change and highly speculative.
Idealists take a holistic view of things, are typically future-oriented and concerned about goals. They care about social values. They are the “big picture” people. Correspondingly, they tend to dislike detail.
Pragmatists’ motto is, ”whatever works”. They are action-oriented. They like to get things done and their approach is often flexible and adaptive. Unlike idealists, their solutions do not have to be the most elegant.
Analysts see the world as logical, rational, and predictable. Their thought process is prescriptive – look for a method, a formula, or procedure to solve any problem. Analysts like to find the “one best way” to solve any problem.
Realists take an empirical view. Their world consists of what can be felt, smelled, touched, seen, heard, and personally observed or experienced. Their motto is “Facts are facts”. They are interested in concrete results. The realist resembles the analyst. Both are factual and focused on concrete facts, but unlike the analyst, the realist will grow impatient with the deductive, drawn-out procedures and endless search for data of the analyst.
Rational Mastermind and Styles of Thinking
Given the above, which InQ Style of Thinking do you think is best represented by the MBTI iNTj Rational Mastermind?
As far as I know, no such correlation has been drawn before. The fact that there are 16 MBTI personality types, compared with 5 InQ Thinking Styles may compound the problem. (This is not an aberration, simply a logical result of the fact that ”personality” has many additional dimensions apart from just “Style of Thinking”).
I venture to say that the Analyst Style of Thinking would most closely correspond with the introvert, intuitive, thinking types (ISTJ Inspector, INTP Architect, and INTJ Mastermind). This is most certainly true in my case – I am an iNTj, and have a very strong preference for the Analyst Style of Thinking.
I wonder what the others out there think - the Composers, Teachers, Champions, and so on?
Some More Good Stuff on iNTj
If you want to know more about the typical daily life of an iNTj - see this blog post. Let me warn you, it’s quite long, but the fact that it has more than 600 comments, should tell you how it resonates with a lot of iNTjs!
Jack likes my blog
Therefore I like Jack
Jill doesn’t like my blog
Therefore I don’t like Jill
Jack likes Jill
Jill doesn’t like my blog
They have a fight
Jack doesn’t like Jill
I love Jack for not liking Jill
Jill hates me for making Jack not like her
I hate Jill for hating me
Jack loves me
With me so far? I don’t think so, but if you are, you must read R. D. Laing’s book, “Knots”. I read the book during my adolescent years, and didn’t think it would appeal to most people. I was hypnotized and trapped by it. Then I discovered that the book was a great success when it sold 75,000 copies in US in a few weeks, when published in 1970. But that was a different era…
R. D. Laing was a controversial psychiatrist - an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:
“Laing was, moreover, a critic of psychiatric diagnosis, he argued that diagnosis of a mental disorder contradicted accepted medical procedure: diagnosis was made on the basis of behavior or conduct, and examination and ancillary tests that traditionally precede diagnosis of viable pathologies occurred after the diagnosis of mental disorder. Hence, psychiatry was founded on a false epistemology: illness diagnosed by conduct but treated biologically.”
A real excerpt from the book:
Once upon a time, when Jack was little,
he wanted to be with his mummy all the time
and was frightened she would go away
later, when he was a little bigger,
he wanted to be away from his mummy
and was frightened that
she wanted him to be with her all the time
when he grew up he fell in love with Jill
and he wanted to be with her all the time
and was frightened she would go away
when he was a little older,
he did not want to be with Jill all the time
he was frightened
that she wanted to be with him all the time, and
that she was frightened
that he did not want to be with her all the time
Jack frightens Jill he will leave her
because he is frightened she will leave him.
If you’re really, I mean really, interested in reading more of this stuff, there are excerpts of the book to be found here.