Wednesday, June 09, 2004
BOOKS: You are WHAT you read. You also are WHEN you read.
People often ask me how I can read books starting from any random page after years of having read it originally. And not knowing how to explain the interest, I simply shrug my shoulders and get back to the book.
But that's not what this post is about. It's about my observation that you should always read a book again after a few years. There are some books which belong to a generation. I read "Catcher in the Rye" at the peak of my adolescence and was enthralled by it. Holden's attitude was everything the rebel in me stood for.
I wasn't so successful with all my ventures. I tried reading "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac in my early twenties. Having heard so much critical review of the book, I was expecting it to be spellbinding. Yet, in retrospect, the only reason that got me through that book was the praise it had received.
Later, while talking to a friend who'd spent a lot of time in the US and had read the book around the same time I was reading Salinger, his impassioned tones on the experiences of Sal/Dean and the significance of it to the average young guy, did I realize that I'd simply missed the bus! In terms of both age and, to a great extent, location (Let's admit it, not in India would you get to do a road trip as envisioned by Kerouac).
But the books you read when you're growing up, in a small way influence the way you turn out. There are loads and loads of people out there, who will admit that Ayn Rand's novels have moved them in some way. There's that little bit of anti-altruist in them, the seed of which was planted by those books.
But if they'd read the same books when they were in their 30s, beaten by the routines of daily life, tired to the point where a rebellious book was just someone laughing in their faces and 'idealistic' talk, perhaps that spark wouldn't have been kindled. At mid-life all the Rand-ish rabble may not make sense, or for someone reading them for the first time, be dismissed as trash.
And for all those who believe that the Ayn Randish world is just a work of fiction, I would ask you to compare the CEO of Prasar Bharti (Sarma, or whatever his name is) to Wesley Mouch (from Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"). A person who takes away the rights of a private enterprise to provide to the larger audience with the rationale being "public interest" does deserve the comparison in my books.
I think I deviated - and rambled. But the idea is that there's a time in your life for each book. Don't miss it. They ARE a window to the world.
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