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Year In Books – 2022

by Venky

If the readings in and of 2021 was to a great extent, directed towards preserving the last vestiges of sanity in a world teetering to come to grips with a medical crisis of untold proportions, 2022 was reading for thanksgiving, every page a paean to the overwhelming joy of staying alive, every book a realisation of what it takes to breathe in the moment, and every author a product of an elixir of redemption and remonstration.  

My reading got off to an introspective beginning in 2022 with Leonard Mlodinow’ s Emotional – How Feelings Shape our Thinking. I understood that a technique referred to as “connectome” enabled scientists to explore specific cells in different regions of the brain, and comprehend the electric signals that generate thoughts, feeling and behaviours. After the isolation triggered by a much-needed lockdown that tested every taut nerve, tether of patience and degree of tumult, connectomes were not that hard to decipher. From understanding behaviours I made the transition towards mimicking them. Wanting – The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life by Luke Burgis had a gobsmacking influence on me. When by the time I was done with the book, I found out that Peter Thiel was also influenced a great deal by it, I found myself in hallowed company, metaphorically speaking at least, if not monetarily.

Peter Handke’s Don Juan – His Own Version taught me to steer clear of perverted writing – even though such sick articulations conferred a Nobel on the author! Everything that Handke wasn’t Kay Dick was and will continue to be. This phenomenal author who was way ahead of her times, had a walloping effect on me with her unsung dystopia of monumental proportions, They. Narrated in a spine chillingly matter of fact by an unnamed and ungendered protagonist, the spright volume moves at a breakneck pace. The setting is the English countryside. The corpse of a dead canine signals the harbinger of ominous portends. Hannah Arendt by Samantha Rose Hill and Before The Big Bang – The Origin of the Universe and What Lies Beyond by Laura Mersini Houghton, portrayed the extraordinary lives of two women whose indelible contributions in the fields of Philosophy and Quantum Physics continue to not just reverberate but also shatter the glass ceiling into a billion shards! I found my mojo in Science Fiction with Frank Herbert’s Dune. It took me quite a few days and constant threats from an exasperated mother, before I could shake myself off a dangerous reverie that found myself roaming the dunes of Arrakis, riding the biggest of Shai-Huluds before being the inspiration of Paul Muad’Dib even!

I found my Nirvana of reading by rediscovering the myth, mystery and mystique of the vernacular and my mother tongue, Tamizh. The genesis behind such a revelation was a trip to the cinemas with my father (a connoisseur of Tamizh and a person otherwise allergic to cinema theatres) for a viewing of Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus “Ponniyin Selvan”, I was not at all surprised or taken unawares when my 83-year-old filial companion transformed himself into an epitome of incendiary emotions. Mumbles, grumbles, grunts, groans and cribs later, he not only registered his official protest, but also claimed that my unbridled enthusiasm was on account of my deficiency in not having read the legendary Kalki’s crowning glory. This exacerbated disappointment of my father sent me haring away to a neglected portion of my bookshelf, dusting away the cobwebs and picking up Kalki’s masterpiece. Suffice it to say I was a reader resurrected. The immersive experience in reading 5 volumes and 2000 pages (approximately) of Ponniyin Selvan was a rejuvenation in the act of reading.

The fascination with Amarar Kalki led to an unhinged obsession with Tamizh literature. I unearthed the fact that stream of consciousness writing could also be radical, courtesy La Sa Ramamrutham’ s Abitha. A blisteringly unsparing exposition of human character, Jayakanthan’ s Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal was a peek into consciousness and a search for conscience. Taking a scathing dig at received wisdom that ringfences the concepts of chastity, modesty and fidelity, Jayakanthan demonstrated in a novel way, the myopic manner in which an unforgiving world views a woman who is the unfortunate victim of circumstances beyond her control.

In between the beauty of Tamizh, Willy Vlautin with his Don’t Skip Out on Me and Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, instilled the Yin and Yang of desolation and delight respectively as they drilled into their unsuspecting reader the attributes of agony and ecstasy. Hard Sell – Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Start Up by Evan Hughes demonstrated in an unsparing manner the pernicious element of greed that brooked no prisoners, not sick people even! Laird Hunt in Zorrie reiterated that even in a world full of deceit and demagoguery, humanity still shone like a sacred beacon of hope, love and altruism.

Eddie Jaku rounded off my year in pristine style by introducing me to his jewel, The Happiest Man on Earth. Any human being who finds peace and tranquility while being subject to unthinkable depravity in a concentration camp, automatically elevates himself/herself to the pedestal of divinity. That is exactly what Eddie Jaku, an Auschwitz survivor does with his beautiful life affirming book. In a social media enveloped world riven with convulsions, polarized by chaos and divided by affiliations, Jaku’s offering is a glue that holds humanity together.

Year 2022 has been a fulfilling literary adventure that has opened hidden doors, familiarized uncharted territories and helped navigate unexplored terrains. The outcome of such a journey has been a destination enriched by experience, embellished by emotions and ennobled by faith.

2023 – Bring it on!

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