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Mr. A. Jehangir

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Forbidden (Definitions)
Forbidden (Definitions)
Price: £3.95

4.0 out of 5 stars gripping and tragically beautiful, 10 Aug. 2014
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I finished this book in a few days as it is easy to read (I suppose it is YA after all). However it is beautifully written and the story is gripping from the get go. The descriptions of a broken family home are almost too realistically done and the interplay amongst the siblings is wonderful although heart-rending. The central love story is very powerfully written and the protagonists get one's sympathy even though it is a taboo relationship. It feels right and that's due to the brilliance of the writing. The tragic ending was not unexpected but happened more suddenly than I thought. Very moving. Makes one question the hypocrisy of society and it's laws.


Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World
Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World
Price: £4.42

3.0 out of 5 stars the story of Barca, 6 April 2014
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Interesting history of Pep Guardiola's great Barcelona team and their remarkable last few seasons with him in charge as ŵell as delightful small biographies of the main stars from Xavi and Iniesta to Pique and, of course, Messi.


Crack, Back & Sack
Crack, Back & Sack
Price: £8.96

4.0 out of 5 stars a fun read...but thoughtful., 18 Nov. 2013
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Very enjoyable book -- describes the plight of the modern male perfectly. Well worth reading. Similar to but not quite the same as the movie.


Maps for Lost Lovers
Maps for Lost Lovers
by Nadeem Aslam
Edition: Paperback

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written novel about immigrant Pakistanis in the UK, 9 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Maps for Lost Lovers (Paperback)
o, after reading the book all through the night, literally, (I went to bed at 6.30 a.m.!) I finally finished this masterpiece. It was a mixed feeling because the book was so beautiful, the characters so real, the experiences of the protagonists finding so many echoes in my own life (and I'm sure in that of most British Pakistanis whether first, second or third generation), the prose so ravishing that I didn't really want it to end.

Initially, I started this book last year but it is not an easy book to read, the writing is so detailed, descriptive, ornate and choc-a-bloc full of metaphor after metaphor, simile upon simile, that one is forced to take one's time. At that time last year, I was too mentally tired and busy to make the effort required. This time though, I put my other reading on hold and gave the book my undivided attention. I'm glad I did! The language of the book is so luscious, so beautiful, that for afficianados of prose style it alone is sufficient reason to read it. If we then add to it an interesting, realistic, so-contemporary-relevant, central plot, wonderfully realised main characters, and a great gift for putting images on the page, this book becomes a must-read. The central plot follows the lives of a family of Pakistanis in a Northern England town for a year after the main protagonist's brother and his lover are murdered by the girl's brothers out of 'honour'. The two main characters around whom the novel revolves are Shamas, a libertine, cultural-only Muslim, secretly a Communist, and his deeply pious, conservative, wife, Kaukab, the matriarch and daughter of a cleric.

Aslam has really succeeded in portraying the lives, dreams, and fears of immigrant Pakistanis in the UK. That he does it with magical prose is icing on the cake.

However, no book is perfect, and this one has a couple of tiny flaws which I noticed. One is that the writer's Islamophobia is too obvious and visible. This makes the book at times have the feel of polemic

which detracts somewhat from the points he is trying to make (especially when he makes some unfair generalisations about fiqh). The other slight criticism is that, at times, he overdoes the ornate language piling metaphor upon metaphor in his vivid descriptions of the flora and fauna of England. These two minor quibbles aside, it is, without doubt, the best-written novel I've ever read by an Asian writer and propels him instantly into the top tier of prose stylists next to the Nabokovs, Joyces, Burgesses, and Henry Millers of the world.

A wonderfully written novel and work of social commentary.


The Possibility of an Island
The Possibility of an Island
by Michel Houellebecq
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Big ideas, disappointing exploration!, 20 Feb. 2006
It was with great excitement that I bought this book for all of this French enfant terrible's previous books had, although very controversial and to an extent Islamophobic, been visceral and devastating critiques of modern Western European society and what is wrong with it and the collapse of the socialist liberal dream of Post WW2 Europe, and also very well written with complex plots too. However this book, although again with an interesting premise--an author, Daniel 1, a stand-up comedian and actor, relates the story of his life (mostly love life) and each of his many future clones then, in alternative chapters, comment on the life of their initial 'ancestor'--the novel falls down due to being a rehash of Houellebecq's prvious themes: modern man's obsession with sex, New Age sects who rely on technology to save mankind, misogyny, Islamophobia, cloning, the collapse of morals in today's Europe and so on--except that this time his central plot is too slight and weak to carry it off. The birth and rise of an obscure sect which quickly becomes the planet's premiere new religion, its emphasis on genetically improving human beings by altering them, the centrality of cloning, saving memories into computers and then uploading these into the next clone and so on; though these are weighty subjects, the story used to explore them is too weak and the central character too unlikable.
Big ideas as always but this time the execution was off; too rushed and a rehash of ideas he's already explored. Read Atomised instead--his masterpiece.


Platform
Platform
by Michel Houellebecq
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good book--but not as good as Atomised., 27 July 2005
This review is from: Platform (Paperback)
Well, well, I read Platform right through in a day and a bit and it was a good book; its controversy and supposed Islamophobia had bought it some notoriety which, I have to say, is mostly undeserved. As a novel, I don't think it was as good as Atomised--the big ideas were mostly absent in this one. Yes, he did make some astute observations on Western sexuality but that was also present in Atomised. The story, as far as it went, I felt was quite slight: Michel (he always seems to use his own name as that of his main protagonist) goes on a package holiday to Thailand where he meets Valerie. After the holiday they start a passionate affair. Although he doesn't say it in the book, it is obvious that he is in love with her (I don't think Houellebecq believes in Love). They have lots and lots of sex. In public, in S&M bars, they participate in orgies. She is a high flying executive in a large tour operator organisation and then gets an even more high flying job in a global chain of hotels. He is a civil servant. The book has a lot of canny observations on the holiday industry. Obviously, he researches his books very well although it is obvious his work is largely autobiographical too. I learnt a lot about how hotel chains and holiday resorts operate. Well, anyway, about 3/4 of the way through the book, Michel speaks to Valerie's boss (who is in a loveless marriage: his wife cheats on him in S&M bars; he has a brief affair with their 15 year old au pair) about the economic advantages of setting up a sex tourism chain of hotels. The idea is a huge hit.

Then disaster strikes. In one such sex hotel in Thailand, Islamic terrorists strike, killing hundreds, including Valerie, who is gunned down in front of Michel. Amazingly, he survives, although is in obvious shock and gets hospitalised for a while. When he leaves hospital he decides to stay permanently in Thailand where he writes this book. There are strong implications that he commits suicide although this is not stated explicitly.

It is after these events that his Islamophobia really kicks in. He makes comments about feeling happy when he hears that Palestinian children, women and men have been killed by Israelis. This hate and bitterness though is understandable in the context of the story. He also makes a few minor Arab characters, tourists, say disparaging things about Islam too: the typical cliches, how it has contributed nothing much to modern civilisation, how it was spread by the sword. Nothing worth getting worked up about to be honest and I can see why Houellebecq was cleared of inciting racism. Inside his Islamophobic comments he does make veracious observations about the reality of Muslims in this day and age. He notes how most French Muslims do not practise much and how most of the Arab girls are as French as the rest of society; he particularly notes how they are usually no longer virgins when they get married! He fantasises about 'Muslim vaginas'. He also talks about the intellectual stagnation of Muslim countries implicitly in recent centuries and that is something which cannot be denied either.

So, these are my thoughts. No doubt, he has the typical views of some uninformed bigots about Islam but a lot of what he says, although not pleasant to read, is mostly based on fact, especially his remarks about Muslim societies today. Something he should do, is read a good book about Islamic history though!

A satisfactory book, well-written and engaging but not as good as his previous one


Atomised
Atomised
by Michel Houellebecq
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

46 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not pleasant but essential. Extraordinary., 25 July 2005
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
I started reading this book almost a year ago and got through the first 2/3 very quickly; then something strange happened: I was so depressed by the contents of it, the constant pointless sex, the graphic descriptions, the callousness and emptiness of the characters and the emptiness of their shallow lives that--despite knowing that all this was deliberate by Houllebecq, that it was his razor-sharp deconstruction and commentary on the modern Western lifestyle--I was just not able to continue, until two days ago, when, with nothing else to do, I picked it up off my bookshelf and started from where I'd left off. The hiatus worked wonders and I whizzed through the remainder of the book, enthralled and riveted, although at times disgusted too, and full of admiration.
This is a difficult book but a necessary one and, I have no hesitation in now saying, a brilliant one. The book is full of some extraordinary ideas and incisive commentary on humanity in the late 20th century, especially that of European society. The ending--it goes into (very plausible) hard science fiction territory--the erudition of the writer, his eye for detail, and his twin obsessions of sex and violence, and his ability to be brave enough to write what he sees without any thought for political correctness or any of the other sops of the liberal left, is breathtaking and--despite the ocassional Islamophobia, nay contempt he portrays for organised religion but Islam in particular, his racism, makes this book essential reading especially after the tragic events of 9/11 and those in London on 7/7 and after. This book has more important and accurate things to say about the human condition of contemporary European man than any number of the dry academic essays on sociology and anthroplogy you can care to read. Understand Houllebecq and you understand what people nowadays really care about and think. I don't think I'd like the man but to ignore him and what he is saying would be to do so at our own peril. I haven't read a book full of such big and radical ideas for a long time.


Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (Penguin Modern Classics)
Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Vladimir Nabokov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.49

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a class of its own. Awe-inspiring prose., 13 Dec. 2004
To write a review of Ada is almost impossible except to say that it is the book in which Nabokov, the greatest prose stylist in English, uses his mastery of the language and his great knowledge of European literary history to his greatest extent and evidently enjoys himself! The whole book is choc-a-bloc with word-play, literary puzzles, allusions to other works, hidden quotations, alliteration, streams of consciousness, history, science fiction, dollops of French, helpings of Russian, laces of Latin, poetry, catalogues of erotica, and many many other things..this is a literature lover's delight but requires great concentration; however, even more so than Lolita, the dedicated reader will be delighted and rewarded like he or she has never been before. This is Nabokov at his literary peak. Rarely can any writer of English have written prose of this calibre. Awe-inspiring is the only word I can think of to describe it.
The plot, as it is, deals with the love story between Ada and Van Veen who happen to be first cousins from their first meeting as young teenagers to their old age and eventual death and is set in a parallel world to Earth called Antiterra which is similar to--yet different in some geographical and historical aspects-- to our own Earth (or Terra)...
It is quite a long book too (500 odd pages of dense text) but eminently worth the effort and time. The only problem is once you have read Nabokov, and especially Ada, no other novel gives as much pleasure afterwards so every other fictional book afterwards pales in comparison (so far...)! I would give my left arm to be able to write prose like this!
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Kill Bill, Volume 2 [DVD] [2004]
Kill Bill, Volume 2 [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Uma Thurman
Offered by FUNTIME MEDIA
Price: £2.75

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece., 13 Dec. 2004
This film is not a sequel at all but a continuation of the story from where Volume 1 left off. In this film, Uma--now without her Bruce Lee-esque track suit--continues on her quest to track down Bill (David Carradine) who tried to have her killed on her wedding rehearsal. The film is less energetic than Volume 1 but just as exciting and gripping. In this film the movie genres which QT pays homage to are Chinese kung-fu films, and Sergio Leone westerns as opposed to Japanese samurai films of Volume 1. As usual there are stunning sequences and great dialogue. The fight scenes in this film are more restrained and realistic than in the previous movie but definitely more brutal too. The denouement of the battle between Darryl Hannah (Elle Driver) and The Bride (Uma) is something I have not seen in any film to date. Eye-poppingly good and gooey! Not for the squeemish.
Also I would not recommend claustrophobics to go and see this movie as there is a scene in here which is extremely disturbing. The acting is brilliant by all--especially Uma and Carradine--(who is in most of this movie) and the dialogue witty. Many of the scenes are also humorous in a dark way. The film's score and cinematography are also superb. In all this is as good as Volume 1 if not better and taken together this movie--(and it IS really a single movie) is one of the greatest and most innovative and exciting cinematic milestones of recent times.
I cannot review Kill Bill: Volume 2 without mentioning the best chapter, for me, in the whole long movie (1 and 2 combined)--the delightfully entitled, 'Chapter 8: The Cruel Tutelage of Master Pei Mei' during which Uma goes to a legendary Chinese martial arts' master to be trained. It is both a homage to and a satire of those countless Chinese kung-fu films in which the Hero is trained. Simply brilliant is all I can say, especially the subtitled Mandarin. This sequence is a jewel in this glittering crown of a movie. Kill Bill establishes Quentin Tarantino as the best and most exciting director in the world. A masterwork. Go and see it!


In Custody [DVD]
In Custody [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shashi Kapoor
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £8.99

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful metaphor about the decline of the Urdu language, 13 Dec. 2004
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This review is from: In Custody [DVD] (DVD)
Based on Anita Desai's novel of the same title (which I haven't yet read), this beautiful, yet little known, gem of a film is a very moving and poignant film with a worrying message at its heart.
It is gorgeously shot (which is not surprising since it is made by the Indian half of the Merchant-Ivory team) and set in a fictional Indian town called Mirpur in modern times. The basic plot is very simple: Om Puri plays Deven, a lecturer of Hindi whose real passion and hobby is Urdu poetry. When he is asked to interview his hero for an article in a Urdu magazine, the cannot believe his luck. However, he doesn't realise the difficulties in life Nur Shahjahanabadi is going through-with his deteriorating health, two wives (one of them an ex-courtesan played by Shabana Azmi who is jealous of his poetic success) and the hangers-on, freeloaders and sycophants who plague him and is shocked to find the state of neglect his hero is in. The other difficulty he faces is getting the college to give him the funds for his interview including the purchase of a tape recorder for recording the interview for posterity. What follows is a hilarious, yet very moving, film.
Though the film centres around Om Puri's lecturer, it is Shashi Kapoor as the gargantuan poet Nur who really steals the show. He plays the part of the dying poet to perfection and his Urdu diction is wonderful. The actual poems he recites are really those of Faiz Ahmad Faiz which lends the film an air of authenticity. The film is at its best in those scenes which feature Shashi Kapoor and Om Puri. In one scene Nur compares the nazm 'Mere humdum, mere dost' (by Faiz) to Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Mercie' .
It is obvious the Nur represents Urdu poetry and his poor health is a metaphor for that of Urdu in India. A very moving film with an important message, it is intelligent film-making of a kind rarely seen in India and it is ironic that it was made by an expat.
The new DVD version has some excellent extras, notably in-depth interviews with the cast and director as well as a trailer and a short film.


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