Notes on The War against Printing

assorted wood stamps


The war against printing

For many, printing was an overwhelmingly positive innovation. Almost as soon as the first presses were established in Italy, learned men rushed to sing its praises. To some, in fact, it seemed almost divine. In 1468, the bishop of Aleria, Giovanni Andrea de Bussi (1417–75), hailed it as a ‘holy art’ (sancta ars).

Does Ars Technica mean Art of Technology?Checked Wikipedia and yes! It does!

Previously, Filippo observed, the inaccessibility of the Bible and other devotional works helped keep the common people on the straight and narrow. Unable to understand the Latin language, they relied on priests to explain the meaning of scripture and the practices appropriate to a Christian life.

Oh no! Don’t challenge our monopoly!

But also, religious expertise is being challenged at this point by less educated fools who haven’t thought thoroughly about things but are overconfident. Exactly what’s happening to science right now around the world but specifically in the US.

However distasteful a character Filippo de Strata may seem, his polemics against printing hence serve to illustrate that, amid the fog of change, the line between progress and peril can appear blurred, even to the most keen-eyed observer. It is perhaps just as well that, in this case, wishful thinking prevailed over unpleasant, if not unjustified, fears

Final thought – not really a war but a battle that was quickly lost.

A journey into audiobooks

A friend told me, when my wife and I declared that we were expecting, that it’s time to accept that I’m not going to be reading a lot of books or watching a lot of TV on loud any more.

He recommended subtitles, telling me that he’s watched almost all the movies and TV in the past few months on mute or low volume.

What I’ve discovered, instead, is that I’m now suddenly a fan of audiobooks. I couldn’t bring myself to hear them earlier. But now, they’re a godsend.

What’s important, I feel, is that I’m getting the right ones to listen to.

I started with My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh, read by Julia Whelan, on Audible. I’ve still not finished it, because I’m really savoring it. But also, because I’ve discovered that I can get a lot of interesting titles from the Seattle Public Library through the Libby app.

I’ve heard Figuring by Maria Popova on Libby. Through it, I discovered a plethora of things to read. The book ends with the life story of Rachel Carson and it was fresh enough (Figuring is a massive book, worth going back to over and over for ideas and a reading list) that I decided to listen to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson on Libby. Sadly, it didn’t hold my attention. I also tried Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, but it too didn’t keep me.

So, I moved on, bouncing from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer to All the Sad Young Men by Keith Gessen. Neither was an ear worm (to me).

Finally, I’ve landed on Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green. I’m on track to finish this one. The book is interesting, the narrator is just enough crazy, and the writing is arguably tight.

I’ve noticed that I like listening to stories of and by women who take control of their lives and lead it the way they want to. The protagonists of Turtles… and My Year… are both knocked down by their fate, and suffering through it, but are able to get through them, their inner monologue aflame with the pitter patter of random and inane thoughts interspersed with deep longing and pain. The women highlighted in Figuring were all pioneers and thinkers and brilliant, and tortured but always pushing, against society, culture, and their own notions.

I thought a few years ago that I want to read more women authors and women-centric stories. I know I’m late, but this audiobook journey sure is shaping up to be just that.

What should I read next?

Reverse order feeds show me a truth

brown chicken on brown sand

I recently did something crazy – I reversed the order or my RSS Feed Reader, so I’m not seeing the newest items first, but the oldest. I did this in a single folder – Web Comics, so I could finally catch up with every artist’s evolution and since comics are easier reads, I’ll be able to pound through a 1000 unread items out of the 8000 in my stack right now.

What I didn’t anticipate is that the setting is app-wide. So now every list I’m seeing is in the Old to New order.

Yesterday, I read a post from Sophie Haskins figuring out which virtualization solution to go with for her home setup. She played with a few options (and skipped the one I wanted to read about – Proxmox) and settled with running Ubuntu as the Host and minikube on top. I saw that she linked to a tweet and I wanted to ask why she had skipped Proxmox and so I went over. That’s when I realized that the post is from 2017 so the conversation is long gone.

After I learned that I’d reversed the order of all my feeds, I forgot about it.

Just now, I was reading a post by Vicki Boykis, where she’s talking about how Pinterest sends her emails to entice her back to their site. What was odd was that she was talking about it in context of Halloween. That threw me off, till I realized that the post I’m reading is from November 2013!

From social sites trying to pull people back to their platforms for (as Vicki puts it) click$ to virtualization solutions for your Home Lab… the more things change, the more they stay the same! Be it 2013, 2017, or 2022, we’re looking a the same issues, aren’t we?

(Sorry about the click bait title. I was having a hard time figuring out what the title should be about this Musing. Just went with this one. Recommend a better title please?)

Good Riddance

brown and black happy birthday card lot

My apartment building has an event going on – a blind date with books. In this, participants part with a book from their personal collection, the organizers wrap books in opaque paper and write the first sentence of the book on the front. If you find that sentence to be interesting, you pick up the book and walk away.

So far so good.

As part of our Diwali cleaning, my wife and I reorganized our books into a few stacks – those we want to read some time in the future, those we want to read in the near future, those we’ve read, and those we will never read.

From that last stack, I picked up a book that I started to read and just, couldn’t. I decided that this book is popular enough that someone will like having it. But for me, it just wasn’t the right fit.

But, as I was walking out of our home and into the elevator, I realized that I have a bout of separation anxiety. As the metal box sped downwards, I thought about it.

I dislike this book, I dislike the author, I dislike the entire concept. Yet, I had serious anxiety about giving it away. I looked the book all over. It’s priced at seventeen dollars. I probably didn’t pay that much. But it’s still worth something. The font is nice, the line spacing is comfortable, the paper rich.

Yet, it’s the content. The book is The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac. Kerouac is said to be a pioneer of the Beat Generation, a 1950s literary movement related to a post World War II, spiritual, anti-materialist thinking, and apparently the the precursor to hippie culture of the next decade. The book itself is recommended as a sort of intro to Kerouac, a good first read to dip into his interpretation of Zen Buddhism.

So I was surprised when the book was just… crass. It was a warped appropriation of Buddhism. The title is very apt – it’s a couple of aimless bums who are exploring Buddhism from the bits and pieces they come across. They have no conception of dharma, having established that the author will just jump on a moving train and stowaway his way to another place instead of building a life and living it. That ideology of stealing his way on to a goods train just rubbed me the wrong way and it was downhill from there.

For Westerners, this romanticism of a life of running might seem intriguing and beautiful. But that is not in any way what we’ve been taught to be the meaning of life or spirituality in India. If you think about it, being a bhikshu is the very beginning of Buddhism. Yet the way Kerouac does it, alternating between binge partying and self-exploration atop a mountain seems haphazard and decidedly crude.

I could not digest this book and though I’m sure others might find it interesting, I am glad to have gotten rid of it.

Next, I’m eyeing my copy of The Crying of Lot 49. Thomas Pynchon is an author I thought I’ll enjoy, and the novel is included in Time Magazine’s “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005”. But it is steeped in a hatred of womanhood and is an absurdist’s dream-come-true. Maybe I’ll shed it the next chance I get.

Streaks

white book

If you came here to read about a fitness streak, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I’ve been on a different kind of streak lately – I’ve been reading a lot of RSS feeds. Specifically, I’ve been spending time going through a lot of webcomics.

See, I love reading RSS feeds. I definitely overload every feed reader I’ve used, but none so much as I’ve overloaded my current one – an app on iOS called Fiery Feeds. I have about 16k unread items on here (don’t judge me).

Out of these, about three thousand are webcomics. So I’m starting from there. I pick up an unread feed and blaze through it. Usually, that’s 60-100 items that I end up marking as read in a day. At this rate, I’ll be current in a couple of months. Of course, I’m focusing on webcomics because they’re super easy to read, with not a lot of context needed, and a quick read time.

But that’s not all. Comics are able to portray the ethos of their time very easily. Whether I’m reading a slice of life comic from a few years ago, where the biggest topic was the latest Starbucks winter theme, or I’m reading the latest xkcd, talking, of course, as everyone else is, about COVID-19, it becomes very easy to see the timeline and to consume the news of the day through comics. Of course, I also love reading more serious endeavors like Gaia and Slack Wyrm, which have enduring storylines, recurring characters, and a vein you kinda have to hold on to, preferably by reading from the first comic. These are just plain fun to read and follow along!

While reading may be all fun, I’m sure writing and making webcomics is not. All the hard work of describing the scene, the props, the clothing, is already done by the artist, and I just have to consume all those visuals. Compared to essays, where I have to read through to understand the story from top to bottom, and where my attention is definitely pulled away before I’d like it to, comics are easy to consume, though I’m sure the effort that goes into a good essay is perhaps less than that which goes into a good comic.

Now, once I get done with the comics, I’d like to continue reading my RSS feeds. I follow a lot of personal feeds, mostly from random strangers I’ve encountered online. It feels great to be in a space where I can just read a person’s diary entry, with some of their personal thoughts splashed on the Internet for me to see. Besides the occasional rant, most people put good thoughts on their websites, and it feels great to read those positive thoughts.

One of the reasons these “personals” are easy to read is because, frankly, of twitter. A lot of folks try to cross-post from their blogs to twitter and other microblogging sites. This means they have to stick to a length limit, and most of them try to get done with their thoughts in about 30 words or less. I wouldn’t say that’s the real average, because I’ve never measured. But birdbrained that we are, reading more than those has often ended in my attention getting pulled away, so people who post 30 words or less and express themselves fully still, are aces in my book!

But once I’m done catching up with the personals, of course I’d like to read more serious, longer stuff, which has been piling up. Most of the time, I’ll read a few paragraphs and either abandon the writing for being too dry, or shove it into Instapaper to catch up with it in a few years. My “long articles” section is at about five thousand entries, with writing from AI Weirdness, Linux Journal Blogs, and InkMango, to name a few. One of these days, once my habit is built and my streaks have left me with no webcomics to indulge in, I’ll dive into these heavier writings, and hopefully come out more educated. For now though, laughs are enough!

Magzter Gold vs Apple News+

Today, I got an email from Magzter, a digital magazine subscription service, telling me of their Magzter Gold service, which, for $100/year, gives me access to more than five thousand magazines. The offer is that instead of a cool hundred, you can get the subscription for half off for the first year.

When I looked at the email, I balked.

Last year, I ran an experiment. I signed up for quite a few paper magazine subscriptions, through DiscountMags, a service that gives us huge discounts on physical magazines, in exchange for yearly subscriptions. I set myself an upper limit of $100 arbitrarily, and wanted to see how many magazines I could subscribe to, and how many I actually read out of them. I stopped at $60, because most of the magazines I saw at the QFC checkout stand and felt like I wanted to read were no more than a couple bucks for the yearly subscription, while their retail prices were well over ten bucks per issue.

I got all the big ones – NatGeo, Forbes, Vogue, Wired, Vanity Fair, and some trashy mags too, for good measure.

I read almost none of them. A few articles here or there, which I was aware of, or some covers that pulled me in. But other than that, each magazine was a mess of ads, pop-out ads, subscription offers for other magazines, and sponsored posts. Finding the content was a pain. Comparatively, with RSS feeds, I can find relevant articles in a few seconds, and just dive into reading it instead of flipping pages.

So when Apple News+ came along at some point, and my brother raved about it, I said I’ll pass. It’d be the same crap all over again.

But then I see this Magzter offer, and I’m thinking about this world again. Digital magazines are easier to navigate than paper, but only if they’ve been built to be so. If you’re an Apple News+ user, you might have noticed that each magazine is a different style, some letting you bounce around, and giving you dedicated views for articles, while others looking like a literal PDF imported into the app. That’s because they are.

Apple News+ is not a new service. Apple acquired a company called Texture (or rather, it’s parent company Next Issue Media) to build their portfolio, and these companies – Next Issue, Magzter, Readly – they all give huge amounts of creative control to the magazine owners to show their content how they want to, within certain bounds. So while some companies have put in the money to create digital versions of their content, a lot of them just can’t be bothered.

Which is why, when you look at offers such as Magzter’s half off for the first year, or Readly’s first month for a buck, you might want to go for it. Recently, I finally let myself be convinced to get Apple News+ through family sharing. I’m not a fan of Apple’s family sharing implementation, but they’ve been getting better at it. So I finally got a look at Apple News+ and realized that at $10/mo, it’s not really anything different than what the other services are offering.

Apple News is pretty well integrated with iOS, with Apple letting you share links to articles that open directly in the News app. But when you share a News+ link, it mostly ends up opening just the magazine instead of the exact article you want to share. So that integration really doesn’t go anywhere.

Apple has done some work on the News app interface, making it snappier, but when the crux of the interface sits with the content, and your content providers are magazine dinosaurs, there’s no hope there. No matter what Apple does, they’re beholden to the likes of American Media and Future PLC for the content, and while sometimes they move to make things better, don’t expect them to embrace digital journalism with gusto.

At that point, each of these services has done a good enough job, supporting multiple platforms (Apple News+ is the only one in the space that doesn’t have an Android app), giving you a solid interface, and constantly updating their features to make magazine reading just a little bit saner.

If you’re thinking about Apple News+, or have a subscription to it, just know that you’re paying $120 a year for something you could be getting at $50 through Magzter Gold.

Book review: Hadron #1 Dark Matter – 2/5 stars

I started reading Stephen Arseneault’s Hadron series #1, a book named “Dark Matter”. I got as a free eBook on Amazon and it’s been clogging up space in my Kindle library. So I decided to give it a try. At the time of writing, I had read a little over half of this book and there’s only one way I can describe it – frustrating.

There are a lot of reviews of this book out there that criticize it for being a ‘prepper’ book, glorifying doomsday preppers and pure redneck Americanism. But I’m OK with that. I’ve never read a novel about preppers and so this idea of a band of people surviving some sort of total system breakdown through the blatant use of guns is fresh to me. That’s one reason I started reading this book – the author makes no qualms about it in the beginning – this is not a book in and of itself. This is a prelude to all the sci-fi stuff that happens in the rest of the books. Read this book only to get context of what will happen next. Perhaps some of the same characters survive and go on to become central characters in the rest of the books?

If you think about it, any other combination of characters than the ones displayed in the book might not survive the events that happen. If they have guns but no one with a military background, or they have all that but no mechanical engineer with an agriculture degree who also brews alcohol, or have everything but no chopper flying father-son duo. Any of those missing characters and the story could turn out different. I found that to be a compelling idea. This is a somewhat Tolstoyan in vision – how can I explain what happens next, without explaining what happened before?

But that’s where I’ll end the comparisons with Tolstoy. The writing, the editing, the mollycoddling of the reader, are all a little too much on the nose. For each of those reasons, I’d like to take off one star out of the rating. Allow me to explain.

  1. The writing – There’s one rule, one simple rule of long form fiction writing. You must never break this one rule, no matter how innovative you’re trying to be, or how different you think your English to be from the English spoken around the world (i.e, even if you describe your language to be “American”, you still follow this rule) – always write in Active voice. I can’t say it more calmly. For years, I’ve written things, copy pasted them into hemingwayapp.com and had to rewrite the entire thing because I wrote it in passive voice. Now, when I paste things in, I get the gold standard of good writing – zero sentences in passive voice.
    • For a long time, I didn’t understand why this was such a problem. “Passive voice is so easy!” I would say to myself, grumbling. But now that I’ve read this book, I take it all back. Hemingwayapp is right. Passive voice is the worst thing you can inflict on your readers. Even spelling mistakes don’t hurt as much as passive voice. Most of the time, I can’t tell who in the story is performing a particular action or speaking a sentence.
    • Sentences like, “Tres was signaled” or “The neat stack of boxes was carried to the back of the trailer. ” are so frustrating and jarring that they completely throw the reader’s flow off. Till this point in my review, the only two uses of passive voice are the sentences above. It’s so stupid that the author decided to write the entire book in passive voice and that his editor let it slip, and the advanced readers let it slip, and the reviewers giving glowing reviews let it slip.
    • The author often forgets that in a conversation of a few people, a simple ‘she said’ would explain so much to the reader. This means that most of the dialogs are spoken by ghosts and the reader is left grappling for context. Sometimes, it’s obvious who said what, but compounded with the grammatical mistakes, this tends to get confusing and irritating fast!
    • At one point, I started questioning my own sanity. Had I received a bad copy of the eBook? Is this an ARC that slipped into production? Is there an update in Amazon that I can download to get an active voice, free-from-errors version? Nope. This book is in passive voice and that is torture. Why am I sitting through it? The idea is slightly novel to me and I’ve already spent my time on half the book, I aim to breeze through the rest.
  2. The editing – Was there an editor to the book? I went back and checked and couldn’t find any. I wrote an email to the author, being as polite as I could to ask if there was an editor, but ended up not sending it, because it sounded insensitive and attacking. But it’s clear that no one looked over the author’s shoulder while he hit publish. There are missing opening quotes throughout the book, so you’re never sure if it’s a dialog or narration. There are instances where the author mixes up ‘to’ and ‘too’ and forgets ‘of’ from phrases like “couple of homebodies”. There are many scenarios where actions are mixed up, so it’s unclear which character did what first.
    • These are all things that a good editor could find. Heck, even a mediocre editor could spot them and nag the author to eventually fix them. I noticed that the book is available in paper through an independent on-demand publisher on Amazon. Perhaps they could have done something to help the author out of this mess? The worst thing is that the book came out in 2015 and the author has had enough time to revise it a hundred times on Kindle, but has chosen not to.
  3. Lastly, I want to look at how author presents the book. This being the first book in the series, and perhaps the worst written one, the author has placed it on a perennial full discount. You can download it for free from Amazon and read it. That’s how I got into it. At the beginning of the book, the author explains that though it is the first book in a scifi series, it’s not a scifi story in itself, but a survival one. That’s all fine, but then the author goes into a long, two page explanation of what will happen in the book and what one should expect from it. Why? What is the point of the book if the author is going to give me the tl;dr version right at the beginning. This is not news or a buzzfeed article. I want to read the story, so why are you irritating me with an explanation of the story right before the story?
Stephen Arseneault, the author was thinking exactly this when he wrote the introduction to the novel, at the beginning of the first chapter!

All in all, it’s an irritating and frustrating book to read. I’ll still finish it though. Why? Just for the credit (on Goodreads). I’ve spent a good amount of time on the book and I’m not going away without some of the promised ending. In case I find the ending to be exciting and the cliffhanger to be intriguing, will I pick up the next book, or any other books written by Arseneault?

Not in a million years.

2018 and 2019 in books

2018 has come and gone. I had a goal of reading 15 books in it, and I fell short – I read only 12. Though, considering that one of them was War and Peace, I’d say I’ve read enough books.

Very quickly, the highlights are as below. If you want the full list, it’s on Goodreads (no login required afaict).

I thoroughly enjoyed the Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. It’s part 1 of a 3 book series and I hope to read the rest of it soon.

All Our Wrong Todays was a gut-wrenching time travel story. I reviewed it here. I also reviewed The Devourers here. It’s an epic tale that takes the history of India and weaves an excellent story into it. I believe I’m a fan of historical fiction now. From War and Peace and Poland (which are more fact) to Devourers and Three-Body Problem (which are more liberal with their facts), I love this form of writing that melds truth and fiction together.

My favorite non-prose was Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal. It’s a beautiful look at a pseudo-post apocalyptic world that doesn’t have any men in it. Though, I must say – since there are no men in the world, it’s not really an apocalypse. It’s quite pleasant, in fact.

I also read a book I’ve long held on to – Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. It’s pure YA, and perhaps aimed at an even younger audience. But it’s full of surprises and a very interesting take on fairies. It was a fun read!

Moving on, I hope to read a lot more in 2019. I’ve set myself up for even bigger failure – my new goal is 19 books for the year! (It’ll only increase with each passing year, maybe I’ll catch up with the goal one of these years)

I’ve already got a few books that I want to read lined up –

  1. Today Will be Different by Maria Semple – I’ve read and loved “Where’d you go Bernadette?” and I have this one sitting in paperback at home. I’ve heard good things!
  2. The Symposium by Plato – why the heck not? It’s a good story till now (I already started reading it in 2018). Loads to learn!
  3. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Giun – I wanted to read at least one Le Guin book this year and this one seems just as good as any to start off the author’s works. Is there any other you’d recommend instead?
  4. V, Gravity’s Rainbow, and The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon – I want to read a lot of Pynchon this year. Let’s see how it goes. I read somewhere that I should read V before Gravity, because of something something. I have Lot 49 sitting in paperback at home. Maybe I’ll tackle that first.
  5. The Dark Forest, and The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu – these are the other books in the series I talk about above. The first book was really, really, really good!
  6. Dubliners, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce – I’ve wanted to read Joyce for some time now. I am going to read these in preparation for –
  7. Ulysses by James Joyce – I’ll probably read this in eBook form, considering its supposed sheer size. War and Peace was conquered in a similar fashion!
  8. Murder by Misrule by Anna Castle – I have the eBook burning a hole in my Kindle app. Will read it and mark it as done!
  9. Young India by Lala Lajpat Rai – I’ve noticed this book around. It too is burning a hole in my Kindle app. But more importantly, it should be an interesting historical document.
  10. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – I read A Room of One’s Own in 2016 and it had a profound impact on my thinking about creativity and ‘own space’. I think I should read one Woolf book a year.
  11. Bonus points – Walden by Thoreau and Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson – Will I be able to reach these? Let’s see!

That’s 16 books listed! Four more than I read in 2018. By simple math, I have to read approximately 2 books a month to accomplish my goal. That’s one book every 15 days! I shudder at the thought of that pace.

Wish me luck! Also, if you’ve got some suggestions or recommendations, or think I should read some book before reading one of the ones on the list here, do tell!

[Book Notes][Book Review] The Devourers

I started this book about a month ago. I was skeptical. It’s a first book, it’s by some unknown author, it’s set in India but not quite. There were many other reasons too, all of which fell away, shattered, burnt, and then stomped upon by this glorious, marvelous, alien, absurd, beautiful novel.

If I wanted to sensationalize this novel, I would say four words to you – “Cannibalistic European Werewolves in Calcutta!”

But this novel doesn’t need that (besides, that statement above is completely wrong). This story is wild and beautiful and violent and gory. It deifies murder and condemns humans. It questions some social mores and reinforces others. This novel is a fictional history and a tight ropewalk across time. This story is not in control of the narrator and sometimes, not even in control of the author. It flows, like all the blood that it spills, sometimes visibly and sometimes invisibly.

This story needs no sensationalization because it is already, inherently sensational. It goes to those dark places you do not want to go and which the writer did not know his own mind went. And it. is. blashphemous. Oh, it is blasphemous. It is ugly in its blasphemy and yet somehow pure and organic. This book should be burned in squares and read in colleges. This book should be debated and revered. This book should be shredded and yet should survive generations, to show a future civilization, that this too, was something a contemporary thought of.

Or, perhaps, it should not. The violence is without obligation. The rating should be nothing less than “for people who will not puke at every page”. This book should be read by everyone yet no one. There are passages I could not go through with a sane mind, which begs the question – what of the author? Well, I can only say that the author is a genius of another level. He is so vivid in the descriptions yet somehow, there’s always a fog over the entire story, perhaps because that is how we read our history – with a dim view of what must have happened. It is almost unbelievable that this story exists, that too from an Indian mind.

When I was, over the last month, in thrall of the story, I met with a friend and went into a reverie about the book. At some point, she looked me straight in the eye and woke me up from my stupor by asking me that one dreaded question that has destroyed many a career before making them – “tell me how it ends”. The implication is clear. I’ve read way too many first-time novels which were wonderful pieces of literature till they were not. A weak ending, an odd plot point, a stubborn author not willing to let editors do their job. There are many examples of such books which sat in my memory as I pondered over this question. Every time I read the book since that day, I was ever afraid of her question and what the answer would be. Would it be as terrible as I’d come to think it could? There certainly was a strain on the story. It reached a climax too late. It piled on too much towards the end. It tried to tie up too many loose ends.

But my prayers were answered. The novel walks that middle path quite well. It is a wholly original story (the irony of using that phrase, which itself is not wholly original!) and it elevates folklore to a new level. This. This is what Indian authors are capable of, if only they return to their own roots and take ownership of their stories.

Do not ask me if you should read this story. Ask yourself – are you ready to be jolted out of your seat and into the ugliness of this world that the writer so casually flips through, as if it were part of our real history? Human history is not free of bloodshed and meaningless violence, but I’ve never come across an example where it is just laid out, so simply, so absurdly, so purely, while still making it clear – this is fiction. Then why, oh why, is it so bloodcurdling?

There is a phrase in the book that aptly describes the story – “in revulsion and glory”. The story is deeply homosexual. True to its form, both scenes of utmost violence and of deep passion are vivid and colorful and this may very well not be for everyone.

Notes

Page 8, last para, it should be “the moonlight diffuses”

Page 52, last line, “I relieved” seems oddly worded.

Page 57, this is such a beautifully written book. It elevated even the most gruesome, the most banal, the most ugly. There’s a line here that says “her faced gemmed with flies.” That is not a phrase that I believe I’ve read anywhere, ever.

Page 152,

A leash, I didn’t say. “Thank you,” I said.

By Jove this book has such colorful language! The way it starts and stops, the way it leads the reader through the thought processes of the characters. The way it surprises and shocks the reader at the same time as it does so to the characters. Indra Das is truly a magnificent writer who will come up with many great stories in his lifetime!

Page 155, oh beautiful blasphemy.

Page 165, what the heck do onions rotting in honey smell like? This book confuses my senses more than anything I’ve ever read!

Page 177, what is the River of Paradise, a canal that flowed through Chandni chowk?

Page 190,

“little more than monkeys that forgot how to swing from the trees.”

Seattle has a lot of Christian missionaries who stand on the streets, smiling, trying to convince you that their religion is the best. If these people irritate you, simply get a printout of the cover of this book, with this paragraph on the flip side and hand it to them whenever they disturb you.

Page 199, this is a great book to wake up to. It jolts you. It burns through whatever sleep you had and whips you into thinking, ‘this also exists in the world?!’

Page 201, one of the things that always amazes me about great writers is how they can describe, in apparent detail and vivid imagery, things that have not happened (at least to me). Things such as death, unconsciousness, and being in a stuffed stupor. How amazingly the author describes one such event, making it so amazingly clear how it would happen. The more I think about it, the more this is my favorite para in this entire amazing book.

Page 204, there’s a line on this page, “all else was fled”. When I googled that phrase, it showed up exactly 3 times in old books. That shows the level of original thought by this author!

Page 235, “a glittering human scab on the water”, ugh, so beautiful! So ghastly!

Page 250, should this be “infinite moment” or “infinitesimal moment”?

Page 283, comedy appears in the strangest of places in this book!

Page 287,

“Lightning cracks the edge of the world, rewriting the vanishing sunlight.”

Note to the author – I hate you, dear author, for you have ruined me for a great many books now. The deep color you have shown me, the way you have wrenched my eyes open to this absurd world of yours, how will I come out of it? How will I dive headfirst into lighter novels? How will I read funny stories without feeling that they are all monochrome?

Update – But I have already moved on! I have picked up All our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai and it is a riot of a book! I am cracking up in the bus like I’ve not in a while! A perfect follow up to this gruesome novel. The Devourers will visit me over time, but for now, I’m gladly sated at how it ended and what wonderful visions it showed to me.

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