Thursday, 1 February 2018

Short Story Reads: Mrs. Packletide's Tiger by Saki

Saki was the pen name under which British writer Hector Hugh Munro wrote before his life was tragically cut short at 45 in France, along with millions of others during World War I. By then Saki had left behind hundreds of short stories - all noted for their ready wit, black humor and macabre. Especially readable are his stories involving Clovis. Now in these stories, Clovis need not play the central character, many times he would be the one passing a sole comment on having overheard the proceedings. Of a similar template is the satire and irony of Mrs. Packletide's Tiger.

Now, it is a writer's dilemma to decide whether to give you the full synopsis and thus depriving you of the joy of reading the story for yourself. Here's how the solution has been reached, as the story is now out of the clutches of copyright, here is the story link: Mrs. Packletide's Tiger. Happy Reading.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)   

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Short Story Reads: Salvatore by Somerset Maugham

One of the reasons Somerset Maugham was never considered among the greatest novel writers of his lifetime, much to his disappointment, was his dry, satirical approach to novel writing. Maugham was a keen observer of life but with a distant, aloof, often blunted involvement.

The Novels
Though a very successful writer of his times, Maugham's novels like Of Human Bondage, The Moon and Sixpence and Cakes and Ale are not considered among the greatest novels of any time today. His novels seldom make the top 100 list of books ever written. Often, Maugham with his steely, unblinking eye has given us lengthy descriptions of a time and era gone by. These prose sections are not as engaging to read now.

At the time of writing, I have been rereading Cakes and Ale. The descriptive passages now seem dated, though, in parts, the well-sketched characters and story still hold my attention.

The Master 
In contrast, fifty years after his death, Somerset Maugham's reputation as a short story writer remains untarnished. In this writing medium, Maugham finds unparalleled touch, telling all kinds of tales with a fluidity and verve that his novels momentarily radiate. Fortunately, the writer himself compiled The Complete Short Stories in four volumes, arranging them according to the local setting of the stories.

Salvatore by Somerset Maugham 
My faith as a reader was reaffirmed recently in Salvatore, a short story that only Maugham could pull off with such finesse, heart, and flair.

I wonder if I can do it. 

Maugham begins the story with that enigmatic first sentence and goes on tell us the story of Salvatore, first as a carefree boy of 15 effortlessly swimming in the sea.

Salvatore lives on an island around present Malaysia with his fisherman father and two younger brothers. Time flies and soon Salvatore falls for a beautiful girl on the island. The couple is engaged but the boy has to leave the island for the first time in his life to serve the mandatory military service term.

It is hardest of all for Salvatore to part from the girl. Even as he is sent to Venice, Bari, and China, he writes long, ill-spelled letters to her. After falling severally ill with rheumatism, Salvatore is declared unfit for further service, much to his relief and happiness. He can now go home. Little does he know that tragedy, hardship, and heartbreak are to follow.

Among the briefest, most moving and beautiful stories ever written by Maugham, Salvatore is a short story masterpiece from start to finish. What did the writer mean by that first line? Read Salvatore by Somerset Maugham at this link to unveil the secret. 

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)   

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Fantasy Reads: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The cover of the first edition, illustrated by Tolkien

To put it simply, I haven't read a fantasy as satisfying and sumptuous as The Hobbit.In its best moments (and there are innumerable), Tolkien makes us believe that he was there, seeing it all, in another place, another time, eons ago.

First published in 1937, Tolkien wrote this fantasy tale supposedly for children, which is hard to believe. For apart from its epic scale, the book is fascinating in providing varied, delightful shades to the various creatures that inhabit it - hobbits, dwarves,wizards, dragons and humans.

Full of surprises, the book tells the tale of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who finds his peaceful, sleepy life disrupted by the arrival of the wizard Gandalf, Thorin and his band of twelve dwarves at his cosy home in the Shire. Gandalf cunningly makes Bilbo part of this treasure-hunting group. The dwarves mean to regain their treasure, stolen from them years ago by the fierce dragon Smaug, who still guards it. Suddenly, Bilbo's placid life turns into a series of adventures, he almost gets killed by trolls, and with the other dwarves - gets captured by goblins.

Then there is the significant part about Gollum, a mysterious creature who tries to trap Bilbo, as depicted in the chapter 'Riddles in the Dark'. It is here that a mysterious ring makes its first appearance, a strand expanded into epic storytelling in the writer's three-book The Lord of the Rings, published between 1953-1954.

Underneath the simplistic main plot, there are several webs of  intricacies that make The Hobbit more than a mere fairy tale. Just when you may think that the story has reached its zenith, the real fun begins. There is no morality involved here, everybody is after the treasure, some want a share of it, others won't part with it. A treat for teenagers and adults and not as intimidatingly (for some readers) spread as The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit started the fire that became the bigger, grander trilogy.

Thing is, Tolkien's writing still illuminates with immense detailing, wit and life that remains, almost eight decades later - unsurpassed. A classic.

Caution: Don't go by Peter Jackson's underwhelming movie trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit, the book is a gem. 

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)