1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Why I wanted to read it : Everyone keeps raving about it.
Why I couldn’t finish it : It just became so tedious after the first 100 pages. I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up again and hence I decided to let go instead of forcing myself to finish it. The book is over 450 pages and I wonder, is all of it really necessary ? The problem here is not with the writing, which I did like actually, but it is the fact that it is so repetitive. Whatever humour or emotion the characters manage to evoke is lost if you read the same thing withing the next 5 pages.
Actually, no one was around when Yossarian returned from the hospital but Orr and the dead man in Yossarian’s tent. The dead man in Yossarian’s tent was a pest, and Yossarian didn’t like him, even though he had never seen him. Having him lying around all day annoyed Yossarian so much that he had gone to the orderly room several times to complain to Sergeant Towser, who refused to admit that the dead man even existed, which, of course, he no longer did.
2. English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee
Why I wanted to read it : I came across its sequel, The Mammaries of a Welfare State, in the list of Sahitya Akademi award winners. I thought it would be better to read the prequel first.
Why I couldn’t finish it: The story is narrated by the protagonist Agastya Sen aka August in a cynical and tongue-in-cheek humour style.
A bat flew in. Mr.Srivastav scowled at it. It left.
And more such wry observations. I’ve linked the cover image to Goodreads and there are plenty more examples in the reviews there.
I couldn’t even reach 100 pages in this case for 2 reasons. First, you feel absolutely nothing for August and second, the story simply refuses to head anywhere. He gets posted in a village as a bureaucrat and the novel, at least till the point I read, was about how he shirks work, smokes pot, fantasizes about older women, etc. etc. There is also too much of profanity which gets irritating beyond a point.
Is there a big picture and is it, in fact, a commentary on the Indian bureaucracy ? Maybe, but I didn’t feel it was worth the effort to complete it and find out.
Have you read any of the books above ? What did you think ?