Sunday, June 26, 2005

Bachpan Ke Woh Din

Since we haven't done a list here in some time, we now bloweth where it listeth. The awards for the Best Books About Childhood And Growing Up1 category will be presented by...well, if you're not going to do it, Ludwig will. "Hey Ludwig, git here boy."

End of weird conversation with oneself. Anyway, the nominees are
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee - Note to self: Have fingernails pulled out in a slow and painful manner for not reading this book earlier. This book is so good, we might as well bung the rest of the list into a nearby large water body. How does a book remind you of your own childhood (especially with a sibling) so vividly, and yet 'carry a message'? How? Howhow?
  • Swami And Friends, R.K.Narayan - We spoke too soon when we said we could throw the list away. This one is at least as good as the Harper Lee book, if not better. Especially if you grew up in a small South Indian town. Stealing out of home on summer afternoons, eating pickles under a tree, vitally important cricket matches, weird maths problems, the works. Unmissable. The TV version was exceptional too.
  • Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain - Is it cheating to include two books under one item in the list? Yes, it is? Feel free to litigate. These two cannot really be separated from each other.
  • Kim, The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling - Cheated again. So there.
  • Peyton Place, Grace Metalious - A bit of an obscure choice, but doesn't it bring out the horrors and joys of growing up in small-town New England in the 50s (or is it the 60s?). One suspects that Stephen King owes this book a big (unacknowledged) debt.
  • My Family And Other Animals, Birds Beasts And Relatives, Gerald Durrell - If you're even remotely interested in nature, Greece, food, or laziness, you should read these books.

We cease and desist now. Nominations from faithful readers are invited. Because yeh public hai, sab jaanti hai.

1. Note that we will not strictly concentrate on childhood. From infant to young teen to young adult. Alles ist grist to die Mill.


Anonymous said...

Interesting list - Some familiar and some not-so. Do I have a list? Not one that I have compiled consciously. But yes, the names of a few books did run through my mind as I read yours. Maybe one day, I will do a more comprehensive one. But, for whatever it is worth, here you go:

Black Boy by Richard Wright: A classic American autobiography, a subtly crafted narrative of Richard Wright's journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South, This book, aptly subtitled "American Hunger," is Wright's account of his tumultuous upbringing in the Jim Crow American South and his subsequent exodus to Chicago. The "Hunger" refers to both a physical hunger of poverty and a mental hunger for knowledge.

The Prelude by William Wordsworth - I am not sure if you are talking only of the Prose variety here, but to me this will still be rated as an archetype coming-of-age work. Wordsworth has often been charged with being a pompous fart. Regardless, to me, The Prelude (esp the 1805 edition) is an epic debate of the themes of man and nature, a meditation on the mind; the story of a poet's genesis, from his earliest memories, through the suffering and loneliness of childhood recompensed by the bounty of nature, to the point of writing in the early 1800s.

Summer of '42 by Herman Raucher - First written as screenplay for the very successful 1971 movie, the same was published into a novel later. A poignant coming of age story about a 15-year-old boy in love with a older woman of 22, the novel is funny and easy to read. And even though it is more about the inner workings of teenage male mind, the book works so well on so many levels - and has such immense staying power. Definitely, one of the finest I have ever read.

How Green was my Valley by Richard Llewellyn - This bittersweet coming of age tale of a boy growing up in a large family in a small town, and of his love for his lovely sister-in-law is written from the depts of the author's heart and soul. Little wonder it won an Oscar when it was made into a movie. The book is likely to remind one of life's many "initiations" as well as forgotten sensations of childhood. Because of this, the story holds universal appeal and will leave a long lasting impression on those who partake.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Not necessarily a classic coming-of-age story, yet this one is a very human story, with a lot of suffering and exploration of man's insecurities. Much more complex than the movie, the novel works at many levels and offered me my first insight into what you can control and what you cannot.

The diary of Anne Frank - A lot has been said of the most famous diary in the world, a vivid, insightful journal. The diary's universal appeal stems from its riveting blend of the grubby particulars of life during wartime and candid discussion of emotions familiar to every adolescent. This probably would have been an ordinary diary but for the Holocaust. But then maybe not, considering that towards the end of the book Anne becomes philosophical and the questions she asks must certainly resonate in every teenager's mind.

Lots more come to mind. But I shall restrain myself now, lest... Besides, there is time and space for everything. -- Y!

That Man Keynes and his Homosexual Intrigues said...


the catcher in the rye,
cider with rosie,

and how do you like this for a user name?

Ludwig said...

[Y] Big list. Err... Haven't read any of those. So will have to maintain lugubrious silence. 'Summer of 42' and 'How Green Was My Valley' sound like the pick of the list. Should 'Of Human Bondage' be added to the list?

[tmkahhi] Dear Friedrich, should've included 'The Catcher In The Rye'. And 'Igby Goes Down'. Or are they the same? The Apu trilogy? Haven't read it. User name is very good, Friedrich. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Of Human Bondage definitely... I don't know how I missed it. And yes, The Catcher In the Rye too. I definitely had that on my mind; missed adding it to the list, though. Others that come to mind are Alcott's Little Women and Angelou's I Know why the Caged Bird Sings. Oh yes, Joyce's The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - can't be missed!

You are right - Summer of '42 and How Green... are definitely worth a dekko, and you will never forget the experience. I have How Green... (the movie). Could lend the same to you. Been looking around to acquire Summer... with little luck.

-- Y!

Orcaella brevirostris said...

the archetypal bitish young lads ralph, peterkin and jack in the coral island by jm ballantyne and the chilling version of same-lord of the flies by william golding.
and of course little women.

does it count if the book remains adult but the fact that you're reading it means you've comeofage?
cos then i'd put in alistair maclean's golden rendezvous. it was the first book i read that opened up the non-enid blyton world.

Ludwig said...

The scope of the list has grown a bit much. So we hereby cross out The Prelude, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (which, from one's knowledge of the movie, seems like a fairly odd choice!), Of Human Bondage (not a book about childhood), and Golden Rendezvous (the book itself has to be about childhood, not be some kind of rite of passage, although one does agree that in general the McLean books qualify as rites of passage).

In other news, A Room On The Roof (Ruskin Bond) has emerged as a serious candidate for the list.

That Man Keynes and His Homosexual Intrigues said...

Ok. Heres a quirky choice. Not about childhood, per se, about a child.

'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.'

Ludwig said...

[tmkahhi] OK, you dirty old sod, you've made your point. I'm sorry I ever told you about this blog. May you leave the Happy Valley and NoHo soon and emerge pure of body and soul.

asya said...

The 'Anne' series by LM Montgomery, for sure. Also 'Catcher in the rye'. I rather like Nesbitt's 'Railway children' - it was charming.
Judy Blume's books, too, particularly about adolescence.
But certainly 'To kill...' tops the list.

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