Friday, January 8, 2010
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
St. Martin's Griffin, Sept. 2005
Week 1 Fiction
Shantaram is a huge book 900+ pages. It is the fictionalized version of the adventures of the author, Gregory David Roberts. His character in the book is Lin. Lin excaped from an Australian prison and fled half-way across the world to Bombay, India where he has more adventures in 10 years than a normal person would ever have in a lifetime. Finally, he is recaptured and sent back to Australia. The book is full of stuff the reader never knew before and some stuff that you wish you had never found out. But, it is an amazing read. I began reading Shantaram about 3 months ago and haven't finished it yet, although I am getting closer. I really wanted to be done with it today so I could begin reading my next week's book tomorrow. However, I still have 200 pages to go.
I keep thinking about the two blogs I followed last year written by women who read a book a day--and my inspiration for the book a week goal I established for myself. Well, in the first place, they would not be picking a book of 900+ pages. Then I keep thinking of the people in my book club who are also reading this book, and so I keep reading.
Here is the entry in my reading diary for Tuesday of this week: It is an interesting problem to be reading about poor people in India and then move over to read about poor people in Pakistan because my husband and I are also reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. The one is filled with altruism and the other is filled with crime…but the cast of characters are much the same. Except one hero is perfect and the other hero has lots of faults. The purposes of the books are different, of course, but the incongruity remains. I am fascinated by the dichotomy. When does a hero become a hero…when he does noble deeds, or when he is the focus of the book? One would think that Mortenson is the true hero and Lin a villain, because one is altruistic and the other is a crook doing illegal things. Yet, there are noble things about Lin…but for him, his ability to survive (and thrive?) is what makes him the hero.
Definition of a hero:
1. In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
2. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life: soldiers and nurses who were heroes in an unpopular war.
3. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field: the heroes of medicine. See Synonyms at celebrity.
4. The principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.
This is what the dictionary says for the term hero. Which one is Mortenson? Which one is Lin. I would say that Mortenson would be #2, Lin could also be classified as #2 as well. Not sure. We can also ask: Is survival an heroic act? A lot of this book is about survival.
Here is a portion of a review of the book by the Amazon reviewer:
"Roberts is not reluctant to wax poetic; in fact, some of his prose is downright embarrassing. Throughought the novel, however, all 944 pages of it, every single sentence rings true. He is a tough guy with a tender heart, one capable of what is judged criminal behavior, but a basically decent, intelligent man who would never intentionally hurt anyone, especially anyone he knew. He is a magnet for trouble, a soldier of fortune, a picaresque hero: the rascal who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. His story is irresistible."
The New York Times reviewer has this to say:
“What is he after, anyway? But it seems unsporting to begrudge Roberts the license to thrill while having such a good time… and ‘Shantaram,’ mangrove-scented prose and all, is nothing if not entertaining. Sometimes a big story is its own best reward.” It also questions why Roberts didn’t write a memoir. Why did he make it a novel?
New York Times review of Shantaram
Here are some connections to youtube videos of Roberts speeches:
If the reader has the time, this is an honest, albeit disconcerting book, and a real page-turner. And if Johnny Depp ends up playing Lin in a movie, as has been rumored, life will be perfect!