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Of all the books I’ve read lately, this one sticks out by a mile.In fact I am so in love with this book that I think it deserves a post in itself.Any other book sharing space would just sound very ‘meh..’.

The lead character, Howard Roark, is like no other.If there is one thing I love more than the book (OK, almost), it is him:

‘Both men disliked Roark.He was usually disliked, from the first sight of his face, anywhere he went.His face was closed like the door of a safety vault; things locked in safety vaults are valuable; men did not care to feel that.He was a cold, disquieting presence in the room; his presence had a strange quality; it made itself felt and yet it made them feel that he wasn’t there; or perhaps it was that he was and they weren’t.’

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Another excerpt, this from the antagonist-in-chief, Ellsworth Toohey  (Perhaps ‘The man who could never be’ , as the author intended to portray him would be a better description?) :

” Have you ever thought of the style of a soul, Kiki?”

” The ..what ? “

” The style of a soul.Do you remember the famous philosopher who spoke of the style of a civilization? He called it ‘style’.He said it was the nearest word he could find for it.He said that every civilization has a basic principle, one single, supreme, determining conception, and every endeavor of men within that civilization is true, unconsciously and irrevocably, to that one principle…I think, Kiki, that every human soul has a style of its own, also.Its one basic theme.You’ll see it reflected in every thought, every act, every wish of that person.The one absolute, the one imperative in that living creature. Years of studying a man won’t show it to you. His face will. You’d have to write volumes to describe a person. Think of his face. You need nothing else.”

And Howard Roark is every inch that man who knows his ‘style’, and finds an outlet for it in architecture.‘The man who was as man should be.”

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” Howard Roark built a temple to the human spirit. He saw man as strong, proud, clean, wise and fearless. He saw man as a heroic being. And he built a temple to that. A temple is a place where man is to experience exaltation. He thought that exaltation comes from the consciousness of being guiltless, of seeing the truth and achieving it, of living up to one’s highest possibility, of knowing no shame and having no cause for shame, of being able to stand naked in full sunlight. He thought that exaltation means joy and that joy is man’s birthright. He thought that a place built as a setting for man is a sacred place. That is what Howard Roark thought of man and of exaltation. But Ellsworth Toohey said that this temple was a monument to a profound hatred of humanity. Ellsworth Toohey said that the essence of exaltation was to be scared out of your wits, to fall down and to grovel. Ellsworth Toohey said that man’s highest act was to realize his own worthlessness and to beg forgiveness. Ellsworth Toohey said it was depraved not to take for granted that man is something which needs to be forgiven. . . . To glorify man, said Ellsworth Toohey, was to glorify the gross pleasure of the flesh, for the realm of the spirit is beyond the grasp of man. To enter that realm, said Ellsworth Toohey, man must come as a beggar, on his knees. Ellsworth Toohey is a lover of mankind.” – Dominique Francon.

The woman for a man like Roark, Dominique Francon is an idealist who loves Roark for his impassioned work, and hates him because the general public will never see beauty in it.She pronounces him guilty of the crime of building structures fit for no man.While it is generally taken for an agreement with public sentiment, she believes that they are not a worthy audience and that his structures must be saved from the world, not the other way around.

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“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.” ( Part of Roark’s stunning defence at his last trial. I wish I could put all of it here but 1) It’s the best part of the story, and something you should read for yourself and 2) We have too few readers as-is, ’nuff said.)

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Genre : It’s a book on a man and his work and the formidable combination they make.Roark’s buildings are described as seeming to grow out of the very earth- so natural and true as they are.It might seem strange that one man’s ego give birth to that , but Roark’s personality accounts for everything.There is also a contrasting character in Peter Keating- the architect seemingly at the head of it all, with recognition in toxic quantities.Mr.Wynand, the man who could have been , for the part that he is ( is this all sounding too much like something from a legal document what with all the repetition?) is another absolutely brilliant character.

Bottom line? Must.Read.Book.NOW.

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Maybe I should make this a weekly feature.I do devour books by the week as-is and I love dissecting and analyzing the story to bits.I know, sounds violent but if you love books as much as I do, I don’t need to explain that.

1. I’m done with Pendragon : The Pilgrims of Rayne (book 8) and it was a good read, as always (so far, touchwood*).You see a ‘ whole nother’ side to Bobby and a much more likeable Courtney, Saint Dane still talks in riddles, it’s very ‘ the fate of all halla rests on the shoulders of Bobby Pendragon’ ..so for anyone who’s been following the series, there isn’t a moment of disappointment.For anyone who hasn’t : “….”

2. I obviously ‘have a thing’ for psychology-fiction (well, mostly the former) so I’ve decided to bury my nose in We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel S( -omething.I forget.).And? I think there’s a very good reason it won the Orange Prize for fiction.I’m still not through with it, though..Almost but not quite.It is every bit as powerful, brave and compelling as the blurbs at the book-back claim it is.Currently I’m just amazed at how many books there are that go unsung no matter how good they are ( I’d never heard of this one, before! I chanced upon it in the library!).Nineteen Minutes is built on a similar theme, and as I read, I compare:

They’re both unconventional and I call them ‘brave’ because they bring into focus what everybody likes to push to the back of their heads, what everybody likes to believe is entirely fictitious and something that just happens to nameless, faceless people on the News when the reality is starkly different.They’re both novels on school shootouts.

Nineteen Minutes is different in that Jodi Picoult (author) manages to capture everyone’s POV**.You get inside the head of the messed up ‘kid’ behind the gun, the parents, the neighbours, cops..It’s more than just the direct victims affected in the case.It is so well presented that you actually catch yourself feeling sorry for the assailant.It paints a depressingly horrible but accurate picture of the many pretenses and cliches your average high-schooler deals with, and the court scenes are very well written.We Need to Talk About Kevin, on the other hand, is written solely from the POV of the mother (or ‘Mommer’) to the assailant, in the form of letters to her estranged husband.She does not try to defend him or even make him  sound the least bit humane but portrays Kevin’s life as a series of vindictive acts that his father, while with them, refuses to believe.She obviously blames herself for being a negligent, unfeeling mother but as seems to be the goal of the entire correspondence (well, actually, it’s one-way so that’s not really the term) tries to prove to her ex-husband that Kevin’s faults had been plainly on display all along while he persisted in turning a blind eye to them.Basically, she is justifying her past self  against her husband’s unspoken accusations , and the story just falls together along the way.It is a captivating book mostly due to the author (mother)’s strong (although whether ‘likeable’ is debatable..) character and amazing insight but mostly due to her style of spelling out uncomfortable truths.Nineteen Minutes is a lot more recent and easier to swallow because of the lead character’s having a ‘nicer’ side; it’s easier to accept that he was ‘pushed’ into it through the many tortures he is subjected to at school.That is his very reason, in fact.WNTAK, on the other hand seems to be an account of a kid with absolutely no conscience or er, feelings or anything at all remotely ‘normal’.

The whole thing brings to mind something from Kite Runner (another masterpiece) on ‘the astonishing cruelty of children’.

Definitely not some light, feel-good reading but then again, that is also precisely what makes them so worth reading.If that wasn’t a hint, I don’t know what is!

*Not really, I never do that.It’s called laziness..

** Point of View.Ahem.

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Update : I am now through with WNTAK, too.I can safely stick to my recommendation- in fact, the last ten pages or so are the best in the book.Here’s where the plots and twists, and ofcourse, the much called-for (in this case) happy ( well actually far from happy, but in comparison..) endings come in.Seriously.If you can lay your hands on this book-GO for it!

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