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To Tinder, or not to Tinder?

This is my review of Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari.

This book is basically Freakonomics, but about dating and relationships. Also, Aziz Ansari is so cool. Anthropology tickles me because it forces me to look at social practices from a third person perspective; things I take for granted suddenly seem ridiculous (and pretentious, but that’s just me).

It asks questions that may or may not be interesting to you, like:

  • What’s the best way to seem attractive via text message?
  • How and why did online dating catch on?
  • How has the Information Age changed relationships?
  • What should my Tinder profile picture look like?!

Honestly, these aren’t things I’ve ever thought about. But what appealed to me was his scientific approach to a decidedly unscientific process. The evolution (and lack of evolution, at times) of social norms over generations never fails to amaze me. Online dating started out as a practice that was looked down upon, but in a matter of decades went mainstream.

3.5/5 from me. Take a look if you’re a light-nonfiction fan.

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The Rosy Project

This is a review of The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.

It famously featured on Bill Gate’s recommendations. Contrary to what Bill Gates says, this book did not keep me up for hours into the night to read it.

Firstly, The Rosie Project is a short novel. It’s written in simple language, sans much depth (say, like Dorian Gray). Secondly, it’s predictable, so I sort of guessed how it would end by the time I had read one fourth of the book. Lastly, The Rosie Project reminded me of TV characters, something that was highly off-putting. So I finished reading it in a total of four hours, was not very curious, was not enraptured, and was slightly irritated.

That said, the book is hilarious if you can get past the (odd) ways of the protagonist, Don. Plus, it’s a pleasant chick-flick-esque story. It’s a happy and rosy book; a “happily ever after” kind of storybook. As an added bonus, it also makes you chuckle every five pages or so.

Don is an extremely smart person who teaches genetics in a famous university in America. He is also fit, has a favourite chair in his house, has a fixed meal system, times his appointments to the minute etc (remind you of anyone?). He is on a quest to find a wife. He calls this his “Wife Project”. While he’s at it, he meets a woman, Rosie, who is unconventionally awesome, beautiful, etc. She tells him that she’s looking for her biological father. So Don tries to help her in what he calls “the Father Project”. In the process he does a lot of entertaining off-beat stuff. In the meantime, he also meets a super-hot super-nerdy woman, as she ‘applies’ to his “Wife Project”. But he eventually figures out that he loves Rosie. Ergo, The Rosie Project, to win Rosie over.

It’s a 2/5 from me. The movie adaptation (duh!) starring Ryan Reynolds might fare better. Might.

The resurrection of the writer, Perumal Murugan

On 5 July, 2016, the Madras High Court (HC) upheld the right of Tamil author perumalmuruganPerumal Murugan to publish his novel, ‘Mathorubagan’, and its English translation, ‘One Part Woman’.

Last year, in an infamous episode of exercising one’s right to be offended, a bunch of people from Perumal Murugan’s village took offense to his story (which described the village and its cultural practices) and forced it out of the stands. They made him apologise for his writing (the nerve!), and forced him to retrieve unsold copies of the books. The State stood as a spectator to this, like a mannequin does when a store is being vandalized.

After this sordid affair, Perumal Murugan had had enough. He declared the writer in him to be dead. Here‘s a post on that shameful episode.

On 5 July 2016, the HC, after upholding Perumal Murugan’s right to publish, also dismissed petitions that sought to ban the books (this time, the “vigilantes” were trying to twist his arm through legal routes, as opposed to plain bullying). The HC said, quite plainly, that no one is forced to read. ‘If you don’t like a book, simply keep it aside.’ Well said your Honour!

Will he come back and write more books, though?

After being harassed by the thin-skinned, easily offended lovers of all-that-is-imagined, we can’t say. But we would love to see him back. As does the HC, which said “Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write.

Fun factoids

This is my review of Think Like A Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the duo behind the Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics books.

This genre is best described as pop-armchair-economics. As someone who is an admirer of all things science and a champion of the scientific method, I can’t honestly recommend these books without coming off as a huge hypocrite.  They provide insufficient facts and flaky logic at times. But to be quite honest, these books are what introduced me to economics in its pure form- the science and art of making conclusions from data.

Like Freakonomics, the book is made up of bite-sized anecdotes that are perfect for reading on the go. The first story is about how thinking out of the box allowed a young man break world records in competitive eating (!). Another interesting one was the need for feedback loops and experimentation in advertising, and how simple observation can take the place of large-scale, potentially costly trials.

They also talk about ‘tricking’ people into saving more by gamifying the process- people were more likely to put money regularly into a lottery than save for retirement.

What I didn’t like was the occasional self indulgence. One story was about how the Freakonomics guys helped the US government catch some terrorists. While it was a clever move, it seems extremely risky and probably something that shouldn’t be in the public eye. They also talk about the concept of opportunity costs by describing their own personal success.

The book is overall a letdown, I expected much more from these two! It manages to be reasonably entertaining and a quick read, though. 3/5

Retellings, a hundred years later

One of my all-time favourite books is Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. Yes, it’s sappy and girly. SorryNotSorry.

“It doesn’t seem possible that the term is nearly over,” said Anne. “Why, last fall it seemed so long to look forward to–a whole winter of studies and classes. And here we are, with the exams looming up next week. Girls, sometimes I feel as if those exams meant everything, but when I look at the big buds swelling on those chestnut trees and the misty blue air at the end of the streets they don’t seem half so important.”

Quotes like that ought to make me cringe, but for some reason they seem genuine coming from an early 20th century teenaged girl.

Plot summary: Anne Shirley is a red-headed eleven year old bouncing around the foster system in Canada. Through a clerical error, she is adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, middle aged siblings who wanted a young boy to help with the farm. They decide to keep her anyway, and Anne is introduced to life in small town Avonlea (all this happens in Prince Edward Island, Canada- no, I don’t know where that is either). The rest of the novel describes her numerous mess-ups and college life.

This review isn’t about a 100-year-old book. It’s about a new social media adaptation of this classic. How I stumbled upon it is a story in itself. In the 1930s, a missionary from Canada gifted a copy of this book to a translator friend in Japan, who translated it to Japanese sometime during WW2. Thus, Anne has a special place in Japanese culture. Which means there’s an anime based on this story (no surprises there). I found out about this recently, and in the process of looking it up on YouTube, found Green Gables Fables, the aforementioned social media adaptation.

It’s pretty good, so far. Each character has his/her own Twitter/Tumblr profile, and Anne is an avid vlogger. Each incident gets a video or two, so the story is progressing quickly. As of the time of writing this post, the series is in its second season. The adaptation is very clever; for instance, Anne’s argument with an outspoken “aunty” prompts a rant on social media that’s seen by the aunty. An extremely apologetic YouTube video follows.

A lot of this stuff won’t seem as funny if you haven’t read the books- but if you have, definitely check this series out. 4.5/5 from me.