I read two very different books recently.
Noon by Aatish Taseer simmers like mid-day.
Marked by disconnect, the very form the book takes makes one feel incomplete, groping for answers like the author. The story of Rehan Tabassum, a boy with an Indian mother and a Pakistani father, is not a complete story. It offers slices of his life, both in first and third person, and there is plenty to read between the lines. In every part, there is a cosy intimacy, yet a disturbing distance, an intense involvement, yet a peculiar detachment. It makes for very interesting reading. In an interview, Aatish Taseer talks about the disruption, the rupture, the eerie, inexplicable sense of life mimicking the story, of the story born from real life, of life being too much sometimes to bear. In many ways, Noon brings to my mind a scene of peak afternoon in a town, where everyone has retired obstensibly to avoid the heat, yet the heat shimmers and intrudes and upsets, till one can only lie under a fan and hope for the coolness of the evening.
In contrast, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, unfolds like a dream.
Everything is hazy, magical, illusion. A circus — Le Cirque des Rêves — that arrives without warning and opens only at night; a mysterious game or competition that hurtles its young participants towards certain death (or does it?); black and white and grey, with just a touch of red. You are drifting in a world where everything is not quite what it appears to be. The characters float in and out of the tents of your imagination, and you watch, entranced by this enchanting performance. The writing brings alive that elusive quality all dreams have, of sharp reflections and crisp lines that dissolve into ripples with the touch of a finger. You wish you could actually meander through the wonders. You know it will end, you hope love will triumph, but what you really want is this mesmerizing circus to go on and on.
Both books linger on, long after the last page has been turned. As different as day and night.