Rohit's Realm

The thoughts, observations, and rants of the proverbial young urban professional.

August 24, 2013

Rohit Reviews: Demons

Demons

I would say something about my long absence from this loathsome affair, but is there even a point any more? You, dear readers, should know not to expect anything of me—I told you as much last year.

I return today to this miserable site to review Demons, Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1872 novel about political intrigue and revolutionary conspiracies in nineteenth century Russia, which I finished while traveling through India earlier this year. This being the last of Dostoevsky's major works on my reading list after Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamozov (review here), The Idiot (review here), and Notes from Underground (review here), I was expecting to be somewhat disappointed—how could this novel possibly match up to those awesome works of literature? Instead, I was rather pleasantly surprised.

March 24, 2013

Rohit Reviews: Nausea

Well, dear readers, it's been a while. I hope you didn't miss me too much over the past few months. (It's hard to imagine the scenario in which anyone might miss me or this dreadful blog, but hey—the world is full of strange and dreadful phenomena. Who am I to judge?) In any case, I wish I could tell you that I emerge today full of spirit and motivation to begin writing again, but that's simply not the case. I have, however, gotten through several books since I last wrote here, and will hopefully be reviewing a few of them over the next couple week. The first of the set is Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, which I finished on a plane from Los Angeles to New York last Christmas. To put it mildly, it was definitely not a merry read.

Sartre's first novel, and purportedly his best, Nausea takes the form of the diary of Antoine Roquentin, a listless French writer who has moved to the small (and fictional) town of Bouville to research the subject of a biography he is writing. Fixated on and horrified by his existence, however, Roquentin spends much of the novel documenting his feelings and sensations as he goes through his daily routine and interacts with both animate and inanimate objects. And while certain other characters do make appearances, including an ex-lover (Anny) and a local acquaintance (the Self-Taught Man), the novel is largely a collection of Roquentin's (actually, Sartre's) thoughts on consciousness and the meaning of life (or the lack thereof).

August 18, 2012

Some Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the Realm

Even typing that title is a little disorienting: has it really been that long? Have I really been tending this miserable little spot on the web full of irrational rage and misguided existential angst and random computer shit and really crazy ideas for ten years? Am I really so old that a decade can pass me by with nary a notice? Hardly seems possible.

March 12, 2012

Rohit Reviews: War and Peace

War and Peace

For the benefit of those who have not had the insurmountable displeasure of interacting with me in person of late, I must admit that I have become somewhat fixated in recent months upon the so-called Mayan apocalypse and the prospect of world coming to an (unlamented) end on or about December 21, 2012 (the winter solstice). That's not to say I believe the world is coming to an end in nine months, because only lunatics and buffoons believe in such rubbish, but only that this prospect has caused me to contemplate the meaninglessness of life (alone and in the dark, of course) and consider the extent to which I have accomplished nothing more than I normally might. One natural question that follows from this line of thought is as follows: what would I regret not having accomplished if when I perished along with the rest of the wretched mass of humanity that torments this miserable planet like a biblical plague? The answer shouldn't be too hard to guess: I would regret having not gotten to Leo Tolstoy's 1869 epic, War and Peace.

And so, with heady thoughts of the world's end consuming me, I set out on January 1st of this year to accomplish at least this one goal in a life otherwise riddled with and downright failures. Last night, I accomplished this goal, some nine weeks after I began, and below I briefly summarize some of my impressions on this vast, towering novel.

February 01, 2012

Handwringing on the Subject of E-Books

Having committed most spare moments of the past month to making progress in Leo Tolstoy's massive 1869 tome, War and Peace, it seems only fitting to pause as I pass the approximate halfway point (end of Volume II, page 600 of 1224) and consider the vexing question of book format that has tormented me since the start of the e-ink revolution in late 2007. Although I bought a second generation Kindle shortly after its release in April 2009, and have since then occasionally used the thing to read books (as opposed to law articles), it has never replaced the physical format for me (as it has for many fellow techies I know). Indeed, both of my last two ill-advised book-buying binges have involved brick and mortar bookstores, and my version of War and Peace is the 2008 Vintage translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (easily my favorite Russian translators, incidentally).

As with most things in my sorry excuse for an existence, the question of why bothers me. Why haven't I abandoned the physical format yet (as I long did in music, TV, and movies)? E-books mean less clutter and less expense—what's not to love? Perhaps nothing. But I can think of at least three possible explanations as to why I—and many of my fellow bibliophiles—might not have made the leap to e-ink wholeheartedly: (1) books are intrinsically different than other media such that (a) format matters and (b) the physical format can be superior; (2) the utility people derive from pretension (i.e., others seeing your library) exceeds the cost of the clutter; or (3) we are relics of a soon to be bygone era on our way to waxing nostalgic about bookstores and paperback books much the way our parents' generation goes on about record stores and LPs.1 Bear with me as I tackle each of these thoughts in turn. Or don't: it wouldn't be the first time I (or this third-rate site) have been abandoned, and it certainly won't be the last.

January 22, 2012

Some Thoughts on Sports Allegiances

SF 49ers

Obsessive allegiances to sports teams have always mystified me, even as I myself hold and act upon these obsessive allegiances. This most worthless of sites, for instance, has long documented my ire and despair over the trials and tribulations of the ever faltering Cal Golden Bears. But as I myself observed some years back following an especially devastating failure by my alma mater that nearly brought me to tears, the notion of caring enough to weep about a sports institution whose only relation to you is that it represents your undergraduate university is difficult to explain—at least as a rational matter. The notion that one might care the same way about a team whose only relation is even more tenuous—that it represents a city which you may have once called home—is downright preposterous.

All these rational thoughts notwithstanding, each August I inevitably get excited for the upcoming college football season (and by October, am usually reduced to despair by atrocious quarterback play). Worse still, I would have been getting similarly excited about the NFL each year, but for nearly a decade, the team I've long rooted for—the San Francisco 49ers—was stuck in a rut of horribleness that actually made it seem like Cal had a better chance of getting to the Rose Bowl than the 49ers to a playoff game.1 One might think that after a decade of next to no expectations, my allegiance to the 49ers might have lessened. Instead, hours away from the NFC Championship, I again find myself anxiously awaiting the game—and wondering why it is that I care so much.

January 02, 2012

Rohit Reviews: Notes from Underground

Notes from the Underground

I am a sick man . . . I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts. With those opening sentences, Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1864 novella Notes from Underground joins the pantheon of books with awesome opening lines, alongside such masterpieces as Anna Karenina, A Tale of Two Cities (review here), Pride and Prejudice, and Huckleberry Finn. And like its compatriots just mentioned, Notes did not disappoint beyond its opening lines.

Considering that Notes is often regarded as the first existential novel, it has, unsurprisingly, long been on my list of books to read. But for whatever reason, it never was a priority, and given the length and density of other works of Russian literature (including a few by Dostoevsky himself), the almost absurdly short Notes, which clocks in at only 131 pages, always seemed to fall by the wayside. That is, until my second ill-advised book-buying binge of 2011. But length can be deceiving: despite its rather skimpy appearance, the novel still packs a rather impressive intellectual punch—and this time, without the 200 pages or so of exposition usually endemic to Russian novels.

December 31, 2011

Year in Review, 2011

Well, dear readers, it would appear that both you and I have managed successfully to keep the existential demons at bay for yet another dismal year, undeterred in our never ending pursuit of nothingness. Whether that is an accomplishment or a most miserable development, I leave for you to decide.

Rather than spread holiday cheer this year in an uncharacteristic display of misguided merriment (as I have been want to do in the past), however, I thought I might take a moment to comment on the state of this most dismal site as it charges on (futilely) into its tenth year of existence. Yes, you read that correctly: it's been ten years. Hard to imagine, really.

And while the state of its author has not much changed in that time—I remain as unmoored in a turbulent sea of loneliness, despair, and the like as ever—this site has taken a definite tumble, both in intellectual caliber and technical adequacy. I can't much help the former; tacit failure is largely what this site represents, after all. But I can and do intend to remedy the latter, probably sometime in the first or second quarter of 2012. (It's important to have goals.) So stay tuned for a better platform by which I will deliver my usual enlightenment.

Oh, and Happy New Year. Be sure to enjoy the festivities tonight. If the Mayans were right, it'll be this planet's last.

December 27, 2011

Rohit Reviews: This Side of Paradise

This Side of Paradise

Only a few days ago, I lamented the slowing of my reading pace caused by what I deemed the twin malignancies of overwork and ill-conceived travel. The holidays, however, have brought some spare time and today I wrapped up the first of four new books purchased in yet another ill-advised book-buying binge last week in Brooklyn. Compared to Midnight's Children, F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise was a breeze of a read that I could most likely have finished in a day had it not been for other commitments. Having read and enjoyed The Great Gatsby a couple times (once in high school and again in college), I had rather high expectations for Fitzgerald's 1920 foray into the literary world at the tender age of twenty-three. Unfortunately, the novel ended up being somewhat of a disappointment.

December 24, 2011

Rohit Reviews: Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children

After an inspired spell of reading over the summer, the autumn again brought the twin (self-imposed) malignancies of overwork and ill-conceived travel that have long plagued me (and this site). Naturally, as a consequence, the feverish pace at which I had been consuming books ground to an unseemly halt. But as I had quietly committed to finishing the four books I bought in an ill-advised book-buying binge in July before the end of the year, I spent the last few weeks in a mad dash to finish the last—and by far, the longest and most difficult—of the lot: Salman Rushdie's 1981 Booker Prize winner, Midnight's Children. We are nothing, after all, without our entirely arbitrary commitments to ourselves. (I might be nothing regardless of my entirely arbitrary commitments to myself, but that's a story for another day.)