The White Tiger

CLJ Reviews The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

What We Read

For my second book, I choice The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. My choice this time was simple – It had recently won the Booker, it had a colourful book jacket and, well, let’s face it books set in India, full of sensual delights always seem to be a hit. The White Tiger didn’t disappoint, sparking some fiery debate regarding the moral fibre of the protagonist, and musings on how the path from poverty to riches can change someone forever. The story is of how Balram, the son of a richshaw puller  in the darkness of rural India, learns to drive and begins working as a chauffeur for  a rich family in Dehli, “The Light”. From the air-conditioned confines of his spacious Honda City which he shuttles daily from Shopping Mall to luxury condo tower – Balram gains increasing exposure to a world of wealth and privilege which remains firmly closed to him. Near the end of the book he decides to make his move and build an entrepreneurial empire – not without making some serious moral compromise. I won’t give all of it away, but suffice it to say that Balram’s odyssey against the rollicking world of an India beset by social, economic and technological change is a great read and was a hit with the CLJ.

What We Did (and How We Did It)

The White Tiger features a periodic running correspondence between two high ranking officials in India and China. After all, this is the age of China and India’s global ascendancy. In honour of this historic rise, I staged a simple trivia game based on the geography, history and natural history of the two countries. I had been strongly critiqued for a much, much too complicated challenge on my last choice, the Zanzibar Chest, so I decided to keep this one simple. One contestant was still pretty challenged, answering “Mountain” for every question. He didn’t win the trophy.

What We Thought

The book was generally well received by the group who appreciated its lively depictions of India on the rise and the protagonist’s (mis) adventures. Our converstation became pretty much stuck on debating the moral integrity of the protagonist and whether the actions he took to rise to wealth were justifiable or morally wrong. There was some pretty deep division on this issue which made for a really energetic conversation.

As told by Godfrey von Bismarck…

Primary Colors

CLJ Reviews Primary Colors by Joe Klein

What We Read

Primary Colors is the story of Bill Clin…– no wait, I mean Jack Stanton. Jack is the rogue governor of a place few people have heard of. He’s running for President of the United States and is in the primary run of his life. During his run, he successfully dodges a number of “bimbo eruptions”, conspires with his strategists and wife, and charms the pants (sometimes literally) off just about anyone he meets. Slowly we discover a politician, though deeply flawed, who has vision and is the real deal.

The story is told from the perspective of his close young black aide Henry Burton. Henry is a political strategist who from the start is wary of Clin – I mean Stanton’s foibles. Yet, like just about everyone else around him, he recognizes a great candidate when he sees one and like Bernstein to a scandal, is inextricably drawn to in to what is a campaign of a life time.

What We Did (and How We Did It)

The CLJ staged a mock election. Candidates were asked to submit their campaign platforms (as well as whether they would be running or a delegate prepared to be wooed for their vote) and the whole race was covered throughout the month by a number of intrepid journalists (gamely played by me) who fed off rumours and innuendo fed by various campaigns about their opponents sending out “dispatches” every week to the group. The end run of the book club finished with campaign debates and a final vote.

What We Thought

Sadly for this book club organizer, only about half the book club read the book. Of those who read it, opinion was split down the middle. There were those who raved about it, considering its nuanced and fast paced narrative thrilling. There were those who felt it dragged on about a hundred and fifty pages to long.  General consensus was this was a book that gives you a good idea of the ongoing crisis-fueled nature of presidential politics. Personally, I couldn’t put the book down (neither the first time nor the second time). But then I’m a bit of a political junky who loves the insider’s perspective of what seems to be the mother of all runs. Ultimately, this story is probably one of the best political thrillers, up there with Penn Warner’s classic All the Kings Men. If you want something highly readable that gives you a good idea of the inner workings of one of America’s most successful presidents, this book is for you.

As told by Kurt Heinrich…