In the Hot Unconscious

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 30; the thirtieth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

It was close to sun set. The waves came and went maintaining a regular rhythm like the melodies of a musical instrument. The orange hues of the setting sun blended with the bright blue of the water and golden yellow of the sand to produce a whole palette of different colors. Children played blissfully on the sand. Lovers walked hand in hand enjoying the comfort of each other’s touch and that of the gentle sea breeze. As I stood there gazing I felt one with the sea, the breeze, the sands and the sun.

Darkness was slowly consuming the sun savoring it bit by bit. The sea kept reaching out with its tendrils in search of an unsuspecting victim to draw into its depth. The children running around aimlessly reminded me of the purposeless rat races in the world. From a distance a foul stench wafted by. Probably the carcass of a dead gull lay rotting somewhere. The meaningless to and fro motion of the sea reminded of the purposelessness of human existence.

Both the above paragraphs describe the same scene. But the glasses through which they are seen are totally different. Most nature poets and writers of travelogue tend to take the first approach. Normal scenery is romanticized and raised to a high pedestal. A person who might have found the scene pretty mundane when experienced by himself may find it much more elevating when reading the accounts of such writers. But then there are also cynics who take the opposite approach and can make even a beautiful experience dark and gloomy for the reader. Charles Foster takes the second approach in his book ’In the hot unconscious

This book is an account of the author’s journey through India and his spiritual journey accompanying the physical journey. The example of the sea is relevant in the context of this book as well.  The book begins and ends by sea shores in Southern India. The author tries to find a fusion between the practical Western religion and the mystical Eastern religion though this account. So he starts off by talking about the journey of Saint Thomas to India through the southern seas , the first meeting of the two religions. He reflects how paradoxical it was that the most rational of Jesus’ followers was sent to mystical India rather than the more mystic ones. That is the thread that runs throughout the book – the need for the dry Western religion to find relief in a few drops of Eastern mysticism on one hand and the need for the free flowing Eastern religion to find some solid ground in the practicality of Western religion.

This book is not a typical travelogue. The focus in more on Foster’s reflection and his conversations with the people he meets, often on philosophical topics. The general tone of the narrative is entirely cynical and he does not express a high regard for the people he encounters. Even the vivid description of the places focuses on aspects such a blood, sweat, death, feces, urine, vermin and the like. Most of his metaphors are also quite dark in nature. His portrayal of India reminds one of the movie ‘Slum Dog Millionaire’ in most aspects. But it should be said to his credit that his sarcasm is not limited to India and Hinduism alone. It extends liberally to Christianity and Western world as well. The two Gurus he meets in his travels are both new age Western Gurus who have come to India to create cults based on their own versions of Hinduism.

From a philosophical perspective darkness and cynicism has its own merits. In a round world there can be no wrong direction. Whichever way you take if you travel long enough you will get eventually get to your destination. Same is true of spiritual journey as well I guess. You can take a positive approach or a negative approach. Stories speak of Ravana attaining salvation through hatred of Rama the same way Rama's devotees attained it through love of Rama. There is a similar story of an enemy of Buddha as well.

 There is an element of humor also in the dark narrative and some people may like to ignore the metaphysical aspects and just enjoy it as a dark comedy. But it is nowhere near the laughter riot of a ‘Catcher in the rye’ or a ‘Catch 22’ in this respect.

If one finds my review confusing, I have served my purpose well for that is what the book seeks to achieve as well. So I have succeeded in giving a flavor of the book. The book meanders all around the place without any definitive direction and Foster concludes that Eastern religion is all about being confused. This is also reflected in the Zen Kaons and other quotations of a similar nature at the start of every chapter. Readers who like absurdism, dark humor and to get confused in general can give the book a try. 
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. I’m thankful to Vipul Grover, who introduced Blog-a-Ton to me, and I debuted in 8th edition.
This review is also a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Credits Image - Shades of Orange by Harsha Chittar Courtesy - Curious Dino Photography via www.blogaton.in

42 comments:

C. Suresh said...

Hi TF! Good show! You have killed two birds with one stone very effectively indeed!

dreamer said...

A lovely review to the lovely book

Simran said...

Hi Dear! :)
First time visiting you!
Beautiful blog and what a take on the image prompt! Liked the description.

Best wishes!

DS said...

How you combined the 2 posts into one is admirable! Nice review, seems like a good read.

Deepa said...

Brilliant - nice way to link both! Best wishes for BAT!

The Fool said...

Thanks, CS. This is how I managed to resolve the dilemma of whether to post the review or participate in Blog-a-ton

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Tanaya.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Simran and welcome to my blog.

The Fool said...

Thanks, DS. Read was actually a bit tough - the book being non linear.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Deepa. Had to link to avoid missing 3rd year anniversary of blog-a-ton and not being blacklisted by blogadda at the same time.

Karan Shah said...

good review...i think same goes for the Oprah show on India
best wishes for BAT

The Fool said...

Thanks Karan.

Panchali said...

That was an unique take, TF !Two-in-One ...delicious!:)All the best!

Kappu said...

Hahah! that is cute, 2 in 1!

Btw, thanks for taking us on the land of Charles Foster, as for JDS I never understood why Holden C was SUCH a celebrated figure, I have never ever understood.. *shakes head* never ever!!! :D

Cheers! Stop by the Butterfly Brooch - Kappu

JJ said...

Umm Can I be a bit honest?
Dont mind but I was a bit disappointed.
Going by TF standards I would have appreciated another gem of a post on the anniversary of Blogaton. This looks more a book review than anything else.

Never mind only a few can combine the two like you have did! Nice :)

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Panchali.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Kappu. Actually I really enjoyed JDS a lot. It was really funny.

The Fool said...

@JJ - Thanks for your candid comment. But I was actually planning to miss the Blog-a-ton this time. Really stressed for time. But did not want to miss the anniversary. And I had a deadline for this review from Blogadda. So thought I might as well combine the two.

Shashiprakash Saini said...

एक तीर से दो निशाने
बढ़िया तीरंदाजी की इसबार
ये TF ही कर सकता है

Leo said...

Well, seeing as to how I was pushing you to write atleast a Flash55, I thought you might actually do that :D

But a different entry.. two birds with one stone.. and I think it might be the first book review ever on Blog-a-Ton so a record for the anniversary, TF. Hehe!

Neha said...

I was expecting to read another one of your fab stories but this one turned out to be a review. Nice review and it seems like an interesting read. Good luck for BAT :)

Apala Sengupta said...

The best thing about most of your posts - the out of the box thinking. and you have done it this time too! Now, who on earth would have thought about a review post seeing that pic! commendable job, good read!

Good luck for BAT!

ashzzes said...

haha! now by no means did I expect a review up here! But I guess you have an upper hand in giving surprises!!
all the best! :)

ps: liked the new look too :D

The Fool said...

Thanks, Leo. Everyone thinks blog-a-ton is only for stories but it is actually open for all genres. I always wanted to do a book review one time and this time managed it.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Neha. Been a bit busy lately. But will be coming out with stories again soon. Whatever other stuff I write, stories are my first love.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Apala. As they say necessity is the mother of all invention. Leo was forcing me to participate in Blog-a-ton and I had to get the book review also done. So had to combine the two.

The Fool said...

Thanks aszzes. Seems like your visiting after a long time. Hope to see you here regularly.

jaish_vats said...

Hi TF a very different take on the image !

The Fool said...

Yeah. Always try to do something different though this time I was forced to.

Manasa said...

I like the first 2 paras the best, showing the differences in the same image!!
ATB!

umashankar said...

Books are lovely dark and deep
but I have promises to keep....

(with apologies to Robert Frost)

Lord Android swallowed my first comment. Yet, I remembered this mysterious book review enough to return and comment on it. You have made the book an enticing proposition but I must honour the rising backlog of over 30 books now -thanks to my book acquisition syndrome -before I acquire a fresh ones.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Manasa. Glad you liked it.

The Fool said...

Yeah, umashankar. All of us have promises to keep. I am glad I even made you consider this book with my review.

The Fool said...

Thanks , Shashi.

Kshitij said...

Oh man! I cam here with high hopes... and am disappointed.

Book Review?? I dont like book reviews. But that's very personal. Ignore me.

However, I do like how you started the post - extreme opposite views of the same thing. Nicely done.

And you can change it to purposelessness (i make thousands of grammar edits... but loved correcting this one) :)

I know you would not mind my comment... I came with high hopes because I look forward to your blog.

The Fool said...

Thanks Kshitij. The comments to this post made me realize I carry high expectations in blog-a-ton. So next time on I would focus on coming up with zany tales.

Kshitij said...

Nops. I am thankful that you dont write zany tales (like myself)... you are a sensible writer.. and I like reading your BAT entries.

Someone is Special said...

Okay...

I'm here to say what I wanted to say.. Actually, I expected a TF's post for Blog-a-Ton and ended up in reading a Book Review. But.. But... But.. The best part the way you linked the review and the image is something out of the world brother.. Hats off to you.. Keep writing.. All the best..

Someone is Special

The Fool said...

@Kshitij - Let me see.

The Fool said...

@SIS - Thanks.Anyway my this time's participation was only for the sake of you and Leo.

Charles Foster said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments on my book. They mean a lot. All best wishes on the road. Charles Foster

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Charles Foster. I am glad you liked my review. It feel very good to receive comment on review from author himself.

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