Read The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth Online


"The great California novel been written, in verse (and why not?): The Golden Gate gives great joy."--Gore VidalOne of the most highly regarded novels of 1986, Vikram Seth's story in verse made him a literary household name in both the United States and India.John Brown, a successful yuppie living in 1980s San Francisco meets a romantic interest in Liz, after placing a per"The great California novel been written, in verse (and why not?): The Golden Gate gives great joy."--Gore VidalOne of the most highly regarded novels of 1986, Vikram Seth's story in verse made him a literary household name in both the United States and India.John Brown, a successful yuppie living in 1980s San Francisco meets a romantic interest in Liz, after placing a personal ad in the newspaper. From this interaction, John meets a variety of characters, each with their own values and ideas of "self-actualization." However, Liz begins to fall in love with John's best friend, and John realizes his journey of self-discovery has only just begun."A splendid achievement, equally convincing in its exhilaration and its sadness."--The New York Times"Seth pulls off his feat with spirit, grace and great energy."--The New Yorker "A marvelous work . . . bold and splendid . . . Locate this book and allow yourself to become caught up, like a kite, in the lifting effects of Seth's sonnets."--Washington Post Book World...

Title : The Golden Gate
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679734574
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 307 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Golden Gate Reviews

  • Lynne King
    2018-11-14 02:24

    This book seemed to be the natural follow on from my recent amazing couplet experience with Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Why you may wonder? Well for the simple reason The Golden Gate is a twentieth century novel with a unique difference in that it has been written in verse, not with couplets but with sonnets in such a way as to be an uplifting experience, be it poignant, humorous, bitter-sweet, nostalgic, tragic…You name it; every conceivable emotion has been magnificently portrayed by Seth. You can browse through any page and I challenge you, as the reader, not to be as enthralled with this book as I have been and continue to do so. The plot is nothing particularly special in itself, apart from the “nuclear abyss” thrown in and three cats which are definitely worth reading about. How a cat can cause problems between a couple is soon to be seen in all of its magnificence. Set in the 1980s, this book follows the lives of a group of yuppies in San Francisco. Basically it revolves around the individuals John, Jan (a sculptor), Phil and his son Paul; Ed, Liz and Sue (siblings; with Sue in a minor role).Out of all the relationships here, the one that really moved me was that between Paul and Ed. And another splendid aspect of this book is that you never know how things are going to turn out. In no way could I have guessed the ending.It’s the poetic structure that tantalized me and the overall effect is spectacular. These sonnets are so well written and I cannot fault any of them. They continue to linger in my memory and here are four of them that I particularly liked:The two cats, Cuff and Link:1.16Sweet Siamese of rare refulgenceWith chocolate ears and limbs of tow,Jan gives them love, food, and indulgenceThe cats take this for granted, showScant deference to their human betters;In splendour Jan can ill afford,In silken bed, on sumptuous boardThey fatten. Though, when out of favor,The L and C on their beds areInterpreted “Louise” and “Catarrh,”Jan relishes the warmth and savorThe deeds of Cuff and Link confer,The love they deign to yield to her.4.50Over large cups of coffee, steamingAnd fragrant, Ed says, “Phil last nightI almost thought that I was dreaming.But now – I know that it wasn’t right.I have to trust my faith’s decisions,Not batten on my own volitions.The Bible says, if a man lie With a man, he must surely die.It’s in Leviticus, chapter 20,Verse 13 – which means it’s as trueFor me, a Christian, as for you.”Phil laughs: “That old book, Ed, holds plentyOf rules that may have made sense once-Take shellfish– but you’d be a dunce…And as for the third cat, Charlemagne:6.24When John’s invective grows too torrid‘”I’ll cut them off myself”, et al.),Liz exclaims, “John, don’t be so horrid.”“Well, ship him off to SenegalOr somewhere – Liz, you’d better do it –Or – mark my words – that cat will rue it.”“Oh darling, don’t be so annoyed.”“What should I be then? Overjoyed?”“Of course not, dear. I’m very sorry.Let’s change the sheets. He’s twelve years old.He really has a heart of gold.”“I’ll bet!” “Well, dear, try not to worry.As for that other thing, that would,At his age, do more harm than good.”13.20Or late at night – when after turningThe lights out, he’s in bed alone,He hears her voice, and waves of yearningDrench his taut body to the bone,And a sick turmoil of desire Stirs through him with a craving fireFor her, her hand to touch his hair,Her indrawn breath, and everywhereThe unique musk of excitation Her body breathed when they made love.Each night, like dreams, strange figments of The nights recur, prefigurationOf dreams themselves. One night he dreamedHe stood by the seashore. It seemed…I’m really surprised that this is the first novel of Seth. I wonder what his other books are like. I must pursue that.This book was indeed a serendipitous find thanks to a GRs friend, Fionnuala, who said:If you like stories told in rhyme, Vikram Seth has a more contemporary one: “The Golden Gate”This work is unusual and I love it. It also made me read Shakespeare’s sonnets again. Wonderful to say the least. Now back to this wondrous and magical work. Do try it. You may find that you love it as I did! In fact I’m sure you will. This is one of those ultimate reading experiences. When I read the last page, I must confess that I felt a lump in my throat. Yes, I do indeed wax lyrical here and can you blame me?

  • Manny
    2018-12-01 01:16

    Completely unique book, as far as I know the only major verse novel written in English during the last 100 years. The life and loves of a bunch of 80s yuppies in Silicon Valley, told in Petrarchan sonnets. It should be a catastrophe, but in fact it's a brilliant success - funny, romantic, tragic, witty, you name it."To make a start more swift than weighty Hail Muse. Dear Reader, once upon A time, say, circa 1980, There lived a man. His name was John..."_____________________________________So I was telling Bram yesterday that, as far as I was concerned, the real translation of Eugene Onegin into English was The Golden Gate. It was just a theory I made up on the spur of the moment; I know The Golden Gate very well, I read Pushkin once, and it was clear there were some commonalities. I love The Golden Gate, and translations of Pushkin have always left me cold, particularly the Nabokov one.This afternoon, I was standing in the line at Cambridge train station, when I noticed that the person behind me was a friend who's a Professor of Russian Literature. I said I was sure she had an opinion on Nabokov's translation of Pushkin. She wasn't that keen on it; she said it was incredibly accurate, and the commentary was "brilliant", but it still left her feeling disappointed. Then, without any prompting whatsoever from me, she went on to recommend reading Vikram Seth's book, which she said was virtually a transposition to American English and 80s California. Same number of chapters, close correspondences between people and motifs, many explicit references.Well! It's the closest I've ever got to the scene in Annie Hall, where Woody Allen suddenly produces Marshall McLuhan to support his argument. What are the odds against that happening?

  • Jacob
    2018-11-29 22:21

    3 October 2013I'm finished! Now to write some sonnetsFor a review I hope you'll like.No mean feat, so give me time on it--It's not like riding on a bike!Perhaps I'll post something by Sunday.(Which means you'll have to wait 'til MondayOr Tuesday instead, or later--Call me King Procrastinator!)And if you think this plan improper,You have my sad regrets, so chooseInstead to read other reviews.My muse, although I tried to stop her,Demanded this. I must appease!Now, back to that review I teased...September 2014My muse looks bored; I've not impress'd her.Oh, shit! How did a year go by?These half-done verses won't int'rest her!Should I go on? I can't see why...For I don't know how she can be wooed;It's been far too long since I reviewed.("Dare I disturb the universe?"Asked Eliot in better verse.)Then--"Hey, Miriam, your help, I plead!I swear to finish this review--October 10th is when it’s due--Or you can assign me books to read.The worst you know!" And with that treat(Or threat) in place, here is, complete: [1]5 October 2014THE GOLDEN GATE: A REVIEW IN VERSE(With apologies to the manWho wrote the book. Please, sir, do not purseYour lips so! Yours is better thanMy sad attempt, and much bigger, too...No, not that--I don't mean--okay, youProbably dominate there as well...No need to show--no need to tell.I meant your many sonnets, whereasMy paltry handful--shut up!--looksLike a weak joke next to your book."Imitation...flattery," that jazz...But I digress. Sorry, Vikram.Now, where were we? Oh, yes: *Ahem*)1.Good Readers, I have such a hard-on...Oh, sorry, was that TMI?How crude of me. I beg your pardon,But won't you let me explain why?See, the man who wrote that book of weightA Suitable Boy, Mr. V. Seth,[2]First wrote this one, called The GoldenGate, in which he is beholden By a certain rhyme scheme, self-imposed,(That is, a-B-a-B-c-c-D-D-e-F-F-e-G-G)To write in sonnets instead of prose!A verse novel! Impressive stuff.And now you know what has me chuffed.2."A verse novel." What could have been saidIn a sentence or two just tookFourteen lines of (awkward) verse instead.But that's what Seth did in his book--For three hundred pages, and more thanSix hundred stanzas! Salute that man!I did. (If you know what I mean--But I should strive to keep this clean,Lest some user lets a freak "FLAG!" fly...And I guess I'd better drop itBefore they scold: "You're off-topic!"AMAZON SEES ALL!--wave and say hi!Police reviews? Oh, they'll try t'...Readers, go! RELEASE THE HYDRA!)3....If that last sonnet seems outdated,My bad; I cannot tell a lie:I wrote it, then procrastinated,As weeks; months; then a year went by,And here we are. But there you have it:Procrastination is my habit.(Please bear with me--I'll use that wordOft 'n' awkwardly here; absurd,I know, it's too polysyllabic...)And since then I've reviewed little(I my books, Nero his fiddle),But the thing that cuts me to the quick--Twelve months these paltry verses took!It's time to talk about the book.4.But first, a better explanation,In case Verse 1 is still unclear:--No, not my (wink) "standing ovation"(Which probably did not endearMe to you...but I digress)--the verseSeth writes in, and which I write in worse,Is Onegin[3] in form, so namedAfter that book Pushkin is famed For, Eugene O-- (Which I've not read yet--Seth’s called louder). Check the WikiPage for more, because this sicklyVerse o' mine is all I fear you'll get.Don't look at me so gloomily!Perhaps you'd like a summary?[4]5."To make a start more swift than weighty,Hail Muse. Dear Reader, once uponA time, say, circa 1980,There lived a man. His name was John,"[5]Our book begins. Our John is onlyTwenty-six, fit, well-employed. Lonely,(A thrown Frisbee makes him heart-sick--For me, 'twas reading Moby-Dick)He seeks some kind advice from Janet(A friend and ex), who swift suppliesThe sage suggestion, "Advertise!"In spite of his command to "Can it!",She posts in secret, vets replies,Sends him duds, 'til at last he tries6.A last-ditch date with ElizabethDorati, lovely legal droneWith a love-life equally bereft.They meet; they match; they make sweet moan.--And since he agrees it's sickeningAnd not conducive to quickeningIn certain organs (the heart!), SethKindly skips over each petite- Mort[6] they die, to hie us south, to sadAnd gloomy Phil (old friend of John),A single dad to Paul, his son.His job was lifeless; his marriage bad:His wife left him and went back east,He left his job to work for peace.7.Then, at a party John and Liz throw,Phil meets her younger brother, Ed.They chat a little, until--hello!--Phil takes him home, and then to bed.But Ed's less closeted than cloisteredAnd can’t take that world for his oyster.Unmoving faith, unstopping love--What do these forces have to prove?But keep one or both? Ed doesn’t dare.John and Liz may have lovers' pains--Like John’s great war with Charlemagne--But can their small squabbles quite compareTo a love triangle this odd, With Ed torn between Phil and God?8.Okay, it's not that devoid of hope.Nor pure melodrama! Trust me.And don't dismiss this as 'Yuppie SoapOpera,' all white and sudsy.But 'round the Liz/John, Phil/Ed bubblesDrift flotsam, jetsam, worries, troubles:A grumpy cat, an agèd mom,A protest march against The Bomb:"No to Nukes!" they cry, and "Save the earth!"So, though Seth's tale in verse might lookPuny next to his larger book,It packs in punch what it lacks in girth.Why not let him work his magic?Warning, though: there is a tragic--9.I'll stop here so it isn't spoiled--No pitchfork'd mob shall have my head!And anyway, I think I've toiledEnough on this review you read.Truth is, I hope only to succeedIn making this the next book you read!Now: while Goodreads votes aren't scary,I’m beginning to feel waryOf the attention this might earn me.I may have had my fun with this,But I would still be quite remissIf I don't put my foot down firmly:I don't care if the "likes" rush in—I’m not doing this for Pushkin.[7]10.One last thing before I say finis:If I've offended you, my friends,Do I, I wonder, have it in me(That's what she said!) to make amends? The first lines I wrote for this review(My appeal to Seth; Verse 1; Verse 2)Are much cruder than the others.Although, if I had my druthers, They’d be tongue (or something else) in cheekAs well. But since those verses lackThat bawdiness, fear of attackLeads me to say, since I'm feeling meek:If I lost your admiration...Sorry for the cock fixation.---Endnotes[1] And look, I finished with five days left![2] Did you know his name sounds like "Sate?"(Till just last week that said "book of heft"--I should have rhymed with Golden Gate.)[3] And I wracked my brain o’er "Onegin,"'Til Seth whispered "Pssst! Sounds like Reagan!"(Good thing I di'n't try t' rhyme it...)[4] I know, I know, that rhyme was shit![5] Just quote whole verses? Oh sure, why not?[6] When I thought Seth was pronounced "Seth,"I used the English, "little death."...But with petite? It was worth a shot...[7] News from the Bullshit Desk JUST IN!--Fine--I might do this for Pushkin...

  • Fionnuala
    2018-12-06 21:12

    Although this novel is written in verse, the reader almost forgets that fact after a while because in all other respects, this is just like any other novel with a well paced plot, varied cast of characters, plenty of dialogue and the usual suspense about who is going to hook up with who plus some wry commentary from the author about the challenges of writing in verse.

  • Teresa
    2018-11-21 02:38

    I read A Suitable Boy years ago and loved it. Because I did, I then read An Equal Music, which I liked a lot. But knowing Seth's first novel, this one, was in verse, I put it off. If I'd remembered it, after reading its inspiration, Eugene Onegin, I may have read it sooner, but at least the mention of ASB by a non-GR friend got me to take this out of the library.It took a little while to get into the rhythm, so to speak, but once I did, it was smooth sailing. (I was even dreaming in rhymed sentences last night -- don't ask me what they were, though.) I was drawn in to the lives of the characters, the narrative voice (Vikram himself), the story with its range of emotions; but what I liked the most, I think, was its prevailing tone, which, even with its sometimes serious topics, is just plain fun.*Seth wrote this while working toward a PhD in the economic demography of China while at Stanford. I wonder if he ever finished that ... And according to Wikipedia, he's working on a sequel to ASB called "A Suitable Girl," to be published in 2013. I look forward to that, as I think Seth is brilliant.

  • Molly
    2018-11-19 20:33

    I was expecting to enjoy this book, but even so it really knocked my socks off.Total times I missed my bus stop as a result of this book and had to walk home from Bosworth and Mission: 2.Total times I have ever missed that bus stop: 3.That will tell you how involved I got reading this book. Seth is a charming writer. The characters were fully-fleshed-out and interesting to read about, the places were very real (as a Bay Area resident, it was very exciting to see places like the Cafe Trieste showing up--and reading about traffic on 101 while being stuck in traffic on 101 was a great meta-experience).This is on top of the conceit of the book, an epic poem told in fifteen chapters of approximately 50 sonnets each, all in iambic tetrameter. Even the table of contents and author's biography were in sonnets, and it worked really well. The form managed to encapsulate the time and place in a way it wouldn't have if it were merely a novel about people leading relatively unexciting lives in the bay area in the early 1980s. It was an EPIC POEM about people doing the mundane in the 1980s. Brilliant.

  • James Barker
    2018-12-10 23:33

    It seems a bit crazy to read a book written wholly in sonnets, although not as crazy as choosing to write one. At least that's what I thought when I stumbled on 'The Golden Gate' in a charity shop. I still felt it 10 pages in.. this wasn't going to work for me… A verse novel of the late twentieth century recording a few years in the life of yuppies in early 80s San Fran, all in soapy sonnets that range the gamete from humorous to tragic? But this work, treading the fine line between madness and genius, draws you in. Two days later I had gorged on its contents and was, even before the end, a blubbering mess. There is such powerful depiction of loss, extraordinary within the confines of the structure, and it felt to me the kind of loss that calls out to the reader, hence ten minutes of OOC sobbing that did me much good.Don't get me wrong, there were some squelchy moments. You want to enjoy the rhythm of the work, and you do, but then the rhythm missteps… but this is a pretty small grievance- you'd have not to be A genius but The genius to pull this off with flawless rhythm and rhyme. The vacuity of modern life, too, seems a strange subject matter for Petrarchan sonnets but, running alongside powerful and diverse subject matter as it does, it works. So much of life is vacuous, after all. Seth explores the nature of love, loss, grief and its attendant emotions, bisexuality, creativity, bigotry, urban isolation, corporate greed, belief systems and much more. I personally loved the powerful pro-environment sermon sited in the very heart of the work, reflecting as it does the central themes of care and compassion. It is also a good advertisement for San Francisco itself. The districts and seasons of the city are captured beautifully and (as the title suggests) these Petrarchan sonnets, named after a love-sick poet, are part of a love letter to Frisco itself. It's been 12 years since I visited- as this unique novel also works phenomenally as a memento mori it may just lead me to book a return journey soon. The Golden Gate is, itself, redemptive.

  • Miriam
    2018-11-11 23:31

    The main problem with Vikram Seth's exquisitely crafted verse novel about the personal lives of yuppies in the Bay Area of the 1980s is, well, the personal lives of yuppies. They're just not that interesting. Not even the most beautifully turned phrases, the most glowing imagery, can keep over 300 pages of rather shallow individuals and their quotidian concerns from occasionally dragging. In fact, I think Seth did this intentionally, contrasting the the elevation of the poetry with the banality of everyday life. And that was fascinating! But there was kind of a lot of it, and even I, who grew up in San Francisco in the 1980s, sometimes found it a bit too tedious. Especially the middle section, with its repetitive alternation between John and Liz quarreling over the ill-behaved cat, and Ed and Paul fighting about the problem of Ed's religious scruples in their relationship. But Seth usually manages to throw in an especially beautiful line or thought-provoking idea just when the hebetude is getting too heavy to bear. Here are a stanza and a half I particularly loved:Again tonight the moon advances,A casual crescent, fine and high,A sort of innocent passerbyAcross the city of Saint Francis,Across the freeway, red and white,With last month's curvature and light.13.4Patron of your beloved city,O San Francisco, saint of love,Co-sufferer in searing pityOf all our griefs, whom from aboveBirds would alight on, singing, feedingWithin your hands--hands pierced and bleedingWith Christ's own signs--who, stigmatizedAs dupe and clown, apostrophizedThe sun in its white blistering starknessAs brother, and the blistered moonAs sister, and who, blind at noon,Opened your heart and sang in darkness--And where it was, sowed light, look down.Solace the sorrows of your town.

  • Mykle
    2018-12-08 20:12

    Here's one of those Goodreads non-reviews in which the author uses a Great Work of Literature as a platform to talk about himself. Ready? Here goes:When I was a high school student in Palo Alto, I used to go to Printer's Ink Bookstore Cafe on California Ave to visit my friend Gregory, who had a job slinging coffee there. Blah blah blah, personal anecdote et cetera. The point is: there were many regulars at this place. One of them was Vikram Seth. I believe he describes the coffee bar in one of the sonnets in this book. I think I even watched him write part of The Golden Gate, although I didn't particularly notice or care at the time. Some guy, drinking coffee, writing in a notebook; that describes everybody in the place, myself included. If you were a writer in Palo Alto, where else would you hang out?I never met him, never even spoke to him. His brother made a pass at a friend of mine, that's the best I can do. I certainly had no idea he was writing this masterpiece, but when it came out I was a senior at Paly High. At the time I was very much enjoying my membership in a little cult of high school literati who met once a week to read stories out loud to one another while enjoying non-alcoholic beverages and jellied scones. We all adored The Golden Gate! The very idea that this amazing young poet had sanctified our home, our region, our era and so much of the culture of that time and place with his astonishingly limber verse ... why, it made us feel even more the center of the universe than we would have already felt as high school intellectuals.It's funny how eras recede. I read this in the eighties and felt it captured everything around us. I read it again ten years later and it felt truly dated. I flipped through it recently, and I see it as a great history of a great era in a great place. A place that's kind of gone to hell since, IMHO, although San Francisco will always be San Francisco for those who can afford it. My feelings for the Bay Area and my feelings for this book are somewhat at war with one another, but I'll spare you the carnage.It was considered ultra-bold at the time -- still is, really -- to write a novel in verse. To write verse at all, in fact; much of the poetry world seems to have moved on from rhyme, just as they have from meaning. But this book is poetry and prose at the same time, a thing that nobody seems to want to do, or believe is possible. Or for whatever reason, it seems that the reading public, or at least the bookselling public, is dumbfounded at first by books that span categories. But this is a great book just for widening the idea of what a book can be.

  • John
    2018-11-24 01:28

    Quite possibly, this book is why I'm married to the person I married.The novel presents a daunting challenge to readers, because it consists of sonnets - 14 lines per, babe. I recall that Seth doesn't adhere closely to iambic pentameter, which is fine - there's a good tradition of poets being flexible with verse. (See Shakespeare, William.)This is a book of love and loss, friendship and loss, and San Francisco.

  • Thrupthi (Trips) Reddy
    2018-12-04 00:13

    To write a contemporary love story, intertwining the lives of 6 people that you and me can completely relate to, and delving deep into their everyday lives, struggles, loves and lamentations...and to be able to do this entirely using sonnets and poetry....simply UNBELIEVABLE! This poem/story/work of fiction is a must read for anyone that thought poerty is hard to read or too hard to understand. The simple language, yet strong prose makes this book a delightful, magical read. You'll fall in love with Janet and Liz and Phil and Ed...not to mention the books protagonist, John!

  • Bill
    2018-11-22 20:22

    This book was fabulous - imagine an entire novel written in verse! How could you? when I started, I couldn't imagine that I would finish it. But Seth does such a fabulous job with the rhyme scheme, with choices of words, and with the story itself that I couldn't put it down. It actually worked best when my wife and I took turns reading it aloud to one another. Then you can really "hear" the poetry in it as well as enjoy the story.Seth said that he was inspired by Eugene Onegin by Pushkin - using the same rhyme scheme, but when I went to read Eugene Onegin, I was very disappointed. Perhaps it is the difficulty of translation from Russian, possibly the translation across time. I suspect, though, that the difference is Seth's playfulness with language.

  • Avishek Das
    2018-11-30 22:40

    This is sheer intellectual & gripping....the closet conversations are out...

  • Eric Hendrixson
    2018-11-30 19:23

    I reread this book every five years or so, and I always do it when nobody is around because, really, I look like an idiot when I cry in public, and the last chapter of this book does it to me every time.This is a novel about San Francisco in the 80s, written completely in verse. The plot is fairly simple. It's a little soap opera about a few friends looking for love, success, and their places in the world. However, it's all written in what I'll call Onegin stanzas, that tetrameter sonnet form Pushkin used in his masterpiece. It's a goofy poetic form to use. The author is forced into some awkward and sometimes hilarious rhymes, as was Pushkin. As Pushkin did with Onegin, Seth does with Golden Gate. He sets up a humorous little tale and slowly, almost invisibly, little conflicts work their ways in until there are massive feuds and heartbreaking misunderstandings with fatal results.What really annoys me about this book is that it is so damned obvious: this is how to write a book of poetry. Instead, every poet out there wants to do a collected works of whatever he or she happened to write in this decade or the other and hopes the world will care about it. Protip: nobody cares what poems you wrote over the past few years. Give us a compelling narrative, and we will take notice.

  • Ankita
    2018-12-06 20:20

    Today I wish to review my very latest read for youIt’s a novel in verse by the inimitable Vikram SethAbout young pals-John, Liz, Janet, Ed, Phil and SueSet in 1980’s, it unfolds in city of ‘The Golden Gate’When a lonely John sets out to look for an apt partnerPressed by Janet, his ex-a sculptor and band drummerThey come across a plethora of people and situationsFind old friends, heartbreaks, odd and taboo relationsApart from jealous cats, wines, iguana, art, revolution, Sleights, breakups, confessions, marches and confusionAuthor’s lucid verses keep the reader glued to the taleHe finely etches all characters and lives in good detailOur author was born in Kolkata, West Bengal in 1952Though an economist he entered literature, a field newHis first novel, this came out in 1986, by Faber&FaberAnd since has won hearts of its readers the world overComposed in 14-line sonnet form; inspired by PushkinAfter author read both translations of ‘Eugene Onegin’So now, I have one more title to appreciate and collectNo brownie points for guessing, it is ‘The Golden Gate’

  • Kay
    2018-12-06 22:34

    Anyone who can write an entire novel in sonnet form in this day and age and still weave a story that taps into the complex core of the heart and love is, simply put, amazing.

  • Tejas Janet
    2018-11-12 18:39

    What a surprise to discover this gem, over twenty-five years after its original publication. Unique and breath-taking, written entirely in verse, this novel was inspired by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's novel Eugene Onegin, also written entirely in verse. Set in 1980's San Francisco rather than Pushkin’s Imperial Russian cities of 1820’s St. Petersburg and Moscow, The Golden Gate is written by Vikram Seth, author of the highly regarded A Suitable Boy. Despite being skeptical going in, I was quickly won over by this rather brilliant novel with its contemporary, fully credible plot and vividly drawn characters. It’s written in captivating sonnets chock-full of intelligent, cultural insights and literary references in language that dazzles and soars, that soothes and embraces, that cuts and reveals human nature with its foibles and frailties as well as in its strength and compassion. Highly recommended. *****Note, I want to add something here that occurred to me later. Consider how gait, an obvious homonym for gate, refers to manner of walking or moving while meter can apply to manner of writing or moving linguistically, the cadence of the language, the rhythm of a piece of poetry. Applying this insight is the key to opening the gate of understanding the title. Seth Vikram obviously loves verse, and especially the sonnet, which his novel lovingly shows, so it is "the golden gait." Hee hee - this is the kind of connection that lovers of language and wordplay appreciate :) And others probably think is nuts or for the birds.

  • Trin
    2018-12-04 00:38

    I got this book as a gift and was honestly a bit wary at first because the concept—a novel told entirely in sonnets!—seemed a bit hokey and pretentious to me. But in general it's really quite lovely and clever, even if the plot is a bit thin (with the exception of one incredibly shocking moment toward the end). Plus, Seth captures the feel of the Bay Area really well. You were right, dear gift-giver!

  • Vishy
    2018-12-01 22:12

    I have read Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ and ‘An Equal Music’ and liked both of them very much. ‘A Suitable Boy’ was the longest book that I had ever read at the time I read it – at 1360 pages, it comfortably beat its competition which included ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell (1106 pages) and ‘Destiny’ by Sally Beauman (960 pages). I think it still is the longest I have ever read. However after reading ‘An Equal Music’, I liked it a little bit more. I have wanted to read his novel in verse ‘The Golden Gate’ since then. When the book club I am part of, decided to read ‘The Golden Gate’ this month, I was quite excited. ‘The Golden Gate’ is set in California in the middle ‘80s. It follows the lives of a five characters who are all in their middle twenties. John is working in an electronics / computer firm. He is successful in his work and is happy with his job. But he doesn’t have a life outside work. He used to date Janet but that didn’t work out, though they are still friends. So now, he is a lost soul outside his work and feels that life doesn’t seem to have any meaning. Janet offers to help him. She puts an ad in the personal section of the local paper. John gets many responses and he meets some of the women who wrote to him. One of them, Liz, is a lawyer. John hits it off with her in a big way and realizes that they are perfect together. Things move at a breakneck pace and before they realize it, John and Liz are living together. Meanwhile, John’s friend Phil, has left the technology company he was working in and organizes protests against nuclear weapons. John is not able to understand why he does that. Once, John and Liz bump into him at a concert. They invite him to a party that they are holding. Phil is divorced from his wife and has a son who lives with him. Phil goes to the party and meets Liz’ family. At some point Phil meets Ed, Liz’ brother and they fall in love. Phil and Ed enjoy the passionate evenings that they spend together, but Ed is also a staunch Christian and so feels that what he is doing is sinful. Phil and Ed have long conversations about that. I think I will break off here. I don’t want to continue and tell you the rest of the story. I think I will recommend that you read the book for that. If I have to give you a clue, it is this – one thing leads to another, there are a few surprises in store as the love lives of Phil and Ed and John and Liz don’t go according to plan, and there is an unexpected ending.This is the first time I have read a novel in verse. My knowledge of this style is limited, but I think Seth was probably the first modern novelist to attempt this form. It is beautiful and it works. The story is told in a collection of sonnets, and in one of the chapters Seth says that it is written in the tetrameter, in contrast to the pentameter which is more commonly used in English poetry. (Of course, this didn’t make much of a difference to me, because I can’t identify meters, but to the more discerning and sophisticated reader, this might have added richness to the reading experience.) The wordplay was beautiful and I loved reading some of my favourite sonnets from the book again. There were some places where it was obvious that Seth had overworked his thesaurus to get the right words in place so that the poem will rhyme with rhythm, but, in general, the word play was natural and was a pleasure to read. There were lines like this :“…Don’t put things off till it’s too late.You are the DJ of your fate.”And this :Work, and the syndrome of possessionsLeave little time for life’s digressions.And this : …Phil falters,Halts in mid-utterance and altersAnd this :No matter how the poet strivesTo weave with epithets and clausesYour soundless web, he falters, pauses,And your enchantment slips betweenHis hands, as if it’s never been.And this :This story’s time lens is retreating – Not with intention to confuseBut rather to update the news.And this :“…Why condenseThe happiness that floats above youBy seeding it with doubt and pain,Crystals that force it down as rain?”When I read this line, it made me smile :)…these days allI do is buy books. I can’t read ‘em.That is, as the Japanese say, the Tsundoku life :) (Tsundoku = buying books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands.)My favourite characters from the book were Phil and Charlemagne, Liz’ cat. I also liked Janet and Liz. But I have to say that most of the characters were interesting in their own way. The story has an unexpected ending. I was disappointed with it, because I felt that the author introduced a deliberate twist to break readers’ hearts, but on thinking about it and discussing it with friends, I realize that there is a beauty to it too. I don’t care about blurbs much, but I loved the one on Vikram Seth’s book. It went like this :“The Golden Gate doesn’t only compellingly advocate life’s pleasures; it stylishly contributes another one to them.”I couldn’t have put it better. Whether you love poetry or you get intimidated by it, I think you will like ‘The Golden Gate’. Have you read Vikram Seth’s ‘The Golden Gate’? What do you think about it?

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2018-11-18 01:38

    This is an excellent effort - a novel entirely in sonnet format (including the chapter titles). I read this ages back, and was not very impressed. Since then I have become a fan of Seth's poetry, and I think if I read this now, it will go up by one star.

  • fiafia
    2018-11-20 01:34

    Really enjoyed this unique and amazing book about the life, loves and tragedies of young people in San Francisco, a novel written 30 years ago in Oneguin stanza! Brilliant.

  • Vismay
    2018-12-02 20:13

    Insuperable the task seemed, at library,Should I give a shot to this masterpiece literary?To linguistic excellence, I lay no claim,Should I read Vikram Seth, a writer basking in worldly fame?Choice, why do you inundate a man with your potpourri-‘Carrie’, ‘The Golden Gate’ or ‘The Great Train Robbery’?To quote an adage, too much sugar spoils the broth,Indecisive, sullen and morose, your variety makes a man with frustration, froth.Yes, I eventually and apprehensively did pick up ‘The Golden Gate’,Oh boy was it difficult! Yet it kindled a spark, an ever-expanding conflagration, refusing to abate,A spark to wax lyrical while I write,And spew out words – funny, serious or simply laced with the bite.Oh dear reader, how upon your patience I transgress!I was supposed to write a review, and now I digress!My rhymes and rambles won’t do the justice,To the consummate genius Mr. Seth is in his trade, his practice. Oh! His rhymes entice, he is that Pied-piper,Who lures us along the pages, his tune getting richer and riper.The plot revolves around an ambitious man named John,Climbing the rungs of success, yet who is all alone.Out crops his former flame called Jan the Sculptor,Who indulges in matchmaking, playing Cupid, that wily plotter.In the process John finds the love of his life,Called Elizabeth Dorati, whom he thinks suitable to be his wife.What’s a story without a triangle?Add Ed, Phil – this makes a golden quadrilateral.In the end of course, the cats decide,Who is right, wrong, as over the gullible humans, they regally preside.How well Mr. Seth has juxtaposed the opinions galore, Anti-Nuke, Pro-Gay or vice-versa, he has indeed brought out the clash to the fore.A tinge of sadness pricks my mind,In the end, all alone, John I find.Maybe he called, who knows, you ask me not to speculate,You are straight to the point, reader- ‘How do I, this book, rate?!’In the beginning, Mr. Seth acknowledges the readers, who picked this book at their own volition,He says – ‘And, fourth, to you, who did not questionThe crude credentials of this verse But backed your brashness with your purse.’I humbly reply to his kindness,‘Unfortunately Sir, I borrowed this book from the library; less pocket money. Oh Wretchedness!If your verse is crude, my mind’s much less refined,A whopper of a book, 5 stars, and your dazzling verse blindsMy eyes, yet my mind sees crystal clear,A less-traversed path, where it’s difficult, my momentum, to steer.Inspired by you: I now indulge in my own verse,Next time, I read you, I will definitely back my brashness with my purse.’

  • Teju
    2018-11-28 00:14

    I will confess - I have never been a fan of poetry.I found it pretentious, insincere, and peculiar. I reckon it might have been those torrid school years when one was asked to memorize lines from a poem, without ever appreciating this literary form. I never related to those supposedly wonderful lines of The Solitary reaper of Wordsworth or the grim reality of apartheid espoused through the lines of Pigeons at the Oppenheimer Park. But "The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth" was different for me. Even this title rhymes (of course only if you are an Indian and pronounce Seth as "Sate"). I wish I had the literary facility to write my 2 sentences in verse, let alone a 305 page novel. The novel in verse is remarkable, it is a story of a group of young "techies" living in San Francisco. Love, loss, passion and tragedy all make an appearance in this incredible piece of writing. A vengeful cat who is called Charlemagne, two more cats Cuff and Link, and an iguana are all pets of this motley bunch of protagonists. Mr. Seth weaves in his presence in the sonnets so intelligently. ( "Where my Tibetian travel book Was honoured- siezed my arm : "Dear fellow, What's your next work?" "A novel..." "Great! We hope that you, dear Mr. Seth-" " verse," I added. He turned yellow. "How marvelously quaint," he said, And subsequently cut me dead."). It speaks volumes of the literary master that Vikram Seth is. The story in itself is simple and staid, but the writing is one of a kind. The loneliness, heartbreak and friendships that end sometimes in marriage are stunningly portrayed. There are so many sonnets that I underlined and captured on my phone, as I was reading this book. I cannot decide which ones I should paste in here. His acknowledgement and his biography are also in verse. I read "A Suitable Boy" many years ago, and found it an amazing book, simple, unadorned, voluminous and intriguing. But, I did not realise this was his first novel, and now I am certain that Vikram Seth is a writer of a generation. I was also gifted this book by a dear friend at work, who moved on to greener pastures. But, I will quote this one sonnet in the end that was so moving....Are the dead too, defiled by sorrow, Remorse or anguish? We who live Clutch at our porous myths to borrow Belief to ease us, to forgive Those who by dying have bereft us Of themselves, of ourselves, and left us Prey to this spirit- baffling pain. The countries round our lives maintain No memorists and no recorders. Those who are born are too young, those Who die too silent, to disclose What lies across the occluded borders Of this bright tract, where we can see Each other evanescently."

  • LG
    2018-11-20 01:30

    To state the obvious, Seth is a renowned genius. However, most readers seem to base this judgment on his 1500-page opus, A Suitable Boy, whereas I’m one of those who would say this book, published some seven years earlier, is truer proof. The number to marvel at here is 690 – and it’s sonnets, not pages. Yes, sonnets. And this is not a book of poetry; it’s fiction. Read out this excerpt:John stands beside his phone, recalling Janet’s warm beauty, smiling calm, her dark eyes, high-boned features, falling black ponytail, her vagrant charm. He thinks, “I guess I’ll be the wiser for talking to a sound adviser.” He dials. To his peeved surprise an answering machine replies, requests his message, name, and number. (“Wait for the beep.”) John says, “It’s me, John. 234-4963. No message.” Rather than encumber the brusque machine with his heart’s woes, he wraps himself in pensive prose …I put it in paragraph form to show it really is a story – that of a lonely young exec who finds love through the matchmaking machinations of his ex, Janet. But the whole novel is written in verse, people! (Students: Scan the paragraph as if you’re reading iambic pentameter.) Not only that, it RHYMES. The man’s a sheer genius. Deciding not to go to the annual book fair three years ago, where Seth was signing books for apparently only a handful of fans, is still one of my most intense regrets. If he ever comes back, I want to be the first in line.

  • Shriya
    2018-12-02 20:21

    The Golden Gate is well written, witty, poetic ( Come on, it's an entire novel in verse)and, I have no other word for it,COOL! Above all, it is a story that you'd carry within you forever!I can hardly imagine being critical towards a genius like Vikram Seth because not only did he create a novel which I'd always love but also because this novel of his helped me get rid of my 'unjust' prejudice against Indian authors.So, without further ado, I challenge you to give me one reason why you shouldn't read this book and I'll give you ten for why you should!

  • Elaine
    2018-11-25 23:29

    If I had the skill and timeI'd put this review in rhymeSuperlatives I'd strew galoreGorgeous, fabulous and more.Vikram turns to poetryto render all life's this-and-thatscoastal flowers, demonstrations,budding friendshipslovers' spats.I thought I'd be intimidatedby literary referencesVersified sentencesBut the tale's easy to followNot a character is hollowAnd snobbishness is overrated,So as for author Vikram Seth,I just think that he's the beth!

  • Terry
    2018-12-09 20:23

    Note: this is actually one sustained story, not a collection of poems. This is my #1 favorite book for both "literary" and personal reasons. It's beautifully written. The characters became a part of my life. I can't say enough good things about this book.

  • Kayleigh Patel
    2018-12-07 02:23

    Loved this book. The sonnet is my favorite classical form of poetry, and Seth's dexterity in weaving them into an entire novel is amazing. Form aside, this is a story that covers a range of emotions--sweet, funny, and sad. And, of course, the cats were a bonus!

  • notgettingenough
    2018-12-11 22:33

    When I stop crying I'll review this.PS: I'm not going to stop crying. On reflection this fact is the review.PPS: I'm so grateful to have been given this book.

  • YourLovelyMan
    2018-11-14 18:34

    It's dark. He drives. The street lamps glimmerThrough the cooling air. The golden globesBy City Hall glow, and the glimmer--Like sequins on black velvet robes--Of lights shines out across the waterAcross the bay, unruffled daughterOf the Pacific; on the crestsOf hill and bridge red light congestsThe sky with rubies. Briskly blinking,Planes--Venus-bright--traverse the sky.Ed drives on, hardly knowing why,Across the tall-spanned bridge. Unthinking,He parks, and looks out past the straitThe deep flood of the Golden Gate.Subdued and silent, he surveys it--The loveliest city in the world.No veiling words suffice to praise it,But if you saw it as, light-pearled,Fog-fingered, pinnacled, I see itAcross the black tide, you'd agree itOutvied the magic of your own.Even tonight, as Ed, alone,Makes out Marina, plaza, tower, Fort Point, Presidio--he feelsA benediction as it stealsOver his heart with its still power.This is a perfect little read about a few friends living in 1980s San Francisco. The story is told entirely in rhyming verse as excerpted above, and though the plot never feels particularly adventurous or sweeping in scope, it is an emotionally moving story about friends dealing with love, loss, homosexuality, fear of nuclear war, and moving in with your girlfriend only to find that her cat hates you.Yes, the bit about nuclear war seems odd in the overall context of the story, which otherwise mostly focuses on romantic and family relationships. A substantial portion of a chapter is devoted to an anti-nuclear sermon that might just slightly resemble Father Mapple's sermon in Moby Dick, in its use as an exposition device for the themes: "Hate shifts with diplomatic fashion. / To love is to be resolute."The rest of the story follows the yuppies--a young techie, a lawyer, a sculptor, and their friends and families. That might not appeal to everyone. But the language, the relationships, and the emotionally charged ending (which I will hint, with a probably unnecessary spoiler tag, is (view spoiler)[tragic, and not quite expected (hide spoiler)]).Recommended for modern day poets and lovers of the city by the bay.