For me the book makes it to my favorites more because of who recommended it rather than the actual story or movie based on it.
Its been nearly over a decade since I read the book for a third time & finally handed over the book to my social circle. The movie was frankly terrible and Clint Eastwood was quite choppy and still getting his grip as a director with most dramatic scenes handled terribly.
The story itself wasn't as captivating, while the book was an easy read it wasn't dramatically different or stood out (but sold 50 million copies anyway). But today I was reading about the Halo Effect and perhaps that explains best why I preferred the book.
the person who recommended this to me (lets call him R) didn't lend it to me, but curiously was reading a re-print of the National Geographic article and showed this to me asking me to read the book when I got a chance. This was in the library and I looked up. I don't think I read the book then even if I got a copy or if I did it made much of an impact anyways as this was quite a stressful time as our days were chockfull of studies to be completed.
I must have picked up the book later when I started working and remembered his recommendation and read it, and different elements in the book started appealing to me, making sense more for R and who he was.
In the book, the ‘lonesome cowboy’ photographer makes a connection with another lonely soul and offers her a way out and she declines. It seemed incomplete in every which way and wasn't sure if they’d find fulfillment in each other. Y’see because I felt each one of them were content in their own way. There was connection but it was only momentary and fleeting and didn't hold permanence in offer.
The very fact that R would recommend a pulp novel was a little unusual. R was one of the students who was possibly the brightest minds in the class but really didn't like standing out or being in the forefront. In fact, I really don't think anyone noticed him or remembered him. The only time he interacted with people was while playing sports that he was interested in, and he was good. But otherwise he’d keep to himself.
He wasn't un-friendly nor rude, just encourage interactions beyond the required bare minimum. And here’s the contrast - he was far far more social than I was. In my defence, I was this scaredy, shy, self-conscious somewhat insecure kid who would have major anxiety attacks going out in public and would sweat it out if someone started talking to me, so much that even my voice was all squeaky and barely audible. R was confident, cool & cordial but would rarely talk more than required.
The best reference for our interactions was Shrek and the donkey from the movie - where he was Shrek (and he actually did look like him) and I was the donkey. He’d patiently tolerate me and allow me to talk as much - since he’d do very little of it, but the few times he’d talk it would be pithy but impactful.
I saw R…in a book store nearly a few years after we’d passed out and he was quite friendly but we couldn't really talk much. And when I read the book again, a few things connected. R was by definition the lonesome cowboy. I really didnt know or have kept myself updated about his personal life, but he really was all alone in the world and didn't seem to crave companionship of any sort - as in, it didn't define him nor made him feel complete. He is now an independent freelance consultant and runs his own ‘shop’ - for himself, and not sure if he handles too many clients.
Again this didnt mean he wasn't social. His background (whatever little I could gather) was actually lower middle class and his home was in a fairly cosmopolitan surrounding. The only time I saw him on social media was when he travelled to the Himalayas with his neighborhood community - folks he knew from childhood and grown with. In this trip they went to difficult to reach areas that are off-limits both by the Army as well as from China and require special permission. Those photographs were amazing (but then thats the mighty & majestic Himalayas for you… well, someday!)
OK now this part might spook you out, and if you are not comfortable with the concept of God I recommend you don't read anymore. But I am fascinated about the concept (as Oprah defines it - the supreme collective consciousness the be-all & end-all & not necessarily limited or defined by religious deities). And as I have travelled across the world and met people from different parts, a part of me searches for those who have likely to seen God or experienced God. I sometimes get the vibe from folks and that holds some fascination, and I try to dig deeper into them. Its not an obsession, and its not meant to be accurate or even real, but hey - I find it fascinating to think about it.
In my opinion R might be one of the few people I met who experienced God and possibly he didn't even know it. There was a certain Zen-ness about him. He seemed complete by himself, and didn't need society’s validation nor crave any company to bide time. He rested most of the time, but he's the only person from my class who still looks the same (its been nearly 3 decades since we passed out) - but I am sure he hasn't changed at all. While in my case the joke is that I have become Pai-Cubed.
As a kid I was fascinated by Swami Vivekananda and once told my dad I wanted to become a Sanyasi or Yogi and he told me that this was both difficult and unrealistic and not exactly the best aspiration to have. And I think of course I didn't need much convincing, but I can gather its really hard. To me it also seemed very lonely & a sort of disconnected reality from the rest of the world.
When I look at R, and I do this from my worldly viewpoint I can see he’s happy and he’s content with what he has - and he is certainly achieved a lot, all by himself. But I also do hope he achieves that which can make him even more happier and even more content (if thats at all possible).
And I thank him for offering me, what I think is a window to his world through that book. It told me more about what I was looking for (or not looking for) than perhaps what I think I learnt about him.