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Showing posts from 2011
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Lucknow Boy By Vinod Mehta Vinod Mehta was what I wanted to be. My heroes in my youth were MJ Akbar, Arun Shourie and then in my adult adolescence, Vinod Mehta. Men of crusading zeal, of the written word, out to prove a pen mightier than a sword. In a more tainted, grey adulthood, there is ambivalence about the profession and the people in it. Yet Vinod Mehta continues to remain on some sort of a pedestal, however rickety and crumbling it might be. He still wields the baton for a secular left wing India without toadying up to the commies (though his sympathy for the Maoists fills me with the same confusing discomfort the world as a whole does today). So I picked up his memoir not completely sure if I would like the man behind the image, but needing to know if I would. Lucknow Boy is a racy read. Mehta proves to be an interesting raconteur though an average writer. His background proves to be rather unremarkable and un-intriguing and not quite prophetic of his adult achievements. So they …
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The Marriage PlotBy Jeffrey EugenidesShould one review a book ones finds fairly ordinary? Sink more time into an already sunk cause? Or should one treat it as a writing exercise, putting into words why one finds one particular brand of college Americana so fascinating and another rather run-of-the-mill?Ok, let me get to it. I was not bowled over by Eugenides’ latest work of fiction The Marriage Plot, an average effort at going where so many other impressive works have gone – the coming of age novel. Eugenides, as I found out during my foray into this much reviewed book, is a Pulitzer Prize winner for his previous work, Middlesex. And as someone trying to read more American fiction (I am not a big fan), I got myself his latest.The setting is Ivy League Brown University in the Reagan-era eighties, and The Marriage Plot follows 3 of its students Madeleine Hanna, Mitchell Grammaticus and Leonard Bankhead through the first few years of their lives after they leave campus. Mitchell loves Ma…
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The Paris WifePaula McLainIt must be difficult to be married to an artist. First, there is the screwed up, tortured mind to deal with – no artist worth his or her salt is normal, we all know. Then there is the bohemian lifestyle that seems to be de rigueur. And topping it all is the gargantuan ego warring with crushing self-doubt, both of which need such sensitive handling. Why would anyone subject oneself to a life of such complexity?Hadley Richardson is a normal girl living her youth in early 20th century America. She is living with her sister and her husband after losing a father to suicide, another sister to an accident and a mother to illness. Hadley is waiting for her life to bloom, waiting for adventure, waiting for the dance to start. She visits some friends in big city Chicago one weekend and meets the man who will change her life – a twenty year old Ernest Hemingway, tall, handsome, brimming with ambition, charming beyond resistance. “..he seemed to do happiness all the way …
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Julian BarnesThank God for the Booker. I would never have attempted reading Barnes if he hadn’t won the prize for The Sense of An Ending. And reading him has given me so much of pleasure in the last few days.The Sense of An Ending is quite a gem. It is a meditation on the illusory nature of time and memory, told by Tony Webster as he reflects on a life mildly lived, or so he thinks. As he delves into the depths of his memory, he realises how memory can play tricks, and that reality is often so distant from what memory serves up. Adrian, Alex and Tony are school friends in days when “we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment came, our lives – and time itself – would speed up.” He reflects on those early days of precocious youth when the fear was that “Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature. Look at our parents – were they stuff of Literature?” Adrian is the cleverer, more seriously philosophical of…
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1q84

By Haruki Murakami

1Q84 is vintage Alice-in-Wonderland Murakami. It is also a love story and a thriller. It kept me enthralled through much of its large number of pages and when it was over, there was that bit of regret that always accompanies the end of an engaging book.Aomame and Tengo are the lonely boy and lonely girl who meet and part when they are ten years old and from then on carry a part of each other with them as they go about their not-so-ordinary lives. It takes twenty years before a shift in the time-space continuum get them to start looking for each other. It is 1984, not yet Orwellian, but Aomame goes under a freeway and comes out into a shifted world that she names 1Q84. There are two moons in this world, policemen’s uniforms are changed and they carry more sophisticated weapons. There are cults and cult leaders who hear voices from Little People and have sex with pre-pubescent girls. There are alter egos and sex through mediums (not a new concept in Murakami novels…
The Martin TrapI am caught in a trap. A well-meaning, engrossing, sometimes-captivating, sometimes-exasperating trap. But a trap nonetheless. It’s called A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin’s 7-book opus. I am on the 3rd one, and I have 2 more to go before I catch up with the 5 books Martin’s already put out (there are 2 more in the pipeline). Why is it a trap? Because I can’t bring myself to put these volumes down and reach out for the new Lee Child or the new books on the Booker list or the Murakami. And these volumes are massive. Seemingly endless tales of medieval intrigue in a fantasy continent of Westeros. Seven kingdoms fighting for supremacy while all the while, ‘winter is coming’ from up north. War, blood, gore, lust, terrible treachery, incredible bravery, incest, rape, plunder, magic, purity. It’s all there, along with dragons and dead men walking. I feel like I am re-living my childhood again. Head buried in a book, not wanting to get away for anything – not a job, not…
The Narrative of Romance I love love stories. From the cheesy Mills and Boon variety to epic ones like Dr. Zhivago and Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights. And the movies – oh, there are some exquisite ones there. It’s almost like love stories fulfill some deep-seated need to believe in something pure and untainted in a very tainted world. Or a need to believe in magic – that some exquisite, inexplicable enchantment is possible in an otherwise dreary, wearisome world. Strong consistent narratives keep recurring in these stories. Like the Cinderella one. Poor girl, down on her luck, finds the man of her dreams. There are trials and tribulations on the way. Villains try to keep them apart. But there is a happy ending, when the prince disavows societal disapproval and figures that the girl he truly wants is the one without the money. Cinderella of course, is the role model. But there is also the dour Darcy falling for the feisty but poor Elizabeth Bennet; Richard Gere finding the prostitut…
Shorts It’s the first week in a new school. It’s a class with boys, alien creatures in her single-child life. She has never felt so alone, friendless. And for reasons she never fathoms fully, the teacher makes her a candidate in the class election. Pitting her against a boy, whose popularity is so obvious, it seems faintly ridiculous to have an election at all. Heck, she wants to vote for him herself, though she does not. The defeat is crushing. Twenty six votes to four. She wonders for the rest of her life who those three kids were. They have never had a conversation. The most popular boy in class and her. The boys in the class adore him. The girls are secretly in love with him. But these are the years when boys think it’s below their dignity to talk to girls and the girls are too superior to make the first move. So they go about their lives, not talking, never acknowledging each other. But she is conscious of him in a way she never has been conscious of a boy ever since. Three years. …
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The Turning By Tim Winton
This is Australia. Small town Australia. Before Australia became rich. Tim Winton’s set of short stories plumbs the depths of people caught in the morass of everydayness. People stuck. Going to work day after day to a meat-packing factory. In a violent marriage. With a runaway father and a self-sacrificing mother. There are escapes. To the university, to the big city, out of Australia, turning to religion, burning houses behind. But there is never an escape from the impressions of childhood spent in an out-of-the-way town, seeing the destruction wrought by hopelessness and despair. It’s a rich inner world of ‘damaged souls’ that Winton explores. But it is bleak. Oh so bleak. It has none of the hopefulness of his Cloudstreet. And strangely, the bleakness is addictive. You can’t help but keep walking vicariously through the wreckage. Because Winton is a writer of some wise and exquisite prose. ”In the hot northern dusk, the world suddenly gets big around us, so …
Movie weekends: A hilarious caper and an angst-ridden road trip Delhi Belly was the movie last weekend - Abhinay Deo’s directorial debut. It’s a fun, racy, cheeky script, with a very young urban India today feel.Tashi, Arup and Nitin (Imran Khan, Vir Das and Kunaal Roy Kapur) are roomies (and what a room.. messy and unclean in the way only bachelor rooms can be) leading single lives in the big city. Tashi is a reporter, soon to be married to Sonia (Shenaz Treasurywala); Arup is a cartoonist in an ad agency (presume he is an art director with ambitions of becoming a cartoonist, since there are no cartoonists in ad agencies and everyone in an ad agency really wants to be doing something else) who hates his boss and whose girlfriend dumps him; Nitin is Tashi’s journalist photographer who takes on photography assignments on the side, to make a little extra money, and who while eating roadside food, triggers a severe case of delhi belly and thus the title of the film. The plot is a caper th…
A new poem for a new phase. And a sweet little find - a friend and her blog.
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