Showing posts from 2012
Joseph Anton  By Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie has in some ways, become something more than a novelist. Khomeini’s fatwa ensured that. History will judge him not just for the overblown, over-rich, over-everything style of writing he brought into being, but also for being the polarising Galileo figure of the last few decades of the twentieth century.
I am a fan and I read Joseph Anton as one. Even if I could never finish his Satanic Verses, the book at the heart of all the controversy, having lost interest in it midway, I loved some of his others – Midnight’s Children, The Enchantress of Florence, Haroun, Fury.  I suppose it makes a difference. I can forgive almost anything of anyone, if he or she can tell me a good story. Rushdie can most certainly do that. Joseph Anton is the name Rushdie went by in his years of hiding – a coming together of the names of two writers he admired – Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov. And this is an engrossing memoir, written surprisingly in third person, of al…


It’s a funny life. A year back, I was stressed out, convinced I was burnt out, convinced my 24x7 advertising career was the stumbling block to my prospective writing career. There were so many things I wanted to do – learn Spanish, travel the world, write stories, read tons of books, blog. And all were at a stand-still because I couldn’t take time out of my job.

Today I have a job that gives me weekends. That is definitely not 24x7. That does not turn me into an anxious, frazzled wreck. Now I truly have the time to do all the things I really want to do. And what do I do?

Spend my mornings on Facebook and Pinterest, evenings on comedy central, my weekends watching movies I have watched a hundred times before. I used to be more regular at the gym a year back. A year back my blog had double the number of posts in the same time. I met my friends more often (I had more friends) and had more interesting conversations.

If I ask myself why this is so, I have no real answer. Maybe all this time …
The Art of Fielding Chad Harbach
The last time a book consumed me so much was Franzen’s Freedom. And there is a connection. Franzen is on the book blurb, announcing, “It’s left a little hole in my life the way a really good book will.” High praise indeed, from possibly the best American writer today. It is a campus novel, a love story, a baseball story. A story of out-sized talent and the pressure that comes with it. A story of friendship and all the strains it can be put to. A story of love, ageless and almost deathless. I compare it to another celebrated campus novel, Eugenides’ Marriage Plot, and realize how much better a book this is. The campus is Westish, an Eastern liberal arts college with Melville as its hero. Henry Skrimshander is the unassuming baseball star with a talent that is potentially destiny-making. Mike Shwartz is the team captain, an intelligent jock, who spots Henry’s talent and takes it upon himself to be his guide and mentor, even if it means letting his own ambiti…
Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
It is about a year later. Anne Boleyn is Queen, she has borne a daughter and there is pressure on her to give King Henry a son. That she fails to do is the crime that leads to her downfall. Not too different from today’s times, you would think. The second instalment of Mantel’s trilogy of the life and times of Thomas Cromwell is not as shockingly fresh to our eyes as the first one, in terms of the setting and Mantel’s writing style. But it is far more terrifying. It chronicles a year in which Anne goes from being the smart woman who toppled a Queen to take her place, to a helpless woman tossed about by the vagaries of an all-powerful King. Thomas Cromwell, who’s story this is after all, remains the fascinating character he was in the first book, out to reform the Church, in the process amassing wealth for himself and his King, still unforgiving of the people who brought down his Cardinal Wolsey and still the right hand man of the King. And when the King …
Stealing Joy 1: Mary OliverReading her is like reading a contemporary Thoreau. Or even a Whitman. A lot of her nature descriptions don’t hold particular relevance to a city-dweller like me. But the sheer joy she finds in the birds and the trees and the water bodies, the connections she establishes between the natural order of things and modern contemporary life, the importance she places on just sheer attentiveness to the world around, makes her a precious piece of extraordinariness in an otherwise ordinary Sunday evening.
Stealing Joy I have conversations with friends about life. About what it all means. About being 42 years old and wanting to do and experience so much more. About the mundaneness of it all. About working at jobs that excite us just 40% of the time. About postponing interesting things. About not having the discipline to sit down and put that story in our head down on paper. About not finishing War and Peace because we haven’t had enough free time. About not getting fit enough to climb Kilimanjaro or even Kota Kinabalu. About not living life today. And then, on the other hand, life is also about figuring that you are handed out bits of serendipity every day. Like discovering Julian Barnes. Getting on a local train after ten years, on a cheap weekend trip to Matheran, a place you haven’t been to after living almost two decades in Mumbai. Watching The Namesake. Or Moneyball. And coming across Mary Oliver in unexpected places. Stealing joy from the mundane, each time you are handed one of …
The Valley of MasksBy Tarun TejpalTejpal has attempted an Animal Farm. Or a 1984. The Valley of Masks is a fable in the Orwellian fashion, of a society that breaks away from the real, messy, filth-ridden world to create a Platonian Utopia. A world of perfection where everyone is equal, there are no possessions, there is no sense of self, only a striving towards an elimination of self.The narrator is one who breaks away. And as he waits for his retribution, he tells his tale. It’s a fast paced tale, fascinating and thriller-like, and as he recreates the perfect Utopian world he comes from, you can see in it facets of all the religions and all the big ideologies – Jesus, Marx and the Buddha, the Gita and the Koran. And you can see in it all the fallacies of the quest for the one right way.Tejpal, in the voice of Karna (born Karna, but growing into a Wafadar with a name with 2 numerals and 1 alphabet) describes his birth and growing up in a society where there are no mothers, only the mo…
A Sport and a PastimeJames SalterFrance in certain American novels and movies is beguiling. There is beauty, casual beauty, beauty in the everyday food and the conversation and the women and the clothes and the cold and the countryside and even the poverty. Think Last Tango in Paris, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Before Sunset, Moulin Rouge, Hemingway’s novels…James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime is charming France all over again. It’s Philip Dean’s charmed existence, a Yale dropout spending time in France, searching for authentic France driving around in the French countryside with a young French girl Anne Marie, learning about love and sensuality and all about being young and irresponsible in that intoxicating time before you have to grow up. But it’s also about the thirty four year old unnamed narrator seeing in Philip Dean all that he can never be – the insouciant rebel who does not feel the need as he himself did, to ‘do everything properly.’ And so he becomes the voyeur, play…
Europe DaysAn office trip takes me to Paris, Rotterdam and Lisbon. During one of the coldest Februaries Europe has seen in a long time. Paris is white when I land. A quick trip to the Louvre tells me snow can be beautiful. It can also be colder than anything I have quite experienced before. That coupled with intense jet lag forces me to abort my Sunday afternoon musings over the Mona Lisa.
Rotterdam is a day trip by train. Gare Nord and Rotterdam station are cold in ways that my bones can feel. But the sun is out in Rotterdam and there is little in the world more crisp and exhilarating than bright sunshine over snow.

Lisbon is warmer. Just about. But Lisboa has a Goa-ness to it that I can’t help but feel good about. And I realize India does play a big part in the country’s historical imagination. Vasco De Gama after all did discover India for the West. But I need to keep correcting people who insist on telling me Vasco touched land first in Goa. The waterfront is lovely. The Discoveries M…
On Canaan's Side

By Sebastian Barry

It’s about an eighty nine year old Irishwoman writing her life story in the days before her death in America. It’s about Ireland and running away to America in her teens, living the best part of her life there, loving the land without ever totally understanding it, without ever being able to forget the one she came from, loving the men in her life and never completely understanding them either, her husbands and son and grandson, each of them so utterly beloved, yet in some way so utterly incomprehensible. It’s a gentle book. Noteworthy is the Irishness pervading it in language, in imagery, in distinctiveness. Nothing much else really. Gentle and a bit vapid and a bit forgettable.