Friday, December 30, 2005

The New Straits Times calls 2005 a very good year for fiction. Lest you wonder, this article thrashes Banville right at the beginning:
ALTHOUGH you’d never guess it from this year's bizarre Man Booker choice — John Banville's numbingly pretentious The Sea has brought the prize's reputation to a low ebb — 2005 brimmed with lively fiction.
Boyd Tonkin sums up year 2005 in books. Needless to say, the summing up had to have this line:
The Man Booker Prize went to none of them but - controversially - to John Banville's chilly chamber-piece, The Sea.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Zubin Mehta and Chennai remember

*picture above intentionally stretched

A year ago, 'December 26' was the tag word for disaster. A year later, as the world remembers, Chennai relived the tsunami anniversary through music.

Zubin Mehta and the Bavarian State Orchestra performed for the first time in Chennai this evening. The Bavarian State Orchestra which is visiting India for the first time traveled on Christmas day in order to perform in Chennai on December 26. The concert, hosted at the Music Academy, was scheduled to coincide with the first anniversary of the terrible tsunami that hit the Coromandel coast this day last year.Organized by the German Consulate & Max Mueller Bhavan in partnership with TCS and Moser Baer, this rare performance saw a huge crowd turnout. There was a giant snaking queue along the entire parking area of the Academy as people clutched their entry passes and patiently waited to be allowed into the concert hall. The audience was dotted with Chennai's literati and glitterati. Among the notable people who spent a mesmerising evening at the Music Academy were Amartya Sen, the Argumentative Indian and Surjit Singh Barnala, the Governor of Tamil Nadu.

This concert was a fitting way to relive the first anniversary - tinges of sadness mingled with inspiration for the spirit. The programme for Chennai had three pieces - Guiseppe Verdi's "The Force of Destiny" Ouverture, Franz Schubert's Symphony No.7 in B Minor D 759 "The Unfinished" and the hugely popular Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No.5 in C Minor op.67. The concert was a scintillating display of excellence and passion. Each piece received a standing ovation from the audience. In a touching gesture, Zubin Mehta played Strauss as a special final piece. After two hours of bliss, the audience wanted "one more" before the curtains closed. The conductor and the orchestra willingly obliged and played yet another ouverture with great finesse.

An evening to remember, in more ways than one.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Now he goes and does this. Like Banville did not have people hating him already!
Ralph Fiennes likes to read Banville. Apparently Untouchables is his favourite. Now, don't you dare bundle Lord Voldemort, John Banville and Fiennes's choices and say 'Ugh!' :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This man I talk about

He calls me everyday, this man I am going to talk about. He is evidently a creature of habit because he calls me exactly at that hour of the day when I am the busiest. Sometimes he makes amends by calling me at an hour when I like to talk and then ruins all the goodwill his action generated by telling me that he called because he was awfully bored.

He likes long conversations, this man I am talking about. He spares no topic and drifts along merrily from one to the next leaving me to haplessly pick the fallen threads and follow his trail. What could possibly be worse than trying to make sense of a drifter's conversation? The answer, of course, is being expected to offer an opinion to the drifter while he focuses on drifting! This man loves to ask me for my opinion on everything and then cut me short on my reply to jump to the next thought in his head. He thinks I understand Russia's economy and that I love Pearl S. Buck as much as he does. Actually, he thinks I have to love Pearl S. Buck as much as he does.

He complains that I am either tight-lipped or grossly vague in my answers. And he does not like either of those tactics. It annoys him so much that he bites my head off with his retorts. He slanders my name with the choicest epithets and makes sure all our common associates know what he thinks of me and my antics. If he has had a bad night, he calls to tell me about it and then accuses me of not cheering him enough with my reply.

He always asks me what I am cooking for the day and then proceeds to flavour it with "Nonsense, that is so terrible." He does not stop there. He always tells me how I should cook my meals and what should be served first. He questions me on cell phone technology, its rapid growth in Indian towns and then counters with a passionate plea for vocational education. He maintains that Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Church Courtyard is the best poem that anyone can ever write and admires Edward VIII for abdicating his throne to marry Wallis Simpson.

He speaks like a radical on most subjects, conspiratorially adding that many call him a heretic. He gushes about Mysore bonda and waxes eloquent on the virtue of eating a banana every night.

He is such a unique creation, this man I am still talking about. He makes me laugh, he gets on my nerves, he taunts me with mind games and he pampers me with compliments. He loves his life and tells me eighty years is still the beginning. His genes live in the frame of my husband and his conversations live in my head.

I love him, this man I call grandpa.
The month of Marghazi has its unique smell and flavour. And the best place to savour them is in Chennai's own tradition rich Mylapore. Here are two interesting reflections - LazyGeek's Marghazi Venn Pongal and Eroteme's Marghazi/~yyi - on Marghazi memories and they both mention Venn Pongal!
A very funny FAQ on T Nagar - the writer of this piece also worries if Mylapore is following suit :)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

When New Statesman asked the arty people 'who's ripe for eviction?', Amanda Craig, novelist, mentions that she would like to evict the entire Booker 2005 judges panel to a seaside resort where they would be forced to read John Banville for a fortnight. They could return to England only if they reread Arthur & George (Julian Barnes) - hilarious! Banville is so good - why does the world hate him so?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kanda Naal Mudhal

I enjoyed this movie but was a trifle disappointed because I went there expecting a lot more. Go here for my review.
Lifehacker offers tips to cure a hangover. C'est December and you bet it is the right time to go over these tips.
Confess now! Doesn't Chestnut-Almond cookies make your mouth water? Mmm...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Slowly, but surely, there are positive emotions bubbling in hearts that may have scorned Banville in the before Booker 2005 era. I am still tracking The Sea and its progress through reading lists and, believe it or not, post-Booker prize, a lot of people are recommending this book. Suddenly, it is all about the lyrical quality of writing!

PS: I am joyfully savouring The Sea these past few days and IMHO this book is far easier to read than many of the earlier Banvilles. There are still those delicious sentences though, which is what makes me put up my hand and say, "Hail Banville!"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What I've Learned: Salman Rushdie on Esquire. Some questions are very interesting and Rushdie's replies are endearing. Funnily, I really like Rushdie the man who comes across in his essays and non-fiction. Somehow, there are moments when Rushdie the fiction writer seems unreachable to me the reader.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Discovering Ambai

Ambai is the pen-name of writer C.S.Lakshmi. I discovered her in Amit Chaudhuri's excellent compilation The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature. This book carries 'The Gift', a translation of Ambai's original Tamil piece. The Gift is a piece about an educated woman who goes deep into Southern Tamil Nadu to write a report on women. Quoted below are few lines which really moved me.

She pointed to the washing area inside the kitchen. 'I've put water for you in a bucket. Help yourself. No need to shut the door: nobody comes here.'

'Do you want me to scrub your back for you?'
'No, no. Thank you.'
'Are you shy? No need to be shy; we're both women.'

'What is this report you are writing?'
'About women.'
'What is there to write about women?'
'How they live. What work they do. What they think about their lives.'
'What do they think? We bore our children. We fed them.'
'But you didn't bear children all the time. You must have had other thoughts in between. Mustn't you?'
'Yes. So we had our thoughts. Go on with you.'

She could hardly breathe. Protection is a form of repression too.

'What do you really want after you are married? Come on, let me make a list.'
I want to walk along the streets outside, every day.
I want to eat a plate of snacks in a restaurant.
I want to walk in a shop and choose my own sari.
I want to go to the cinema.
I want to see lots of places.
She walked about with firmness in the world of her own backyard...

Ismail Merchant in Chennai screens

The third Chennai International Film Festival will be on from December 17-25 and will feature eight Ismail Merchant films including Howard's End. The movies will be screened at Little Anand. Go here for more details.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

Rushdie: Is Nothing Sacred?

I am in the process of reading Imaginary Homelands - a collection of essays and criticism written by Salman Rushdie during 1981-1991 and just finished Is Nothing Sacred? - Rushdie's Herbert Read Lecture delivered by Harold Pinter in 1990. It is a complex essay that flows across and touches upon quite a few things, but I wanted to share a couple of lines that struck me:

Literature is an interim report from the consciousness of the artist, and so it can never be "finished" or "perfect." Literature is made at the frontier between the self and the world, and in the act of creation that frontier softens, becomes permeable, allows the world to flow into the artist and the artist to flow into the world.

Literature is the one place in any society where, within the secrecy of our own heads, we can hear voices talking about everything in every possible way. The reason for ensuring that that privileged arena is preserved is not that writers want the absolute freedom to say and do whatever they please. It is that we, all of us, readers and writers and citizens and generals and godmen, need that little, unimportant- looking room. We do not need to call it sacred, but we do need to remember that it is necessary.

Note: The link provided to the essay was located using Google and leads to a page on the MIT site. I have used it because the link was searchable. If there is a copyright issue, send me a message and I shall fix the link. Thanks.

Still Surviving IT

In continuation with the Surviving IT post, Sushil picks up the thread and does a brilliant job of it . The link is to Part I of his post. There is a Part II as well, which is a compilation of some comments that caught his fancy.


I have been wanting to post this link since last morning and somehow, forgot to click on the publish button. Not once, but three times. (via MoorishGirl, TEV)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It is the moral policing virus again!
A simply beautiful recommendation for Raymond Carver. I am going to pick up a Carver as soon as I can.