Saturday, October 28, 2006
Do we really want to be friends with the 'friends' from the past? Are their pictures in our friends list merely niggling reminders of inevitable drift? "Old Joy": Thoughts on Friendship in the MySpace Age ruminates on the like.
Celling Out talks about how bookstores have sold their soul, how insensitive folks can walk the aisles of bookstores talking loudly on their cellphone about last week's dinner (that's so true. At Landmark, I've had the strongest urge to walk up to such weasels and ask them to shut up. Unfortunately most of the pretentious versions of such weasels have turned out to be women. I don't know what that means but that's what I've noticed)
A while ago, one of my friends sent me a link to The Final Verdict (an ebook on Mother Teresa - not all flattering) asking me what I thought of it. I read several pages, was skeptical about the content and never got around to finishing it. On a rain-soaked Saturday like today I am inclined to read it entirely and then make my call.
For some reason, Thoreau's Walking has a lot of appeal today
It must be the surprisingly insistent Chennai monsoon...walking being the forbidden fruit...
Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest trees.Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.
The civilized nations--Greece, Rome, England--have been sustained by the primitive forests which anciently rotted where they stand. They survive as long as the soil is not exhausted. Alas for human culture! little is to be expected of a nation, when the vegetable mould is exhausted, and it is compelled to make manure of the bones of its fathers. There the poet sustains himself merely by his own superfluous fat, and the philosopher comes down on his marrow-bones.
If you are stuck with stains on your silks, try shampooing them away. Yeah really.
Booklist and booklist for the addicts.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
One English Teacher who decided to pass on his gems.
A student recollects an English teacher who did not lock her car because books are not attractive to thieves.
Picked off the conversation from the previous link is this lifetime reading plan. Quite a good mix and thankfully some names and books are familiar.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
He wrote Christine Falls, a gripping, beautifully crafted thriller as Ben Black for one simple reason, he says. "I simply wanted to send a signal to my readers, that it was a different kind of book, taking off in a wholly different direction."
Since it is the first time anyone over the age of four had ever called me aunty, I am completely taken aback. The better half seems to have not noticed this at all except for that twinkle in his eye which gave him away. I fume for a few minutes and then try glaring at the seat in the faraway table where this aunty-caller had sat. Alas, a shock of this magnitude cannot be fixed with a prolonged stare. Helpful suggestions like you look older than your years or it must be your mature manner that confused him or worse you also look older than me despite being so much younger do not soothe either. Particularly that last one is a bad idea because every time you look at the guy who suggested it, you wonder why your friends never said anything about him looking younger when you got married.
When one reflects on the little shocks of daily life, one sometimes recollects other shocks in the past that one missed churning in the head. Like the time the priest at our wedding, who kept calling me 'ponnu' suddenly called me 'mami' the moment I became another's wife. Needless to say, being far worse off at reacting to such name calling back then, I called out to my mami and told her the priest wanted something. My husband of a few minutes nudged me hard and said, "he's asking you to put the pori in the fire." All I could manage was snapping at that priest for the rest of the morning.
Now, when my niece calls me mami, it feels wonderful. Because that's our relationship. To the other lot that calls me aunty/mami (out of respect[!], fun, cheekiness) , all I ask is to call my husband uncle/mama and not anna.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
One painting comes along, then another and before you know it a theme presents itself and you certainly had no part to play in it other than to save, upload and link appropriately.
Such was the pleasure I had in selecting paintings for Pigmentium last week that I did not want the week to end. I mean, I had so many worthy ones still sitting in my hard disk and the week had gone whoosh.
The theme that had wiggled its way into my head was Reading, or so I thought until it defined its gender and became Females Reading and then, as if clubbing girls and women together was somehow inappropriate, it refined itself to Woman Reading (7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) - paintings that were titled so, that had a solitary woman absorbed in reading, that were created in different styles as well.
Our artists must have sensed long ago that there is a certain fascination in the concentration of a reading face, in its lack of guile (unless the face led to hands that were holding a horrid letter or telegram or court order).
In fact, my real reason for doing this post is to put up a few more of the reading ones that I was very sore I missed. I also cheated in a similar manner with another three-colours post at that haunt.
Also, read the fine article on Solitary Pleasures (thanks for the link dear sender)
Just because young women are surrounded by sex doesn’t mean they’re not still curious, anxious, problematically (to them) naive or trepidatious: I think they’re more anxious than ever. After all, knowing about some arcane sexual practice because you’ve seen it online doesn’t exempt you from wondering what kissing might feel like. The answer’s in Jane Eyre. Sometimes, the old ones are the best.Someone's (India Knight) finally got an anthology out.
Booker 2006 winner:
And the Booker 2006 goes to
>> Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
Booker 2006 shortlist:
Three Days to go...
Booker shortlist buzz
Booker 2006 shortlist
Booker 2006 longlist:
Other Booker 2006 links:
Booker Prize Trivia
Booker has a blog
Shortlist, Odds, a month of fun
Looking for the longlisted in Chennai
Link to book covers
Trusted sources of reference:
Guardian Booker 2006 special report
Reading Matters - longlisted Author Profiles
Ta da, the Booker 2006 chapter is all done!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
The article that still appeals to me the most appeared several months ago, in Granta spring 2006 issue, where Orhan Pamuk walks with Maureen Freely (one of the translators of his books) through the streets of Istanbul, tracing the route that Galip takes in The Black Book.
As we continued through the market, he pointed out a bookshop that was once run by a famous sheikh. This was where an old and peaceable Sufi society would once hold its discreet gatherings. 'I mentioned this in The Black Book,' Pamuk said. 'His name is still on the door, I think. He was a great bookseller, but when I was a teenager, I'd go in and ask, do you have such and such a book? And they would not have the book I was looking for.'
We went into one last bookshop, where most of the books were foreign translations. He almost bought one. But his rule was only to buy a book if he went home and couldn't stop thinking about it.
In 1982 I published my second novel. At that time there was horror going on in Turkish prisons. And no freedom of speech at all, except that if you wrote a historical novel or a novel which didn't say much about politics, it was permissible. Around that time, in 1985, I met Harold Pinter. He came on a human rights mission to Istanbul with Arthur Miller and other foreign observers. I was their guide. The military proposed a constitution, the whole nation was going to vote for it. Ninety per cent was in favour... But that was not a free referendum by Western standards. One of my cousins was working for an advertising agency at the time, and he called me and told me that some Swiss newspaper people were here and that they were looking for a person who could criticize the proposed constitution on TV. We are still being run by that constitution, by the way, but in those days no one dared to publicly criticize it, and here were these Swiss TV people, looking for a Turk living in Turkey to criticize it, and my cousin didn't know any left-wing intellectuals, so he asked me if I did. He said they didn't necessarily need to see his face. (I used this in the ending of The Black Book, when, instead of giving the desired political message, the narrator tells a long story. This may be a good solution for my problems, too!)
Friday, October 13, 2006
PS: dear link-lazy reader, Nobel Prize for Literature 2006 has been awarded to Orhan Pamuk. Go on, click now.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Man Booker press release:
Chair of the judges, Hermione Lee, made the announcement at the awards dinner at the Guildhall, London, which was broadcast live on the BBC 10 O’ Clock News. Harvey McGrath, Chairman of Man Group plc, presented Kiran Desai with a cheque for £50,000.Delighted is the word of the day in our household.
Hermione Lee comments,
“We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2006 is Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness. The winner was chosen, after a long, passionate and generous debate, from a shortlist of five other strong and original voices.”
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The winner in 1973 was J.G.Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur, based on the Siege of Lucknow.
There were two occasions when the Booker Prize was shared by two authors - 1974: Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist and Stanley Middleton, Holiday; 1992: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient and Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger.
In the last ten years, two debut novels have won the Booker - Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things in 1997 and DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little in 2003.
The longlist was made public from the year 2001. Until then, one had to look forward to just shortlists (longlists are far more interesting no?)
In the 2006 shortlist, we have one debut novel (Matar), two second novels (Hyland and Desai), three seasoned campaigners.
In short, all I am trying to say is, the winner of Booker 2006 can be any one of the six. There is no logical way to know except to wait for a few more hours. And I'm certainly not the late bird who will wait until it is 10pm in the ex-monarch's land. I do look forward to knowing it first thing tomorrow morning. After going overboard for an entire month, I simply won't know what to post about after the Booker. But hold on, Back Swan Green is still tucked away for precisely such a slump. Maybe it won't be that bad then.
Lady Ottoline Morrell surfaces in various famous books in literature:
Perhaps Lady Ottoline's most interesting legacy are the representations of her that appear in 20th century literature. She was the inspiration for Mrs Bidlake in Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point, for Hermione Roddice in D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love, for Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene's It's a Battlefield, and for Lady Sybilline Quarrell in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On. The Coming Back (1933), another novel which portrays her, was written by Constance Malleson, one of Ottoline's many rivals for the affection of Bertrand Russell. Some critics consider she was also the inspiration for Lawrence's Lady Chatterley . Huxley's Crome Yellow depicts the life at a thinly-veiled Garsington.
Non-literary portraits are also part of this interesting legacy, e.g. the artistic photographs of her by Cecil Beaton and others.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Sunday, October 08, 2006
For a kid in my generation, it was impossible to grow up without knowing Swami and Friends or Malgudi. And while the books were around, the television kept that interest alive.
Narayan's Books and Collections
A 2001 article on R.K.Naryan by Pankaj Mishra. Very detailed.
A few months after Narayan passed away, Comedies of Suffering by Shashi Tharoor was published in The Hindu.
Some of my friends felt I was wrong to focus on language - a writerly concern, as they saw it - and lose sight of the stories, which in many ways had an appeal that transcended language. But my point was that such pedestrian writing diminished Narayan's stories, undermined the characters, trivialised their concerns. Other serious readers of Narayan disagree with me, and so many of them cannot be wrong. I was perhaps particularly unfair in suggesting that Narayan was merely a chronicler of the ordinary who reflected faithfully the world view of a self-obsessed and complacent upper caste (and middle-class). "I write primarily for myself," Narayan had said. "And I write about what interests me, human beings and human relationships .... Only the story matters; that is all." Fair enough: one should not expect Austen to be Orwell. But one does expect an Austen to enrich the possibilities of the language she uses, to illuminate her tools as well as her craft. Narayan's was an impoverished English, limited and conventional, its potential unexplored, its bones bare.
I distinctly recall being surprised by the tone of that article and on further consideration, I also remember thinking that Tharoor's point of view was valid too.
Links to other R.K.Narayan articles.
Graham Greene and R.K.Narayan
Greene regarded Narayan as one of the finest writers in English of his time, an extraordinary commendation for a man who never moved far from his social origins and who wrote largely about people in a small South Indian town in a prose that was simple and unadorned.
But it is this very simplicity that was the source of Narayan's genius - his English was personal and spontaneous, never mannered or measured, free from all artifice. Hardly a word rings false and, unlike many other Indian writers in English, Narayan's prose seems to emerge directly from the culture he was brought up in. It is this unpremeditated quality in his writing which lends it that special candour, which makes it to speak directly to the reader and which invests his rooted and microcosmic world with an expansive and universal character.
Like Austen's, the warmth of R.K.Narayan's stories cannot be understated. Each new reading, for me, unearths new meaning.
“I’ll tell you one great thing about winning the Man Booker prize; you never have to worry about it again in your life,” he says, between sips of sauvignon blanc. “Yesterday, I said to various people: ‘This is the shortlist day for the Booker prize and I don’t care.’ And no matter how grand we are, how intellectual we are, how much we’re wedded to our art, there is no doubt that there is a part of us that is childish, that wants the prize.
It is a side of ourselves that we’re ashamed of, but it would be disingenuous to try to deny that. I got the toy; they gave me the Hornby train set and I thought I’d never get it. But if you were to take it seriously, you’d be in trouble.”
The article also mentions
Since he claimed the prestigious literary prize with his novel The Sea, he concedes that more people have bought his books, “Though whether I have more readers, I don’t know.”
Just yesterday, standing in front of the prominent display of very many Banville books at my favourite bookstore I was thinking the very same thing. Booker sells books. That's for sure.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
A reader and pal of mine asked me why I didn't scream on the rooftop when the shortlist was announced. For him and other tardy souls, the shortlist came out ages ago, if you don't wake up soon, the winner will be announced too. Yeah, I know you don't know who was shortlisted. So here, sit tight and read:
Thursday, October 05, 2006
The Night Watch is
the story of four Londoners - three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching ... Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret ...Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover ... Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances ...The Night Watch is also a very well-received book, garnering loads of positive ratings from wordworthy reviewers. David Leavitt in the NY Times review says
Waters's strength as a writer lies in her ability to delineate, with authority and compassion, the emotional bonds that link and sometimes entrap all these characters. Whether evoking Viv's hopeless loyalty to her feckless lover or the vulnerability Kay masks with courtliness and bravado, Waters reveals an instinctive empathy that makes reading "The Night Watch" a captivating — if occasionally turbulent — experience.A comprehensive collection of reviews and ratings here.
(the narrative is backward / reverse chronology)
Memory is curtailed in "The Night Watch" because allowing the characters to remember would be to give away the game. Indeed, by the time we reach the end (or is it the beginning?) of this otherwise estimable and moving book, we know so much more than the characters that our knowledge dilutes the impact of what should be the most dramatic section. For all the vigor and intensity of its prose, "The Night Watch" leaves us with the sense that both the reader's experience and the characters' lives have been manipulated to suit the author's design.
Waters has a useful website for the curious.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
By now, we know that the keywords of Kiran Desai's biography are 1971 / Anita Desai / Mirrorwork / 1998 debut Hullabaloo / Betty Trask / eight years second book The Inheritance of Loss / Booker 2006 shortlist.
But what the biography doesn't tell and the interviews show is that she is down to earth and very endearing.
All sorts of links:
A very likeable Kiran Desai in conversation soon after The Inheritance of Loss was out
An extract of this Booker shortlistee at LoveReading (needs registration, free)
Indians have been talking about this book for a while now. Some handpicked reviews.
Of course a hullabaloo!
Somehow, I love this review.
Desai interview at BookBrowse after Hullabaloo
Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard Excerpt
What are the odds of the Loss winning? Lots of positive noises lately. Fingers stay crossed.
Update Oct 11: Yes! Desai is the 2006 winner. Take a look at this meet the author video as well.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Causing me much consternation...
You're a regular original,a know-it-all
I'm bad at roads, [you think]just a pretty-faced doll...
Buster, gift me a widerscreen and we'll fix it all!
PS1: a long weekend + driving around with significant other + SO's amusement at my spatial goof ups == a cartload of patience. Yeah, the cartload emptied itself an hour ago and this post had to come.
PS2: October 10 is Booker winner announcement day and I have to post the linklog stuff on The Inheritance of Loss (which is getting lots of thumbs up here), Night Watch and my-own-copy-yet-to-be-read-but-original-favourite Black Swan Green. Those will be up in the next two days.