Thursday, May 31, 2007



I shall be peering out of real windows in June.

Blog on a break...

Be back in July.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

This and that - 2

Happened upon Sir.V. S. Naipaul's Nobel Banquet speech. Breezy and funny.

The Guardian recommends Edward Said's On Late Style. I have been reading this book off and on for the past couple of months and find the subject interesting enough to start looking for clues in the works of various artists (painters). Quoting an earlier article by Said in the Observer (itself an edited version of an LRB piece):
Each of us can supply evidence of how it is that late works crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavour. Rembrandt and Matisse, Bach and Wagner. But what of artistic lateness not as harmony and resolution, but as intransigence, difficulty and contradiction? What if age and ill health don't produce serenity at all? This is the case with Ibsen, whose final works, especially When We Dead Awaken, tear apart the artist's career and re-open questions that a late period is supposed to have resolved. Far from resolution, however, Ibsen's last plays suggest an angry and disturbed artist for whom the medium of drama is an occasion to stir up more anxiety, tamper irrevocably with the possibility of closure, leave the audience more perplexed and unsettled than before. It is this second type of lateness as a factor of style that I find deeply interesting: a sort of deliberately unproductive productiveness, a going against.

Chatterings

On a whim, for Kay

when it rained last night, the cats were grey
hmmm...
the summer's over since yesterday
hmmm...
voracious means five books each day
hmmm...
she plays music in the loo btw
_______

Monday, May 28, 2007

Mike testing...

When I named myself Echo for this blog, the aim was to convey that the owner was a link logger, collecting her favourites from across the web. Subsequently, Echo was echoing some opinions as well, largely because of a need to mirror her selected ecosystem. One fine day it struck me that she wasn't the only Echo. Sure she was a noun, many others weren't, yet people making human associations all over the world were doing exactly what she stood for - mirroring their selected ecosystem. In the choices they made and therefore did not make, people were revealing who they were associating with. In who they were and therefore weren't lay buried the essence of every impression they absorbed and therefore did not know.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

We are accustomed to understand art to be only what we hear and see in theaters, concerts, and exhibitions, together with buildings, statues, poems, novels. . . . But all this is but the smallest part of the art by which we communicate with each other in life. All human life is filled with works of art of every kind - from cradlesong, jest, mimicry, the ornamentation of houses, dress, and utensils, up to church services, buildings, monuments, and triumphal processions. It is all artistic activity. So that by art, in the limited sense of the word, we do not mean all human activity transmitting feelings, but only that part which we for some reason select from it and to which we attach special importance.

What is Art?
-Leo Tolstoy
More

Saturday, May 26, 2007

(picture flicked from the man with the new camera)

sometimes, the best seat in the house is outside it...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Been blog surfing after ages. I guess it is one of those mornings when you have so much to do that you sit down and decide to do something else. So, here we go, sharing some:

BG says
soul-searching might lead to happiness, but happiness could be the biggest impediment to soul-searching. And without soul-searching, there would be no creativity. Is that why most creative men are so unhappily married?

there's plenty more (plenty more? plenty more??!! yes I am equally amazed at my audacity in calling this English) in his post, including a neat whisky analogy. A while ago, I was mentioning to a friend that all great artists lead awfully unhappy lives. Euphemistically, unhappiness nurtures great art OR artists seek unhappiness OR nothing great was ever created in happiness OR nothing appeals as much as tragedy, in life as in art...

Vinod writes this very hilarious account of a piercing incident
Recently, I began to feel that, in my chosen line of work, I was missing out on a lot of things in life. ‘Being hip’, for example. Nobody thinks sitting in an office cubicle and tapping away on a computer keyboard all day long is anywhere near hip. Far from it, in fact. It’s somewhere below ankle. And then, I started thinking about what I did during the time I wasn’t working - quiz, watch reality shows, and blog – all activities that aren’t even in the same pin code as cool. All my fellow bloggers reading this, please do not kid yourselves, we are all losers.

Bud Parr on Litbloggers and Blog Floggers deals with the oft read issue of the relevance, quality and what is that word...validity... of lit blogs in book reviewing.
My inclination after reading these attacks (after lashing out!) is to try to write better so that at some point these people will have no fodder. But that’s kind of silly of me. Blogs are what they are and as good as they can be, they’re nothing like newspapers and never will be. In some cases, as we’ve seen, blogs act as a farm team for mainstream publications, but in most cases, they’re something quite different.

For most Indians, on this side of the world, there are very few Indian blogs that claim to be litblogs (those few being maintained by mainstream reviewers), and among the blogs where books are written about, they form just one aspect of our interests and wanderings. Therefore, presently a non-issue on the Indian side of the fence. Yet, I agree with Bud's post except for raising an eyebrow at [blogs] should be more proving of rather than asserting opinions and remarking indeed?
Nakulan is one of those writers in Tamil I have only heard about. Chenthil, as a tribute, translates some of his poems:
He came to see me
and left saying
see me.

என்னைப் பார்க்க வந்தவர்
தன்னைப் பார்
எனச் சொல்லிச் சென்றார்!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

One has read several reviews of Cormac McCarthy's The Road (here's the last read). And the book gathers plaudits, everywhere. One thinks one must read it.

Lotus Reads
recommends Lust in Translation. She's introduced the book really well. Way to go lady!

I've stayed away from mentioning Chandramohan and the arty protests that have followed the issue (what my ex-boss loved to call, the currently hot potato). Yet I must point you to thinking beyond criticism, which starts with the aforesaid issue and then moves on to question the larger compulsion, that most of us have, of holding the I'm right placard from the cosiness of the armchair.

Yet another book list, so we can't resist mentioning it. The Waterstone's next generation of superstars (via). Jon McGregor's on it. We must mention how good So Many Ways to Begin was, but we never got around to finishing it (slipped library deadline by a mile and paid up in a hurry). Yet we began it well enough, it began well enough.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hey, I wouldn't mind working in Ian Rankin's room. Though, chances are, I'd be sitting at that desk near the window and looking out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It is paintings of the Bard's plays at Pigmy this week. The area is vast, the choices are umpteen and it is impossible to pick just a few favourites. Maud shares the link to the Emory collection of such illustrations, which was a resource that I depended on heavily for the Pigmy series.

Enjoy the entire collection here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Master - Colm Toibin

If you've been wary of reading a biographical novel, I suggest you wean yourself on Colm Toibin's The Master. I would have never believed that it is possible to dip into the consciousness of a Henry James and produce a book so believable that you cannot help but forget you are reading a biographical novel. For readers who have been swept away by Jamesian sentences and plots (is Jamesian an official dictionary entry yet? It should be, given how often it is tossed around), The Master, a Booker 2004 shortlistee, will be a special treat as Toibin effectively shows how James picked his ideas.

I first heard of The Master a year ago, in a David Lodge article in The Guardian. Lodge himself had written a biographical novel on Henry James titled Author, Author, which, incidentally was also published in 2004 . Until now, as I am writing this, it never struck me how appropriate Author, Author is as a title because Lodge's book, like Toibin's, focuses at some point on the failure of James as a playwright and the booing of his very first show of Guy Domville(1895). As the show ended, the crowd jeered, author, author.

Toibin does not provide one with the story of the master's life. Instead, he focuses on four years in the late 1890s, when James was already a renowned author, well into his fifties, already prone to anxieties of death. Toibin excels at showing James as an observer. In fact James is as much an observer in his own life as he is in the lives around him. Scenes that touch upon Alice James, Henry's trials of domesticity (with the Smiths) and his association with Constance Fenimore Woolson are especially well-treated. The pace of the book and its simple language also facilitate reader involvement.

I had read Fred Kaplan's Henry James: The Imagination of Genius a few months ago and was reasonably informed on the main events in the author's life. I found that background knowledge helpful in both understanding The Master as well as in appreciating how well Toibin has treated his subject. For anyone intending to read Henry James and supporting works, this book is a worthy investment of time.

Also, if you are looking for a proper review of the book, I recommend this wonderful one by Hermione Lee (yes, resisting Lee is impossible!)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Curling up with a good ebook:
For me, the most important moment came reading a Sherlock Holmes story when I suddenly realised I'd been following the tale for several minutes having completely forgotten about the Iliad itself. This, of course, is essential: how many of us could get anything out of a book if we were constantly saying, in a small voice, "Hey, look at me - I'm reading this thing"?

My inability to read ebooks is a favourite conversation trivia with me. In fact I marketed the Sony eReader to a few of my friends (on mere theoretical knowledge) just to hear their opinion on ebooks (hoping they would be on my brigade). Yes, you and you there, I know you expected this post the moment you saw the article in the Guardian!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bestseller lists from the past

I was reading this post a few minutes ago and suddenly the line below popped out at me
It is interesting to look at the bestseller lists, say, of the 1920s, where one would be hard-pressed to recognize virtually anything that is read today, with a few notable exceptions. As someone said: Today’s bestseller lists are tomorrow’s obituary columns.
Off I went to find the bestseller lists. Have found one, which needs some hours to run through. Here's the 1961 fiction list (looks like the US bestseller list btw)
1. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone

2. Franny and Zooey, J. D. Salinger

3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. Mila 18, Leon Uris

5. The Carpetbaggers, Harold Robbins

6. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller

7. Winnie Ille Pu, Alexander Lenard, trans.

8. Daughter of Silence, Morris West

9. The Edge of Sadness, Edwin O'Connor

10. The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck
Yes, pretty obvious why I picked this year isn't it?

Update: Talking of lists, here's a useful metalist.

Miscellany

Suketu Mehta on patenting hatha yoga postures (via)
It’s a mystery to most Indians that anybody can make that much money from the teaching of a knowledge that is not supposed to be bought or sold like sausages. Should an Indian, in retaliation, patent the Heimlich maneuver, so that he can collect every time a waiter saves a customer from choking on a fishbone?

The Guardian on incredible uses of everyday things
K is for ... ketchup

Keeps silver jewellery sparkling. Soak it in a small bowl of ketchup for a few minutes. If it has a tooled or detailed surface, use an old toothbrush to work ketchup into the crevices. To avoid damaging the silver, don't leave the ketchup on longer than necessary. Rinse and dry.
Tomato ketchup to make jewellery gleam eh? Ah.

Shobhaa De back with Bollywood Nights
"India is hot right now," she announces. Her books "were among the first few to reflect a contemporary India, rather than be focused on the cliches surrounding India. They were not books about the depression and repression, and they were not about women who were suffering, they were not about poverty. Instead they're about attitude, so perfectly in tune with the zeitgeist that more than a hundred doctorates have been written about them."
Enough said.

Been hearing about the Waterstone's 100 list for a while and when I saw it on Reading Matters, I took a close look at what the 100 are. Delighted to see the three Atwoods but disappointed that not a single Banville made it. Ah well, if it were not for the Booker 2005 how many people would have even considered reading The Sea?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Ulysses Reading Diary - 2

May 04, '07
JM called to say landed in India. Was making big travel plans - five metros in seven days or some such, visiting old friends. Did not bother telling him I'd suspended reading Ulysses in late March. He wouldn't have started anyway methinks.


May 05, '07
JM called to say he'll stop overnight in Chennai on 07/05. Do add raisins to the curd rice, he said. And how many varieties of curd rice this time? The jerk! After years of such taunting, I've learned not to react until irritated non-stop.


May 07, '07
The man landed. usual fanfare. Have I lost weight? his line, not mine. I never ask people that question. Don't like to hear the usual answer anyway. Usual fanfare included immediate teaming up with Lord L and commenting on my cooking skills. Is it still bad? he goes. Lord L smartly says, why don't you answer that question yourself after dinner. Forget the dinner story - JM kept piling praise upon praise until I threatened to toss the contents of the salt jar on his plate. I never believe him on most things. Post dinner, JM brings up Ulysses, updates Lord L on how I fell for the awful deal and then asks me how far I am into the book. Huh, still same as March. Have you started? I toss back. Victory, victory. I will before June, he replies. I then assume a look of supreme self importance and ask him, has everything around you crumbled yet? Poor JM says he is getting there. When you get there, start reading Ulysses. You will get it then. Now I am onto quoting other people's lines verbatim. Must wonder more - why I talk so much about some books instead of either reading them or tossing them away.

May 08, '07
So JM and I went shopping. Landmark at Spencers and later window shopping we thought. But airconditioning at Spencers had conked. We were warned at parking and did not go in at all. Went to City Center Landmark instead. Grotesque building. JM tried telling me it is the colours. The architecture is beautiful, he added, much to my annoyance.

Landmark at CC had all the Banville works. I gaped. Just last week I was at Landmark in Nungambakkam and I think I saw Eclipse and none of the others. Perhaps the new edition of The Sea. Must stop telling people L@N has the best stock. L@CC must be visited again at leisure. Wonder oh wonder, CC's parking has dropped to 10 bucks. Shows how assiduously I've been avoiding the place. The interesting part was being gifted the Dalrymple Mughals - both books.

We looked at some editions of Ulysses and joked. The Dalrymples was part of the spoils of that bet btw. We just advanced the treats! As guessed, he hadn't gone beyond the preface of the book. I kept alluding to it.

May 09, 07
That remark about everything around you crumbling? I wonder how one determines the crumbling or not of another...I suppose it must be a crumbling characterized by a certain way of unravelling. Everyone crumbles differently methinks. And everyone crumbles, sometime. Many don't recognize it. Some imagine it.

I wonder if I should read Ulysses at all. Why invest the energy when I have so many others that I want to read. Like the many books on and by Henry James, on my reading list this year. Ulysses is a book that captures the rhythm of thought of certain kinds of life. It is resonance, not comprehension, I told JM. I don't know where that remark came from. I don't even know if I agree or disagree. And can you say such things about books you haven't even read?

counting from here

Thursday, May 03, 2007

fie candy



...words taking a break

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Blue Arunachala...



...captured from the Madras Road.