Sunday, May 10, 2009

George Orwell and First Lines

Take a look at these:

The clock struck half past two

As the alarm clock on the chest of drawers exploded like a horrid little bomb of bell metal Dorothy, wrenched from the depths of some complex, troubling dream, awoke with a start and lay on her back looking into the darkness in extreme exhaustion.

U Po Kyin, Sub-divisional Magistrate of Kyauktada, in Upper Burma, was sitting in his veranda. It was only half past eight, but the month was April, and there was a closeness in the air, a threat of the long, stifling midday hours.

The idea really came to me the day I got my new false teeth. 

I remember the morning well. At about a quarter to eight I'd nipped out of bed and got into the bathroom just in time to shut the kids out. It was a beastly January morning, with a dirty yellowish-grey sky

The rue du Coq d'Or, Paris, seven in the morning. A succession of furious, choking yells from the street. Madame Monce, who kept the little hotel opposite mine, had come out on to the pavement to address a lodger on the third floor. Her bare feet were stuck into sabots and her grey hair was streaming down. 

Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard, kicked off his boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs. Jones was already snoring. 

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. 

It is so unbelievable to note that Orwell establishes the time so definitively at the very beginning of each novel.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus go...

...round and round. In our case we've been getting rounder and rounder while little G has been getting longer and longer. Since claiming responsibility for letting my interests slip away is a difficult admission to make, I shall save myself some guilt and stick to pronoun we for a while.

We have been identifying rhymes, picking out favourites already and clapping away when such ones play. We smile a lot and we sing along in our squeaky bad-even-in-the-shower voice (one of us can only babble still.) We love books and don't you make the mistake of thinking that we just stick to baby board books that have big fat pictures on them that invite you to point and smile and say gaaaaaaaaar and go clap clap clap. Ha, instead we love big fat books that make the adult go ga ga ga and those are the books that from the shelf come one by one and toss behind when we're done done done. baby perfect flourish. Out they come and out they stay until activity-weary mom puts them back in vain. Out they come again. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Harry Potter have been subject to particularly harsh treatment since we've stacked them in the lowest shelf

We love Margaret Atwood (an excellent collection of links on Atwood at Luminarium) and we have made up our minds that we shall read everything published. Our personal Atwoodian collection has been growing and so has our generous unasked for recommendation to friends. Negotiating with the Dead is brilliant, witty and cunning. Walk into the sentence trap and nod and nod while wondering what you are agreeing to. We have also reread Waltzing Again, a book that we so devoured last December, and loved it better if that were possible. We have been going around with a pink highlighter and furiously marking lines! The Blind Assassin is partly read and sitting there because we find non-fiction easier to assimilate than fiction. The kind of thinking that reading good fiction involves is very challenging to us at the moment. 

We must also admit to discovering Penelope Fitzgerald (So I Have Thought of You, the letters collection is such a warm book) and resolving to become acquainted with her works. First up is the Edward Burne-Jones biography and then possibly The Bookshop or The Blue Flower

Now that we are three paragraphs into avoiding guilt and feeling puffed up (must avoid ballooning descriptions to keep guilt at bay) at the effort and looking at the clock and thinking that the last sentence must be typed soon or sleeping G will morph to crying G, it is time to switch to trusty, lanky, self-critical I:

I realized, on a quick look back at recent reading practice, that I  have started to gravitate towards biographies. A few days ago I picked up Andrew Lycett's Conan Doyle, a book whose existence I had been completely unaware of upto that moment. Someone from that foggy slushpile of memory had remarked that biographies were written for mature (read OLD) people. That remark of all the discarded remarks found its way to light at a perfectly inopportune hour. 

After some consideration I am pleased to declare that I still have something called the reading habit and while I cannot quantify it because each day is so fuzzy and intangible, I do note that books get read and get replaced by new ones, magazines also get read over a month (before the next one arrives), online articles are skimmed, starred and read on lucky afternoons, newspapers get missed in the bargain and much to her chagrin, dear L does not have a clue about what is happening to General Election 2009. Yes, I intend to vote thank you very much. Jaago Re! And yes, IPL Season 2 is the only soap opera I watch. 

One of the nice little retrievals I've done is listen to A R Rahman's 1947 Earth. I used to play it a lot when it was first released. Then it got lost in myriad new things and I remembered the album when someone asked me about Rahman and the Oscar. Was it a popular album? I don't know. But the music grows on you. I do know that. The other Rahman albums I plan to unearth are En Swaasa Kaatre, Pudhiya Mugam and Indira (especially for Thoda Thoda Malardhadhenna, a past favourite.)

Let me leave you with a few Atwoodian quotes from Waltzing Again:

"Complication" is a matter of how you perceive yourself in an unequal power relationship

good writing of any kind by anyone is surprising, intricate, strong, sinuous

I think everyone should go out and get themselves a set of colored pencils and play with them. They will have fun

Under pressure, you can't depend on human nature to remain the way you think it ought to be. Under pressure people do strange things.

By my age and stage, you're going to know a couple of things. And if you don't know these things, where have you been all your life? Number one: some people aren't going to like you. This may come as a big shock. But it is true of every human being. There's some people who aren't going to like you. And there's some people who aren't going to like what you do, no matter what it is. So why not enjoy yourself and have fun?

There is a great risk of my typing in a large portion of the book if I go on picking out the pinked beauties, so take my word for it and read the book. Bye-bye.