Friday, September 30, 2016

Plodding Through "Many Roads through Paradise: An Anthology of Sri Lankan Literature"

I picked it up with high hopes but couldn't find the time to do it justice. It's a blend of prose and poetry and a bit bulky to boot. A must have for anyone who wants to somehow glimpse writings from all over the world.

As a tourist destination, Sri Lanka attracts many and this would be wonderful for anyone who is planning a visit.

I've evolved a way to keep track of what I'm reading and that's to take pictures of significant pages or passages. I can see how valuable a Kindle would be to a person like me! Yes, I'd love to have one on my Birthday!

To return to the anthology, the first two stories are actually excerpts from longer works and don't really breathe well on their own. There was a naughty one somewhere in the middle that was slightly entertaining. Towards the end, some stories deal with the civil war but failed to grip. As I said above, I have failed to do this book justice and would hope to sit with it at leisure. 

There's a nice section about the authors which makes it a valuable resource.

Lakdasa Wikkramasinha is a poet. So is  Vinothini. And there's Vilvaratnam...

Patrick Fernando is also a poet! And Vijita...

As for Ashok Ferry, I've read something of his but can't recall the name of the book...

Buddhadasa Galappatty, also a poet and Vimala Ganeshananthan has to her credit The Yaal Playersmemories of Old Jaffna.

V.V. "Sugi" Ganeshananthan reads from her book:

Women, especially those from India, Sri Lanka, etc. seem fixated on marriage themes...Is she similar to Chitra Divakaruni? 

Yasmine Gooneratne's books appear interesting - I'd love to read one soon.

I repeat: this book would have been so much more enchanting if read on a Kindle as the physical book is unwieldy in size and, to an extent, in content.

As you can see, that's a whole lot of authors! So, all in all, it's an ambitious work and, just perhaps, it hasn't quite come together for me.

I still think I'd love to come across this book in an airport library (do they have those?) or in a hotel - hotels simply must have a bookshelf at least if not a library. Westin, Bali, had one.

Sri Lanka is a country whose stories would be most valuable when narrated by native voices, turbulent, sensuous, austere, verdant, violent, island voices, a Buddhist country, war, strife, love, tea, tsunami, hills, rivers, fragrances, aromas, families, lives, loves... I've sold myself on this book and may even re-review it here  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Peek At Comic Con, Delhi, March 2012

Some years back I had a splendid time popping in on the Comic Con stall at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, when I'd gone there for the release of my husband's book:

After the event, I toddled off as my husband hobnobbed with friends. And I chanced upon the Comic Con stall!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Satrapi's Persepolis - A Must Read Graphic Novel!

What an outrageously good book! I've thoroughly enjoyed it and I salute Marjane Satrapi for this work!

This tale of a girl growing up in Iran could well be that of me growing up in India. Loving parents and grandparents who are responsible for the creation of an absolutely delightful girl. The hypocrisies that crept into our lives due to the perverted views of our civilisations as perceived by those who decided to "define" us unleashed a conservatism far from the liberal and rich cultures that existed in India and Iran.

Satrapi fearlessly takes on societies and other demons with delightful verve and unforgettable humour.

I've not seen the film but hope to.

Below is a video of Satrapi's paintings.
This video of an interview with the author helps us see this superb lady and hear her views on things.
One more for the road and one which someone will probably complain about and it will get taken down :(

I do hope that all my Indian lady friends will read this and indeed all and sundry too. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Splendid Book By Khaled Hosseini

Years back I'd seen Kite Runner and I never really felt drawn to reading the book. Perhaps because it was a best seller.

Recently, however, I ended up reading A Thousand Splendid Suns.

What a marvellous story! It opens with a kind of fairy tale told by a father to his two little children. From there the thread of narrative takes us down dusty roads, through the fanciful world of a certain Kabul, and thence onwards trips merrily across continents, leaving me, an Indian, with at least one scene from my country, one memorable and pivotal scene...

At least over the first half of the book the author holds in tight rein the story of many lives and, though the latter part is as enchanting, the pace slackens somewhat as if to somehow contain that exuberant diversity of continents and destinies.

The characters are larger than life, mostly, and memorable. As are some places described. 

Hosseini is almost godlike in his compassionate overview, the humanist in him in no way diluting the gifted touch of the storyteller. 

This is a perfect book for a holiday, for travel, for convalescence or just to read on a commute and a must read for everyone everywhere.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tami Hoag-Queen of Prurience

Couched in what purports to be a novel about crime and detection lies a wealth of fare for the prurient mind. There is a time in adolescence when the mind seeks such pages with all the assiduousness of a bloodhound. Given the plethora of more openly marketed matter for this penchant, it is amusing to find such an author.

There is a corpse or two, a cop or so, of course, but these ingredients are sparsely scattered in a steamy jungle of purple prose: the heroine is forever exciting forbidden desires, kindling lust and merrily moping over failed relationships. The hero does much the same. 

For the life of me I could not proceed page by page and so flipped  desperately in search of some anchor for action. A vain quest! 

Still Waters is as stagnant as the best of swamps. Only, swamps harbour better tales.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun

I was not sure what to expect when I picked out Half of a Yellow Sun.

It's a sad fact that, today, the word Biafra rings no bells in most people. For me, though I was very small at the time of the events, it has left a scar. An image of Africa. I'm tempted to say that, though people at large are unaware of that struggle, they too associate the continent itself with certain photos. Through this book, I could be in that time and observe the sad things that transpired, things that could have been avoided and I applaud the author's courage in choosing the journalist, one of the main characters of this dramatic story. Via him she shows us the role of media in conflict which is not always a nice one.

Historically, it is possible that this kind of photo of starving children became an identity tag of sorts for all purposes regarding Africa. It is a mentality that stains even the writings of crime fiction in a Scandinavian country. It evokes a nauseating mixture of horror and pity. It is very disempowering.

Though equal atrocities have taken place all over the world, African, or even Indian atrocities, for that matter, become inflated by such representations and perceptions. As if we, by nature, are prone to cruelty and idiocy. In contrast, let's see what happens to hordes of us when we read Ms. Mitchell's Gone With The Wind.

Gone with the Wind

We are mesmerised. We want to be Scarlett and we swoon when we think that we might meet Rhett Butler. We are mesmerised by the cotton-wool thrown over our eyes. 

Do you know what that period represents? Do you know what atrocities were committed against the Africans and the Natives of that continent at that time? 

Anyway, the very pretty and not surprisingly very talented Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a wonderful book for you.

In the guise of an engrossing tale of two powerful and beautiful sisters, she takes on more than she ought to be able to chew given her age and spits out a remarkably powerful journey through the fraught days of Biafra.

Ms Adichie has crafted a work of effortless complexity, balancing and challenging stereotypes and all the myriad truths and lies and hypocrisies which pollute such a wild and doomed enterprise - the stakes at play when a nation is to be born.

I can never forget the characters she has created and they will heal and guide me much more strongly in life than that catty and shallow Scarlet O'Hara.

I will give you no spoilers but will exhort you to read this novel. It is beautiful and disturbing. It is young and strong. It is rich and light. It is the voice of the future for Africa is, as we speak, awakening. Africa is the world's tomorrow.

I also confess that I find the author very charming in her interviews and the book is a double delight for the value added pages at the end: links to her short stories and an insightful and section where she talks about writing the book.

Review: The Glass Palace

Visiting Kochi this August I found it much too hot to explore and settled for access to a library.

Dithering about what to choose I first selected Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace.

I came across my first Amitav Ghosh on the shelves of a relative.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: Lost Libido and other Gulp Fiction

    A nice gift for any short story lover, and for readers of the new breed of Indian authors writing in English.

Lost Libido and other Gulp Fiction

     It was the cover that made me pick out this book.

    That and the words "gulp fiction". From content that makes you go gulp to the metaphorical comparison of content that needs no chewing, it’s, perhaps, an apt description of this set of stories.

     And then short stories are easier to digest and review than longer works. Most days, the Internet holds me in thrall. Much that I do there is functional and mundane but then there is also the irresistible wealth of trivia that waylays time such that reading takes a backseat. Travel, where access to the Net is random and constrained, tends to reserve the leisure to finish a full length book. But that’s matter for another day, another post...Meanwhile you can follow me on Instagram to see my latest reads.

     This set of seventeen stories has one pretty much recurrent theme: bitterness against women and wives in particular. Wives, in Mr. Salil Desai's tales, nag incessantly. However, in some perverse fashion, it is the men, all of whom seem to harbour such thoughts, who get their comeuppance. Yet the passages which portray the voices of the wives remind me of a real life story I once heard.

     A man bought his wife a recording gadget as she had once expressed a desire for such a thing, being something of a wannabe writer. At one point in time, this man then recorded his wife's plaints so that she could hear how terrible her whining sounded. Of course the gadget then promptly not only lost its charm for the original purpose but became a loathsome sight to the woman to whom it was given as a gift. Which makes me wonder how the author hears the other gender. It is not only the eye of the beholder which holds the magic of perception. Ears play their role too. Whatever we are fed in terms of the prejudices of our times and specific backgrounds tend to be burped up as our reality.

     In a similar vein as the first story of the book, Lost Libido, there are Bit on the Side, The Maths Conundrum and, most of all, The Snake and the Stick, which reveal, at least in the protagonist, a certain marked attitude towards women.

     To be fair, the author seems to be examining the various foibles of humans in general. In One Monday Morning, for example, he plays with the other famous grouse of some men, the purportedly whimsical nature of women. And the gentle twist, in not the tail but a little earlier, neatly stands that particular misunderstanding on its head.

By and large, it seems to be de rigueur that short stories be about unpleasant things or beings. In that sense, Salil Desai had done his bit.