29 December 2009

Dec 2009 - Book 6 - An American Brat

An American Brat , by Bapsi Sidhwa
    Story of Feroza, a pakistani teen who is being unduly influenced by the political tension in the country..or so her mother thinks..and she is sent off to America to her 'Uncle' , who is actually only about 6 years older - as it goes in Indian/pakistani families.. so she comes to America for 3 months and stays back encouraged by her uncle..gets into school and experiences the student life with all its ups and downs..
Whereas her Uncle goes back home and marries a girl from Parsi community as expected, Feroza falls in love with a 'non' which brings her mom and all her melodrama to America...
Its a good, somewhat formulaic and dramatised but realistic account of Parsi pakistani family ..
Rating - 5/10
" No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance "  Confucius

22 December 2009

Dec 2009 - Book 5 - Daddyji

Daddyji , by  Ved Mehta 
Ved Mehta writes about his father and by extension, biography of his family thru older generations..how the family starting from a very humble beginning go on to achieve great success ..how filial duty is respected and withheld..
It started very interestingly but fizzled out later because it just became account of events and people..there is no in-depth character building even of Daddyji, the protagonist of the book..his activities are provided in detail..but not his thoughts..I was intrigued by his expectations of his wife and the non-realization but that is not given the space it should've..
 I am interested in Ved Mehta's writing because of his interesting personal story..as excerpted from this article .. 
    By any standard, Ved Mehta is a literary phenomenon of our times. He lost his vision when he was four years old. He did his schooling in institutions for the blind. He had as full a life as anyone of his age. He was an active member of the RSS during his years in Lahore. He went on to Oxford, then to Harvard and finally on the staff of the New Yorker for 33 years. He is the author of 24 books. Among the many awards he won is the Guggenheims and the MacArthur Fellowship.  
Rating - 5/10
"Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness."   Hellen Keller 

17 December 2009

Dec 2009 - Book 4 - The White Queen

The White Queen, by Phillippa Gregory
Philipa Gregory writes about Elizabeth Woodville and her rise and fall from the throne of England..Royalty is where we think grace is, honor is..but the picture presented here is anything but that..Elizabeth gets married to the King Edward in secret ceremony but manages to hold on to the promise and ascends to the Queendom of the kingdom...Narrated by Elizabeth herself this is a very coarse language and lot of suspicion, battles, fights and murders everyday which I sortof skipped over..she conveniently ignores all her husbands wrong-doings against her and people in general and keeps on working on advancing her family members and friends..the highest form of favoritism works here..some intriguing angle is added by the mysticism/witchi-cism inherited from the water goddess Melusina (Little mermaid reference) .. Overall a fast paced but inelegant read..
I caught up on the history after her time and its interesting..start of the Tudor kingdom and end of Yorkists..
Rating - 5/10
"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain

12 December 2009

Dec 2009 - Book 3 - The Bride

The Bride, by Bapsi Sidhwa
Bapsi Sidhwa writes about a city girl given to marriage into a tribe with their tribal ways and rituals , pride and honor .. she runs away from them and is hunted by the tribe to be punished/killed for her transgression..there are several bylines in the story and the partition of India is mentioned along with the displacement of people and the resulting dissonance of belonging and not belonging to a place..
There is another byline about this american "nobody" who marries a pakistani rich guy and her experience assimilating with him and his family and the society in Pakistan..
Rating - 6/10
"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain

Dec 2009 - Book 2 - The parasites

The parasites , by Daphne Du Maurier
The Delaneys - people whom no-one would like to be stranded with..Maria , Celia , Niall - children of charismatic dancer and singer duo . They live an enchanted life, following their parents all over the world , before a tragedy shakes them apart...some bonds remain as strong as ever..Maria and Niall , Celia and her father ..Maria and Niall have this deep relationship bordering on incest but never explicit..Celia uses the pretext to take care of her father to not really think what she wants out of her life..Maria marries someone just to be 'Mrs Wyndaham' but of course she has none of the wifely demeanor to play that role and neither does she knows to raise her children..Celia does..and thus they have all these inter-mingled and parasitic lives where they live off each other..but Charles breaks off and asks for a divorce..which leads them to think back on what went wrong..and when ..and why..
The narrative is in 2nd person but we never know who actually is narrating it and I think its different in each chapter..it adds to the intrigue ..
Rating - 7.5/10
"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." — Austin Phelps

Dec 2009 - Book 1 - The Girls

The Girls, by Frederick Busch
A couple dealing with loss of their child...Franny trying to understand what happened and why and growing distance with her husband , Jack who loves his wife very much and hurting for the baby too...tries to find some validation by becoming involved in a teenage murder investigation..
I liked the character of the pyshiatrist who tries to help them , almost like a guardian angel or a watchful mother..
Prose style is very sparse but all characters are etched out very deeply
Rating - 7/10
"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges

13 November 2009

A woman's life, by Guy De Maupassant

A woman's life , by Guy De Maupassant -
It is the story of Jeanne, an exuberant and imaginative girl of noble birth ,who has all the dreams and aspiration of youth - finding love and living the dream life.
She is the only child of her parents and never seen any of her wishes thwarted, cosseted and protected that she is from all the harsh realities of life.
She falls in love quickly and gets married thereafter thinking all the joy will follow as is expected. Slowly the fog lifts, she becomes aware of the person her husband is

In her heart she felt resentful towards Julien for not understanding as much, for lacking this finer sense of modesty, this instinctive delicacy of feeling; and she felt as though there was a veil between them, a barrier, and realized for the first time that two people are never completely one in their heart of hearts, in their deepest thoughts, that they walk side by side, entwined sometimes but never completely united, and that in our moral being we each of us remain forever alone throughout our lives.

Her husband gradually takes over the estate and all its doings and her parents placid acceptance of his misdoings turn her into a passive and apathetic being. She stops caring about the open dalliances of her husband and turns to her child and religion for emotional support.The church, in its rigidity demands a too steep price from her and the child ,in his immature ways ultimately betrays her too.
She turns totally inward and looks upon life as something which has treated her un-fair..
The journey of her life from an optimistic wide-eyed girl to a fatalistic and wounded grandmother is so vivid that you have a feeling of having lived a lifetime in the span of the book...and a sad life that is..with no hope of redemption or any hint of happy ending..what is the point of that story it seems..
So, I thought I would try to find out something more about the writer and the writing style :
Guy De Maupassant seems to be the greatest French short story writer of 19th century, influenced by Gustav Flaubert .
This novel is written in the naturalist style i.e portraying things as they are which might be harsh and stark sometimes i.e poverty, indifference, sexuality, prostitution etc .
Naturalism goes beyond realism in the attribution of human behavior to their social environment and heredity .. something akin to the evolution theory that a human being's character is shaped by its surrounding and circumstances and determinism i.e. belief in a will, but not a free will, rather an enslaved will on account of various factors.
Coincidentally, I saw a marathi movie yesterday - 'Shevri' whose protagonist Vidya is a similar charater..being swayed by the wind of life..by what happens to her...and not something that she makes happen...It is a very sad but also a frustrating story because you expect the character to take charge of their life somehow, sometime..but they never do............

Note to self:
Check out the classic American Naturalist work - Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets , Stephen Crane

12 August 2009

Serena , not so Serene..

Its a saying somewhere that 'A woman is behind every battle and every war' ... Take Ramayana , Mahabharata ... they've all proven that
'Heaven hath no rage like a love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned' ..
and then meet Serena Pemberton , the heroine of the book with same name , by Ron Rash..
She is ambitious - dreaming of logging in the un-chartered jungles of Brazil,
fearless - she tamed an eagle and it kills snakes @ her bidding ,
equal to any man - back in 1920s she is wearing trousers, riding horse astride and greeting each man with a strong handshake, also
power-thirsty - anyone who comes in her way is 'taken care of' and not with much discretion since she is the overlord,
overbearing - though her husband is a huge man and has done a lot before she came into his life, he is diminished when she is around ,
evil - she sends her 'stub' to track down and kill her husband's illegitimate son because she cannot have her own ,
autocrat - she has her own sense of right and wrong, moral and otherwise and infinite power to exercise
She is the heroine of this expansive and intriguing story , a contemporary portrayal of Macbeth and the levels to which hunger for power can take you..
READ it !

24 June 2009

Library loot

Todays library loot includes :
  • The English patient , Michael Ondaatje - I have been meaning to read this since long and I finally ordered it from the lib...Ive read Ondaatje's Divisidaro and though a very unstructured novel, I quite liked the feel of it..and 'The English patient' is his most famous one I think...hope I enjoy it..
  • Fear and Trembling , Amelie Nothomb - I dont remember where I picked this reference from..maybe one of the blogs I wander about or some book news site..Its described as "Alternately disturbing and hilarious, unbelievable and shatteringly convincing"  - looks like a good riveting read !
  • Purple Hibiscus , Chimamanda Ngozi - I have a distinct feeling Ive read this one already but Im unsure...does that happens to anyone else ?? Sometimes I read reviews, excerpts too many times and start believing that I have read the book too ...In any case, I liked her 'Half of a yellow sun' and thought I will check this one out..If it turns Ive read it, out it goes...
  • Evening is the whole day, Preeta Samarasan - I cannot resist a Desi(being an Indian ex-pat) novel..some chick-lits are intelligently written and some not...lets see what this turns out to be..
Happy Reading !!

13 June 2009

Friday Movie watch - Gran Torino (*****)

Yes...thats 5 stars...out of 5 and I would happily dole out more !! 
Clint Eastwood is a great great director , he has created an endearing movie with endearing characters - Walt, Wally , Mr Kowalski whatever you call him...and Sue and Toad and Yum Yum :)
This man is pure genius I think ! He is 79 years old and he still surprises us with the strength of his performance..just awesome..and Im so surprised he didn't notch the oscars...all awards are a lot of hooey !!!

Im sure all those adjectives are not going to give any idea on what that movie is about (if you dont already know) , but everyone should just go and watch it...bossy...ain't I ;)
What Im going to do here though is list out all the Clint Eastwood movies, mark the ones that I've seen and rush off to get those which I havn't , so here goes (Boy, there are a lot many, but Im gonna try...and update as I do ) :

Actor credits :

Director Credits