Archive for the ‘books etc.’ Category

Tough cookie of a year. Of many endings and completions. Of the losses, one merits grief because the love was such. The rest, bah.

Heartbreak: Losing Rosa. My spiritual path has taught me that love doesn’t die. But how do you serve love which has no form anymore? I can’t serve her food, I can’t rub her nose, I can’t spread the fleece blanket out because she loved kneading it. So, how then do i keep the love alive?

shilo india

protest poster by shilo shiv suleman

India: It has been the season of protests as the threat of fascism got realer and realer. Dissent is still on, still strong despite the internet shutdowns, police brutality, and the narrative being controlled. Plenty of courage and love to go around for takers, any.

Men-on-pause: Mon dieu! Stalkers! Creeps in the garb of friends! Unwanted advances! Unimaginative brain picking and plagiarizing! Mon dieu again!!

Question 1: What’s the better/worse deal: a wolf or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

nyc wolf (1).jpg

new yorker cartoons

Question 2: If you steal my coat, add a ruffle here and a rip there, and walk in to meet me in the stolen coat, twirl around and say, what do you think of my new coat, does it mean you haven’t stolen my coat?

nyc plagiarism

new yorker cartoons

Laughter: Nothing quite like a witchy cackle to ease things up and the New Yorker Cartoons as always gave me plenty of that!

Fun Things: Zine-making | Trekking | Cooking (!)

Kitten Rescues: One – a fierce, blue-eyed ginger, the size of my palm

Writing: I got a lot of writing and reading done. A few short stories and articles were published. I also completed the manuscript of short stories that I had begun in 2018. I had completed a children’s picture storybook about compassion toward animals, inspired by own time with animals and at cat shelters, which I am reworking.

Read: Apart from my regular reading, I also beta read manuscripts and dipped into several collections of short stories and essays by Lydia Davis, Monique Schwitter, Carmen Maria Machado, etc. It has been a failing game of catch-up as I continued to buy more books than I could read. Over a 100 new books now call my bookshelves and Kindle their home.

bautyandsadness_goodreads

image: goodreads

My love for Japanese literature continued. I began the year with the strangely captivating Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman – what’s normal, what’s not. Old lovers reunite in Yasunari Kawabata’s Beauty & Sadness which is tender and dark. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa is a series of short stories that are interlinked. I also indulged in psychological thrillers and crime novels with Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman, Kiego Higashino’s A Midsummer’s Equation and Newcomer, Ian Rankin’s Rather Be the Devil, Shinie Anthony’s The Girl Who Couldn’t Love, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, and Samuel Bjork’s I’m Travelling Alone. Paul Aster’s The New York Trilogy is a set of detective novels with variations, which reminds me that I must get the Red Notebook. A favorite was Natsuo Kirino’s Out in which the violence of death brings alive what’s dead.

There were a couple of non-fiction books. The Hungryalists by Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury was about the Hungryalist literary movement in India. In The Possessed, Elif Batuman walks the path of Russian authors. In the graphic novel, Dare to Disappoint, Growing Up in Turkey, Ozge Samanci recounts her life as a young girl and woman in Turkey. I went for a talk by naturalist and conservationist Paul Rosolie which was brilliant and it led me to pick up his first book, Mother of God, which is largely about his time in the Amazon. I also read two essay collections about what we avoid and mustn’t: What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About edited by Michel Filgate and Burn It Down: Women Writing about Anger edited by Lilly Dancyger.

possessed_bookdepository

image: book depository

Out of the norm, I read two plays Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, which had me laughing till I cried, and The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. I also read a dystopian novel, a genre I generally avoid, but this one was brilliant and joined the dots of technology and social media and how they are killing us: Dave Eggers’s The Circle. Purity by Jonathan Franzen was not dystopian but speaks of crossed lines, divided Germany, charismatic whistleblowers, Assange-style. I read my first book by Mahashweta Devi, The Armenian Champa Tree. Surprisingly, I didn’t read much poetry this year. I had to pick up a copy of Tenzin Tsundue’s Kora Stories & Poems after I heard his reading. I also read Ecstatic Poems by Mira Bai, which is Bhakti (devotional) poetry.

There was good old Margaret Atwood with Lady Oracle, a woman who wants a fresh start. Mumbai’s drug dens come alive in Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis. Cassandra grows up in I Capture the Castle. Steven Rowley’s The Editor has Jackie O playing editor. Andrew Martin’s Early Work follows the early days of a writer and the desires that play out. In Kayla Rae Whitaker’s The Animators, two friends start a business until drugs and conflict enter the mix. Milan Kundera’s Laughable Loves is a short story collection and smart and hilarious in equal measure. Another short story was Sylvia Plath’s Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, which was interesting to read as a precursor to her more well-known work. A novella told as a set of stories, Janice Pariat’s The Nine-Chambered Heart is sparse and poetic. Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint is a litany of complaints. Leila Slimani’s Lullaby explores what drives a nanny to murder. There was more horror and abuse in Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I loved Mohammed Hanif’s first book and that led to Red Birds about what war does to people.

bunny_goodreads

image: goodreads

Finally, my favorites. Ottessa Mosfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation has made me bookmark her next novel which will be released in April this year. There was Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I am no Jean but this could just be the prime of my life. I was on a diet of Mary Gaitskill. Bad Behavior is a collection of short stories about navigating through desires and friendships. The novella This Is Pleasure published by The New Yorker is about the #metoo movement and tries to understand dynamics and patriarchal notions as the protagonist is left confused and angry when her friend is accused of misusing his relatively powerful position in publishing to misbehave with young women. Mona Awad’s Bunny is one of the most original, dark, funny, and genius novels that I read this year. It is based on a group of writers in a writing workshop and a misfit who undervalues her own abilities but that is oversimplifying it.

Watched: It was the year of second seasons of some my favorite shows, so binged and then binged some more. There were a few movies too.

  • Parfum: Yes, inspired by Süskind’s novel.
  • The Young Pope: Jude Law puts the pope back in the pope.
  • The Little Drummer Girl: When you can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not, espionage.
  • Sex Education: Refreshing.
  • Lizzie: Borden!
  • The Tale: #MeToo. Jennifer Fox’s real-life story reenacted by the fabulous Laura Dern.
  • What Keeps You Alive: A couple’s vacation turns into a nightmare.
  • City of Tiny Lights: Riz Ahmed. I love this man.
  • Dirty John: Based on a real-life story about a man who chases wealthy women.
  • Tully: Mommyhood ain’t always pretty.

    fleabag_imdb

    image: imdb

  • Searching: You see the entire movie unfolding on screens.
  • A Simple Favor: Turns out to be not so simple.
  • BlackKlansMan: What happens when a black man becomes pals with KKK?
  • Fleabag Season 2: A hot priest, a fox, and trademark fleabag.
  • American Psycho: Very psycho.
  • Quicksand: About a school shooting and how it unravels.
  • Colette: How the author reclaimed her work and her self.
  • We Need to Take about Kevin: Another one on school shooting from a mum’s perspective.
  • Delhi Crime: How the Nirbhaya case was solved.
  • The Frozen Ground: Another killer on the loose.
  • Booksmart: Fun.

    killing eve_townandcountrymag

    image: town and country mag

  • Fair Game: When power overpowers.
  • Made in Heaven: Big old Indian marriages among Delhi’s elite, pff.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: Made the good old Bollywood movie-style.
  • Big Little Lies Season 2: The performances!
  • Killing Eve Season 2: These two.
  • Titli: On escaping abuse and starting new.
  • Unbelievable: Based on a true story, how empathy is crucial when dealing with sexually abused people.
  • Mystic River: A child goes missing. Whodunit.
  • The Spy: Another true story about the Israeli spy, Eli Cohen.
  • The Politician: Brilliance! There’s Lange and Paltrow and Midler.
  • Ingrid Goes West: The troubles of social media.
  • The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch: A young Jewish man stands up to his mum.
  • End of the F*** World Season 2: It was nice to meet James and Alyssa again.
  • My Happy Family: A woman leaves a marriage because she wants her solitude.
  • Don’t F*** with Cats: Hunting a Serial Killer: How animal activists help in finding a killer.
  • Wanted: Australia’s Thelma and Louise continue to evade the cops and kick sex trafficking in its butt.

New year, new vibes:

© Anuradha Prasad 2020


91+RltlrgsL.jpg

“You Beneath Your Skin” is a literary crime thriller that is equal parts whodunit and whydunnit. Set in smoggy Delhi where male aggression is just a snap away, the narrative explores crimes against women – specifically acid attacks, while cutting through patriarchy, corruption, and relationship dynamics.

“Anjali loved her face. She spent hours dolling up. He had never seen her without make-up, not even at five in the morning when she came to meet him.”

Anjali Morgan is a single mom to a son with autism and she is vain about her looks. She is Jali to her friend and landlord, Maya. She is Jelly to Maya’s brother Jatin, the assistant police commissioner who is willing to do what it takes in a skewed-up system to get ahead. On the brink of a scandal, Jatin is eager to work on a case to look good in the media. The case involves slum women who are found raped, disfigured with acid, and dead. The case gets personal when Anjali gets in the line of fire.

“Now she had Jatin: part closet-poet, part patriarchal jerk, enthusiastic bedmate and best friend: exasperating and endearing in equal measure.”

It is the exploration of human behavior that lends the novel its strength and sets it apart from other crime thrillers. The depth attained from the character development, however, doesn’t deter the pace of the novel. Biswas hasn’t shied away from the gritty details of acid attacks and the trauma of it. Her characters are flawed and very human. Anjali and Jatin struggle, especially with their experiences as children of tyrannical parents and now as parents to kids who challenge them and their beliefs. While Nikhil revolts against a perfectionist mother, Varun seethes about his father’s betrayal. Fiery as she is, Maya is always reminded that she is just a woman who needs to be protected by her brother.

“A woman must know what places to stay away from. Didn’t I just say you can’t go?”

The author also brings out the aggressive and male-dominant culture in Delhi – the novel begins in a mall where packs of men roam and can attack women in a beat. Delhi’s smog and traffic along with the contrasting cultures of poverty and power form the perfect backdrop for the novel.

“Delhi put you through extremes: be it with its weather, or its people.”

The author’s interactions with acid attack survivors and her work with NGOs have helped her portray their experiences realistically and with compassion. This, combined with masterful storytelling, makes “You Beneath Your Skin” both an engrossing and substantial novel.

Title: You Beneath Your Skin
Author:
Damyanti Biswas
Genre:
Fiction, Novel, Crime Thriller
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster India
ISBN:
9386797623, 978-9386797629

Note: All proceeds from book sales will go to the NGOs that the author supports.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

Header-option-2-04

image: penguin india

I’m more familiar with literary movements that swept the US and Europe than the ones closer home. The first that I heard of the Hungry generation was in this book (they figure in Jeet Thayil’s The Book of Chocolate Saints too). The Hungryalists, as they were known, were a revolutionary band of poets who originated in West Bengal. They questioned the rigidity of form and exclusivity imposed by upper-class poets, the bourgeoisie. They rubbed shoulders with Allen Ginsberg when he visited India. In fact, shocked by the legal action slapped on the Hungryalists for obscenity by a few righteous literary leaders of that time, he did his best to help the Hungryalists by writing to various people in positions of power that he knew in India. The poets received recognition and support from the international community while back home, they faced harsh and unforgiving judgments.

Much of the poets’ work was destroyed. However, Chowdhury has featured what could be found through her research and interviews in the book. She has interspersed the account of the literary movement with copies of translated poems and reproduced letters exchanged between the poets and others. Their passion and urgency are still intact in these letters. Even at the worst of times, despite the persecution, their love for poetry held them strong. Chowdhury has written an engaging narrative with prose that ebbs and flows, rich in lyricism, apt for the subject.

Title: The Hungryalists
Author: Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House India, 2018
ISBN: 9780670090853, 0670090859

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

517s54wPnML._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_

image: amazon

I’m still reeling from this novel which is disturbing, funny, and heartbreaking. Trite as it sounds, it also offers us the triumph of human spirit. The novel dives into loneliness, trauma, and the struggle to integrate with what is considered as normal. It goes to show how human touch and the smallest acts of kindness can heal and restore a person.

The protagonist is Eleanor Oliphant. She claims she is completely fine. She accepts that her coworkers mock her and that’s okay because she finds them odd and they make her shudder with surprise and distaste. She has a strict routine. Calls with Mummy are on Wednesday. There’s something childish about her talk of Mummy as though the thirty-year-old woman is still trapped in childhood. It is revealed that she has a social worker visiting her. There are scattered mentions of a fire and scars on her face.

And then she falls in love and saves a man and makes a friend. All very unexpected. Eleanor begins to navigate through a normal life and discovers what kindness and affection feel like with child-like wonder. But the edge of a traumatic past is a tricky place to stand on, a fall is imminent, so is the possibility of rising out of it. It begins with Eleanor accepting she is not fine. Not completely anyway.

Gail Honeyman has done a brilliant job in understanding what trauma and loneliness can do to a person. A few details seem far-fetched and as you near the end, you’re left with the feeling that you’ve reached the finish line and you’re still going, looking hither and thither for the end.

Title: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Genre: Novel/Literary Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2017
ISBN: 0008172110

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

1

image: simon & schuster

“What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence” is an anthology of essays, in which fifteen writers share their stories about what they never had the opportunity to talk about with their mothers. The collection of essays is edited by Michele Filgate. It gets off the ground with her own essay about what she wants to share with her mother. The essays reveal how relationships between mothers and children are never clean and straightforward. There are wounds that go deep, there is love, there are things left unsaid which eat you up slowly, skin to flesh to bone.

Of the mother and child relationship, Filgate writes:

“That mother-and-child connection is a complicated one. Yet we live in a society where we have holidays that assume a happy relationship.”

Why rake up the mud when it can settle down at the bottom and we can pretend all is good, or when we can simply look the other way?

Filgate says:

“The more we face what we can’t or won’t or don’t know, the more we understand one another.”

The essayists hold the bull by the horns and risk being gored as they delve into their personal experiences of abuse, immense love, confusion. It is not all roses and greeting-card odes to mommy dearest. Each of the essays in the anthology pulsates with courage and honesty. Disparate though experiences may be, they are unified by the theme of what these writers have not shared with their mothers until now.

Title: What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence
Editor: Michelle Filgate
Genre: Essays, Non-Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2019
ISBN: 978-1982107345, 1982107340

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

36396222

image: via goodreads

The unfolding of a woman

Janice Pariat’s novella The Nine-Chambered Heart is a collection of nine stories tied together by a single woman. The nine also references the paper folds that make up an origami heart – at least the one that I attempted. Eight people, men and women, who have loved or desired the young woman describe her and their relationship with her. Written in the second person, the narratives read like conversational letters of confusion, love, concern, nostalgia, and bitterness that the lovers felt.

A single narrator holds court in each chapter and is described with a title related to the role that he/she plays in the unnamed woman’s life at different stages. Only the Butcher appears twice. People and places have no names. Only the animals do: China, India, Scapara, Layla, Gramsci. There are cities with rivers and those without.

Over the course of the nine narratives, the reader sees the woman only from the perspective of various people. The multiple perspectives move on a ‘Rashomon’ tangent and as in the movie, the readers don’t get to know the woman in her entirety; she remains incomplete, an enigma, a mere sum of perceptions. A fear of abandonment along with a need for love and the pain of loss ripple through the narratives. Perhaps that explains the lack of names which brings with them the possibility of attachment that’s longed for and yet feared.

Most of the narratives offer the protagonist in small and similar bites, something of her background, her quirks, her love for cats and origami, her fragility, the aloofness she exudes. It is only in The Lighthouse Keeper’s narrative that a side of the woman is presented that jars against the impressions gathered from the others.

The most striking feature in The Nine-Chambered Heart is the well-crafted sentences, each precise and poetic. The novella is not something that a reader would down in a single gulp but something that one would want to slowly savor. And then round back for second helpings.

Title: The Nine-Chambered Heart
Author: Janice Pariat
Genre: Novella, Literary Fiction
Publisher: The Borough Press, 2018
ISBN: 978-0008272548

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

6d382c3699df552615a1d1075335c432

image: via pinterest | a pretty accurate picture of my home

On Bengaluru Review:

Read my review of Sylvia Plath’s short story, “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom” here –

https://bengalurureview.com/2019/05/11/sylvia-plath-mary-ventura-and-the-ninth-kingdom/

On The Bookish Elf:

Three hours of book shopping and thirty-five books later this piece happened: Yoga for Bookworms

“Any bookworm worth their salt would know that reading books, buying books, and obsessing about books require physical effort. It is not all about flexing those mental muscles to plot twists and climaxes. Reading makes great demands on the body. There’s nothing sedentary about it. Enter yoga, a cure-for-all, book worming included.”

https://www.bookishelf.com/yoga-for-bookworms/

 

maxresdefault

image: youtube / slimani reading

Lullaby is the song which puts you to sleep, lose awareness, become unconscious. Its layered meaning is fully exploited by Leïla Slimani in “Lullaby,” also known by the titles “Chanson douce” and “The Perfect Nanny.” The novel begins at the end. And then it starts again, innocently enough, a child-like quality to its simple sentences told in the present tense. The steady rhythm of the sentences lull the reader to sleep, even as the novel, not so much picks up pace, but intensifies as it shifts from one point of view to the other, reconstructing lives, getting under the skin of characters.

Myriam and Paul are just another couple in Paris. Both are ambitious and both love their children, Mila and Adam. Myriam’s ambition leads her to return to work as a lawyer and the couple decide, not without apprehension, to hire a nanny for their children. Louise is the nanny of dreams, doll-like with immense strength, with her Peter Pan collar and varnished fingernails, descriptions which Slimani repeats. It is this too-good-to-be-trueness that heightens a sense of foreboding. Soon cracks – at times, vicious and at times, pitiful – begin to appear. But when things are convenient, red flags are ignored and justified, which is precisely what Myriam does.

Slimani unearths many underlying tensions in the situation: complexities of motherhood, conflicts of a working mother, loneliness, how nannies are treated, confused intimacies, and the final spiral into darkness. In the end, everyone stands guilty.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

(also here!)

20180118_152738-1

so the goal was to buy books under inr 200 and by authors i haven’t read with a little room to cheat. the result was this. © Anuradha Prasad 2018

books

Loved the narrative voice in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was like reading a movie. Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary offered more than a glimpse of the writer’s intense writing process. James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man didn’t really capture my imagination until the later pages. There were two books about genocide, a nonfiction Elie Wiesel’s Night and fiction, Edna O’Brien’s Little Red Chairs that moved between Ireland, London and Bosnia. Jack London’s The Call of the Wild evokes the inherent wildness in us. Orhan Pahmuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind takes us into the life and mind of a boza seller who married the wrong girl and loved the right one. Vivek Shanbag’s Ghachar Ghochar, a translation from the Kannada, promised Chekhov-like writing, and came with a live ant (!) Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was about how a woman turns vegetarian, taking it to the extreme, and the way she affects her husband, brother-in-law, and sister.

Andre Breton’s Nadja is surrealism personified, and Katie Daisy’s How to be a Wildflower is a vibrant treat. The insights in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own are still relevant, and the honesty and courage in Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water has made her one of my favourite writers. Read Neruda’s Selected Poems, and 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair aloud in Spanish and English to taste the textures in their entirety. Sarita Mandanna’s Tiger Hills brought alive Coorg, and there was a whiff of Gone with the Wind in its pages. Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi made me realise that this was the first book of fiction I have read that was set in Australia. I read Vita Sackville-West’s Joan of Arc the first week of May; the same time in the 15th century, Jeanne brought about the fall of Orleans. It was on May 30 that she was burnt at the stake.

Stories on screen –

movies

Telly

© Anuradha Prasad, 2017