Archive for the ‘books etc.’ Category

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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

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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/

 

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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!)

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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

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There were many stories…told, listened to, read, watched, imagined, written.

 Print:

  • Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye – on being bullied
  • Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying – on finding your identity as a woman
  • Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth – on trying to find a place in society as a woman
  • Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost – on the many ways of being lost
  • Jonas Jonasson’s The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – on travelling with nukes and being a math genius
  • Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – on unusual adventures

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  • Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Small Backs of Children – on war, inside us and outside us
  • Patrick Suskind’s Perfume – on murder and scents
  • Hiromi Kawakami’s Strange Weather in Tokyo – on an unconventional love story
  • Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer – on being a writer and broke in Paris
  • Banana Yoshimoto’s Asleep – on the many ways we sleep
  • Abeer Hoque’s Olive Witch – on cultural identities

Screen:

  • Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde
  • Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette
  • Spike Jonze’s Adaptation
  • Bernardo Bertolucci ‘s Stealing Beauty
  • Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight
  • Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers

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  • Woody Allen’s Café Society
  • Mary Harron’s I Shot Andy Warhol
  • Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys
  • Park Chan-wook ‘s The Handmaiden
  • Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes
  • Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere
  • O.J: Made in America

And live at the Ruhaniyat 2016, Nohon Shumarov –

whitman-anuradha

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

It is good to get back to reading. To fall in love with words once again, so much so that they give me goose bumps. To become so immersed in the characters that I am a part of them, feel their exhilaration, pain, love and experience every facet of human nature.

I am currently reading Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits and aching to get back to it. Just a few days ago, I finished Of Love and Shadows and am already a fan of Allende. Maybe I will pick up Eva Luna tomorrow – the blurb sounds promising.

Of Love and Shadows (De amor y de sombre) was about well, love in the shadow of military rule in a Latin American country.

Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger (which won the Booker) is about a historian Claudia, who is dying of cancer and plots a book on nothing less than the history of the world woven with the story of her life and the love she finds and loses in the desert during the war.

Both writers, Allende and Lively, bring in elements from their own lives into their books. Lively was born in Egypt and in Moon Tiger, Claudia recalls her days in Egypt. It is interesting to read how history is remembered.

Penelope Lively

Allende was a journo and is related to the Chilean president Salvador Allende who was overthrown in a coup, after which she was in exile. In Of Love and Shadows Irene is a journo and the love story is set against the political upheaval in the country. Irene eventually flees the country to save her life with Francisco, carrying in her heart the hope to return.

Isabel Allende

There are many ways to return and to remember one’s history, I suppose.

It was a full house as fans, age no bar, showed up in full force to get up close and personal with their favourite author Ruskin Bond at the Crossword Bookstore in Frazer Town for the launch of his book, The Adventures of Rusty, a collection of short stories, published by Penguin India.

The author fielded questions from the audience with easy humour. He talked about his writing, reading choices, life in the hills, Harry Potter and his overzealous efforts to plant a kiss on Priyanka Chopra during the shooting of Saath Khoon Maaf, which was based on his story, Susanna’s Seven Husbands. A few students read his poems and Bond enthralled his fans with a new poem, Hip Hop Nature Boy.

During his brief stay in Bangalore, he visited Lalbagh and Koshy’s. He recalled an historical account of Bangalore that he had written for the Bangalore Golf Club, a decade ago. As he drifted back to the hills, his sanctuary, he said he loved to stay in bed for an extra few minutes every morning to bask in the warmth of the sun streaming through the window, a warmth he seems to take with him wherever he goes.

Work has taken over life the past two months. Managed to squeeze in three movies, one whole book (with three in progress), swapped fashion mags for Lonely Planet and Geo, daydreamed about the perfect life, almost planned a trip to Paris…The urge to survive, to live and love is pushing up to the surface. Again. And i like it.

Black Swan was spookily beautiful. Kudos to Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder and Vincent Cassel. Nina, the ballerina, striving to nail the act. Beth, the has-been. Thomas pushing boundaries. The sexually confident and langurous Lily. Erica, the overbearing mother. Control. Obsession.Repression. Perfection. Insanity. And the Black Swan coming alive. No boundaries between what’s real and what’s hallucination. Magnifique!

Sadly, i followed this up with Saath Khoon Maaf. The only bit that i liked was that song that begins with ‘Daaaarrrrrling’. Spolier alert – Priyanka Chopra doing the sufi whirling with Jesus Christ? Oh, c’mon!

A few weeks later, watched Rio but in 2D. It wasn’t as witty or wicked as Ice Age. But was colourful. My favourite part? Blu and Jewel flying over Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

I read Julian Barnes’ Before She Met Me. It was funny but with a psychological slant to it. A man who tracks down all his wife’s B-grade movies and the men she slept with before she met him. This obsession spirals into depression. The laughs become lesser and lesser until it is no laughing matter.

I am reading and enjoying The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

To Paris! Someday…i will come home to you.