Books not read

I have not updated this site in the longest time.  That’s because the last book I read nearly a month ago – Wuthering Heights, bugged the crap out of me, putting me off reading at all.   I feel like ranting about Wuthering Heights, but just the thought of the book makes me want to gouge my eyes out.  I am sure there are people who love the drivel, I am not one of them.Combine this with my own inefficiency both on the job and at home, which leaves me a spent force at night.  But, those are excuses for my laziness.  I need to get back to reading.

Writing this blog post as a kick in my donkey to start reading up something soon.


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The Tag

Responding to my daughter’s open tag.

Quoting her:

In this tag, a bunch of Harry Potter spells each carry a question which you have to answer. All of them are book related. I really am not sure who to tag. If any of you are interested in doing this, well, um, I officially tag you! You can do this!

1) EXPECTO PATRONUM (a childhood book connected with good memories)

Not “a” for sure.

The Prince and the Pauper (Mark Twain).  Scarlet Pimpernel (Emma Orczy). Little Women (Louisa May Alcot). The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas), A song of six pence (A. J. Cronin)

2) EXPELLIARMUS (a book that took you by surprise)

Lolita (Nabakov).  I was very squeamish about reading it, given the premise, but it is a wonderfully written book.

3) PRIOR INCANTATO (the last book you read)

Pigs have Wings (Wodehouse)

4) ALOHOMORA (a book that introduced you to a genre you hadn’t considered before)

Rendezvous with Rama (Clarke): Science fiction.

5) RIDDIKULUS (a funny book you have read)

Duh!  Wodehouse

6) SONOROS (a book you think everyone should know about)

Nope, not my style to recommend. But Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) comes to mind. And Transit of Venus (Shirley Hazard)

7) OBLIVIATE (a book or spoiler you would like to forget having read)

Never read spoilers. Book:  A Thousand Acres (Smiley)

8) IMPERIO (a book you had to read for school)

All of the answers to the first question

9) CRUCIO (a book that was painful to read)

It is too judgemental to call any book painful.  I didn’t like the following books: A Thousand Acres (Smiley).  And Vishnupuram (Tamil: Jeyamohan) .  Does not mean the books were bad.  They just didn’t appeal to me.

10) AVADA KEDAVRA (a book that can kill (interpret as you will))







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Booking the weather

Books by the English cannot NOT have an element of weather in it – rains interwoven into the story, or merely as a passing mention.  North American stories invariably feature snow. Russian stories definitely feature the cold.  Pretty sure books from the Far East talk about their weather as well.

Why don’t Indian books feature more weather?  Or do they?

The beautiful end-summer thunderstorm outside makes me wonder.

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Dry talk

I am in that awful phase where I can’t seem to settle on a book to read.  I started a Nabokov, and although I think very highly of Nabokov, I couldn’t persist.  I started Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, but got distracted. Part of the reason for the phase are my eyes that have finally got the memo about my decade and have consequently started rebelling against being taxed to read under less-than-brilliant lumen. Thus enters the pair of reading glasses with which I am yet to get comfortable.  I am unable to lie down and read because being the restless lay-er that I am, the spectacle keeps shifting and the progressively altering focus gives me a headache.  Kindle paper-white is better in that the lit screen allows me to read without glasses, but, with my erstwhile kindle having been adopted by the kid, and the cooler Kindle Voyage being shared with the significant other, I don’t feel “settled”, thus adding to the already unsettled phase of existence.  The result?  I have been re-re-re-re-watching Friends and TBBT like a zombie.  And reading at snail’s pace, Agatha Christie’s Cat among the Pigeons, which is overdue at the kid’s school library by more than a fortnight.

Which comes to the point of this post.  In every other page, someone or the other is saying something ‘dryly’. I tend to imagine scenes as I read, and I can, for the life of me, not imagine what it would be like to sound ‘dry’.   I thought it was one of the useless modern American words/phrases (‘like’, ‘OMG’, ‘postal’ etc.) that everybody has adopted now, but Christie is neither modern nor American.  So, what does it sound like when someone says something dryly?  Is there something called ‘wet’ly as well?

Yes, I know it is a figure of speech, but I would like to have an image of it to be able to imagine it when reading.  Does it mean “sarcastically”?  So why not just say “sarcastically”?

Is this a dry post?  I think so.

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Writing – Stream of Consciousness

Do people who like to read also like to write ?

Is “liking” to write the same as “needing” to write?

Is the need to write real or imaginary?

Is the need to write, merely a need to be read?

Does sound exist without a listener? Does writing work without a reader?

What is it when the need to write is matched by the inability to know what to write?

Why must imagination be held hostage by inhibition?

Is writing a skill to be learnt or is it in-born?

Who are the readers?

What do they read?

To blog or not to blog?









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Pigs have wings

There are times in my life when chemical-driven emotions throw a party in the brain.  Such times are not particularly conducive to reading a Nabokov, brilliant as it may be, and the Bronte sisters had better take their romantic drivel  words with them and hide.  Such times are best served by a Wodehouse.  Any Wodehouse.  But if it features the obese sow, Empress, you’ve hit the jackpot.

I was introduced to Wodehouse by one of my two first best friends, Shobha, when I was in eighth.  I read a Jeeves collection first and was hooked.   Studying in an all-girls convent school, and being of prudish temperament, my crushes had been restricted to characters from books (Joe Hardy, Perry Mason, etc.) and Bertie Wooster soon joined the ranks.  My father’s thirty-year old membership at the British Council library enabled me to bring home hard-bound, leather jacketed Wodehouses that smelled of old paper, dust and air conditioning, which I devoured at a time when my classmates were marking the juicy pages in M&Bs with Natraj pencils. Somewhere along the line, I read books based on Blandings castle, and my allegiance shifted from Bertie Wooster to Gally Threepwood, who, I imagined, was fashioned after the author himself, and so by extension, I developed a crush on Wodehouse, who, unfortunately had been long dead by then.

Pigs have wings has all the arrows from the Wodehouse quiver – brilliant mix of profound and banal vocabulary (“Ice formed on the butler’s upper slopes”), genius of convoluted plot, too many characters who intertwine into knots, to be untangled effortlessly in the end, complicated sentence syntaxes, interesting slangs (although the one PGW created to stay for posterity, “oomph”, does not feature in this one),  unusual allusions (“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing”), weird metaphors (“it seemed to George Cyril Wellbeloved that the end of the world had come and Judgment Day set in with unusual severity”), and detailed trivialities. There is Galahad Threepwood, the never-ageing last of the Pelicans, Lord Emsworth himself, the amiable but absent minded peer, and the  truest  love of his life, the Empress of Blandings – a serious contender in the fat pig contest, Emsworth’s sister, Connie, the bane of Blandings, the efficient butter – Beech a-la Jeeves, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, a fellow, competitive fat pig owner, and the romantic entangles of Penelope Donaldson, Jerry Vail, Orlo Vesper, Gloria Salt and Maudie, the bargirl turned detective, with romantic baggage shared with Sir Parsloe.  Only Wodehouse can save you from the delirium of so many characters and equal number of plot twists.

I can never decide if the Jeeves-Wooster collection or the Blandings collection is better in the Wodehouse repertoire.  If you add the Mulliner and the golf stories into it, you have a serious case of confusion.  Whichever is the best, Wodehouse will continue to remain my sanctuary from ennui, for its stiff upper lip humour, with which I have been raised.  Wodehouse perhaps takes me back to the days of my youth,  where it was possible to laugh out loud, unburdened by the cares of the world.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Yes, the book was released yesterday in our part of the world.  We were among the first in our city to buy it (having preordered it months earlier), and the kid, despite her fever (or perhaps because of), speed read it in less than two hours and posted a review at her blog.

Being afflicted by the same fever (thanks to the “butter beer” (aerated grape juice with ice of dubious origin) we had for breakfast yesterday at the Harry Potter themed event in our backyard mall), I finished reading the book as well.  While I may not say anything too different from my daughter, here goes my “review” of it.

While I am a hardcore advocate of reading books before watching on-screen or on-stage adaptations, especially of the Harry Potter series, I have to reverse my opinion for The Cursed Child.  If at all the play is staged in your part of the world, watch it first before reading the script.  While the premise of the play is interesting, reading the script is like drinking salt water to quench your thirst.  Leaves you completely dissatisfied.  However, we don’t have too much of choice in our neighbourhood – the play will never be staged here, or if it is, it would be too expensive for middle class attendance and we have to settle for the script of the play.

I am not against reading play scripts.  Oscar Wilde continues to be my favourite play writer and Salome and the Importance of being Earnest are all-time greats.  As script, Cursed Child falls terribly short in its extremely jumpy and sketchy progression.  Agreed that the play has been written to fit into a certain time duration – say two hours, and it has to be racy, but for all the hype the HP franchise generates all over the world, the authors could have expanded the script more for publishing as book.  The first three years of Hogwarts life are too rapid and could have just as well been a narrator’s voice reciting the details rather than scenes.  It is a little irritating to read quarter page scenes, followed by quarter page scene breaks.

While as an adult, I see that the HP stories (the seven original ones) have many plot holes and imbecilities (e.g. why make the triwizard cup a portkey to bring HP to the graveyard and run this whole charade of Triwizard tournament?  Much easier to have one of the death eaters kidnap HP and bring him there, no?  Lots of them in every book), I agree that the series itself is very entertaining, if you just remove the critical eye of an adult reader.  The stories are fantastic, fun and touching.  But where Rowling scores big time is in characterisation.  Her characters – every single one of them – are so beautifully developed that even half way through the series, you feel like you know them well in person.  The growth and evolution of each character through the seven years is also natural – children growing into adolescents and being thrust into adulthood earlier than necessary has been handled very elegantly.

This is where I feel that The Cursed Child failed.  The characters are too sketchy and almost cardboard.  The carry-over characters – Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny are very shallow, and one must superimpose the H,H,R and G from the earlier novels into this to get a grip on their actions.  Minerva is probably the only carry-over character who has come out strong (even if brief) in this novel.  Harry’s remorse about all the people who died for him in the great war is very superficial.  In fact, his heartbreak at Cedric’s death was better brought out in the Order of the Phoenix.

Hermione is much less “warm” in this one than she is as a youngster – middle age does not seem to agree with her.  Ron has been portrayed as a clown and a side-kick to Harry and Hermione – much like the movies of the HP series, but unlike the seven books where Ron was much better characterised as a solid and serious friend. The part where history is altered, and Ron is married to Padma but has vague midlife back-burner feelings for the single Hermione is cute.  Portrait Dumbledore is irritating – he says nothing of any consequence but interrupts the already disjoint flow of story.  Snape is, as usual, the melting candle – he sacrifices himself to save the Potter family.  Not as touching as his original death. The writers have taken extreme pains to portray Draco Malfoy as a nice guy, but it seemed that the younger Draco was more real than this transformed cardboard Draco.  Talking of Draco, that part about him insulating his sickly wife and baby is fuzzy – why withdraw them from public?  Not convincing there.  Where is Hagrid (except in the flashback)?  Where is Neville? Where is Luna?  Tsk tsk.

Of the “new” characters, Scorpius Malfoy takes the cake – very endearing (sickly so, sometimes) and is the real hero of the book.  Albus Potter is the quintessential middle child – not the confident first-born nor the baby, trying to break free from the shadows of famous parents.   It seems a little weird that a “great” school like Hogwarts would allow house-hatred to such proportions as described.  Considering that Harry himself assured Albus that one of the bravest men he knew was in Slytherin, I am not sure why there would be so much whiplash against Albus being in Slytherin.  It also seemed that JKR and her co-authors were not in agreement over whether or not to make Albus and Scorpius an “item”, because they do behave like they have a crush on each other, but end the story rather lamely with Scorpius asking Rose out – although Scorpius seems to have a crush on Rose since the beginning as well.    Umm…I see some sex identity problems there.

In The Big Bang Theory, there is one episode where Amy would point out obvious plot holes that bring the entire Indiana Jones franchise crumbling.  The plot hole on which Cursed Child is built is this – [[spoiler alert]] if Delphi being what she is,  had access to the time turner through a highly immature Albus,  who was tied around her little finger anyway, all she had to do was confound/curse him, steal the time turner,  go by herself to whichever time period she wanted, and reverse history.  No need for the elaborate charade of letting Albus and Scorpius go through with their Triwizard Tournament trips and muck ups.  Of course, we wouldn’t have a play or a script that probably fetched the authors a hell lot of money then.  So, let us gloss over the plot hole and move on.

If you are a HP fan, and have (repeatedly) read and watched the HP franchise, this will complete your collection.  I am not sure if The Cursed Child would do anything more to the HP story.  Pottermore and fanfiction are probably better than The Cursed Child to quench your HP thirst.






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