Friday, December 17, 2010

Year of the Book #37 HARPER LEE

“In surveys asking what one book every civilized person should read, Mockingbird routinely finishes second to the Bible…”

If To Kill a Mocking Bird were a tree, it would be a “perennial” and for so many reasons.

No matter how many times you have already read it, you can read it again and it is as if you were reading it for the very first time. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – the connection is instant.  Scout and Jem and Atticus and even poor Boo Radley are folks we know, not characters in a book. But most of all, it’s a book that is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago when Harper Lee wrote it and as it will be till such time as we learn that there is room enough on this good earth for everyone of us.

“I think there's just one kind of folks.  Folks.” Scout

One of the many joys of doing this series is discovering new things about old favourites. For example, I did not know that Harper Lee was not only a close friend of Truman Capote but that she also helped him in the research of In Cold Blood.

To Kill A Mocking Bird was Harper Lee’s only book. It was enough.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Year of the Book #36 Dorothy L Sayers

I was in love with “Lord Peter Wimsey” for the longest time. (I guess I still am, in a residual sort of way – it’s a weakness for the British Upstairs folk.) Even when I knew that he held a long-standing candle for oh-so-elegant “Harriet Vane”

Peter Death Bredon Wimsey. Younger son of the 15th Duke of Denver, scion of a family that traces it ancestry to the 12th century.

His “vaguely foolish” face and deliberately cultivated idle-fop-about-town with a Bertie-Wooster IQ level belies a 1st class degree  from Oxford, fluency in French & Latin, a penchant for rare medieval manuscripts, vintage cars and wine, a considerable flair at the piano (Bach being a favourite).

The word “sleuth” comes to the lips with difficulty to describe such a man, but that is also what he is – what Hercule Poirot was to Agatha Christie, Peter Wimsey was to Dorothy L Sayer’s enormously successful series of detective novels. It is said that if anyone could dare to compete with Christie’s success, it was Sayers

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Year of the Book Day 35 - John Irving

"Whatever I write, no matter how gray or dark the subject matter, it's still going to be a comic novel." John Irving

When a book or a poem or for that matter, any piece of writing etches itself inside you, what you often remember is not specificities but defining essence, like the memory of a peppercorn bursting in your mouth or the smell of your mother…

So it is with The World According to Garp and Cider House Rules. The residual memory is of  a sad sweetness, of landscapes people as damaged and dysfunctional as any of us but never desolate because of Irving’s take on life, which if it wasn’t so funny, would be devastating.

Or “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Year of the Book

You’d think – what would the case histories of a professor of neurology who records have to do with literature? Well, if ever you wanted to read the most  fascinating yet the most empathetic chronicling of the human mind on the fringes of what we can “normal”, Oliver Sacks is the man to read.

Sacks  himself suffers from prosopagnosia, an inability to recognise faces and places and perhaps  we could speculate that it gave him a ringside seat. But I think not. The remarkable quality about his writing is that it is, in many ways, the perfect “beside manner” – the ability to objectively and clinically record the patient’s disease without letting his sympathy for the patient’s suffering come in the way.

Awakenings, Sacks’ book became a bestseller and the inspiration for Harold Pinter’s A Kind of Alaska. (It also became an Oscar winning film starring Robert De Niro 7 Robin Williams, but in my opinion, not a patch on the book.) Many other books followed including The Man who Mistook His Wfe For A Hat and most recently, Musicophilia: Tales of Music, the Brain and The Mind’s Eye (2010).

My book update

My book is selling on Amazon – for 25 $!!!!

Cow Sense!

They are the most unlovable of my neighbours, and believe you me, that’s a very large breed. And one of their most endearing qualities – and they have many; in fact too many-many-many-many – is the way they dispose off their garbage.

Now the boring rest-of-us park our garbage every morning near our respective gates, which is then neatly collected by the city municipality's garbage collecting squad. Neat, but like i said, boring.

But these neighbours choose to handle their garbage in a manner that is, as the Hindi phillum phrodoocer would say, zaraa hatke. It also showcases their heightened sense of neighbourliness, which while it might not be next to Godliness, is important. (Moses just forget to pencil it in into that Samsung galaxy tablet of his.) So, they first pack their daily load of garbage into a plastic bag, making sure the bag is the flimsiest of flimsy. Then, the tie up the bag and toss it over the compound wall onto the road.

All of which shows an extraordinary amount of the aforementioned neighbourliness because before long, the bag is ripped open by passing stray dogs and the garbage is artistically strewed all over the road. As we are all aware, there is nothing like the sight of freshly rotting garbage first thing in the morning to get those bowels moving. And even better if you slush through a strategically placed piece of banana peel during your morning walk.

But that I’m over the moon about my neighbours is not why I write this.

This morning, it was business as usual. The garbage potli has been flung, properly positioned and waiting. As I muttered angrily under my breath and watered the plants, a cow ambled past me, towards the bag…

Now urban cows are well adjusted to their environment and  therefore no stranger to plastic.  So, while plastic bags may not be the choice of bovine provender, these cows have found ingenious ways to get past and through them to – alas, to the garbage which they have learnt to “acquire a taste for” . Like the rest of us in the urban world. But this was a plastic bag that was tightly tied up, so I reckoned the cow would just walk past.

But I had not reckoned for a cow as ingenious as this one!

As I watched in fascinatedly, she picked up the bag by one of the handles that had been firmly tied together and with a dexterity that reminded me of a burlesque queen twirling her nipple tassels, Ms Cow  began to whirl her head round and round And boom, within a few seconds, the plastic bag burst open and its odiferous innards spewed on to the road.

Fortunately, they weren’t the breakfast she was looking for, because she sniffed, examined and moved on…

My point is this – human intelligence is overrated.