Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On My Way

A fragrance permeates my head
when I see this Gulmohur tree,
from under which we boarded bus
and went to school carefree.

The tree was stumps for our cricket
while waiting for the bus to come,
but often without a bat or ball,
under it many a song we’d hum.

My stamp collection, his trump-cards,
her Barbie: our world collective.
Those on-impulse created rival camps,
those next day’s steps corrective.

Those steps succeeded without fail,
till we moved apart in space;
being better now outdid being good,
and we bettered at monstrous pace.

In place of those unreasoned smiles,
we braced an unreasonable scoff;
so much time spent getting better,
and are we really better off ?

In bettering, I got you, my job,
and of my debts to you, the main,
is that by driving to your premises,
I am now passing this tree again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stuff of thought

Of the pieces I read passing time on the internet, I really found the following all interesting, if not all great:

The Art of Failure - Malcom Gladwell - Really insightful piece on the subtle difference between panicking and choking.

Eternal Vigilance - Keith Gessen - Pure Orwell, pure wonder.

The Fuehrer obsession with Art - interview - On Hitler's tryst with artistic genius.

This is your brain on Kafka - A rather absurd promotion of absurdist literature.

Autism as an Academic Paradigm - Insightful towards the middle and end.

Good Books Don't Have To Be Hard - Lev Grossman - Right. Hard books may, may not be good; light books may, may not be good.

Blood, Sweat and Words - Joseph Epstein - Wonderfully written piece, and astutely articulated arguments.

The Capitalist Manifesto: Greed is Good - Fareed Zakaria - This guy's a stud as far as writings on economics for normal people go.

Think Again : Asia's Rise - Minxin Pei - H'm, points to ponder over.

The Age of Commodified Intelligence - George Balgobin - Interesting stuff on the need of people to appear something, rather than become.

A.C.Grayling's Review of "'The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life Paul Dirac', by Graham Farmelo" - Awesome awesome awesome.

All titles mentioned have been presented as links to the pieces.

September Rain

It is the season of harvest,
you the farm looking its best,
and I am raindrops thick,
falling for you, like a prick,
at an inopportune time.

Those days are gone,
when seeds were sown,
And I, entrapped by clouds,
eluded you, stuck in my shrouds,
writing some bogus rhyme.

Lurking almost midway now,
my reluctant weight somehow
acquiesces to the winds’ blowing:
lands on your border knowing
that it must avert this crime.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Black Swan Green

Book reviews are supposed to be written from a disinterested standpoint, they are supposed to stay between hyperbole and underplaying, avoid hero-worship and personal prejudices alike. Most of all they must be restrained. Restrain, in particular, I cannot bring in my appraisal of Black Swan Green, or in writing of David Mitchell's superhuman talents that shine through his oeuvre of just four novels. His previous novels, which made the world of literature stand up and applaud his pathbreaking contributions, were also exercises in complex pyrotechnics - they brought together several remarkable, seemingly disparate tales all set in completely different worlds and eras by startling connections which would be found when the reader would least expect, or look for them; his narratives were always inventive - a minor character in one tale of a novel emerges as the narrator of some subsequent one in the novel - or - complex chronology of events which goes back in time step by step only to come back step by step to the present, or even to the future, among other boggling things. Black Swan Green, in complete contrast, is a straight story of a boy of thirteen, and of thirteen months in his life. It looks like an experiment in going one eighty degrees from his mastery, but even if it is, it beats seasoned writers of dense, concentrated, one-life tales on a lot of counts.

Jason Taylor, the protagonist, is a boy who is undemonstrative, shy, somewhat timid. He reminds me of Swami in RK Narayan's 'Swami and Friends' but also, he reminds me of myself, the one who was thirteen year old, because in so many years the two of you - the present you and the thirteen year old you almost appear like two different persons. Of course, in actuality, 'you never change who you are', just to quote Rocky, weirdly, from the movie I saw when I was thirteen. Now I am really getting an irking feeling this isn't turning out to be a book-review, of all things. Heck, I am not sending it to some literary journal, so who cares.

I would not say the story is unbelievable, and that's a thing that, for me, goes for it rather than against it. It is not a novel of artificial thrills, of twists, of walloping coincidences. In stead, it is a true from T to E photoshoot inside the mind and heart of the character.

Among the ideas it explores, of note is the one chapter devoted to his stammer. The novel will thankfully bring a lot of people to understand the plight of kids growing up with speech impediments, for it is something that hasn't adequately been dissected in literature, except to evoke sadist humour. The faint revelation that many more people than those openly identified as stammerers are those who have just come to working arrangements for passing it all okay, is particularly important for public information. Jason's life, as anyone else's, is a web of small troubles, but what is so endearing to me about it is that he invokes your sympathy/empathy without inviting it.

David Mitchell has come to be regarded as a master ventriloquist, after he took the voice of such diverse narrators with clinical precision in all his stories. In Black Swan Green, he is near perfect as a thirteen year old kid wanting not to be a kid. Which is a great thing, but not if you are someone who has been pitch perfect in your previous attempts. However, on instances on which he deviates from his usual early-teenager voice, he also delights. His John Banvillian imaginative influences pour out spoiling the unifying, childish voice, and you sit wondering if that particular sentence is apt from the mouth of a thirteen year old. Sometimes, I concede, they are not. 'Listening's reading if you close your eyes', ‘Sunlight on waves is drowsy tinsel.’, ‘Rooks craw … craw … crawed, like old people who’ve forgotten why they’ve come upstairs.’ - to point out just a few.

I won't reveal the plot for I would rather want people to read it for themselves. It is not for me, however, to recommend Black Swan Green for reading, for that should come out of one's own volition, but I would say that it commands, yes that's the word, reading, out of its own strengths. Twice.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


It’s after a good two and a half months today that I have been home-alone, and what makes it better is that I have been unoccupied by any duties whatsoever today. While days like this came aplenty in my life prior to these two and a half months, it feels somewhat more awesome today; which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy them before. I've liked being idle and home-alone since as long back as I can remember, and, oh yes, I understand fully well that admissions like this one sprinkle, rightly or wrongly I cannot say, raunchy undertones all around them. Once I was telling a friend about it, and he immediately made a funny face and labeled me a closeted pervert. On the outside, I responded by laughing out loud which, naturally, was the normal thing to do; on the inside, however, a few seconds of involuntary deliberation confirmed to me that there was little, if any at all, perception, and further, no novelty in his conclusion. We are all perverts (while being closeted is just a byproduct) and those who are seemingly not, are what but just a little more efficiently closeted ones.

After much delay, I finally got my copy of Black Swan Green today which will reach me in an hour and I am looking forward to reading it more than anything I’ve looked forward to doing in some two and a half months now. Further, how much I like it could present me with a topic for my next post, and at least save me the pain of writing a personal post the next time I decide to blog my time away. I quickly scrolled through my blog archives moments ago, and was surprised almost to disbelief at how freely and indiscriminately I doled out tomes of humbug on what I think and what I’ve been doing, for years and years – the same things that now seem to me to be the most difficult, and slightly uncalled-for things to write about.

I keep taking these pseudo shots at writing verse from time to time, with the weird intention to ensure that there be no month in my archives which does not have a post to itself, and apparently that does not make for a great motivation behind writing verse: on the contrary it makes writing any verse very clumsy, and writing any worse very difficult. And then you feel like removing them, which defeats the initial purpose too.