Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Soloist by Mark Salzman

Nope, it is not the movie based on the life of Juillard's alumni and homeless musician Nathaniel Ayers which indeed is a compelling story. This rather is the book by Mark Salzman about a child prodigy who failed to blossom into the great Cellist that he was to be. Renne Sundheimer's present life is sort of aimless. He rigidly practices everyday on his cello, yet doubts of ever being able to give a concert. At this time a young Korean boy, Kyung-hee enters his life who reminds him a little bit of himself. This gives his life a momentum that wasn't there before despite his own misgivings. The interesting part is how Salzman has managed to weave into this fabric, the a murder trial of a Buddhist (Zen) monk during which Renne sits on the jury. The background of the murderer's life unfolded through the trial makes Renne more aware of how his own life is lived. Salzman talks at length of Zen myths and facts without it getting too complicated or out of place. Looking into more of his other books I see that he does add an extra dimension like this to most of his books. A serious author and a successful story teller is a wonderful find and Salzman is one. Having lived in China, having played Cello etc. must play a part in his writing.

The whole music part reminded me of my own feeble attempts to learn Indian Classical Music during my post undergrad days while waiting to get word on higher studies. The teacher was kind but much as he tried he could not bring himself to encourage me beyond what courtesy dictated. I got the message but since I had a few cohorts in the same boat we kept with it till the master just couldn't take it anymore and got himself transferred:-) Don't get me wrong though, The Soloist is all about true talent and how one so endowed lives with the hand he's been dealt.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Joanne Dobbson - A Mystery Writer of Interest

Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and in later college years, Robert Ludlum (The Bourne books) . There you have it. These are the authors I needed for my mystery fix. Even now I am perfectly happy reading these guys or watching related movies. Daphne Du Maurier can be mysterious but I love her for the style of writing rather. I believe I have read other mysteries but cannot bring them to memory at present. "The Hound of Baskervilles" can give me the chills even now. Of course any Hitchcock movies could do that too. Edgar Allan Poe has a vague place somewhere in there.

Hordes of 'Kottayam Pushpanath' stories brought home by my brothers from the local Malayalam Library is probably what started it all. Although his stories were populist with no credible storyline or a specific style to cry for, they served to instill a craving for the mystery in the young me. How can I ever forget the "woman who looked like a statue of Venus in the dim candle light and of Detective Pushparaj always suddenly needing to break his car while driving on the narrow and dangerous Carpathian Mountain Ranges to find a dead body blocking the road while wolves were howling in the distance?" My sister and I used to have lots of fun making up similar stories by mixing and matching many such lines from those books...

Like I mentioned before, the team that stocked up our Library seem to be kindred spirits. Encouraged by my many recent finds, I decided to stop by the Mystery section this time on a fast run in and out trip there. My eyes locked on author Joanne Dobbson's collection of books. Women writers of the 19th century and set in a college campus were enough to get me interested. Took two books and liked both for the simple mystery and romance and this most interesting way this author -who is also a University Professor - has found to introduce American women writers from the 19th century of whom very little is known to the general public. As she says here, the most popular of them - Emily Dickinson - couldn't have just been born into the literary world all on her own without any predecessors. It is this author's mission in life to use the medium of her books and other tools to make these unknown and brave group of writers better known to the world. I congratulate her on this and she has completely succeeded in getting me interested in these early pioneers.

The books I read and others are listed here. Since the characters seem to have continuance, it might be better to read them in chronological order. Either way these books are fast and easy reads with interesting nibbles of info on American women writers of .. you know... 19th century. This also brought back to memory the fictionalized book I have at home based on Emily Dickinson's life that I enjoyed immensely. "The Diary Of Emily Dickinson" by Jamie Fuller.