Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two Movies & Books Galore!

No matter what else is going on, book reading is the one thing that is constant here in Vaayanasaala. But let me briefly mention these two movies before I go on to the books. First is Sridevi's English Vinglish that I had watched with my 8 year old daughter. She loved it too and we both wanted to get our hands on some yummy ladoos afterwards. I should really say Gauri Shinde's 'English Vinglish' because the movie shined in the debutante director's hands. It is loosely based on her Mom I believe. Sridevi acted without fanfare and was a pleasure to watch. I'd always been a fan of Sridevi. The second movie, Life Of Pi was watched by the four of us. Thoroughly enjoyed it. For a short excited moment at the very beginning I thought the background song  (Pi's lullaby) was in Malayalam but soon realized it was in Tamil. My kannan took to heart the antics of the young Indian boy called Pi from Pondicherry. My molu couldn't sit through the tragic storm scenes without crying. Well made movie. I guess that is what we have come to expect from director Ang Lee.

Now to the books. For the sake of brevity I will try not to preach too much on each.

A Severed Wasp By Madeleine L'Engle
L'Engle is a household name esp in children's literature. Her books can be enjoyed by the young and old alike. My son had liked her "A Wrinkle In Time" as I had hoped. Naturally I wanted to read more of this author. This story takes place in an aged Episcopalian Cathedral in subrban New York. Retired pianist Katherine Forrester and the people she meet in her retirement are central to the story.All are connected to the dark Gothic styled cathedral in one way or another! Mystery, entertainment, lovable characters, engaging story line.. . It is all there. L'Engle did not disappointment. Reminded me of the 'Da Vinci Code' sans the controversy. Don't get me wrong, I read the Da Vinci Code without putting it down and have my inner scope turned on for any Merovingian bloodline sightings:-)

Here is a passage from the 'Wasp'  that creeped me out but kept me going: "He-George Orwell, not Dave- talks about a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp. He was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him. It is the same with modern man, and there was a period-twenty years, perhaps-during which he did not notice it. It was absolutely necessary that the soul be cut away. Religious belief, in the form that we had known it, had to be abandoned".

Here is another: "For we glory in tribulation, knowing that from tribulation comes patience, and from patience comes experience, and from experience comes hope".

The genius of L'Engle brings it all together beautifully by the end of the book. Both the idea and the story.

Anna Quindlen's Lots Of Candles and Plenty Of Cake  
Anna Quindlen first came into my acquaintance through a movie. One True Thing starring Meryl Streep. I loved the movie and had taken note of the author whose book it was based on. It was with pleasure then that I took this memoir by Ms. Quindlen to read. I enjoyed it and finished it in two days! This first paragraph from her book sums it all up: "It is odd when I think of the arc of my life, from child to young woman to aging adult. First I was who I was. Then I didn't know who I was. Then I invented someone and became her. Then I began to like what I'd invented. And finally I was what I was again." Isn't that wonderful? This is a looking back into her life while she is still fully active but at a good place to write such a book. Many insights and observations are right on the money for me. Go Quindlen!

The End Of Your Life Book Club By Will Schwalbe
If ever a lover of books wanted a memoir by one of her kids, this has got to be it. Will Schwalbe shares the camaraderie that he enjoyed with his Mom over books. Especially how it helped them to keep the conversation going when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was undergoing treatments. Oh such a book! I loved every aspect of it... Knowing about all the books mother and son discussed and seeing how some of the books drew parallels from their lives or vice versa was a treat. It is a detailed tribute to a much admired mother from a son through books, books and books. If you love books you will love this book about books and families. A keeper of a book!

Geoffrey Eugenide's Marriage Plot
 This author is a proven storyteller and I knew with confidence that I will like this book as I had his Middlesex and Virgin Suicides. Just one more feather to this accomplished writer's cap.

Blood Of Flowers
By Anita Amirrezvani

Amirrezvani's book tells the story of a girl around 14 who was partially orphaned when her father dies and her engagement fell through. This unnamed heroine's life is set in 17th century Iran and the medium of her redemption is through carpet making. Flowers became a part of it because the rug makers got the dye for yarns from flowers and plants. The girl and her mom left their village with empty hands to the city where her father's step brother lived. They were of course treated just a little above the level of servants. Her uncle was the chief rug maker to Shah Abbas and lived close to the palace. The author chose this period on purpose so that the story takes place in a less contentious time for this embattled nation. Shah Abbas's time in Iran was the golden age,  a time when there was peace and prosperity and arts and architecture flourished. 'The Image Of The World' was completed during this Shah's time and is an important focal point in the story while our heroine goes around it in pursuit of the life handed out to her. Through perseverance and her love and talent in carpet making she was able to survive. I wasn't quite satisfied with the ending but that will not be an excuse to put this down. I think I am getting into the habit of identifying too much with the characters and get disappointed when it all ends. Time to get some real world friends time. This is why I immediately responded to my friend's suggestion for a lunch the other day despite being busy at work.  Both  food and company were excellent. Guess what we talked about? Yup, books!

The Art Of Racing In The Rain By Garth Stein

Dogs are quite lovable creatures and I hope one day to get one here like I had at home. Our narrator is a dog. And what a dog he is! Enzo is old and feeble and is revisiting his entire life lived with his beloved master Denny. Every line is a tribute to this master who was the center of his life.

Denny was a race car driver when he met Enzo. This dog is a human wannabe. That's right. He wants to be a human and thinks some mistake was made when he was created. Not only that, he hopes to be reborn as a human if possible! He is frustrated when he cannot articulate and is reduced to barking especially when his head is swirling with things to say. He knows how to race just like his master from being in his car and from the hundreds of videos he watched on TV. For a race car driver one of the most difficult things to manage is to race when it rains. Enzo's Denny has mastered this and therefore has an advantage when it comes to racing in the rain. Enzo was with the family through thick and thin and as you read, you envy Denny for having this very human like dog in his life. There is a phrase that we see repeated often: "that which you manifest is before you". This has helped both master and dog overcome many setbacks in their respective lives. A very interesting book to read. I almost forgot to mention Garth Stein. Such is the force of his characters!

Yes Chef By Marcus Samuelsson
Members of our household are diehard fans of the food network. Chopped, Next Iron Chef, Next Food Network Star etc are only some of the shows that we watch. Kids joined rather reluctantly, but they have come to enjoy the various facets of cooking. The aspects of owning a restaurant, getting the right ingredients for good food, being disciplined etc are some things that come through all the hoopla around food. I do wonder about the abundance of food that makes this kind of network a reality. But many countries are catching up or are already  bringing the saga of food to the idiot box and it is a reality show I can stomach, pun intended:-) What I am trying to say with all this is how I heard about Chef Samuelsson. It happened when he came on as a judge in Chopped. His quite and confident demeanor and the broad knowledge of cooking were quite captivating. I read this autobiography to get to know the man more and I liked what I read. He was born in Ethiopia, brought up in Sweden along with his sister and cooked in a few countries before settling down as a chef/restaurant owner in the USA. Add TV personality to that and we get a decent idea of the man. Told in a simple and forthright manner, I was able to finish the book in a very short time. Lessons of hardwork, perseverance, obedience, focus etc. are found a plenty in this book. The man is driven and we see how being driven and working hard is important to achieve one's goals.

The Language Of Flowers By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This book of flowers is a true beauty and tells the story of Victoria Jones who grew up in foster homes
and eventually released from the system at 18 years of age. I finished it in 1-2 sittings. This is Vanessa Diffenbaugh's first book. She carries the novel on her able shoulders to the very end with the control and ease of a veteran. Victoria had a chance to learn the language of flowers in one of her foster homes and carried it forward despite her slack circumstances. The practice of adding meaning to flowers apparently started in the Victorian era through romantic poems. Lovers interpreted what was in each other's hearts through the flowers being exchanged. I really loved the way in which Victoria and a young man she met at the flower market in San Francisco were able to express their feelings though the flowers they gave each other. How very romantic! Ah.... the hidden romantic in me surfaced there for a moment and went hiding again:-) The book in this link is given an accompaniment to Diffenbaugh's book. Ultimately this is the story of Victoria's resilience in the face of adversity despite having grown up in an impersonal system. Diffenbaugh puts her money where the mouth is and has co-founded a network for foster children called Camellia Network. Among all the meanings, the one that most surprised and disappointed was the meaning 'hatred' assigned to basil and the best was 'remembrance' for rosemary. Now I wish to leave you all with a bouquet of jonquils for 'affection' and a bouquet of cattails for 'peace and prosperity'.

Don't I mean it when I say books galore? These should keep you guys going till New Year. Ciao until then my buddies.