Monday, April 8, 2013

Two Books

The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro

I sat straight up on the seat. Couldn't believe my ears! The car radio is indeed talking about the Gardner Museum heist. Such a coincidence! I had just about finished reading a book based on it. Barbara Shapiro’s book was finished in one sitting not just for the mystery element but for the wonderful foray into the world of art. It was about forgeries mostly but I find myself unable to resist anything that provides information on classics. Be it art, music or books for that matter! The story starts off with a mention of the famous and heretofore unsolved art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 23 years ago. It adds an imaginary Degas painting to the original list of stolen artworks. The rest of the story is built upon this Degas painting. Such imagination can only lead to a good story. Shapiro has done well.

And it really was on NPR news on March 18, 2013, the 23rd anniversary of the heist! The news was that the FBI now knows the criminals who did it but has no idea where the stolen paintings are. I do hope they will be returned to the museum where they belong. Isabella G is thought to be one of the first art collectors in the US and a pioneering woman at that. I would like her museum to get the paintings back.

Joseph Anton- A Memoir by Salman Rushdie

Any Salman Rushdie book is fair game one way or another. You might hate the man or love him but his writing genius is indisputable. I finished this hardbound book in one sitting! Reminded me of when I was reading Marquez's memoir. Engagingly written, great pain is taken to express his thought process while writing the book that started all the controversy. I have not read that book but I can see that perhaps most people who opposed it also never read it? To be honest I just didn't like the title and may not ever read it. But reading this book written about the life he lived in hiding under the name of Joseph Anton is worth it. It takes one into the writer's mind. Quite an intelligent and well read mind, mind you:-). It starts off with Rushdie's english education, the loss of his part of India during partition and the various phases of his career as a writer. The main focus however is on his life as Joseph Anton spent running away from place to place under police protection in England. I was surprised to find that he had to find, rent and pay for all the hiding places himself although his level of threat was second only to that of the Queen. He seems to have a keen memory based on how he explains each small incident so vividly. He also puts himself in the other person's shoe almost all the time in an effort to find the reasoning behind all the madness. I do hope to read his universally acclaimed novel  Midnight's Children one day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Here are a few more....

About 5 years ago on that fateful day I created this blog. The first year went by, the third year went by. This is the beginning of the sixth year. This year could go by any time. After this, comes the seventh year…….

No I haven't gone bonkers. At least not yet! I hope instead you have caught on to the last book I read. Yup, the’ I Am Number Four series. All 3 of them in 3 nights! Not being a tween or a teen, I skipped generously on the war parts especially when pikens and krauls joined the Mogs. After 'The Hunger Games' there is only so much one can stomach! Despite the violence, the story is interesting and I did really want to know what happened to numbers four, five, six, seven etc. Eight being found in India was definitely fun. My son loves it when I read one of his current favorites. So he was overjoyed that I tried to read all three books. The author/authors appeared mysterious under the pseudonym 'Pittacus Lore' until I did some research (wikipedia). Pittaccus Lore is in fact the name of a founder of the nation type of character in the book! Turns out one of the two authors is James Frey who is not a stranger to bestselling books. The second author is a young adult named Jobie Hughes whom Frey apparently had fired in the midst of writing the book. Frey has some controversies to his name because his very first memoir was not so much of a memoir. But the guy is a great story teller. I guess he can't help it if his imagination catches fire even when writing about himself :-) The books are very entertaining and will hold the interest of its intended audience without doubt.

Now to the adult books. No! Not those kinds of adult books! I mean the regular stuff we all can get to. Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth was an unexpected disappointment. I like this author so the disappointment was double fold. I just could not get through all that without getting sleepy. Despite having a secret service background it moves very slowly and I just couldn’t get interested in the details. Sorry McEwan. You know I am a fan. I will read your books again but with a little less expectation so I won't feel so let down. 

Ann Tyler's 'Beginner's Goodbye' on the other hand was a pleasant experience. The pace was just right for the story and characters were with me while reading. The subject is a little sad since it is about how someone gets over the death of a spouse. In this case Dorothy was indeed Aaron's true love. He runs a small Publishing house that specializes in books with titles that begin with 'The Beginner's..' and hence the title. Good book. I had read Tyler's 'Breathing Lessons' a long while ago and remember liking it much.

And now to assuage your curiosity I will tell you about the picture at the top. It showcases most of the book purchases I made in Kerala. From DCbooks to be exact.  While looking for some Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) comics I came across these three volumes each containing about 100 books. Couldn't buy all three but for about hundred bucks it was a good deal to get one volume. The son's already finished them and I am halfway through. Mine is a journey into memories rather than just a read. The pictures touched awake sweet old memories of a certain period in my life. I do see a lot of mistakes and discontinuities and imperfections now that I am looking with the cranky old eyes of a full-fledged adult. But they do feed the imagination, these awesome stories native only to India....

One thing I cannot find here to buy are Malayalam books. So I brought me some such books picked at random based on some names I'd remembered. Loved MT's 'Randamoozham' as expected. 'Prayanam' by Parappurathu was an eye opener and it sure will remain a classic. P Surendran's 'memoir' 'Ilanjipoomanamulla Nattuvazhikal' reminded me a  little of Chullikad and I am glad to know this writer. But there was one book that shone like a jewel among all 10 books. Sarah Joseph's 'Othappu'. It means scandal or something similar according to the author's own explanation for the word which is also her title. A world class book! Intelligently written with complete control of every single character. The central character of 'Margaleetha' is the crowning glory indeed. I can’t seem to say enough about this book. After 'Agnisakshi' no other Malayalam book has enthralled me as much. I realize now that the theme itself might have influenced me in addition to the powerful prose. Both books tell the stories of women brave enough to break out of binding religious orders/rules at a time when it was almost suicidal to do so. The courage of their convictions laid out so well by a writer who is absolutely in sync with them is an irresistible treat. I was so proud that this story was written in Malayalam. As with Antharjanam's book I wonder if this can be translated in its full beauty to another language..It will be great if that could happen as it has a definite place in world literature. Maybe it already is?

There was reason I reached for P Surendran’s book. It is the title. I have an insatiable weakness for ‘ilanji maram’ and the perfume of its beautiful flowers. I made time to click a piture of our 'ilanji maram' under which I had spent hours picking flowers, reading books or just day dreaming. Here it is:

Adieu my friends. See you at the next post.