Monday, 10 September 2007

Of Books Devoured

This past weekend (starting Friday night) has been dedicated to reading. Nothing spectacularly clever, but really fast, and despite all the various distractions from the domestic end of things (gosh! How I envy all those unattached young people who don’t have to force themselves to iron the child’s clothes or to pay attention to dwindling kitchen supplies….)...

First, I launched into Mansfield Park. Jane Austen, at her usual tricks, I suppose. I read it in a sort of craze, have never read it before. I expected it would be Pride & Prejudice all over again. I used to think not much of that one till I went to college with a die-hard P&P fan who would stop every few weeks to extol a new virtue of the said book to me. I had scary images of Aishwarya Rai in that modernized movie version of that book to arrest me (not that I have seen the movie, thank god!). Nevertheless, when I picked up Mansfield Park (at a steal of a sale for Rs. 60; or I better say it like a book-lover ought, at three books for Rs. 180), I was real eager to get into that world of balls and ball-gowns and gentlemen with proper manners, and a fair bit of sarcasm as is wont to be. I was not particularly looking for a romantic thingammy, classifying Austen more under Classics, and less under Historical Romances.

Anyway there was a nice love-story in the middle of it all. I expected it to end not so much in the Bollywood mold, but let us say I would not have been disappointed if it were to happen. I was in one of those moods. Of course, the whole Some Chicks Rock, but truly the main enemies of our gender are The Chicks That Don’t Rock type things resonated pretty well with me. Things are not that much different despite the fact that we are not shopping for Muslin & Lace for our ball gowns or any such. It was quite a lot of fun to obsess truly and totally over a book, most of all.

Then, having gotten into that sort of thing, I went ahead and bought a Georgette Heyer. The argument, rationalisation, justification, is that it is a gift for my sister, who is sick and sort of confided to her home. She loves romance novels, and while I could never get myself to pay actual cash to buy the regular Mills & Boons, this I could somehow justify. Of course, I had to read it myself before sending it off to her, and really, how long could a Georgette Heyer take to read through?

It did not take long, and it did not disappoint. I got a great kick and morale boost out of it. I managed to pass a happy Sunday afternoon with it. I avoided sleeping, I could look upon the sleeping form of the husband and child with tolerance and love. Which is more than I can say about the whole Harry Potter thing (which was the sum and substance of my weekend two weeks ago). There, I just got irritated thinking it a poor caricature of Tolkien and other masters, and I really took especial offence to Ron’s way of speaking. Of course that did not encourage me to stop reading the damn tome through to the end! Nothing grated like that in Heyer, even the scene where there are two guys who are drunk out of their wits (which was really quite funny, come to think of it. Personal experience tells me it is quite remarkable for a person to be asleep from being too drunk for one second and up and about and making polite conversation the next, but then, maybe he had youth on his side).

With that stuff out of the way, I am now reading Bookless in Baghdad (Shashi Tharoor), alongside A Village by the Sea (Anita Desai) and Banker to the Poor (Mohammed Yunus). The last is what I have made most progress with, and while I don’t say much about the writing as is, the idea is quite catching, and makes me feel real excited about the possibility of people managing to cause widespread change in their life time. Inspiring, in short.

There was a big sale at the local Crossword, in the trips through the week child & I exercised caution and spent, well, not much, and that too only on things we were sure to read and enjoy immediately. Of course in our trip last night (our third there for the sake of the sale), we threw caution to the winds and ended up with way more than can possibly fit in the household unless I throw out some furniture, some clothes, and put up a bookshelf in the kitchen. I blame it all on the strange mood of my husband, who picked up books at random and threatened me with ‘you better read this’ which is as good a reason as any other to completely avoid it and let it gather dust, possibly in the kitchen.

Its not so much something against my husband’s recommendations of books, but the fact that the Crossword sale revolved a lot around Russian authors of the Classic variety, and although no one, especially my husband, believes me when I say it, I took an oath about six years ago that nothing would induce me to read that breed of authors (except for Nikolai Gogol; and even him, after that book and subsequent movie starring Tabu I might hereby avoid although I am supposed to look on it as Lahiri’s tribute to the great guy, whatever), let the whole world sing their praises to the skies. I suppose its sort of like saying I don’t like Shakespeare all that much, scandalous you may say, but true. I am more than willing to see desi adaptations of his comedies (and have had the most fun watching an open-air adaptation in Boulder, Colorado many years ago), but otherwise, genius though he may be and god knows what an overpowering influence & what not on our psyche, I avoid him. Cool dude and all, but still...

PS: While the world is out matching wines to dinners, my discovery is that an Ouzo, with tons of ice in it, is as good an accompaniment to light reading, as, say, coffee. And no, a beer will not do, too soon it clouds the brain with its influence and makes the fine print obscure.


Ludwig said...

so this is what you're up to when you're not coming to Hyd... a few points, in no particular order:

i) don't sell the Russians short. admittedly i've only read one (Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dost.) and it was bloody good. in the strange way in which pulling out your fingernails slowly can be good. i also own War and Peace, and use it to support a chair whose one leg is a bit short.

ii) The Village by the Sea we heard many many many years back when 204 Saraswathi Hostel was not even a gleam in our eye, on shortwave radio on BBC's Off the Shelf programme. it was fundu at the time. wonder what it's really like.

iii) where do you get ouzo from in Bombay? amazing... oh wait, you went to Greece recently, dintja?

iv) to prove that i've actually been reading all your posts, srgntpepper and your husband have a kindred soul as far as submarine movies go. can recite dialogues from The Hunt for Red October in my sleep. have learnt so much sub-driving cinematically that i wonder why the navy doesn't offer me command of my own boat.

v) srgntpepper and significant other and all! i must hasten away and needle.

vi) csm-fanaa is having a "minor surgical procedure"? all is well, one takes it.

vii) you guys really shoulda come to Hyd. alack. but hope the Child of Clear Eye and Unclouded Brow is getting better. i really must take a gander sometime at this epitome of innocence, i'm thinking.fe

kbpm said...

ludwig - the hyd trip was for this coming weekend, anyway reasons other than Mansfield Park are cited for missing that golden opportunity.
thanks for the alphabetised and categorised comments and all, btw.
villageby the sea - will let you know. it has tendencies to weirdness, needless to say, but i am not one to shy away from that. this is the hand that almost touched the old lady at Cambridge, so perforce i have to like her books. remember?
greece, duty free, ouzo, yes, thats it, but i have almost consumed the entire contents of it.
that hunt for red october is one of the worst of the genres. dont know why you men like such things.
csm-fanaa; previously known as csm; now known as just @, is fine, and eagerly anticipating a cooking contest to occur later in the golden year that is 2007.
last, but by no means the least (as one must end ALL vote of thanks ever made), we will come to Hyd with our hair in a braid and a pink chrysanthemum in lapel, soon. you get ready to go all gaa gaa over the child, and get out a list of compliments, 'OOH she is sooo cute' usually works pretty well, though I do welcome comments on her eyes (so beautiful, tall lissome women gush, just like daddys..HMPH), oh well, i lope off.

PS: Russians, not as a race, but just the Classic dudes, I stay away from. Except Gogol. He can be amusing. Do you remember 'A Spark Neglected Burns the House' in some English text of youth. UGH