Saturday, October 29, 2005

Beating the blues : feel good books

Feeling low? Tired of reality? Welcome to the world of Regency ( I had wrongly written Victorian here before!) Romance. I looked up the meaning of romance in dictionary and one of the meanings was "a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural".
Romance novels by Georgette Heyer are exactly that minus the supernatural.

Wait! Don't you stop reading thinking that its probably the usual trash about boy meets girl, some misunderstandings happen, get sorted out after much confusion and they live happily ever-after. Sure her novels have some of that but thats not what its about.

Georgette Heyer can be exteremely witty. Her characters especially her heroines are always the spirited kind, a little different from the rest. Her heroines cut a dash in the High Society (as she might put it) inspite of themselves. The love angle is a part of the story and its always they lived happily ever-after.

But before we get to that, there are several escapades from the normal (that is if you thought going to balls, trying to get married or make your uncle buy your way into the Hussar regiment was normal)
several balls, some invitations to the palace, a conversation with the Prince (often the shockingly flirtatious, sometimes gaudy kinds), perhaps a hot exchange with a money lender, a landlord and more.

Its my escapade to the fantastic world where people worry about which horses to buy, which carraige befits a woman, which dress to wear to the next ball, being direct at the cost of being social outcasts, becoming a dandy, learning Mr.Blummer's carvat styles....

I recommend you to give "The Black Sheep" a shot to start off with and get addicted!

PS:Have to warn you that Georgette Heyer also writes suspense novels which I have never read, so have no opinion on them!

Odds and Ends

Just the discussion that got started at the Moo Diaries, I was reminded of all the short stories I have read in school. I really do not know of any short story books.
Let me correct that, I do know several different authors who have written short stories
Jeffery Archer and RK Narayan but I will save another blog post for them.
But I do not of any books which compile the stories I read at school. We used to have a
this supplementary text books (sometimes titled Read for pleasure!) which gave a good peek into the world of meaningful fiction.
After all its important to talk about those stories which influenced me as a child.

So here is a post dedicated them, few authors I can recall, few I cannot, but all stories that stay imprinted in my memory forever.

I think we had several short ones by O' Henry in our textbook. The one I remember most clearly was The Last Leaf (also cause we did a play based on the story as a part of our English class). Its a simple, touching story which reminds me yet again how life and death is so very often just a matter of belief, faith!

Then there was this about a sniper (my memory fails here as I cannot remember if it was prose or poem) who lies in wait for his enemy. He has to kill to live.... only to find the man he killed is his own brother separated from him by the civil war !!

There were a few by Saki ( H.H.Munro). The one I remember was a ghost story, which fasicnated me so much that I had read it
off my brother's textbook way before when he was reading it in his class. For someone who is has always been scared of dark and ghosts it was a quite horrifying!

Then we had a piece from the play by George Bernard Shaw, the lesson was titled 'Dont call out or Ill Shoot' except that wasn't the plays name. A few or my classmates performed the whole play putting it into more context . Online search tells me the play was titled Arms and the Man. Its a simple tale of love and concealed identities.

The google search also reminds me that I read Pygmalion which of course was made into a Broadway play and then a movie ( My Fair lady. Again a classic.

(to be continued as and when I remember more)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Life from a Child's Perspective: Part I

It is interesting to view the world without the prejudices that life has endowed upon us on our way here. Who else can tell it better than a child? A life of a five/six year old revolves around much simpler things. Its very black or white for them. And those letters have no racial connotation in the young minds.

Imagination at such a young age is at its highest intensity. I still remember
(and this way ages ago ) me and my friends had decided that this old unoccupied shed was inhabited by an old witch. I can still imagine her. We used to stay away from it. Turned out a few years later (when I went and looked at it) it was just a dumpster of some kind. But so what? The whole idea that a witch could live there made the whole place so much more interesting.

"To Kill a Mocking Bird" by Harper Lee is life from a child's perspective. It won the Pultizer award (I think) and was made into a movie too (Gregory Peck stars in it!) The movie does do some justice to the book. Still the book is one of its kind (or maybe not since I have titled this post as part I!)

The book is narrated by the daughter of Atticus Finch who is a lawyer. Set in early 1900s when the racial discrimination was still at large, Atticus is to defend a black man from being convicted of rape. The story itself is however completely from viewpoint of and (as a article reminds me) encompasses three summers in Jean Finch's life.

The narration makes the story a combination of fact and hoardes of imagination !!! If anyone is curious about the title of the book, a mocking bird is a harmless creature, so who would want to kill it?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Public School Education

I have had this wonderful impression of Public School system in the US. Somehow poverty or dropping out of school didn't seem to be a part of it. And then I saw a couple of movies to change my mind about that. Namely Sir with love (which is originally a book!) and Dangerous Minds. As stories go they are typical: about good and bad and how much difference an individual with a strong willpower can make. Its mostly about an idealist teacher ending up at a public schools where children are from poor families. There are pressing issues of survival which do not include going to school. There are kids who get into drugs, there is teenage motherhood, there are kids turning into crime...

That completely describes the book " Up the Down Staircase" by
Bel Kaufmann. The book is not unique in the story it tries to tell. But unique in how subtle it all is. The whole book is a collection of a bunch of letters, notes to teachers, notes between teachers, instructions etc. All these simple scraps of paper come together to tell you a tale. An example of strange rules is how people are not supposed to climb up the "down" staircase! You would think that stairs going up would come down too, but try telling that to the school board.
Its about a teenager who falls in love with her English teacher only to have her love letter returned with her grammer corrected. I would like to tell you it will make you laugh. Except its tragic. Its tragic that its so hard to get past the red tape. Its tragic that more often than not you are as helpless as everyone else.
At the end of day all the effort makes you stop one young life from dropping out of school meanwhile loosing several inspite of your best efforts.
But its about it all being worth it for that one young life into which you have brought the hope to find a better future!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ode to Ellen

I am not sure I can really claim a prose to be an ode (I am starting to wonder what it means!). In anycase this peice written a while ago was inspired by the book " The funny thing is..." by Ellen Degeneres. It was my advert for her book, it maybe inadequate. But it is an honest attempt and worth one read ( HA! thats the first time I am trying put my work forward!

"Broken heart?? Get over it!!!
One rainy day I look out my window and ponder. (Its not really raining today .. in fact its sunny.. but pondering goes better with rainy days...)
And people pondering on rainy days usually ponder about
people who broke their heart. I know I do!! ( you could try to do it too next
time it rains.. its more fun than watching TV!

In any case this time when I was doing this I realised that I would be an expert on advicing other people about how to go about mending their hearts.
First and foremost, ( and,I know this from FRIENDS and friends) if it
was a bad breakup go pick up that big jumbo tub of icecream you have in your fridge. (I am sure your neighbour is bound to have some if
you dont..
You have to eat out of the big tub, no point in being
hygenic and taking some out on a separate bowl!
Next you can reflect on all your heartbreaker's bad qualities. Or if you are a software professional come up with a game which as his/her picture on it and you earn points by shooting at it. If C++ is Greek or Latin to you, you may put up the picture on ur dart board (again your neighbour
might be useful here
). In fact, I advice this to improve your dart throwing skills...!!

That will pretty much occupy your mind till bed time. Now
comes the tough part. You are actually by now are tired of coming up with the bad qualities and are actually thinking about the good times you and your true (not so true anymore ) love had.. STOP!!!
Under no circumstance should you do that. Think about all
the bad things you told your friends about your ex-love. All the complaints you used to make!
Finally after much exhaustion of thinking about all this,
you fall asleep... Day one completed succesfully!!!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Aishwarya, Gurinder Chadda and Jane Austen

What do the above three have in common? Aishwarya tried to act in a movie which Gurinder Chadda tried to make (she did complete it and even release it and I honoured her by watching it!) which was at best a joke on the book by Jane Austen.

I am talking about Pride and Prejudice. Let me just forget the movie and talk about the novel here. The first time I read the book, ( and I really have to describe this!) it was a hard bound black book (borrowed!) with golden border on it. The book starts off with this line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

The book is about 18th century England and all the people in the novel seem to be worried only about getting married. That would sum up the first impressions on reading the summary, etc.

Sure, the book is about that. But it is also about Pride and Prejudice, as the title predicts. Its about reservedness which projects as pride. Pride which lets this pretence to be carried out. Prejudice against the proud ensues. But in the end you realise that you have to be proud yourself to cause prejudice.

If I am speaking in riddles or talking utter nonsense, it is cause I am trying to summarize the novel without giving it away. Its really an age old love story (so there is nothing to give away ) and there is nothing exciting about the story by itself. Jane Austen however with her great penwomanship brings out her characters well.

Currently my post here is as bad as Gurinderji's movie (no offence meant!). What can I say but that you have to read the book to say what I am trying to say better!!!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Horse Racing

As a teenager I had these phases where I would read all books by a certain author available at our local library. The collection at the library was not huge enough to deter me; at the same time good enough to keep me occupied for weeks. One such author was Dick Francis . I talk about him now cause I recently read his book Bonecrack! It was mostly to check if I would still like these books. And obviously if am writing this blog, I loved the book.

DF writes mysteries/thrillers surrounded by horses and horse racing.
I believe I enjoyed the movie Seabiscuit a whole lot more due to this exposure to the fortunes/misfortunes of people involved in this business. His main hero is usually a jockey, a stable owner, or someone somehow involved in the whole business. I guess they are all men, pretty average when it comes to being able to beat people up, so they always get beaten up bad by the thugs. But they are all smart and can play with their lives to save what they have worked for.

You would think that after a while the same kind of scenario would be boring. Well, I don't know about you but I have never been bored reading a book by DF. Which is why I recommend you start with Bonecrack! I should warn you that this is no book for the weak heart, bones do crack and blood spills over in abundance. It is all about how much your imagination can take :)