Sunday, December 23, 2007
I am perplexed. I love animals. Love reading about them. I loved John Grogan's Marley and Me. But, try as I might, I couldn't love The Good Good Pig.
Sy Montogomery is an accomplished writer. Yet, I found the writing in this book a drag. I had to pull myself to finish it. And make, no mistake, you would think that a book about a cute pig, albeit a huge pig, would make very interesting reading. Sadly, not for me.
Christopher Hogwood is our pig. Huge, weighing in at more than 700 pounds. He was the survivor - the runt of the litter who eventually charmed everyone. Sy is a vegetarian - she states in the beginning of the book that she has always felt closer to animals than humans. Her house is home not only to Christopher but also to Tess, an adopted dog, and chickens, and well, her husband, Howard too. There is a lot of feel-good messages in this book - Christopher is a Buddha master with a Zen for living - err, make that living for food - and his sheer happiness for leading a life of pleasure touching. Yet, I couldn't relate to this book. Probably because I haven't really seen a 700-pound pig in my life, the closest I have come to are tiny scrawny pigs that forage down the street where I live, and they don't remotely look made out for fame.
So...Christopher was a good soul - God rest his soul - perhaps had I met him I would have fallen in love with him. As of now, he barely forms a picture of words in a book that I will surely forget about if you ask me a year later.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Oooh I should jump with joy! For the first time ever, and drumroll please, my Google Adsense account has crossed a dollar! ;-) And now the title layout is all screwed - but then, I made a dollar!
To more serious things, to a very serious place - war. I did say earlier on this blog that I am into memoirs big-time. This blog is turning out to be a memoir blog than a book blog. But then, when you do get brilliant memoirs like A Long Way Gone you would be wondering why you need fiction at all.
Ishmael Beah is a child soldier in Sierra Leone during the bloody civil conflict that wrecked the country apart. This book shot to the best-sellers list - and understandably. Ishmael spares no words no bones in recreating the skullish past of his childhood. To me, it was one of the most authoritative glimpses into a searing conflict. Ishamel has a pictorial memory and he makes use of that to full extent. The International Herald Tribune aptly describes it as a "firsthand account of hell." And it is. How did he really emerge with his sanity intact? Beah's story makes me very glad that I am where I am - and when I was 13, I was sulking about having a pizza - not walking around with a gun, killing whoever moved, and certainly not evading death by the minute.
If I must complain - it is about the ending. I am not sure if Beah is planning a second book, but to me the book ends just abruptly. He crosses over to a neighboring country, and you know that he lands up in the US. But how? And what happens there? His life there? Crib I must - but I am always curious...
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Powerful. Evocative. Last Night I Dreamed Of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram is a vivid description of a young woman's struggles emotionally and physically during the Vietnam War.
Thuy was a young doctor serving in the South during the War. As she avoided bombs and American raids, she kept her sanity by writing her diary. This became a remarkable memoir. Thuy's diary entries are not easy to read - I don't know about you - but I find annotations a visible distraction to reading. Her entires need to be constantly put in context- which explains why every page has at least 3 lines of footnotes - and I found that I was constantly interrupted in my reading. This though, should not take away the simplicity and heart in Thuy's writings.
I came away from this book moved. Probably because in a lot of places I felt that my thoughts were an echo of Thuy - her worries, confusions, conflicts all seemingly an eerie echo of mine. And a lot more heartrending because you know that Thuy does not survive the war. No, I am not spoiling the ending here - the foreword makes that known even before you read the first page of her diary. On June 22, 1970, at the age of 27, Thuy was shot in the head by American troops. It makes her appeal for peace all the more piercing. Wherever she is, she will be a lot more peaceful than this mad world we live in.
NPR has a very interesting video on Thuy's mother's visit to Texas to see the diary first-hand.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
That RK Narayan was a genius is without doubt. What confounds me is that I have spent much of my reading years without picking up too many books by this masterful writer. I am trying to make up for this anamoly, so sitting in my little room, I went back to Malgudi into The Dark Room.
Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the novel. Be warned - the plot summary there will be a spoiler...and what I say here too.
Savithri is your typical middle-class woman in the book. Oh, wait a minute, did I say typical? This is where Narayan's genius steps in. His portrayal of Savithri as a woman who has to bow to a husband-male centric dominated society is masterful. She is the dutiful wife, chafing in what appears to be a difficult marriage. But she is not dumb. When her husband, Ramani, starts to begin an understated obsession with Shantha Bai, a new woman in his office, Savithri breaks out. She attempts the unthinkable - leaves her home, her husband's feet for the unknown.
Her journey as a woman trying to live on her own is painstakingly etched. Remember this novel was written in 1938 - a time when women could most definitely not entertain the idea of being a paying guest! Savithri's pride is her strength - she refuses to sustain herself on charity - yet her innermost strength are her children. She comes back. Yet, like she says a part of her remains dead forever.