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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Have I Been Gypped

Someone once told me that meaningful writing stems from an acute longing or acute depression, I am not sure which. I daresay, numbness isn’t the hallmark of great writers.

Well, here I am back after a longish break (mostly spent waiting for the muse to come knocking at my door) and boy have I been gypped. One hyped book and one hyped movie later, I am definitely wiser.

I read the NAMESAKE and could barely get through it - Boring, trite, insipid. INTERPRETER OF MALADIES (Lahiri's debut novel) was infinitely better. Nonetheless I hopped across for the movie hoping Irfan and Tabu could breathe some new life into a jaded theme. Big mistake. Though on a positive note, the acting and direction is smashing.

While the Namesake proved vaguely entertaining, I cannot get over the fact why pseudo intellects gush over Amitava Ghosh. Sure, he is learned and sure, he can clump together a mean description of the Sunderbans or erstwhile Rangoon, but when it comes to fleshing out characters, he sucks and how!

My second venture into Ghosh territory ‘THE GLASS PALACE’ was as disappointing as ‘HUNGRY TIDE’. (Post on that here). Giving credit where credit is due, Ghosh is amazingly lyrical and is brilliant when it comes to transcribing history or describing a place, but he fumbles ineptly with the plot and characters. The book begins evocatively enough - slowly and alluringly, but midway Ghosh hits the fast forward button and what could have been an engrossing novel becomes instead a bland narrative. There is definitely something wrong with a book if one has to struggle and I mean really struggle to complete it.

For the record I gave up on PALACE after page 374 but that didn't stop me from sneaking a peek at the last page (ah…an urge I have withheld for nearly a decade) where I came across the most bizarre love-making scene ever. Do they have an award for that, along with the Bad Sex in fiction award? ‘Rajkumar discovers Uma’s dentures are clamped within his, staring in round eyed befuddlement at the pink jaws that were protruding out of his own – Uma leant forward and fastened her mouth on her own teeth and they shut their eyes….’

I have nothing against love-making at all ages, but do you have to shed your dignity along with your clothes? Actually you do, but that is besides the point and anyhow that wasn't my crib about the book.

Books Worth Reading
Re-read THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (Hemingway) after more than a decade. A book that left no impact on me as a kid, moved me to tears as an adult. Ditto DEATH OF A SALESMAN though minus the tears (Arthur Miller). Also got my hands on an antique edition of WALDEN (Thoreau) - The author lived for two years in a self-made cottage by a pond to prove a point – You can live simply by shrugging off materialism and dependence on others. Um…but he ‘borrowed an axe’ to construct the house and I think the land was borrowed as well. Well, it's the thought that counts:)


mathew said...

nice to see a fan of "old man and the sea"..the book is so profound..

i havent read neither watched Namesake...was thinkin whether to try it out coz the subject sounds interesting.

Pegasus said...

hey.. why don't u share those one liners u were talking about... its a great read

Mukta said...

You must read amitav ghosh's 'Shadow Lines'. That character of Tridib Das is superb. I fell in love with Tridib Das, you know. Wrote a poem on him and all that. :-) Read that.

Mellowdrama said...

Hi Mathew: Yaya Old Man and the Sea is really something. Do not waste your time with Namesake - just the usual run of the mill tirade about immigrants spawning ungreatful whelps. Well, mostly to that effect.

Pegasus: Lol sent you the puns, pretty darned cool ones too

Mukta: Man I have a really lousy opinion of Ghosh as a fiction writer. Lemme see if I can get hold of it - will try to bum it off hope you have it?

jumping translocation said...

Rama :

I am feeling like I could use some chick lit right now. Anything you'd recommend?
Equally, I am game for dude lit too if there is such a thing as that.
On Jhumpa, I so beyond agree with you. Her "Interpreter of Maladies" was infinitely better than her "Namesake" bambino. Trouble with most immigrant stories is somewhere along the way they let it subtly pass 'East is East, and West is West,and never the twain shall meet. Quite frankly, this is so typically Kipling that it makes me want to fart.

Pegasus said...

yups :) thanks for sharing...
I have already posted them as a post

Anonymous said...

The problem with the style of both lahiri and ghosh is that they feel compelled to endlessly describe what would be better left unsaid.

Maybe a leaf out of the `the old man and the sea' or Jonathan livingstone's `Seagulls' would help

life is not all Aish & Abhi said...


How do you mean - Have I been Gypped?

When someone talks about a struggle and books I always think Anita Desai and Edward Said. I have only this to say to them - C'mon; get on with it.

Mellowdrama said...

Jumping Translocation: " typically Kipling that it makes me want to fart." heheh. Say have you read Nissim Ezikiel's poetry - check out goodbye party for Mrs. Pushpa and The Professor, they are a riot! It's a case of '....twain 'trying' to meet" It's hilarious - google it out or something or shall send you the poems.

Anonymous: Dunno who you are, but you are BANG ON! Totally totally agree with you, that was a good observation!

Pegasus: Yeha, neat one-liners eh?

life is not all...: Haha..I dunno who are are either. Gypped may not be totally appropriate since I had a fair inkling of what I was in for, but plodded on nonetheless. Ye have to get over it, but figured if it saves someone a few hrs of tedium, well, why not? Sorry didn't get the Desai, Said allusion - do find Desai a bit of a drag, but not bad at all.

Alpana said...

am so glad you dint like namesake. i thought it was a very boring book and i think the movie is better than the book, for a change. not really boring, just repetitive--the done to death immigrant experience.

Varsha said...

namesake was rather drab I agree...but I didn't dislike it AS much....Interpreter was much better

Now I'm dying to hear your opinion about God of Small Things and The Inheritance of Loss...hope I have not missed them already =)