Showing posts from February, 2009
In Other Worlds

One of the pleasures of reading fiction is the ability to encounter places you would never otherwise do. The last three books I read were good books, but not good enough to want me to read them again (my criterion for books I really like!); yet they were interesting because they showed me worlds other than where I live, helped me imagine lives so different from my own.

Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole is a debut novel set in Australia. Nominated for the Booker, that it ultimately lost to The White Tiger, it is a monster of a book, 700 pages long, rambling and messy at times and peopled with characters bizarre and yet tangible, imaginable. It is a book about Jasper Dean’s search for identity. It follows his father Martin Dean’s (the most hated man in Australia) peripatetic life and his uncle Terry Dean’s (the most loved). The strange fascination Australia has for murderers and criminals (Ned Kelly, for instance), comes into play and Terry Dean, criminal and murderer …
Fanaticism, Amos Oz , Johann Hari

Israel and Palestine! A 60 year old conflict that is arguably the source of much of the Islamic world’s anger. I have always found it difficult to reconcile myself with the Western world’s support of Israel. After all, the Jewish claim to the Holy Land is a bit like the Hindu claim to Ayodhya – based on faith in a mythology that can never be scientifically proved. Of course, in the modern context, might has always been right. So when Israel has won two wars against their Arab neighbours, they are entitled to the right of spoils for the victor, I suppose.

Why am I writing about this? Because I have just encountered an interesting Israeli writer – Amoz Oz. His little book intriguingly called Help Us To Divorce is actually the text of two speeches he delivered on his proposed solution to the problem. These speeches are not very recent, but they are pretty topical, and will be, I guess till the Palestinian problem is solved for good.

Good fences make good n…
Slumdog Millionaire

It is a bit late in the day for thoughts on a movie everyone has seen and reviewed. But before Oscar makes his decision, just thought I’d pen this down.

I liked Slumdog Millionaire. It is quite a rollicking entertainer, packaging Mumbai primarily for an audience that hasn’t seen anything close to a place like this. The plot line is clever and picaresque in technique. It brings the different strands of a fascinating city together to pack in quite a punch. The slums, the beggar gangs, the underworld, Bollywood’s lure, call centres, religious riots - they are all in there and there in oversaturated colour. As is the case in such plotlines, characterization goes stereo-typical. The wicked gangster and the sly game show host; the victimized beggar and the innocent prostitute. All of them seem real by themselves, but when they come together the way they do, they are props in a film dedicated to weaving together a tapestry that is meant to overload the senses, much like the…