January 15, 2011 § 14 Comments
i just finished reading beatrice and virgil, yann martel’s latest.
what i loved about life of pi is the calm sense of reality that pervades the blase, matter of fact narrative of a boy and a tiger lost together on the high seas. so it picks up these elements – a boy, a raft, a tiger, a man-eating island – makes (patently unlikely) compatriots of them, and stitches everything together so elegantly that you think, well of course, why shouldn’t this happen?
i mean, why stop with just pushing the envelope when you can deny the existence of it? great idea!
so then he wrote beatrice and virgil. it’s supposed to be a sneaky allegory of the holocaust, featuring one donkey and one monkey alone in an unidentifiable country called ‘Shirt’. if that is supposed to intimidate me, dude, your last book’s protagonist was called ‘Piscine Molitor’. you are clearly attracted by weird for the sake of it. well bring it on, i say.
and he did, and dear god forgive him, it was so bad. it was so unutterably clumsy. it is a very thinly disguised apology for a writer’s block and borrows desperately from a hundred classics to try and make up the difference. i challenge you to read the first fifty pages and not have “waiting for godot! this is waiting for godot!” bouncing endlessly off the inside of your skull.
if you read the book, it tells you why the allegory had to be such a roundabout one. it is an excellent reason. unfortunately it is the last instance of clarity anywhere in there.
i went back to the catcher in the rye, i’m re-reading it. i read it once before, and for a hundred reasons, remember desperately wanting to ‘get’ it, but i really didn’t. the thing is an instant stereotype, a handy little cliche, but i never knew how to use it, because i simply could not understand it.
now that i’ve re-read it, i don’t think it is possible to ‘love’ the catcher in the rye. me, i can see myself having an awkward, slightly shifty-eyed companionship with this book; if i smoked, maybe we’d silently share a cigarette in the cold.. but then we’d stub it out and we’d leave. and maybe tomorrow, we’d do it again.
see what i mean?
i think i finally understood.
i recently gifted someone hemingway’s the sun also rises. i never liked his short stories, we read them in school (maybe that was the problem), but i really liked this book. but you know how the books you like really depend on where your head is at that point in your life, and at that point – late high school, yeah, i know – i was feeling very subversive and very unhappy and trapped and reckless, and so i was predictably, obviously attracted to on the road (jack kerouac).
so there were both these books on purposeful directionless-ness, just different enough in the details to be both great reads – and that made me feel free.
i think it is perfectly possible for me to write my autobiography in book titles.
p.s – that boy said “so what do you like to do?” i said “i read, sometimes i write” and he said “oh i would read if i didn’t have better things to do like having fun with my friends”
can we bring eugenics back into fashion?
January 6, 2011 § 15 Comments
one thing i really love is, i love a freshly opened package of printer paper.
the smell of it, the virgin white uncreased potential of it is a little happymaking, don’t you think? and the sound of it, the clean, sharp rustley sound of it… sometimes you just want to close your eyes and cavort naked in a bed of printer paper.
and then some asshole comes up and presses that button and all of a sudden one side of it is covered by Shareholders’ Agreement and the other side is smudgey with ink stains and depression. is there any surer way to kill the spirit of fresh white printer paper? i know not, dear reader. i assure you i do not.
a good friend tracked me down a lovely copy of on beauty (zadie smith) at the daryaganj book market in dilli. it is second hand and carefully covered in stiff cellophane and was mine for the princely sum of forty rupees. it’s things like this that make me seriously consider buying books by the kilo. so you read the book, say, and when you’re done with it you fry it with wild mushrooms and eat it.
you know, i really can’t tell what mushrooms are wild and which are not, but thanks to the deep pocket, large heart and holiday spirit of a certain firm in bengloor, i had the opportunity to eat me a Very Expensive Christmas Eve Lunch. so what i ate for lunch was a strawberry cooler – well this part was ‘drank’, if you want to be ornery – and a penne with pesto and wild mushrooms. see, i get a kick out of ordering foods with long, descriptive names because i feel very damn posh for doing so. so i’d say i want an
ayn-gel hair pas-tah gent-lee sau-
-tayd in an inf–yoo-shun of
it took forty five minutes for that strawberry cooler to arrive, forty five minutes in which i had decided that i’d have been better off ordering a sweet-lime soda like mister predictability sitting opposite me. this is notable for two reasons, dear reader. firstly because i intensely dislike the disgustoid that is a sweet lime soda -to me, it looks like a warm green burp. secondly, because the strawberry cooler soon arrived, and it was such a vision of fat, bruised, scarlet strawberries fighting for space with lumps of crushed ice and whimsical bunches of mint leaves, mint leaves so offensively, healthily green that you were almost surprised to note that they were not still attached to a plant.
you must understand, it was such a sunny day, and my shirt (poly-blend) was really really playing up its polyester heritage, and i was generally as happy as a hot, sweaty lump of violent hunger giftwrapped in polyester can be, and here, here by GOD was this Cooler of Redemption.
i drank it all up but in very small, jealous sips. i drank it right to the end and i conscientiously slurped and sucked loudly, because this was above all, you know, a one-fifty-buck fruit juice.
one hundred and fifty rupees. fruit juice.
i would have eaten the glass next if i could’ve.
i am only just done with that cooler, and my pasta comes in and upstages it just. like. that. it was a beauty of a pesto and the wild mushrooms were truly, er, wild. you know how mushrooms usually taste of almost nothing? i mean, they have this almost taste, like they’re getting somewhere truly explosive but for now they’ve decided to stop right here? they’re sort of beige tasting, and i quite like them. i like their texture – a companionable sort of friendly, rubbery sliminess, like a shady friend who tries to sell you stolen watches every time you meet him but you can’t help liking him anyway. so mushrooms i’ve known usually taste like this, but not the mushrooms in this Pasta of Joy, oh no.
these ones were long and languorously curly, and shaded in long, intermingling stripes of pitch black and brown, and tasted of so many spicy, exciting things that i cannot even describe! the pasta was chock full of the little suckers as well. so you do see here, dear reader – do you see it? – that i have this plate full of lovely penne, cooked perfectly, whitely al dente, swimming about in this bright green pesto with the black-brown mushrooms. and the mushrooms are like flashes of little salamanders with their orange fire-like highlights, darting about in the canopy of lush, green pesto.
you can rest assured i ate the fuck out of that pasta, lovely reader.
and that will be all.
there was actually some stuff that happened after that lunch. a really boring chocolate dessert of some sort and then office and documents and binderclips and photocopiers and the click-click-click of somebody or the other’s purposeful stiletto-ness and then a sleepy plane ride and then another and then college and other things that happen in college, but nothing, nothing so far has come close to that Lunch.
so i thought, i will blog about it.
January 4, 2011 § 7 Comments
trusting your instinct never, ever seems like a good idea.
it’s not something you should make a project of thinking about, actually. it’s something you need to let sneak up on you so when your brain asks, you can pretend it wasn’t your ill-advised idea to let your mind go hippie. like most hippies, of course, it’s probably more pragmatism than patchouli, but who is listening? i’ve read that instinct as a phenomenon is a manifestation of evolutionary ‘memory’, a sort of retrievable databank of what has historically worked best for us as humans, but that can’t be true because it would require everyone’s instinct to always point to the right choice, and that can’t be right because quite simply, it’s too easy. easy isn’t sexy is it? no of course not. so we presume complexity, and onward, christian soldiers!
one way to work around this possible flaw in theory is, of course, to understand ‘great’ as simply indicative of the ability to survive. this theory makes me itchy, because we keep coming back to the bermuda triangle of definitions. who is to define ‘survive’? survive for how long exactly? evolution’s perspective on survival is necessarily in the nature of hindsight, and hindsight is not a lot of use to anyone looking for a theory workable in the present.
however this choice in thought does have some merits. this rationale would mean that it isn’t instinct that is faulty, it is human inability to comprehend it. it provides for a smooth shift from debating the very merits of intuition to simply the extent of probability of it; to assume the existence of intuition in argument is to have won it, for the rest is only details.
another theory is that intuition is simply a parallel problem-solving track to your conscious mind. the extent of the demands we make on it determines how much it needs to work in the background of our conscious mind. after all, multitasking is hot, but the same cannot be said for confusion; (all of you who were about to say ‘bridget jones‘, uh, no. thanks! :) )
why a parallel track though? why give the human brain the ability to take so much upon itself that it is pushed into having to work undercover? why not limit the brain to dealing with conscious thought? why demand overwork and why make that possible? if nobody had the ability to run these parallel tracks of thought, no one would demand it of anyone else. we would work five-day weeks from nine to five and go home to our wives and kids; hell, if our wives smoked, we’d be french. and give or take one inflated euro and one sarkozy, french is a pretty good place to be at. :)
these questions are answered if you consider that a subconscious is an evolutionary response, and that would tie in neatly with the first theory as well. (i must admit i love how this is turning out)
anyway, if intuition is the subconscious track of the rational mind, it follows that it is as dependable as the conscious rational mind. the delicious irony here is, of course, that i am using my conscious mind to evaluate my unconscious one; the fact of it being unconscious means i am effectively blind to it’s mechanics, and have to proceed along a constantly building series of assumptions; this means that every new conclusion i have has a risk of being inaccurate at a squared off rate :) there is some poetry – or poetic justice there – but i can’t see clearly enough to tell.
what is inescapable either way is that intuition is good only as long as you trust it. the infamous leap of faith, and i’ll take it because, well because it, uh, feels right.
i really wish i had a sexier reason. :(