January 2016

New Year, new beginnings! Hope you all had a wonderful break and are ready for 2016 with renewed vigour and positive vibes for reading and writing. The deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, the illness of Clive James all brought one thing into focus. How well they used and in C. James’s case are using, their last months to be more creative, and leave a legacy that they could be proud of.

I managed to start reading once the festivities were over. The cold weather makes one coorie in and take out the big TBR pile that one wants to get to. I bought a copy of ‘Inspector Chopra’ from Waterstone’s and it is a delightful romp through Mumbai, with a just-retired detective who inherits an elephant. Though some scenes with the elephant were unrealistic, for example,  going to the mall, chasing after a villain with elephant in tow, the book won with the beautiful sense of setting. Mumbai in all its rawness, the stink of the open sewers, Dharavi, the biggest slum in Asia, the rotting vegetables and description of the exotic places too. That colonial hang up, corruption in high places, with shades of Adiga,  assured a ‘best seller’ label for this book.

I started looking at the tomes that I had shelved for reading them at a later day. Kingsolver’s Lacuna, Don De Lillo’s Underworld, and a few others that were on the TBR pile on the bookshelf. I started reading Don De Lillo. The Prologue with a baseball game between the Dodgers and the Giants left me bemused. I re-read the book blurb, perhaps it is a metaphor for the Cold War? I read the first chapter and it was so much more interesting and thought yes, I must go ahead with this Great American Novel. But the Knausgaard that I had reserved in my library arrived and so I picked it up to read. De Lillo is on hold!

Now for Knausgaard. I bought his book ‘Boyhood Island’ and read it after all that hype that his writing is reminiscent of Proust.   I did want to read a Norwegian author, having visited Oslo recently in 2014. It would be a new experience. I was not really impressed with it. It could have done with thorough editing. So many paragraphs again and again of the weather, the minutiae of life was often repeated. Readable, yes, interesting, if you could skip some of the repetitive paragraphs on the weather, the house, the trips to the friends. But his relationship with his father was fascinating. He was a whimpering boy often reduced to tears with a dominating father who was cruel in so many ways. It made for a voyeuristic read. This one from the library, ‘A Death in the Family’ is much better. The first page on death has some amazing writing. How society deals with death, the act of repression, covering the body, the coffin always closed, so many observations that made me want to read more. His own behaviour towards his family interested me. Would he be like his dad? How would his own childhood affect his parenting? That fascinated me. I have read most of the book. Again, unfortunately it could do with editing. Same old weather stuff, lots of repetition. For example in the same paragraph we have his coffee making twice! The kettle hissing, two teaspoons full of coffee in the cup etc… but in between these swathes of description there are some gems of prose that you want to read again. I will certainly recommend this book. This is the first in the series of six.

How about my own writing? Novel three is waiting to be finished. I must get the first draft done. I have used every excuse and procrastinated long enough. 2016 must be the year to finish it and get it published. So watch this space.

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