Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Updike (1932-2009)

John Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009)

Michiko Kakutani, veteran New York Times book critic, writes "ENDOWED with an art student's pictorial imagination, a journalist's sociological eye and a poet's gift for metaphor, John Updike – who died on Tuesday at 76 – was arguably America's one true all-around man of letters.
He moved fluently from fiction to criticism, from light verse to short stories to the long-distance form of the novel: a literary decathlete in our age of electronic distraction and willful specialisation, Victorian in his industriousness and almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words."

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt writes " John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit Angstrom novels highlighted so vast and protean a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism as to place him in the first rank of among American men of letters....".

"I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles, if I had to," he told The Paris Review in 1967. "The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words and words into metal and print and ink never palls for me."

Long back, I recall reading two of his Rabbit novels. Hope to catch up on his other works.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

USA heading for a Split ?

We have come across Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man in which he predicted the triumph of political and economical liberalism and ideological war coming to an end and Prof. Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations in which he identified eight civilizations - (i) Western, (ii) Latin American, (iii) Islamic, (iv) Sinic (Chinese), (v) Hindu, (vi) Orthodox, (vii) Japanese, and (viii) the African, and there will be a clash between these groups. But now comes Russian academic Igor Panarin's prediction that USA will disintegrate in 2010 ! He paints this apocalyptic scenario rather dryly. Please click on this link for the full article:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Books Ahoy

Visited 32nd Chennai Book Fair on January 10th and January 12th and purchased 20 odd books. This time my focus was mainly on Tamil books. Let me give the list of books I purchased.


1. Hot Days, Long Nights - An Anthology of African Short Stories - Edited by Nadezda Obradovic. This book I got on seeing the list of books purchased by my favorite Tamil writer S. Ramakrishnan in his website
. This is published by National Book Trust.


1. Kadavulum Naanum by Charu Nivedita
2. KrishnaParunthu by Madhavan
3. Ethirmugam by Jeyamohan
4. Ulleirunthu sila kuralgal by Gopikrishnan
5. Ratha uravu by Yuma Vasuki
6. Thanthira Boomi by Indira Parthasarathy
7. Vetnhu Thanintha Kaadugal by Indira Parthasarathy
8. Yesuvin Thozhargal by Indira Parthasarathy
9. Abitha by La Sa Ramamrutham
10. Kallar Charithram by Venkatasamy Nattar
11. Appa, Anbulla Appa by Sujata
12. Manaivi Kidaithal by Sujata
13. Mallari Rao Kathaigal by Devan
14. Vanam Puguthal by Kalapriya
15. Helicopters Kizhe Irangivittana by Indira Parthasarathy

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Arasoor Vamsam

Let me at the outset thank Kizhakku Pathippagam for giving me an opportunity to review this novel. There is just one word to describe this work - mind blowing ! Let be warned, this is not a easy read. It did take multiple sittings to finish this novel. Magic realism is the technique employed in this novel. The author, Era. Murukan, dexterously weaves this work of fiction that it leaves us readers spellbound. His use of arcane Brahminical lingo, folk songs, Malayalam dialects sends the reader into a tizzy.

Time is the leitmotif in this novel. The Banian Brothers, facilitators of the novel, are the symbols of Time. Each character will linger for a long time in the minds of the readers - tobacco merchant Subramanya Iyer, Swaminathan, Sankaran, etc, are all well etched.

The story line is thin but it is the writer's technique which dazzles the reader. The novel is redolent of the rich smell of tobacco. One cannot but marvel at Era. Mugukan's felicity with words and mastery of the craft of writing.

In Era. Murukan's own words "The bits and pieces of information on my family’s roots form the framework of this novel. But whatever urged me to write it, pushed me to expand that framework and go beyond it — about 150 years before my time, in fact. I was no longer myself but had morphed into a tobacco merchant, a cook, a Brahmin-Christian, a snuff-trading Muslim, a depleted and powerless zamindar, an astrologer, a clerk of the Sarkar , a temple priest, a child, an old man, a dasi, a controlling and controlled wife, an abandoned woman, an ancestral spirit, a ghost. I entered
houses of marriage and death, travelled on ships and bullock carts, I was part of all these experiences, I was also their observer. When I finished writing the 52 chapters, I felt an extraordinary sense of contentment and joy.

If this novel shares a little of that happiness and contentment with you, that would be reward enough."

Must I need to add more. This book has already been eulogized by eminent writers like Sujatha and P.A. Krishnan. This is easily one of the best works in contemporary Tamil fiction.

Incidentally an English translation of this work "The Ghosts of Arasur" has been published recently. Those who cannot read Tamil can peruse it and I am sure they will be remembering this book for a long time.

Novel Title : Arasoor Vamsam

Author் : Era. Murukan

Price : Rs.175

Pages : 464

Publishers: Kizhakku Pathippagam, 33/15, Eldams Road,
Alwarpet, Chennai - 600 018.
Telephone : 044-42009601/03/04
Fax : 044-43009701

To buy the book online click here

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chennai Book Fair

32nd edition of Chennai Book Fair kicks off tomorrow. Former President Kalam will be inaugurating the fair. The 10-day fair will comprise whopping 588 stalls. Year after year, number of stalls are increasing and it is near impossible to visit even 100 stalls in one visit. I guess I may hit it twice or even thrice to whet my insatiable appetite for books and of course loosen my purse strings in acquiring quite a few of them. Estimated 10 lakh visitors are expected to visit the fair. What with almost week-long Pongal holidays in store next week, the numbers may even be high. Personally I am looking forward to it as I seldom miss this annual event.

A Quote to Ponder

I came across this quotation a day or two back.

For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money. -Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

In these materialistic age, this quote is something to ponder on.

Friday, January 2, 2009

" Everyone is unique....! "

I got this piece forwarded to my e-mail and I thought it would be nice to share it with you all.

A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work and you don't get full value from your efforts" the pot said.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw. So I planted flower seeds on your side of the path and every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house?

Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots but it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.
Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life.

Happy New Year 2009

Happy New Year to all my fellow bloggers. Let us hope for a peaceful year.
Let me share with you a quote by Mark Twain:

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there -- lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more. -Mark Twain.