Monthly Archives: December 2015

Who is Mr X?

Beat About The Book

X is the letter of the week and I have a Quiz today.

Here are a few clues. Can you figure out who Mr X is? And also the book he appears in? (Just to clarify: His name does not begin with the letter X)

  1. Although the book is named after him, X’s name doesn’t appear in the title.
  2. X is the protagonist of a path-breaking novel first published privately in Florence, Italy in 1920.
  3. When it was published some 30 years later in Britain by Penguin Books, the publishers were persecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. They however came out winners on the grounds that the book was a work of ‘literary merit’.
  4. X works as a blacksmith till he runs off to join the war. Finally he ends up as a gamekeeper at a nobleman’s estate.
  5. The book talks of his affair with an upper-class woman.

 

Do leave your answers in the comments. I’ve enabled comment moderation. The answer will be up this Tuesday.

Edited to add: The character is Oliver Mellors from Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence. The book created quite a stir when it came out.
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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter X. As always, grateful to Mrs Nesbitt for coming up with the idea for this wonderful meme.

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The Bestseller She Wrote – A Review

A few days ago a friend and I were discussing Indian authors. While she stuck to her dislike for them I was arguing their case because I do have some favourites – and I’m not talking about books by Amitav Ghosh or  Arundhati Roy. I’m talking about regular commercial Indian authors. Some are great for light reading.

I hadn’t read any of Ravi Subramanian’s earlier books but I had heard some positive reviews. And so without any background I went for The BestSeller She Wrote – predisposed (if at all) to like it.

Bestseller She Wrote - A review

The Story

… is about a banker-author Aditya. Forty plus happily married Aditya is the reigning ‘paperback king’, a ‘rockstar author’. At one of his audience interactions at IIM(B) he is confronted by a young student Shreya who seems prejudiced against Indian authors and objects to the idea of marketing books as products insisting it took away from creativity. His vanity hurt, Aditya advises  her to read his books. She does, and overnight turns into a fan. She aspires to be an author too (a banker-author, it would seem). Aditya comes to her college placements and she lands up a trainee in his office. She seduces him while urging him to push her manuscript. Back from a trip, Aditya’s wife finds out about the affair. She contracts Ebola the same day. As she is fighting for her life Aditya realises he loves her and ends his affair with Shreya. However Shreya isn’t ready to let go of him. After much strife Aditya gets his happily ever after.

The Review

What I liked about the book

The book is about a ‘rockstar author’. I liked the idea. It may not really be happening just yet but I still like the idea. The concept of a highly saleable author becoming part of the marketing strategy of his book along with mentoring an ambitious protege could have been the premise for an intriguing story. It could have offered some real insights into the world of publishing. At least that was what I was expecting from the book.

What I didn’t like

Unfortunately that didn’t quite happen. The biggest issue for me was that I couldn’t quite get to like the protagonists, or understand them either. It is one thing for a character to be bad or evil – as a reader I can appreciate and enjoy a Voldemort or a Godfather or even the utterly slimy Uriah Heep – but here the protagonists were confused and contrived. Actually not just the protagonists, most of the other characters lacked consistency too.

Till the very end of the book I couldn’t figure out whether Shreya did have any feelings for Aditya. Did she love him (as she kept saying)? Was she simply using him (Which she certainly was)? Or maybe she wasn’t sure either way… Was there a conflict? None of that came across clearly. As a reader I would have liked to know what she really felt.

And there is Aditya. He lusts after Shreya and she panders to his vanity. He definitely doesn’t seem to be in love with her. Yet can one continue to lust after a person, continue to find them ‘Irritatingly sexy’ or ‘be hit’ by their perfume even after they have publicly humiliated you? That seems improbable, more so for a vain, public figure like Aditya. Oh and a rather personal sore point (even though I am attempting to be non-judgemental. And failing maybe) – Aditya does’t read books. Can one become a super-hit writer without being a reader? Just wondering.

At the beginning of the book, the narrative mentions that an author leads a lonely life. However, Aditya’s life seems to be full of book promotions and audience interactions along with a demanding banking career. He also finds time to help out his wife at home when the maid doesn’t turn up and chat endlessly with Shreya. It is of course possible that this is just a phase in his life. However because there is barely any mention of him doing any real writing, his character as a writer never does take shape.

My other issue is with the language. I spotted missed edits (‘Woman too make mistakes’), an unforgivable sin. There were other expressions in the narrative that irked me; expressions that are fine when spoken during a dialogue but don’t quite fit into a narrative. The language sounds forced and is full of cliches (She looked a sight for sore eyes, Like a dog in training).

There was also something annoying about repeated mentions of Crossword, Kemps Corner and Landmark popping up all the time. I could have done without them.

The book is a pacey read yet I found it disappointing.

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I am reviewing  ‘The Bestseller She Wrote’ by Ravi Subramanian as a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

The Bear of Very Little Brain

There once was a little boy who had a favourite teddy bear. He named him after a real-life black bear he’d seen in a zoo and went on to add a surname borrowed from a swan. He spent many happy hours of play with the bear and a bunch of other stuffed toys.

Although he lived in London his vacations were spent in a holiday home some 50 kms away. The home overlooked a forest called the Five Hundred Acre Wood. This boy called Christopher Robin Milne became the inspiration for his father who wove a story around him and his bear friend including his other toys as well. He set it in an imaginary forest called the Hundred Acre Wood.

No clues for guessing the name of the bear. It’s the  delightfully loveable if somewhat unintelligent – Winnie the Pooh who was brought to life by by AA Milne.

WINNIE_THE_POOH___t_2000x2000

The boy was Milne’s son and the other characters –  Piglet, Tigger, Eyore, Kanga and Roo were all his toys. The only ones that Milne made up were Owl and Rabbit.

What makes Pooh as much a favourite with adults as the kids is the fact that he isn’t exceptional in any way (except perhaps that he’s yellow in colour and wears a red tee that barely covers his belly). And yet there’s something more – he has this amazing ability for friendship and a naive charm in the way spells out perfect life philosophies, inadvertently of course.  Above all he has his priorities right – a pot of honey and a friend by his side – and his life is sorted.

Here are some quotes that make me enjoy his stories

This one is just so ‘Pooh’

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”

This one on being different

“The things that make me different are the things that make me ME”

On valuing an individual

“Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them.”

On Friendship

“A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey”

And this one is so ‘me’

“One of the advantages of being disorganised is that one is always having surprising discoveries”

PS: Have you ever played a game of Poohsticks?

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter W, with grateful thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who get’s me writing every week.

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He-who-must-not-be-named

My mother’s husband left me when I was an unborn child in her womb. What kind of a man would do that? He isn’t much of a man at all. Does it matter that he was tricked into matrimony? My mother’s love for him must have been real for she lost the will to live when he left.  She chose to die for a man who didn’t want her rather than live for a boy who could have grown to love her.

So it came about that the two people who were supposed to love me unconditionally decided they didn’t want to. That’s how I landed up in an orphanage.

Love is a strange thing. It left me an orphan.

I never did grow to love Love. Never had need of it. Now ‘Power’ – that is something else. Power is what gets my heart beating. Heady, potent, intoxicating, empowering. Power.

voldemort quote

I am special – I always was. I knew that – even when I was all alone in that crummy little orphanage, even before I discovered I had special powers, before the white bearded man came to take me away to that special school. I knew I was destined to rule the world one day.

I went to the school. I won over all the teachers, except perhaps the white bearded man. I became the model student – a prefect, a head-boy. I looked and listened, asked and found, wheedled and charmed my way to seek knowledge. For knowledge is power. I learnt. I learnt all I could, secrets so sinister professors shuddered to tell, magic so potent no one dare try it. None but I. I was special. I was preparing… knowing that a time would come when I’d realise my dream – that of becoming the most powerful man on earth.

Friends, relatives, loved ones – they slow you down. I don’t want them, I have no need of them. I work best alone. But I have followers, plenty of them. They rush to do my bidding. Some come out of fear, some because they need protection and some because they want a share of my power. They swear fidelity unto death. I make sure they keep their word.

I have enemies too, I know that. Every great man does. I never forget one (I made sure my ‘father’ met his just deserts). I know they will be vicious and violent and unforgiving. They will try to kill me. But I’m ready. I’ll beat them yet. I shall be immortal. It is possible, you know. Everything is possible, if you know how. They seek my soul but never will they find it for mine is split seven times over and hidden away. Even if my body is annihilated, I shall come back, more powerful than ever.

I am unstoppable, unconquered.

I am Lord Voldemort.

Note: Just wondered what it would be like if Voldemort aka Tom Riddle ever told his story.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter V, with grateful thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who get’s me writing every week.

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The Unnamed Heroine

This protagonist has no name – she’s the unnamed heroine of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca – an old old book.

Rebecca is the story of 42 year old Maximillian de Winter who bumps into a girl half his age, a paid companion to the the snobbish gossip Mrs Van Hooper. A quick marriage lands her at Maxim’s family home – Manderley. Not only does this new Mrs de Winter have to contend with the demands of running a large establishment but also with the ghost of Maxim’s dead ex-wife Rebecca who seemed to have been universally loved and admired.

But first, the mystery of her name or rather the lack of it.

People have often speculated why Du Maurier never came up with a name for her heroine. She couldn’t have forgotten about it, considering there are specific mentions of it at a number of places in the book. Most prominently, Maxim remarks, “you have a very lovely and unusual name” and later, “…it becomes you as well as it became your father.” Implying that perhaps she shared the name with him.

Some believe du Maurier meant to call her ‘Daphne’ but was worried that people would draw too many parallels between the book and her real life and chickened out. Oh and there were plenty of parallels. Her real life husband had once been engaged to glamorous dark haired lady and du Maurier always suspected he was attracted to her still. That’s where she arrived upon the theme of her novel – jealousy – which became its starting point.

It’s far more likely that du Maurier couldn’t settle on a unisex name that was ‘lovely and unusual’ enough. An unusual decision for sure. I am not a writer but had I been one I assume I would begin with a name before building up a character and giving it traits and deciding her fate.

The new Mrs de Winter..

…is shy and naive and easily embarrassed. There is something lovable and sweet about her, something that makes you want to protect her and take care of her. Her artlessness makes her come across as honest and genuine. It is this that attracts Maxim and of course the fact that is she is nowhere like Rebecca.

rebecca

A scene from Rebecca and one of my favourite quotes from the book

Considering the book is a first person narrative we get to see her through her own eyes only. She is overly critical of herself. Almost till the end of the book she remains unsure of herself worrying if she were being mocked or found lacking by Maxim, the neighbours and even by the servants of the house.

When she does forget to be self-conscious she makes for an interesting companion, at least to Maxim she does. “You’ve taken me out of myself, out of despondency and introspection both of which have been my devils for a year,” he says.

She is amazingly perceptive to people’s emotion specially Maxim’s. She registers each of his mood changes even though she doesn’t understand them. She loves him too and struggles to put him at ease steering the conversation away from topics he finds uncomfortable. She is almost obsessed by him and his attitude towards her, analysing it constantly (perhaps that’s how it is with young first love) and that makes her obsessed with Rebecca.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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