Archive for December, 2012


The Hindu : FEATURES / LITERARY REVIEW : A moveable commune –  Shakespeare and Company is a bookstore in Paris where one feels like being in one’s own apartment, just exactly how founder George Whitman wanted it to be, says Charukesi Ramadurai.

I know it is fashionable to call it “the end of an era” when someone famous or important dies but in George Whitman’s case, it was definitely so. With him went an age where people loved to read and in his case, lived to read (he once said that he was in the book business since it was the business of life). Sylvia Whitman has been shouldering his legacy since her return from the UK over 10 years ago. “It has been very difficult adjusting to life at the bookshop without this eccentric, witty, wild character at the centre of it… I am still trying to find my way in,” she admits candidly.

.Photos: Charukesi Ramadurai

“Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise” reads the entry to the room, but from all accounts, Whitman’s generosity was never in anticipation of finding the odd angel who would sprinkle blessings on his shop. He was also known to describe it as “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.” Delannet says, “George was serious about this; he wanted his bookstore to feel like one’s own apartment — anybody can come and read all day long in the first floor library and never get kicked out.” Jeremy Mercer, a Canadian journalist who wrote about his stay there in his book Time Was Soft There , says, “The young people I met at Shakespeare and Company were infected by George’s mad, romantic view of the world and they left the bookstore with the passion to do incredible things. And the older people I met there were reinvigorated by it all, ready to go forth and face the world again.”

……………..in modern life, with its furious pace, there isn’t enough time to sit and talk with idle poets and eccentric cyclists. But my six months at the bookstore gave me that time and as a result I have some of the richest friendships possible.”

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/excessively-wilde/article4155259.ece -. The result — both in classical opera and in Wilde — is a kind of lightness in movement that entirely belies the sheer energy and vitality that goes into its creation. The final work is, as Stoppard puts it, nearly perfect. In another letter to Alexander, Wilde wrote, immodestly, but accurately: “The first act is ingenious, the second beautiful, the third abominably clever.” He might well have been describing his life.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/performers-with-a-new-profile/article4155298.ece –Thanks to social media, the mystique of the Carnatic musician has been punctured by finger pointing — with “likes” and “dislikes” and, on rare occasions, the proverbial middle finger, says Kalpana Mohan.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-educationplus/relax-help-is-on-hand/article4158435.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/arts/http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/pursuing-boredom/article4155297.eceart/destination-kochi/article4170978.ece – A uniquely British eccentricity celebrating the prosaic and mundane.

Pepper House: Scene of activity. Photo:Thulasi Kakkat Valsan Koorma Kolleri: Rebirth of material. Photo:Thulasi Kakkat

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/destination-kochi/article4179813.ece

The Hindu : FEATURES / LITERARY REVIEW : A legacy of silence.

However, word on the publishing street is that he’s a bit of a recluse. Do you think that’s a fair assessment, I ask. Mistry offers a wide smile and wry acceptance: “Yes, I think recluse is fair. I’m not a very sociable kind of person. And I try not to organise or attend parties.” Neither is he comfortable doing the regulation book tour for his latest effort, Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer ; a launch in Mumbai is the only concession he’s made so far.

Smiling again (he does smile a lot for a reclusive guy), he admits, “I’m happiest when I’m writing; I feel whole and healthy when the writing is going well. When you’re exploring an idea and one word leads to the next smoothly — that’s the real pleasure.”

Most of that writing is now done in Kodaikanal, a world apart from his native Mumbai, the setting for much of his work. How did that happen? “For health reasons and because my son goes to school there,” he says. “Anyway, Mumbai has become insufferable and so money-centric. People seem to have too much money to spend. I don’t have that kind of money.” The language barrier doesn’t bother him either: “I may not be able to speak Tamil well, but I relate much better to the people in Kodaikanal than in Mumbai.”

Another reason Mistry has not been too much in the news is that, for many years, he battled a debilitating illness that has left him somewhat frail in body but stronger in mind. “I’ve overcome illness by using my mind,” he says. Though, in his customary self-deprecatory manner, he says later,I’m not very cerebral, I’m not an ideas man. Emotion is very important to me.

Plenty of emotion — joyous, aching, bitter, ribald — spills out of Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer , a novel imbued with an overwhelming sense of loss and a dark, brooding humour that never lets up. A love story set against the backdrop of the khandhias or corpse-bearers of the Parsi community, the novel expectedly asks questions about life and death.

“These are questions one keeps asking oneself: How seriously should I take karma? How do miracles happen? When you’re a person of strong faith, God is on your side. You can rationalise even the bad things that happen to you; they don’t destroy your faith,” he muses. Of himself, he says, “I am a person of doubting faith; a person who likes the idea of prayer and faith but wonders whether there is any evidence to support it outside of our own minds.”

Mistry does not hesitate to ask these questions upfront in the book, partly because he sees that approach as integral to the purpose of writing. As he declares in his brief bio on the Aleph website, a work of fiction should be “able to move its reader at some fundamental level, to disturb and rearrange his outlook on life, perhaps even change him as a person for even a very short moment.”