Category Archives: funny

I Kissed a Frog – tales of friendship and love

Rupa Gulab’s I Kissed a Frog is a cool book and I don’t know why I hadn’t heard about it before. Living under a rock the size of Antarctica isn’t the answer, isolation from fellow bookworms is. Not many book nerds around ergo even less bookish discussions because apparently everyone has a life. Sniff. As if I don’t. My idea of living it up is just different from most of y’all.

Never judge a book by its cover or the colour of its cover. Or its title for that matter as it is completely misleading sometimes. I am a woman but I despise Rani Pink and no, you cannot change my mind. It took awhile for me to pick it up because of my reservations. I eyed it warily in the book fair many times before picking it up and reading the blurb, then surreptitiously googling. What! I have loads of unread books and no space to keep them. I have been shallow before and bought books because I loved their covers. What will you do? Disown me and banish me from sisterhood? No can do. Once a woman always a woman (or so I have been told).

Google told me that the reverse fairy tales are supposed to funny, so picked it up, and read them first. They subvert stereotypes sure and these modern fairytales, from Rapunzel to Cinderella, were interesting but they didn’t hold my interest. They were too short to make a real impact but I loved the accompanying cartoons. I would like to read them again, preferably out loud to my sister (that is if she can stand my grating voice and is willing to waste precious time) so that we can both have a good laugh.

The stories in the book are divided into three parts – love, friendship and fairytales. As you know I read them in reverse order.

Continue reading I Kissed a Frog – tales of friendship and love

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Laurie Halse Anderon’s Speak

 I saw Speak a while ago, the movie adaptation of the very acclaimed book of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, starring Kristen Stewart in the lead role. Despair not, it’s nothing like Twilight (to be fair to her, Twilight fans say that’s how Bella is, in which case excellent acting ) where she has only two expressions (longing and longing) but it doesn’t translate into emotion. She is so much more than a pretty prop. Incidentally I knew that she can act having seen her in the bit role I had seen her in Into the Wild (one book I must get back to again). She emotes with their silence which speaks volumes. The movie does justice to the absolutely brilliant YA novel that deals with teenage rape and depression, alienation as a result of it, very serious issues which parents, teachers and the society at large will rather not admit exist, forget dealing with it. I kept remembering stuff from the book, the lines from the book in the screenplay and the things they missed.

I always follow this rule of reading the book first if I can help it. Like most book lovers or bibliophiles (I don’t mind what you call us, we are what we are) if I know the movie is adapted from a book I prefer to read the book first (I had to wait for long periods for reading Speak) and it has always been rewarding because I get to build the world created in the book, and that joy every book lover knows. Of course on the minus side the movie usually (I thought of using the phrase ‘more often than not’ but now that I have read On Writing I feel King’s watching me) falls short of expectations, except the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.

I don’t know why so many people look down on YA. Trust me there are many. What you read popular fiction?! The term pop fiction is even more hideous. What’s wrong with the term contemporary fiction? Other than classics and books written by dead writers everything else they look down upon. Book snobs! They deal with real things in a real and sometimes not so grim manner, and do not put people to sleep so that their target audience actually does read and understand it. I was absolutely bowled over by Speak. Anderson is brilliant in the way she captures the voice of a teenager on the precipice of completely losing her sanity and spiralling into a quiet depression, and sinking into it but for her art teacher who gives her something to do that she enjoys, hence something to live for and she looks forward to stay in the land of living day after day.

It was first published in 1999 and five years later the movie followed in 2004. At first look the movie appears to tread a familiar territory because we have seen so many high school movies but it couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

The book cover had intrigued me for a long time and I took some time to be convinced about the story- I did not want to read about another victim who had thrown her life away. I liked Laurie Halse Anderson’s website, read her blog, bought the book and absolutely fell in love with the cover again, one of the most beautiful covers ever and waited. I believe every book finds you at just the right time. Another way of saying it unless I feel compelled to read something I don’t read it. I read it and it was literally life altering. The author interview at the back gave me some background to the book and the furore it created after its release.

She deliberately goes mute chooses not to say a word because when she tries to speak out the truth about what happened that summer nobody listens. It gnaws at her inside and she changes from a girl who lived life to just existing. She finally speaks out and she is the one who helps herself climb out from the horrific past and begins the process of acceptance as she tells herself that there is no point denying what happened. She is never going to forget it and the best way to deal with it is to confront it head on, which would someday eventually lead to healing.

The book is a must read. How come it doesn’t top favourite lists here isn’t exactly a surprise to me, it is because of the themes it deals with. I highly recommend it. Speak the book is more powerful than the movie. I will be talking about the book again soon. It’s been calling out to me again. Time for a reread.

You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.

You can’t speak up about your rights and be silent.

You need to  visit the mind of a great one- Picasso who saw the truth and ripped it from the earth with two angry hands. If something is eating at you, you have gotta find a way to use it.

A revolutionary is only as good as his analysis. Why? We should be able to shout out how things can be better.

Coming across Finding Violet Park again

I finished reading Finding Violet Park a couple of days ago and I am still thinking about it, which is always a good sign because my memory isn’t as reliable as it is used to be. I think the cover is brilliant (much better than the photograph I have taken) and when I first got the book, I thought someone had actually doodled all over it. I remember thinking I liked it and at the same time wondered how could they sell such a book, even if it is second hand, until I read the blurb. Silly me.
I knew the book as Me, the Missing and the Dead (but I must confess I like the title Finding Violet Park better because it is a title that doesn’t give anything away) as it was released in America. It’s a title I was familiar with since 2010, when I had read Broken Soup (Jenny Valentine’s second book), having noticed it in Pantaloons (when it still housed books) perhaps because it stood out due to its unusual cover.

After reading Broken Soup, I came to know that her first book, Finding Violet Park, won the Guardian children’s fiction prize and I wanted to read it (the stunning cover was the actual reason). Then university happened and I forgot all about it. Recently I saw it on a used book site (thank you Bookchor) and it all came back to me. Jenny Valentine felt like a nom de plume to me but it is indeed her real name (she married her Valentine).

It is odd coming back to an author whose work I had read when I wasn’t as much of a cynic and sullied by the world as I’m now. While reading I felt as if I was reconciling the present and past versions of me, which is weird because it is the first time I am reading this book but my mind associates Finding Violet Park with an earlier time, a pre-university era.

I read a major chunk of the book while awaiting my turn in a long line (which twisted and turned in ways unimaginable) of people waiting for their turn at the registration counter at a hospital. And if my nose wasn’t buried in the book, the two hour wait in the line moving slower than a snail, which ultimately turned out to be for nothing, would have been maddening. If there is anything I have learnt all these years, it is this – Never leave the house without a book.

The book deals with how Lucas, a 16 year old and his family – mother, sister, brother and grandparents, cope after his father goes missing (read ghosting in real life). It’s a book where death has a strong presence since the other lead character Violet Park, is in a urn (as in already dead). Their paths crisscross and what happens then forms the rest of the narrative.

Lucas has been forced to grow up before he hit his teens and never got the chance to be a normal teenager. He is a bit of an oddball and strange for his age but  that is what growing up too early does to you. He talks to himself often. I get you. I really do. When others don’t understand the only option left is oneself. He idolizes his father, who vanished without a trace, leaving behind his pregnant wife, two children and ageing parents. And this breaks my heart because I know the truth won’t be pretty.

Lucas conjures up out of the world scenarios for his father’s disappearance, never believing him to be dead. He believes that one fine day he will be back in their lives. He is unable to face facts or refuses to do so because the world he has so carefully constructed would then crumble and, he would be left with nothing but a gaping hole, where life as he knew it used to be.

Pete, Lucas’s dad, was absent from their lives but is present throughout the book. Lucas was the worst affected by his absence and could not let go of him even as time passed and there was no hope of his returning home. His mom let him be a walking shrine to his dad, thinking it to be a way he could cope with the disappearance though it made moving on very difficult  for others.

Though published by Harper Children in 2007 this is not a children’s book but would belong in the category YA (young adult). The writing is simple but the themes are complex but then YA books have never been traditional and that is what I like about them. Some people think YA books are rubbish and precocious, and isn’t worth the hype. Read the book for the most unexpected pair of protagonists, if not for the themes it addresses – death, alienation, loneliness, assisted suicide, dissolution of a marriage and growing up in a broken family, trials of old age and ravages of dementia all without ever getting heavy handed.

The book is equal parts funny, tender and sad and hopeful though not all at once. And the ending will leave you gobsmacked. I suggest you get your hands on a copy, if YA floats your boat.

It occurs to me all that most people do when they grow up is fix on something impossible and hunger after it.
 I can’t believe how people turn themselves in circles and repeat the mistakes that screwed them over in the first place.
It’s funny when you start thinking about pivotal moments like this in your life, chance happenings that end up meaning everything.
 Maybe Pansy saw him the way I wanted to, half blind, without the cruel light of actual knowledge. 
I don’t know if I said it right or not when I said it to Bob. It’s much easier saying everything you want to say when you are the only one that is listening. 
…I was thinking how ironic it was, how unfair that I’d been mad for so long at the person who stuck around instead of the one who abandoned me. 
 It’s what you do when you grow up, apparently, face up to things you’d rather not and accept the fact that nobody is who you thought they were, maybe not even close.

Not a damsel in distress

A snake is standing guard at the entrance ready to swallow me. If due to the fear I don’t walk on the path that leads to my destiny and allow the crippling fear to rule over me so that I am rooted to the spot, where does that leave me? The imaginary hisses in my ear bothering me so that I can’t get out of bed, fearing that under it a great big snake is waiting to snap at my ankles and that will be the end of me. 
 
Time to put my feet down on solid ground, snake or no snake, and take a step towards reclaiming my life.There will be no knight in shining armour. There is no wizard with a wand. That’s fine as I’m not  a damsel in distress anyone else can rescue. It’s only me and my wits. Bodily strength has deserted me but  still enough remains to help carry myself to the other side. Shield the feet with slippers. Pack a knapsack with essentials and start walking. It all starts with a decision to get out of the bed.
Wish you would budge Mr Snake,  and give me enough space to pass. I want to go in the direction of the road you are blocking.

Why, my little lass, you are asking for permission. My dear, if only you would have demanded, I would have let you go because that meant you had been brave enough to say what you wanted and meant it. But you are unsure my dear, hence the request. Unsure about the path you want to take. Unsure about a mere decision. Go back and ruminate on it. Come back when you are ready to fight and standby your decision. Shoo. Go.

You will find me standing guard, waiting…

There May Be An Asterisk Involved

 

At the third edition of the Think Literature, which I recently attended, Prof. Harish Trivedi was moderating the session on Feminism and at the end of the session he pronounced that chick lit, written by and for women is somewhat on the lower literary rung. I admit chick lit isn’t what you would call ‘great literature’ (that’s again debatable) but it has its own place firmly set in stone and, from what I see, the market is only going to increase.

I read chick lit though I don’t prefer the term and love that they work with women’s themes, deal with relationships and see the world through a woman’s eyes. I don’t see anything wrong with reading a book about a woman in a fictional world that may (or may not) resemble my world, working in a place that’s suspiciously real and facing the same issues that I may (or may not) face, all told with a sense of humour?

I recently finished There May Be An Asterisk Involved by Vedashree Khambete which falls into this genre.I liked the cover, dare I say it’s cute (for the lack of any other word springing to my mind) and minimalist. The blurb on the back makes you want to dive in.

 Ira Bhat, copywriter by day, sleep deprived copywriter by night, has only one goal: to not go utterly bonkers as she negotiates the perils and pitfalls of a career in advertising. These include, but are not limited to: comma obsessed clients, award obsessed bosses, obnoxious marketing executives, high-strung creative types, impossible deadlines, obscure briefs, fiercely competitive colleagues, the death of many a big idea…and the ever present danger of falling in love with the new account planner. Sounds doable, but is it?

Because when it comes to advertising, somewhere, hidden in the fine print there may be an asterisk involved…

Ira works in an advertising firm called J. McCarthy. The writer herself comes from an advertising background and you wonder what’s fact and what’s fiction and perhaps, that is how she intended it. See what she says before prologue begins-

 This book is a work of fiction.
That means it’s not based on any people 
who are, or ever will be in a position to give me a job.
Just saying.
.
I loved the book as I had anticipated. I laughed out loud more times than I could count in recent times reading a book and even copied her words and used them to recount to friends later, for a repeat laugh. In one instance Ira talks about economy of words, which is paramount in advertising. She tells an intern to read Hemingway to learn from the master himself. I found myself nodding in agreement.

I like that she explained the terms related to advertising* with foot notes (rare in a contemporary trade book) which aren’t apparent to somebody outside the world of advertising.

*A baseline or tagline captures the essence of an ad campaign or of the brand itself. It’s made up of four, maybe five words at the most, which copywriters take four, maybe five hours to come up with. And that’s when the muse is being especially kind.

Ira as a character has a lot of comic potential. She is imaginative, sharp, quick tempered and her antics make for a fun read. Her two friends added to the charm, keeping the atmosphere light and jokey (is that even a word?) with their banter. Witty motormouth that Ira is, she reminded me of an articulate friend of mine who has a comeback for every line, can combat every situation and turn every comment on its head.

Sample this conversation between two characters:

You-you really think marriage is a good idea?

I think marriage is an evil, sadistic self abuse campaign that makes two people hate each other more than they can comprehend. But if you guys are in love don’t let that stop you.

Thanks, that’s reassuring…If you are looking for a light read and want to get an insider’s view into the world of advertising while laughing out loud, your search stops right here.