Thursday, January 18, 2018

Readings: Home Fire

Home Fire is the re-imagining of a classic Greek tragedy, one that I won't name in case it gives away a plot point. Since I hadn't read it anyway (have never read any, I think?) it didn't make a whit of difference; although the final scene may have been more impressive because of my ignorance.

The story is told from five viewpoints, all of which belong to characters who are Brits of Pakistani extraction. The novel is a fascinating portrait of this reality, especially so because being Pakistani is never the crux of the issue for any character. However, it is supremely important owing to the politics of the day. How can it not be, with the wave of radicalization that that nation faces as a serious threat? 

Ms. Shamsie is a gifted writer indeed because she has the power of restraint. While the plot hums along nicely, seemingly by itself, she presents us clips and glimpses of how all five characters intersect at the edge of the same question: what would we do for those we love, even if that act destroys others we love? 

And thus all five hurtle along to the devastating end. The imagery in this last sequence of the story is haunting, and well-handled where it could have verged into melodrama. Finally one is left to mourn for the last character standing, as it were, and the emotional imprint packs quite a wallop.

A very welcome addition to my growing discovery of new authors, is K. Shamsie. And it's given me more impetus to rampage through the HOT OFF THE PRESS section in the library. 

Random note: I watch the PBS show Home Fires (marvelous) but for some reason always call it Home Fries. And thus this worthy novel, unfortunately, will always be Home Frie in my head. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It's not time for Easter yet

It's time to go Down Under again, and in fact we are already almost at the third round. My good friend R.Nadal is going great guns so far, but will he prevail? We all know Uncle Fed lurks in the background. And this time he's being ever so coy, deflecting all comments on to Rafa and how great the Spaniard is at No.1, etc. etc. I see you, Fedster! 

Then Djokovic appears to have fixed his elbow and is back playing confidently. No Murray. So it's really these three and then the poor Next Gen pretenders to the crown A. Zverev and Dominic Theim. 

In round 3 Rafa faces the delightfully named Damir Dzuhmur. Rounds 1 and 2 were uneventful, except for his opponent in the former, one Estrella-Burgos, looking so delighted to be thrashed 6-1 6-1 6-1 that he got a standing ovation. 

As for that other crucial factor: Rafa's outfit. is...I just...perhaps I shall just let it be. I am still reeling a bit, to be frank. I was so perplexed that I finally asked J's opinion and he hit it on the head as usual: he said the wristbands needed to be different. 

I still don't know. It's rather far from Easter still. Image here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Readings: The Power

This book turned out to be an opportune choice in the current climate of sexual harassment accusations. Why? Because it essentially looks at history with women as the dominant sex. Not just in some abstract or temporary Naomi Alderman's imagining, women are really dominant, men are really subservient. 

This all happens when one fine day, young women worldwide start being able to unleash electrical power through their hands. It is voluntary, usually when she is under stress, and can and does kill. The victim, 9 times out of 10, is a man. As the story unfolds we realize that this becomes the new reality and as centuries go by, history takes an entirely different aspect than how we know it now. 

I don't want to go into plot or character, because I think the central idea itself is so big and so marvelous that I would have been intrigued enough to keep reading even if not well-written. Fortunately, it is. At times I found myself wondering, sheesh, drugs, cults, maiming, political intrigue...but each time I realized that yes, it is most likely what would happen in the world if Alderman's fiction was reality.

Here's the thing. I have never been one to look at things from a 'feminist' perspective. Instead I've always viewed it as the state of being powerful and the abuse that stems from that. It's all over: rich against poor, beautiful against ugly, white against non-white, Brahmin against shudra, young over old, straight over gay, able-bodied over disabled. Men over women. But Alderman's version is so sweeping and all-encompassing and ignites the imagination so effectively that one is compelled to think in man vs. woman terms. 

That basic dominance and subjugation is still a sad reality for many unfortunate women in many parts of the world even today. And even if slogans like "The Future is Female" turn me instantly cranky, I still applaud Alderman's vision and story. I am ready to forgive the easy shots she takes at our man-dominant culture and the extreme violence. They were necessary to this particular fiction, and the novel also has the bonus of an unexpectedly and slyly funny ending. 

I wish I had thought of this idea. Sigh. Then what? Probably would've had to have someone ghost-write it (and then take all the credit for myself). Thankfully Alderman's gone and done that quite adroitly herself, so the world is safe from my post-plagiarism at least.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Principle of Moments

Rain in L.A! 

I didn't feel celebratory all day though. Finally as the afternoon wore on, J swooped in and redeemed all, as usual. We went off to that new cafe we've discovered that makes the most beautiful cakes and pastries in the entire city. Our petite coffees steamed as we chose a table outside, where we were the only ones. The rain was leaking into the inside and the buckets were already half-full. A young waitress worked diligently in her squelching sneakers.

The streets were slick and reflective, with that swooshing sound that transports the day into something evocative. J and I ate our custard tarts in memory of Lisbon and as a giant truck made a turn near us, its driver craned his neck to look at the two of us, longing clear on his face. Oh to be in love and sitting in a rainy cafe balcony on a Tuesday afternoon! 

As we drove home, the title of the Robert Plant piece that that new indie radio station played us seemed apt: The Principle of Moments.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018


Admittedly, I have watched only two or three episodes of either of these series that I'm about to review so it's a clear case of jumping the gun. But the new year is a good time for some gun-jumping, I thought. 

The first is a European Spanish heist series that I am excited about. The robbers-a motley crew who wear kooky Dali masks, no less- have entered the Mint of Spain and are printing their own currency. Brilliant! But when the situation involves 67 hostages and clashing robber personalities, who knows what can happen? Add to that a seasoned hostage negotiator and some upstart hostages, and there's plenty of action. The robbers are all code-named after world cities, my favorite so far being the girl called Nairobi. I do hope the series doesn't fizzle, and they don't keep me waiting like a twit for Season 2.

Then there's the masterful The Last Post. Set in 1965 Aden, what's not to like? The Brits are still in power, and it is their viewpoint we see here. The direction is very subtle and I love this. Of course there is a lot of war, death, hostilities etc. But this is all handled well and acted superbly.

Episode 2 had some ghastly and well-executed scenes of battle and beheading. But to offset this were the scenes of two of the wives going off on a jaunt to the local club. Filmed in high noon it looked like, the saturated colors of the ladies' dresses and their fashion accessories simply lit up the screen especially in the water scenes. One of the wives, Mrs. Laithwaite played by one Jessica Raine, is especially captivating. 

As a bonus, J is watching with me which is a rare treat. The makers can take this as a mark of high quality, since my good friend J turns his nose up at just about any t.v. series at all. Ha.

I just remembered that La Casa also has the added delight of actor crossover. Diego from Gran Hotel and Jamila from El Tiempo Entre Costuras make appearances here; in fact Jamila is Nairobi! How delightful. I love when this happens. I wish someone would make a meme where they would dub the voices of the characters with their other characters. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Girl Waits with Gun

What a fun meme! Answering questions with titles of books I've read this year. Thanks, Boston Bibliophile.

Describe yourself: Girl Waits with Gun

How do you feel? Bittersweeet

Describe where you currently live: The House on Fortune Street

If you could go anywhere...? The Hills of Tuscany

Favorite form of transportation: The Old Patagonian Express

Your best friend is: A Rising Man

You and your friends are: The Master Butchers Singing Club

What's the weather like? The Enchanted April

Your favorite time of day is: Late Nights on Air

What is life for you? A Tale for the Time Being

You fear: Lying Awake

Best advice: Version Control

Thought for the day: Still Life

How you would like to die: Airborn

Friday, December 29, 2017

Watched: Wind River

The beautiful title and the snowy setting of this movie have been calling my name for months, yet I did not watch it until the very end of the year. 

And it was supremely worth watching. Even if the themes of loss, despair, grief, madness and crime are all heavy, the director's touch is spare- thus giving us breathing space in the midst of  all its sorrow. This was essential in a story set in the vast, unknowable snow wastes of an Indian reservation named Wind River. Lyrical as it sounds, this is not a forgiving place. We see symptoms of the havoc it wreaks on its inhabitants: one is drug-addled to high heaven, another is driven to the madness of self-harm. Yet another is compelled to turn to crime to confront the seething nothingness. And this is all tied together by two crimes: one past, one present. 

The present crime of a young woman found dead in the snow is what brings FBI agent Jane Bannon to Wind River. There she is assisted by wildlife hunter and tracker Cory Lambert. (Her own handling of the admittedly difficult case is somewhat heavy-handed, so this assistance is much-needed.) Lambert is a crucial player: he is a residual victim of a crime from three years ago. Yet, the two crimes are not linked in the end by any conventional or expected thread. Instead, all is solved as we are shown explicitly what happened. There is no resolution, and that is as life is most times. 

There is some disturbing violence. It is not gratuitous, but horrific in its immediacy and very essential-ness. The landscape has its own violence too, as pitiless as the human variety. 

I am haunted by Wind River. It's an understated, accomplished piece of work with a chilling yet tender perspective on crime and justice. Awards Season? I don't know. Sometimes the very subtlety of a work can go against it, but I hope that is not the case here. 

Overall rating: 8/10
Director: Taylor Sherridan
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