30 June 2009
It’s been a century of one of my most favourite little orphan girls of all time. Anne—lovely, lissome, red-haired (sometimes auburn), Anne-with-an-e—hits a hundred years this year and from the internet I find that her home town of Prince Edward Island in Canada is totally marketing this. There is a musical, new contests, a L.M Montgomery symposium and, perhaps the oddest, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has launched a picture of Anne landmarks from space. The Japanese love Anne, by the way. There’s a special anime Anne and tourists often come to visit with their hair dyed red and in two pigtails.
As for me, my obsession doesn’t go that far. Sure, I own all the books. And sure, I could probably quote them through and through if you asked me, and even go over some of trivia. And yes, I have gone on the internet and found e-texts of some of the out-of-print books that I haven’t been able to find (about characters that aren’t Anne, but are still charming.) Maybe I even wanted red hair for a bit and the attentions of the cutest boy in Avonlea. But I don’t think I’d go to the extent of dying my hair (shades of Anne Of Green Gables when she dyes her hair green, remember, remember?). So, I’m just about on the other side of obsessive fandom.
While Anne was fantastic—I mean, really, what was not to love?—and the TV shows and movies never filtered into India, so I could keep my memories of her untainted and unspoilt (although I would be the first in line to buy tickets for a movie if they made one), the older she grew, the more I wasn’t feeling it. Once Anne’s House Of Dreams was done, she became, well, boring. Regular. A housewife with a bunch of kids. And it wasn’t even her story anymore, it was told from one of the children’s eyes. It was satisfying to see how everyone turned out, but the big Blythe family just didn’t feel as well defined as little homeless Anne Shirley living with the Cuthberts—dour, spinster Marilla and shy and reclusive Mathew.
That’s when I started to switch to Montgomery’s other books. There were mostly about kids with one or both parents gone, although Pat Of Silver Bush had a happy home with a large family. (It’s just that Pat’s particular neurosis was to never ever leave her home. Pat was altogether too whiny for me.) Next to Anne, I liked Emily Of New Moon best, although I could never find a copy in bookstores, so I had to read about her online. Emily too is an orphan, and life is not as hunky dory as it is in Avonlea. She doesn’t care for her aunts much, has some peculiar childhood friends and grows up to be a writer. Her life is a lot less pretty-pretty and more real than Anne’s was, even though Montgomery’s style of writing remains as gentle with both.
Also I loved the Story Girl series, which is more like two novellas, not taking off into personal histories and what happened before and what happened after like most of Montgomery’s books do, but just focusing on one year at the King’s farm, where Beverly and Felix are visiting family (their father being away—not dead but away—but still satisfies the whole missing parent thing) and the things they do with their cousins, especially one cousin called Sara Stanley or the Story Girl who can make even the multiplication tables sound like wondrous information.
Characters that endure, that was what Montgomery did best. If I could create just one of her women, women who came to life as soon as you read about them and women you wanted instantly to befriend, I’d be a happy writer.
PS: Here is a pretty exhaustive reading resource for all of Montgomery's books online. You're welcome!
24 June 2009
The monsoon is here! And this makes it hard for me to be grumpy, because really, everything is wetnewclean and the glorious smell of rain is everywhere and it's cool. Well, while you're indoors anyway. Outdoors is a muddy mess, and I can't find my umbrella, so yesterday I got soaked not once but TWICE with people giving me amused looks as I searched desperately for a rickshaw.
Before the monsoon arrived though, last weekend, on an incredibly muggy evening, was a party thrown by two of my friends at their brand new house. It was one of those insane parties, everyone losing track of time and getting hugely drunk. I stuck to talking to people I knew, although I did have a long intense discussion with someone about how I had been in love with Holden Caulfield when I was twelve and that's even what my laptop's name was and he agreed that Salinger was the best writer ever and we nodded and realised we were the only two sensible people there.
At most parties, my role is to sit by the laptop or iPod or whatever and find music to get people going. Sadly, this is not the case in my own house. JC has very clear ideas about music, as do I, so we wind up alternating between his and mine. But otherwise? I have full control and people like it, people like my music, so that's always awesome. I always wanted to be a DJ, with some kind of jazzy name, headphones to my ear, watching people spiral in front of me to something I choose. One of my secret ambitions (don't laugh!) is to be a radio jockey. My Hindi isn't stellar, I mean, I can speak it, but I can't churn out the patter that you have to to be on radio. I need to stop and think and translate in my head. BUT there are so many, many English shows now, that it should be easier right? I just want to be able to share music and things with people, I like the idea of someone driving to work or sitting in a local train and being bored and tuning in to hear MY voice and my music. Of course, my show would be all about talking less and playing more music and I'd do themes and everything! Young women one week, or classic songs another, or just songs with poetry for lyrics. You know? Clearly, I've given this a lot of thought. Where's my job?
Right before this party, Ira and I went and had our hair cut. Mine reached all the way down my back and I was so bored of it doing nothing except being up and away from the back of my neck all the time that I asked the hairdresser to do something different. And she did. It's now a little longer than chin length, in an "asymmetrical bob" and I can wear it loose and it looks quite good actually, all scrunched up with product (of COURSE I use product, I have Malayali hair, it's thick, it's frizzy, it's totally everywhere.) It's the first time a stylist has been able to do something with my hair, normally people stay away from doing anything too much with curly hair, because it tends to stick out and form an afro if you're not careful. But this stylist was awesome, so yeah, if you have the same problem I do, go to Curl Up And Dye (I KNOW! Isn't it a GREAT name?) on Hill Road and ask for Sugandh.
My hair actually, (and this is gross, so look away if you're squeamish), had started to make little dreadlocks behind my head, underneath another layer of hair. No matter how much I combed it out and braided it, the next time I left it loose the matted clumps would be back. It was awful. Not to mention embarrasing when I got there. She spent about 45 minutes trying to comb it out and then finally I said, "Just cut it off" and then the scissors wouldn't go through it. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me right there. You think you know thick hair, but you don't until you've seen mine. It's masses of hair, hair that weighs a good amount on its own and now I feel about five kilos lighter AND I can shower and run my fingers all the way through! It's like magic!
But she was very sweet about it and told me other horror stories, so I felt comforted knowing that mine was not the worst case she had ever seen.
In other news, writing a second book is MUCH MUCH MUCH harder than writing the first one. So please send happy thoughts my way so that I can get this over and done with already.
16 June 2009
*yes, every Tuesday, I will vent my spleen about things that annoy me.
* you probably should NOT visit if you a) object to swearing and b) are easily offended
* if you're not any of the above things, you are welcome to vent also in the comments section.
*ADULT discussions are encouraged, anything along the lines of "Waaaaaaaah, you took my blankie!" will be ignored.
Right now that THAT'S done. Let's go right into it.
> Delivery people in this city are mindblowingly incompetent. Remember back when I said what I loved about Bombay was all the stuff you could get delivered to your house? Well, it turns out you CAN get everything delivered to your house, if you're prepared to wait three fucking hours. Seriously. On my shit list are Maroosh (dudes promised me my food at 8.45, it wound up arriving at 12.30, after the delivery guy had taken MY order to another house and then left for the day and I had to reorder. At midnight.) and Table Of Contents (from the promised time of 3.45 to FINALLY at 5.15 where the food was inedible. They did comp it though, so SMALL window of forgiveness. But it's safe to say I'm never ordering in from them again.) And I know that each time I call to ask about my order, the stock answer is, "Madam, the delivery boy's just left." Just left. Right. He's probably walking backwards to get here, in that case.
> Stupid people piss me off. There are just SO MANY of them recently. They're everywhere. They ask stupid questions, they're in my fucking FACE with their stupid questions, they're in my INBOX with their stupid questions. Example? You want an example? I'll give you an example:
No hi's and hellos let me come straight to the point. Before coming to what i wanted to tell let me tell you, 'i hate you'. No, wait don't go away this isn't a hate mail. Just wanted to make you know i am not an admirer of yours plainly because i love reading better stuffs.
I have seen you have a huge fan following at blogspot. If you get to see mine (REMOVED BECAUSE I'M NOT SENDING YOU ANY FUCKING TRAFFIC) you will have hard time hitting spider webs... :-( ..i spent ages to write something and no one checks it out even if i compel them. I feel dejected. can u please please do me a favor by posting some comments. i dont mind even if you comment - "what the fuck is this?" or "how plane stupid is this!!"
Well...99% i no you'll leave this but i bet in the rest 1%. I recco u to read COLLEGE DIARIES my first post (which is found at the end of the blog) if u have decided to kill 5 min f ur life to this useful idiot here.
Let me tell you what's wrong with this email. What's wrong with this email is a) when you write someone FOR A FAVOUR, you do not begin it with "I am not an admirer of yours" and b) you do not then go on to beg this person--whom you've made it very clear, you're NOT an admirer of, to send you some traffic. Jesus. Talk about deluded.
I'm not asking you to kiss my ass here, but it just seems to me to be plain ol' common sense that when you REQUEST someone to do something, you do it nicely. It's one of the first things you learn, for fuck's sake.
Also? The reason no one is reading your blog is because you're stupid.
PS: Plane = a flying machine/ a thing used to even out woodwork.
Okay, I might be done for now. Check back later today for more updates--if you haven't had enough already.
10 June 2009
First of all, I'd like to point you in the direction of a very interesting deal that's going on on Twitter. Started by Samit, a bunch of writers, previously published or otherwise, are engaging in a race to finish their novels first. You can find the whole thread here with live updates. It's most fun and most motivating, especially for me, because I have 3000 words of my next magnum opus all ready, but those 3000 have been sitting and stagnating in my "writing" folder forever. This should help me get off my ass a little, huh? It's turning into somewhat of an internet phenomenon, and I'm throwing it open to you guys, anyone who has an unfinished project, jump in and compete. The prize? One finished novel. You can find an updated list of participants over here and the Facebook page over here.
Second, I got a rather interesting email today from Michael of Whoogaau. He says: "I just stumbled upon your site and I’m not sure if you’re interested but we created a gift card for your readers which gives them $30 to spend at our store. All your readers need to do is visit our website and enter the code THECOMPULS into the cart. We ship to all countries and there are no conditions." Well, thanks, Michael! I guess this is a publicity thing, but still, it's pretty neat that you get a gift certificate. The site makes Ugg boots, for which I have no use in this hot and tropical city, but be sure to go on over if you're interested and let me know how the experience goes. Free stuff is awesome!
Thirdly, I'm going to be live on radio in Chennai, between 3 to 4 pm tomorrow, talking about blogging and so on. The channel is 104.8 and the show's called Live Cafe. If you have any pressing questions you HAVE to ask, tell me in the comment section today so that I can make sure the host asks them.
Okay, that's about all that's new. Have a good Wednesday!
5 June 2009
It is easy to find the adolescent writer (and by that, I mean a writer who is an adolescent, not someone who writes for them). They are moody and disappear for long periods of time into their rooms and can be seen mostly obsessively scribbling in some little ratty notebook or another. They carry books around with them—usually books that feel 'deep', like Kahlil Gibran or JD Salinger—and they look at you with scornful eyes when you suggest sports or other group activities. If you fit one or all of these stereotypes, I'd venture another bet. The scribbling? Is poetry.
I have these deep insights, because I too was once a teenage writer, having deep, meaningful teenage moments, playing songs over and over again on my tape deck and refusing to go anywhere without my book. And I wrote poetry. And such poetry it was! All the angst of the world lay in my poems, all the unrequited love—and honestly, who does unrequited love better than a teenager? For class composition assignments, when we were told to choose a genre, I chose poetry again, and was never surprised when it got good marks. “I'm going to be a poet,” I told everyone who asked, and even some people who didn't, “I might write prose to make some money—poets don't make much, sadly—but I'm going to be very famous.”
Along the way, I think, before I had reached the cringe stage upon rereads (and some of my efforts are truly cringe worthy) I discovered how much easier it was to do prose and not worry about stanzas or rhythms and just get a sentence perfect and I abandoned poetry, pretty much. A good thing too. No matter how good I thought I was, I was never going to make money off poetry, just as I realised as a teenager. Which is why now, reading poets that I love, I am filled with envy and longing. Oh, to be able to sum up an emotion in five lines! Oh, for the completeness of emotion that a haiku offers! Oh, to be that verbal acrobat, standing easily on my head instead of being the prosaic ticket collector at the entrance.
One of the few times I have felt envy at someone else's experience was when a friend told me that he got to go see Wendy Cope read. This friend—not even a Cope fan—was a bit put out at having to miss a tennis match, but admits to being completely converted by the end of it. I wanted to hyperventilate when I heard about that. I didn't even imagine she did appearances! Wendy Cope's poetry rhymes and is humorous and poignant all at the same time. I love her. She's also the reason I stopped writing poetry, because instead of evoking the 'me too' response that authors did for me, it was more the 'I'm never going to be able to do that'. Cope has three anthologies out—hard to find in India, but definitely worth ordering off Amazon. Allow me to offer you a sample:
From Being Boring
I don't go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don't need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I've found a safe mooring,
I've just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.
Moving on then to someone so unlike Cope, that I wonder sometimes what goes towards making someone your favourite. I can tell a similarity in the prose writers I like, they all have somewhat the same themes and characters, but with poets, it's all over the place. e.e cummings with his dislike of punctuation and poems that just had to be read off the page as opposed to being read out loud or performed (something which today's poets cannot exist without in our entertainment hungry world). Cummings' poetry is all over the place but holds in its random phrasing and structure a very tight hold on the feeling he was trying to put out there. Get one of his anthologies, it's simple reading and something you will be able to keep returning to time and again.
From somewhere i have never travelled
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose
Poetry still continues to appeal to writers—amateur or otherwise—as the best possible way to get your thoughts out there. Be warned though, it's really easy to write a bad poem. And the secret to a good one, is knowing when to stop.