|Grooving to that Saturday beat|
This week in domesticated companion animals: Bruno has taken to yowling outside the bedroom door (which all three cats are on the other side of because they like to party all night and we do not). He times these yowls just when I'm in the middle of a dream, so I haven't even finished my full REM circle, and when I wake up mid-dream I wind up just dozing for the rest of the night, until I am properly awake. Plus I have to pee. And when I get up to go to the loo, I may as well stay up because there's no way I'm getting back to sleep.
All that to explain why at 7.30 this morning, I lay in bed watching the early morning light at the edges of our blinds. Stupid cat.
When I wake up in the morning, I pad along into the living room and pull up the blinds there--I don't know how many more days THAT'S going to last, friends, we had the fan on all night for the first time yesterday, and I'm craving gin and tonics instead of red wine, my usual summer switch. Anyway, next door has a pet rooster called Lodhi, I feel like I've told you about him already, but recently they have added a puppy to their household. (I suspect this puppy is part of a litter we've been seeing on the road recently, very cute things in that fluffy confident way all puppies are, except with a certain insouciance of expression that only Indian street dogs have. One puppy had his paw run over, poor little thing, but seems to have either made a full recovery or vanished and this is another black puppy I've been admiring all the while.) Anyway, in a totally non-creepy way, I see next door's young daughter with her pets on the terrace when I open the blinds. Some days she just cradles the rooster and walks him around while the puppy follows at her feet, but usually it's just her sitting on the stairs with her mobile and the puppy curled up and asleep just under her legs. Today I saw someone else on the terrace, but the puppy was in his usual spot anyway. I'm still not even circling the idea of having children, but I do want a dog one day again. But only when we stop travelling and can stay still for a moment.
This week in the movies: It's the Oscars today, and while I've long given up the pretense that movies even have a fighting chance in my entertainment schedule (books, TV, meeting people with the last two often sacrificed for travel) we did go to watch Black Panther on Holi, after all the festivities had died down and the roads were as empty as a hill station after a long weekend. The movie was great, not least because of the 3D glasses and the big bucket of popcorn, and all the other people instead of just being in our house. I could have lived without the girl next to me who was one of those people who insist on reading aloud stuff that isn't said by the characters. You know the type, the two characters are in front of a store and she's saying the name of the store out loud, the dialogue hasn't caught up with the subtitles so she repeats the last word and laughs. SO ANNOYING.
Anyway, a lot of people will be recommending Black Panther at you, so you shouldn't just take my word for it. It is a superhero movie, but also an utopian one, which I realise I haven't actually seen before, my world being peopled mostly by DYStopia.
This week in the writing life: I am working very hard and should be done with the first draft of The One Who Had Two Lives (the story of Amba and Shikhandini) by April if all goes well, and even taking into account the two days I will be travelling (going to Cochin tomorrow for the Krithi Lit Fest, but because I'm so ensconced in the book right now, for the first time ever I am not extending my trip longer than the one day I have a session so I should be able to get work done both before and after.)
Speaking of lit fests, here are my thoughts on the Gateway lit fest in Mumbai where I was last week.
And my book recommendation column is up for this month which also includes a meditation on bookstores in general.
This week in favours: This newsletter is only 15 (!!!) subscribers away from 400. It would be wonderful if you forwarded people this email or sent them a link to this sign up page. I like round numbers. THANK YOU.
The mostly-bookish Monday link list!
(A reader wrote to me last week asking if I could change the formatting of the link list so that the excerpts came AFTER the link. It made sense, so I'm trying it. Let me know how you feel about it, if you have strong feelings at all, that is.)
* While we're talking about Black Panther, let's also gaze in wonderment at everyone's new boyfriend Michael with-a-B Jordan*
Excerpt: It goes without saying that Michael B. Jordan is hot. And he’s jacked. And he has a super-cute smile, I suppose, as well as maybe the cutest nose in the world. But there’s something more than all of that going on. What’s the science behind his rebranding as the shiny internet-at-large’s newest boyfriend? What has made this conventionally hot, anime-loving, lives-with-his-parents-in-New-Jersey movie star truly ascend into the pantheon of thirst?
Excerpt: It’s not without its challenges. The carpet shampooer is in frequent use — her weak bladder means she needs walking every three hours. She disapproves fiercely of cyclists, scooters, and, once (to our utter mortification), a motorized wheelchair. She fosters irrational dislikes and has to be shut away to stop her “herding” of the odd guest. She has nearly dislocated my shoulder and requires regular specialist grooming and glucosamine for her joints, and if she sits on your lap, you have twenty minutes before your legs go numb and start falling off.
Excerpt: There is not a lot of great contemporary literature about motherhood. It is as bad as sex. We have myths, we have Bible stories, we have fairy tales, we have Peppa Pig, but it is not often that you open a novel and encounter people buying socks, picking glitter out of floorboards, putting away toys in plastic bins. Like Jenny Offill, Slimani can write ravishingly of female bodies, even postpartum ones (“her belly of folds and waves, where they built their house, where so many worries and joys flowered”), but “Chanson Douce” is not so much about motherhood as it is about what the cultural theorist Angela McRobbie has called the “neoliberal intensification of mothering.” An activity, not a state, mothering—along with its gender-neutral version, parenting—is competitive and outsourceable. Slimani tries to put a price on the anxieties, hypocrisies, and inequalities that arise from the commodification of our most intimate relationships.
Excerpt: Whoaaaaaaaaaaaaa! You gotta do it, go real low then stand up. Try it! Seriously! Oh my god, it’s like… WHOA, you know? Ugh, where is all the DICK! I’m so horny I’d fuck Fred — what’s his name? The pink-faced one? He’s like, ugly hot, you know? Like, you hate yourself but that’s part of it. Omigod, shut up Anne you’re gonna marry Gilbert Fuckin’ Blythe but the rest of us gotta eat, too. Is Ruby Gillis’s brother around? Still? Because I would. You know I would.
Excerpt: I was bewitched, although I could not have felt flirty or romantic about the whole exchange any less had they been my own children. In any case, the atmosphere was not one of flirtation. The “dating” in this speed dating event was a gentle irony. Singles in the greater Bandra area are so self-conscious and narcissistic that, like the Zumba instructor I once had, we’re all at our best blowing kisses to ourselves in the mirror.
Excerpt: I went to the theater bought my ticket and popcorn, and found a seat. Then onto the screen came an insane fisherman carrying an ice hook. He wasn’t in my book. I thought, You know, this is a big complex; maybe I’ve walked into the wrong theater. So I was preparing to leave and then, no, up from below rolled the words “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and I thought, That is my book, but who is that man and what is he going to do with that ice hook? Well, I soon found out. He was going to decapitate my characters. Their heads were flying off, and their blood was spurting, and everybody was screaming, and I was screaming. I was so horrified I couldn’t even open my popcorn.
Excerpt: t’s unclear who coined the term, or for that matter, how it’s actually spelled. Some go with numerous As (e.g., “fraaaandship”), while others disregard the D entirely (e.g., “fraanship”). Either way, fraandships refer to the kind of guys who randomly add people living in the West on Facebook with an accompanying message begging you to accept their request. They slide into your DMs on Twitter or add you to a giant group chat (usually featuring celebrities, brands and/or other verified people). They send adoring emails to your work account and tag you in all of their posts, regardless of their content.
Excerpt: The towers are serviced by three lifts. At tower D, where Charu stays, all the three lifts are functional. She has organised a cab for her kids for their commute to school and back. The only activity one hears at the Sports Wood is the noise from other flats where construction is still on — finishing work on floors, windows and doors is still in progress in many apartments.