This week in accomplishments: This newsletter is coming to you one day later, because I finished writing my book--okay, I finished writing the first draft, anyway. I read this author interview somewhere, where the author was like, "There aren't that many rewards in the writing life--it's often lonely and isolating and thankless--so you need to take your joys where you find them, so take a moment to celebrate when you finish writing a manuscript." I have taken a moment. There's this one glorious golden bit, where your book only belongs to you, not to readers, not to editors, not to the whims of the publicity department, just to you, and it's yours, for whatever it is. And that is the moment I took, just to pat myself on the back and think, "Okay! Look at you! You did this!" I haven't done this for previous books, so I never remember the very day that they were done and how I felt (good, I assume) before self-doubt started creeping in so with The One Who Had Two Lives, I'm marking it.
After this weekend (when I am taking a nice break from anything work related), I will read the manuscript again, make some edits and send it off to the publishers, and then will begin the long back-and-forth editing process, until the book is ready to see the world in its final form. I don't much enjoy edits, but they are extremely necessary--both your own, and the outside eye--to make a book into something other people will enjoy reading, which is why we're doing this, right?
This week in leisure: I was having a conversation with K the other day, and I realised I could not call to mind any favourite movies. Isn't that strange? It's been a regret of mine for some time that I'm just not into films, they don't interest me like books, they don't move me like music, they don't hold my attention like TV shows. But then, films are more accessible now than they ever have been, so many choices, so many streaming services, and it's sort of weird to be a creative, thinking person with such a gap in my cultural knowledge. So I decided that I would watch movies when I normally would turn on some show or the other to binge watch, and I made a list after going through all the streaming services I subscribe to (Netflix, Hotstar and Prime) as well as a few more that I acquired elsewhere. It goes (just legal streaming):
Still Alice (86% Rotten Tomatoes. Loved the book.)
Steel Magnolias (69% Rotten Tomatoes, women bonding in a small town salon PLUS Julia Roberts.)
Breakfast At Tiffany's (88% RT, can you believe I haven't watched this yet?)
To Kill A Mockingbird (91% RT, ditto)
Sense And Sensibility (98% RT, watched this last night, see thoughts below)
The Meyerowitz Stories (92% RT, Netflix Original that I am curious about.)
The Edge of Seventeen (95% RT, new young coming-of-age movie)
20th Century Women (88% RT, not quite sure about this, but the premise looks fun.)
Wonder Woman (92% RT, because everyone went on and on about this one so much.)
Deadpool (83% RT, because I like snarky smart superhero movies, not the ones that are super earnie)
Moana (96% RT, I will watch a Disney movie over another movie any day.)
Hidden Figures (93% um, hello, the first black women to work at NASA? How could I NOT?)
Other movies that are not streaming anywhere but I am still looking out for:
Election (93% RT, on a recommendation by Mansha, watched yesterday, see thoughts below.)
Pan's Labyrinth (95% RT, seems to suit my Mahabharata frame of mind.)
Remains of the Day (97% RT, very much enjoyed the book.)
Blade Runner (90% RT, because I am feeling open minded about cinema in general.)
The Post (87% RT, STREEP AND HANKS IN A NEWSPAPER STORY)
I, Tonya (90%, because of a vague interest I have in Olympic figure skating.)
LOVED Election--so funny, so sharp, so based on a book by an author I love (Tom Perrotta!) I think if I had watched it a decade ago, I would have disliked Reese Witherspoon's character a lot more, and sympathised with Matthew Broderick a lot more as well, but in this age of #MeToo, even the nuances of this comedy stick with you. I'm not saying any more because spoilers, but yes, very good.
Sense And Sensibility is, would you believe, an Austen I haven't read (that and Persuasion) and the movie was so good I immediately went to Gutenberg and got my free Kindle file to read. Excellent. I was enthralled till the end. Critics online call it the best Austen adaptation ever made.
Anyway, that is my list. Please send recommendations if you have any. I do not like violence, too much bloodshed and gun or drug stories, plus movies that spend a lot of time in dark, not well lit rooms. I like twisty personalities, sharp dialogue, and movies that make you pause them and go, "WAIT A MINUTE...."
This week in all play and no work: I am actively looking for freelance work, by the way, if you are or know someone looking. I can turn my hand to most kinds of writing and editing. Erm, I feel like I should have one more line here so: yes! I am good! Hire me!
This week in stuff I wrote: Vice India has just launched and I did a fun piece on the most interesting girls of the Mahabharata and their place in the modern day world.
Excerpt: But even if you take Hidimbi at face value: she’s a cannibal sent to lure the five brothers back to her brother, Hidimba, for his evening meal, but can’t go through with it because she falls so madly in love with one of them. Raised as a rakshasi in a forest, perhaps only knowing her brother (I haven’t read about a whole tribe of them being there), there’s a certain Flowers In The Attic appeal to Hidimbi’s story. Two siblings, outcasts from “civilisation”, existing in their own little world. I imagine Hidimba would have been a loving, kind brother, but I also imagine he would have wanted to preserve their world because it was the only one he knew.
Also, I went out for lunch with my mum yesterday and we got me an I-Finished-My-Book treat, which was a nice new pair of blue jeans from Levi's. Haven't been to Levi's in SO LONG, turns out they only have two styles for women these days: straight and skinny. I bought straight fit, which are actually a little skinny? But I only have one pair of comfortable jeans and those are jeggings, the others are all too small, too tight, too thick, too something. If you travel, you need jeans. It's just the way of the world. Don't ask me, I didn't make the rules.
Two con stories for you this week:
1) The woman who pretended to be a fancy New York socialite and took all the reporter's money (tsk):
Excerpt: The vacation was Anna’s idea. She again needed to leave the States in order to reset her ESTA visa, she said. Instead of returning home to Germany, she suggested we take a trip somewhere warm. It had been a long time since my last vacation. I happily agreed that we should explore options, thinking we’d find off-season fares to the Dominican Republic or Turks and Caicos. Anna suggested Marrakech; she’d always wanted to go. She picked La Mamounia, a five-star luxury resort ranked among the best in the world, and knowing that her selection was cost-prohibitive for my budget, she nonchalantly offered to cover my flights, the hotel, and expenses. She reserved a $7,000/night private riad, a traditional Moroccan villa with an interior courtyard, three bedrooms, and a pool, and forwarded me the confirmation e-mail. Due to a seemingly minor snafu, I’d put the plane tickets on my American Express card, with Anna promising to reimburse me promptly. Since I did this all the time for work, I didn’t give it a second thought.
Excerpt: His strategy with the women was similar: He posed as an IRS officer who worked undercover. This helped him explain away tricky situations like why an office wouldn’t acknowledge his employment, why he needed to keep his identity secret, why he carried an identity card in another name, or why he couldn’t make money transfers from his bank account.
Excerpt: India, a country that has a deeply held preference for sons and male heirs, has an excess of 37 million males, according to its most recent census. The number of newborn female babies compared with males has continued to plummet, even as the country grows more developed and prosperous. The imbalance creates a surplus of bachelors and exacerbates human trafficking, both for brides and, possibly, prostitution. Officials attribute this to the advent of sex-selective technology in the last 30 years, which is now banned but still in widespread practice.
Excerpt: Voice recognition and responding to voice commands are really hard problems computationally. And we’ve made amazing strides forward but there’s still a fair way to go. Accents, for example, are still really hard for these kinds of systems, and complex commands are really hard for these systems.
Excerpt: That’s probably all that needs to be said, but in case you’re reading this out loud at a bar or restaurant and your companions missed it because it’s so loud in there, here it is again: IT ONLY TAKES ONE PERSON TO RAISE THE VOLUME IN A RESTAURANT.