This week in mysteries: My staycation would be nothing without detective novels--no, it's true. I lie on the sofa in my study, which is not a very comfortable one for lying on, since it's too small and invariably gives me a kink in my neck, but it's there, you know? And these days, keeping me company is Deborah Crombie. I've mentioned her to you before, she does this series about two detectives called Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James, but since the last time I wrote about her, I've read at least seven more books in the series and now I feel like I can talk about Crombie's oeuvre as it were, more efficiently.
So--these are very British books. Primarily set in London and nearby, the two detectives, Duncan (always referred to as Kinkaid) and Gemma (who gets a first name, in what I'm not sure is slightly sexist or because Crombie is fonder of her) work with Scotland Yard and the London Metropolitan Police respectively. Here's the odd thing: Crombie is actually American. Now, normally, when an American writer tries to Britishify themselves, you can tell with one giveaway or another, but she seems to have completely subdued her own Americanism to write EXTREMELY British scenes. (This is as far as I can tell, but maybe a true native would be able to nitpick further.) From the biog at the back of the books, we know that Crombie spends a lot of time in London, researching each book, and so, the central theme of each book is usually sprawling. For example, there's the mystery of the Olympic rower who was murdered and then there's pages of meticulous detail about belonging to a rowing club and what that means. There's stuff about the monks in Glastonbury and automatic writing and spiritualism, which is also amazing, and my own personal favourite, Dreaming of the Bones, where the murder of a famous poet back in the day leads to a more current murder, with lots of "excerpts" as it were, from the fake book.
But besides the research, what's truly addictive about Kinkaid/James is their own relationship. Soon enough, they start sleeping together, soon after, there's this big blended family, and watching the two solve their own mysteries while also connecting with each other in the end, it's a relief after all those stories about lonely fucked up detectives who "only work alone." It's soothing, like an Agatha Christie, but the scope is wider.
This week in thinking about old hobbies: Was reading this article about the Capital City Minstrels, a choir based in Delhi, who I used to sing with, back in school/college. I really did enjoy my time singing, this is before karaoke night became so ubiquitous, and I had been in a couple of school choirs before, so I was full of confidence in my singing abilities. In school I was an alto, taking the lower notes, but the director of the choir then, a man named Nowshad, took me through the scales, and we discovered I was a soprano after all. I hit notes I have never been able to hit since--blame smoking? And my moment of triumph was singing Ave Verum Corpus where the soprano section got to hold the note high and sweet and long while the rest chimed in.
I miss rehearsals, I think, whether for plays or choirs, I miss the camaraderie, the tea and snacks, the sense of accomplishment after a good session. For a while, Lushin Dubey and Bubbles Sabharwal used to run a kids theatre camp every summer, where they put on musicals. Nayantara and I auditioned for Matilda, and we both got in to the chorus, which stood in the orchestra pit of Kamani auditorium. There was a boy....
But he was so much cooler and older and wiser than I was, he was seventeen, but he may as well have been twenty seven, and I was fourteen, but I looked around eleven, so there was no chance, NO CHANCE, but I still gazed at him every night, his beauty, his voice. And when the play finished, I wanted desperately to get in touch, but I wanted him to get in touch with me, not just the needy tagalong, but the girl he finally saw for her Inner Beauty as it were. I spent so many of my teen years yearning, which is a great hobby for your teen if you're looking for them to never get into any trouble at all, because all they are doing is daydreaming of that perfect evening, where he calls and then he takes your hand and he tells you how special you are. I was heavily into the occult as this point, remind me to tell you someday about my brief brush with Wiccanism, so I used my homemade Ouija boards to ask for his phone number, and wrote it down, and never dialled it, and one afternoon, my dear patient friend and I called all the His Last Names in the phone book so we could ask for him. By page two, it still wasn't his number, and we gave it up.
I wonder what it would have been like to come of age in today's world--Facebook and Instagram making it so easy to stalk someone, to tell them of your interest. Not so much fun, but I think if you offered it to me back then--here is a magic machine on which you can tell what your object of interest is doing AT ALL TIMES--I would have taken it in a heartbeat.
Thursday link list coming to you courtesy of a slow week:
Excerpt: “Okurrr!” added a few members of Cardi’s team, filling the room in the Carlyle Hotel with the sounds of an avian chorus. (“Okurrr,” with a trilled r, is one of Cardi’s signature exclamations. The association of Cardi with “okurrr” has become so strong that the hotel embroidered the interjection on one of her room’s pillowcases.)
This guy pretended to be a high schooler so he could take advantage of the American college system.
Excerpt: The things about him that raised questions—he wore suits and ties sometimes, he had an accent—were readily dismissed as the strangenesses of any new student. When someone would ask why he talked funny, Asher would tell them he grew up "in the Russian-Jewish neighborhood down by the river." When they asked where he'd been before ninth grade, he said he'd been homeschooled. When an instructor asked him why his name had changed to Asher Potts (he'd improbably started freshman year as Artur Samarin), Asher joked: "Because I'm a Russian spy." But for the most part, in the way of all high school students, the suspect details were mostly met with a shrug. American teenagers, to his great benefit, were naturally incurious. No oddity was worth paying attention to more than their own. And so he became one of them.
Why everyone should talk to their kids about rape, and maybe also take them to protests
Excerpt: Some parents travel with their children to foreign countries to expose them to different cultures. Others take them to libraries, book readings and panel discussions. I take my son to protests where he hears and sees strong women of all ages come out to talk fearlessly about violence, misogyny, poetry, anguish and love. He sees women laugh raucously, dress whimsically, and express their opinions unhesitatingly. As he grows up he will realise that it’s a world where he will be welcomed as an equal if he accords them the same respect.
The Juul has made smokers out of non smokers
Excerpt: Juuling and scrolling through Instagram offer strikingly similar forms of contemporary pleasure. Both provide stimulus when you’re tired and fidgety, and both tend to become mindless tics that fit neatly into rapidly diminishing amounts of free time. (You can take two Juul hits and double-tap a bunch of pics in about ten seconds. You need an inefficient five minutes to burn a paper tube of tar and leaves into ash.) The omnipresence of Juul on social media has undoubtedly made kids overestimate the extent of teen Juuling—young people tend to think that their peers drink, smoke, and hook up more than they actually do. And it’s all beyond regulation: the F.D.A. can control the behavior of companies advertising nicotine for profit, but it can do nothing about teens advertising nicotine to one another for free.
Excerpt: In a city like Delhi, one can live 20 years, and still be perceived as an outsider. There are still locations and settings which are alien to you and where you stand out, even when you try to fit in. Great cities, I realised on that Mudrika, are like lovers— you know them intimately, but you will never know them entirely. You will be well-versed with certain terrains and landscapes, and one day, the unforeseen raises its head.
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