Booknotes: Oscar and Lucinda

Screenwriting guru Syd Field often wrote/said: When you’re writing a scene, look for a way that dramatizes the scene “against the grain.” My book notes today are related specifically to this technique of going “against the grain”, using Peter Carey’s 1988 Booker-winning ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, as example. I have loved this novel since I first read it and still dip into my favorite bits from time to time. Continue reading Booknotes: Oscar and Lucinda

Booknotes: Jane Eyre

Originally posted on indiatopia:
In my book circles, the Austen vs Brontës debate has come up often. And, though I’ve come to appreciate Austen’s finer points over time, I have always preferred the Brontës. With the three Brontë sisters, there’s the Charlotte vs Emily debate (Anne, sadly, doesn’t get much airtime). This has been harder. For years, I stuck with Emily because I found ‘Wuthering… Continue reading Booknotes: Jane Eyre

Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

With ‘The Bluest Eye’, Morrison wanted to explore racial self-contempt and how that comes about in us. In the late-60s, when the idea of different kinds of racial beauty was just beginning to be properly articulated and accepted, she wanted to show, through the life of a twelve-year-old girl, Pecola, how concepts like “ugly” become personal and how they shape personality and, therefore, life. Throughout, Morrison has also scrutinized the effects of religion, shame, classism, colonization (of the mind), gender politics, incest, child molestation, etc. To avoid dehumanizing those responsible for creating this kind of mindset in a child, Morrison has given us complex, layered characters who are, to me, almost Dickensian. I say “almost” because it is when describing the worst things that happen to or are done by some of these characters that Morrison surpasses Dickens’ pathos. Her truth is searingly honest but kind, and her kindness carefully extends to both the flaws and the virtues of these men and women. Dickens showed us who people are or can be; Morrison shows us who we are or can be. Continue reading Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

Johann Sperl Mädchen im Bauerngarten

On Cultivating One’s Own Garden

Recently, I caught up with the movie version of ‘The Martian’, about the NASA astronaut who gets left on Mars alone, presumed dead. After his initial shock and panic, Mark Watney decides to “science the shit out of” the disaster of being left alone on an uninhabitable terrain with practically no life resources. The most important thing he has to do is figure out how to sustain himself for some-50 days before contact with NASA can be possible. So, as a botanist, he cultivates a potato garden with ingenuity, hard work, and patience. Continue reading On Cultivating One’s Own Garden

Book Review: Sedition: A Novel

Let’s start with a brief non-spoiler story summary: Four new-money City men (Drigg, Brass, Frogmorton, Sawneyford) in 18th century England are anxious to get their five daughters (Marianne, Everina, Georgiana, Harriet, Alathea) married off to titled men. Sitting around in a coffeehouse, they come up with a plan to present the girls in a concert, playing the then-new pianoforte (over the more commonly-used harpsichord) so that they might attract marriage proposals from the right kind of men: titled aristocrats. And the fun and games begin. Continue reading Book Review: Sedition: A Novel