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

Booknotes: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands

In Indian culture and society, a lot of the talk/news related to Mumbai mafia and gang violence/crime is mostly about the men–the ganglords, their aides, and their henchmen. Often, the only women we read of (or see in Bollywood movie versions) tend to be the virtuous, long-suffering wives or mothers, or the glamorous arm candy or objects of desire. Though Mumbai’s mafia men, the underworld, and organized crime have all been portrayed in movies over the decades, the cultural fascination truly took hold of the collective imagination with the 1998 movie, Satya, which was about a turf war between two Mumbai ganglords. So a book about the far lesser-known mafia women is irresistible for the primary reason that the authors offer in their introduction: “They are fascinating women because they push the boundaries of our dominant moral codes.” Continue reading Booknotes: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands

the element of lavishness

Booknotes: The Element of Lavishness

“The personal correspondence of writers feeds on left-over energy. There is also the element of lavishness, of enjoying the fact that they are throwing away one of their better efforts, for the chances of any given letter’s surviving is fifty-fifty, at most. And there is the element of confidence — of the relaxed backhand stroke that can place the ball anywhere that it pleases the writer have it go.” Continue reading Booknotes: The Element of Lavishness

Booknotes: The First to Disappear

Patty Somlo’s latest short story collection is titled ‘The First to Disappear,’ after the first story in the book. And, in a way, all the stories here are about people looking for things that have disappeared from them — whether that is a way of life, a person, an object, a pleasure, or an ideal. Continue reading Booknotes: The First to Disappear

jane eyre

Booknotes: Jane Eyre

In the end, no matter how or when in life you come to this book, Jane’s ferocious radicalism (she would rather live alone than accept a relationship that compromises her independence) and her firm resolve to be treated as an equal (she does not accept flattery or hypocrisy without scorn) stand the test of time. The themes about class, servitude, religion, independence, beauty standards are as relevant today. We do not read ‘Jane Eyre’ to identify with her difficult and painful life. We do not even read her as a role model because, after a certain point, her religiosity and self-righteousness can begin to grate. But, we cannot help admiring everything she represents about truth and freedom. Continue reading Booknotes: Jane Eyre