Open sky, open book, and a well-read New Year
My list of resolutions have the staples – lose weight, sleep early, not use credit card must like a tissue paper to wipe off early sprouting of greed, cook more, eat less, walk more, talk less, etc. And I know exactly where these resolutions will land up in the middle of January. (They will be neatly listed on fancy stationery, with none of the items crossed off.) But somewhere inside me my conscience is whimpering, “Have some scruples!” Hence, I’m putting down some resolutions that I can actually see myself working on.
Get with it
My first resolution is to see what the fuss is about all those books that get written in series, i.e. – Fifty Shades, Harry Potter, Twilight etc. The truth is, I have never been a ‘Second book of the series’ kind of person. I don’t see the merit of writing in series. If you couldn’t manage to tell a story in a book, then just shut up and rest. I mean, stories dealing with philosophy, free will and drama extensively got written in one book The Brothers Karamazov. Stories of families and cultures heaving through a long episode in history got written in one book Tale of Two Cities. Long tales of intersecting destinies, a nation’s independence, an entire sub-continent’s search for meaning got written in one book Midnight’s Children. Heck! Even a book that talks about a hundred years got written in one book, One Hundred Years of Solitude! So, frankly, I don’t know why a story of a little boy passing out from some fancy school (even if it was the wizard school) needed 7 novels! This year, though, I intend to be a serial reader and find out.
Books are books and movies are movies and seldom the two shall meet
‘Hobbit’ the movie made me a little angry. As did the Lord of the Rings series. Here’s my question to filmmakers – if you just want to make weird creatures look ‘realistic’, take up Enid Blyton’s ‘Faraway Tree’. Do your wizardry with Moonface and the Angry Pixie and Dame Washalot and Silky the fairy. Leave Tolkien alone! Because frankly, LOTR just seems like a video-gamey advertisement for Middle-earth. Maybe that has been my biggest grouse against movies based on books – the loss of sub-text; the glossing over of nuances to amplify the obvious (and now, in horrendous 3D technology). In recent times, I liked Life of Pi. I think it’s better that Ang Lee made Life of Pi instead of, say, James Cameron. Somehow, the movie was not as ‘literal’ as it could have been in the hands of a less evolved director. Yet…I have read the book and I can say that Life of Pi the movie, is possibly a shadow (maybe a perfect shadow but a shadow nevertheless) of a huge, character-exalting mountain range. For one thing, what the movie doesn’t explore fully (or rather, it can’t…the medium of cinema must have its limitations), is why Pi held on for so long. Why? Instinct for survival could keep him alive for one day, for one week, for one month…but for days on end, Pi lived. With the drabness of unending days on sea he lived. With no hope on the horizon, he lived. Why? There’s this part in the book where Pi explains that he is not a skilled or talented person. He does not have a terrific prowess for anything. But he is someone who will do his damndest to stay alive. He will weep for his family, he will lament loss, but he will live because he has a mule’s stubbornness to exist. I’m paraphrasing here but this piece was so vital in the storytelling. I missed this portion completely in the movie. In fact, this specific description in the book made me marvel at the author’s choice of the title. Yann Martel didn’t call it ‘Adventures of Pi’. He called it ‘Life of Pi’. The immenseness of this twist came to me only because I sort of understood Pi’s character in that paragraph. That a human-being so firmly ensconced with the business of survival will retain his sanity. He will go from sharing a boat with animals to later, sharing a domestic life with a cat…and not have a nervous breakdown.
In hindsight, though, I can see the appeal of a filmmaker to convert a book into a movie. It’s just their way of sharing a fantastic story. That’s a human drive and I must see it that way. This year, I’ll stop the judgment and comparison and simply enjoy what is on offer.
Make a thoughtful booklist
Every year, I want to make a reading list and stick to it. I want to read the important books and the serious ones and the ‘seminal works’, etc. Then I get distracted by the next buzz on the block and pick up a Danielle Steel. Over the years, I have become curious about authors, especially about what they read. What my favorite authors read, I must too. Anyway, Yann Martel (an author who has currently captivated my imagination) got curious about the Canadian Prime Minister one day. There was a felicitation ceremony for writers and the Prime Minister did not seem to be interested in the people he was felicitating. Martel noticed this. He wondered about it. He wondered what kind of a leader does not read. According to Martel, a book is a great way to explore the ‘other’ – to know the world and life of people you will never know and possibly never meet. If a leader does not read books, how does he build and maintain empathy? So Yann Martel decided to send a book to the Prime Minister every two weeks. Each book would be accompanied by a note on why that specific book was important, the list is available here. The list is superb and the notes are gold! I intend to read through this list, even if I’m not the Prime Minister of Canada. I’d like to be in Yann Martel’s ‘good books’.