Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter 7

Whew. What a weekend! I've been hooked to Harry Potter since 1999 - when my then boyfriend (now husband) gifted me the first three books. I've wavered in my loyalties through books 5 and 6 in particular, because they just seemd like prologues to the real stuff, i.e. Book 7. And after all the hype, all the news and all the excitement, I hoped it wasn't going to be a letdown.

We had pre-ordered our copy from Fabmall but the kids woke us up at 5 am - not to read the book, they're too young, but JLT - and after that I couldn't get back to sleep. So I lay and brooded and brooded and brooded until by 8 am I couldn't stand it. "Can't wait for the postman", I yelled, and chivvied poor hubby, who'd been out late the previous night, into driving us down to the nearest Landmark to buy us a copy. While there, I also saw the kidebrity who's featured on HT Sunday's front page as the 7 year old who loves the HP books (whether they're suitable or not for a 7 year old is a whole other post).

Despite all our rushing, I could only seriously start reading around 1:30 as we were running around doing errands. I had to force myself to slow down despite the breathless pace of the book itself, as I really didn't want this book and therefore the series, to end.

When I put it down finally, I was in awe of the author - she's my pin-up idol, if I had one today. What is incredible is the little touches of whimsy which show a fantastically inventive brain at work - and once she names something, it seems so natural that one wonders why one never realised that before, e.g. goblins speaking gobbledegook, or the deluminator...She has created a wonderful world which is so real that one is a little dazed when one looks up from the book and sees our everyday world. She has borrowed from the classics, both ancient and modern, and made them so spectacularly her own, that a whole generation of children is likely to say - Doesn't this remind you of Harry Potter?, when they read the myths, rather than the other way around. And she has spun a phenomenon which reaches people across ages, cultures, countries and languages. It's not about the commercialisation of the book - people must have tried that and failed with several other books. But the reason why the commercial aspect of the Harry Potter franchise succeeds is because of the success of Harry Potter, rather than the other way around.
Children and adults in India, Russia, South America, Germany, the US and other parts of the globe overwhelmingly respond in the same way to her books ( I'm talking about the fans here). Seriously, when was the last time you saw so much excitement, so much participation or so much security around a book? When was the last time both parents and children fought among themselves to be the first to read a book or bought individual copies for each person in a house? When was the last time a book release made you so anxious you queued up outside the bookstore at 1 am or thereabouts to get your hands on a copy?
I think people should be thanking her, not only for writing this wonderful series, but for making it cool, in a world where pictures have started to mean more than a thousand words, for people to read more than a thousand words!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Confess

I like to think of myself as somewhat intellectual - not necessarily the JNU type, but as someone who lives for and loves mental stimulation, and takes in a wide range of topics as areas of interest. That is true to some extent, but I do have a darker, shallower self too. It tends to be more active when I'm stressed at work - not that that's any excuse - in the form of what I read.

All the most undemanding, comfortable, old friends type of genres and authors get dusted off at this time. Chicklit, naturally, is a big part of this phase, and I really enjoy Jill Mansell whose characters are always fun and not much given to agonising over anything. I like Shiela O'Flanagan too, and I really enjoy the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella though I do wish her heroines would show a tiny bit more of grey matter. Georgette Heyer is also a favourite, for her wonderful mix of adventure, mystery and romance, and her heroines usually tend to be more substantial in terms of character.

GO - Girl's own - literature is another soother for me. I love Elinor M. Brent-Dyer's Chalet series ( should since it inspired my first book) and these effortlessly transport me back in time to an era where all that mattered was another schoolgirl's rivalry/ jealousy, homework assignments and exams (come to think of it, not much different from work, eh?). Anne of Green Gables, Betsy-Tacy and their friends, Katy and what she did, all of them have the same resonance - of a simpler, less harried world in which relationships were not only important but nurtured with time and patience, where kids could run around freely with little worry of either traffic or human predators, and time itself seemed to move less slowly so they could enjoy each day to its fullest.

Adventure/ thrill is another genre I'm partial to at these times, from the swash-buckling stories of Rafael Sabatini and Anthony Hope (Prisoner of Zenda is an old favourite book and movie) to the more modern Biggles single-handedly hunting down huns and assorted villains. Nancy drew sometimes gets a look in though by and large I don't like her, and the Hardy Boys and Three Investigators are visited more often. I just finished a Hardy Boy story set in the Canadian North-West - how can you not like stories with adventure out in the wilds of wherever, in which the villains get captured with a left/ right hook to the jaw instead of a 'wicked automatic' and immediately start fighting amongst themselves and spilling the beans ( no torture needed here)?

Romance is a genre that I do take to now and then, though my appetite for pure romance a la Mills and Boon is dying down - maybe I'm growing up. I prefer M&Bs that have adventure/ detection as a central theme. Barbara Cartland's novels have recently been re-released by an indian publisher so I'm rreading a few of those, though I tell myself it's for the historical detail. It can hardly be for character analysis - all her heroines are in the same mould of being super thin, petite, with over-large eyes for their faces and very fair, spiritual, all interested in the East and reincarnation and abused in some way, while the men always have angular faces with strong chins, are outstandingly handsome and accomplished, usually well-read as well as well-traveled to exotic places including the East, and also very rich and with many mistresses/ lovers panting after them while they have never given their hearts to anyone...Danielle Steel, I blush again to confess, is another of the romance-authors I live, though her heroines have a little more spirit. However they too are typically cast in the same mould, and sometimes I wonder if it isn't the very sameness that attracts me - no surprises, happy ending...

Last of all but definitely not least of all, the humour section of our library gets dusted off. There's the autobiographical books of Bob Hope - screamingly funny, and laugh-out-loud - don't read them in public if you get embarassed by people staring at you strangely! William and his shenanigans are always good for a little bedtime reading to stop thinking about work/ computing numbers in your sleep. Wodehouse's entire oeuvre comes into this category as well. And I love both Cheaper by the dozen and Belles on their toes (don't see the movies with Steve Martin, they are a travesty). Daddy Long Legs is another book that falls between GO and funny.

There, now it's out. Now I can go back to my intel-prententious self (until 21st and Harry potter the 7th, of course)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

About books

As I said on my other blog one day, I love books. They are almost more than the breath of life to me and it is a rare place or occasion that I can't find the time to read. I read while in the car (my husband/ driver driving, natch), while bathing, while reading, while watching TV, get the picture. I also love collecting books and have now amassed a collection that is literally reading us out of home - there are books spilling out of practically every corner of the house. I'm kind of ashamed of the condition my books are in because they've been shoved into a storage area and are rather dusty, since we moved the library out of the spare bedroom to make space for our two kids. But we are expanding the house and plan to set aside a room as the library/ study by the end of the year, hopefully.
Books are my friends, my entertainers, my comfort...I've spent a lot of white nights in my youth, propped up by a stack of books next to my bed. As a result I am pretty possessive and hate it when friends don't return what they borrow - as a result I'm pretty selective about who I lend my books to.
I am a serial hobbyist - you know the type - gardening one day, interior decor the next, and my favourite way to learn more about any of these hobbies is through books - it's also a great excuse to buy more books, if I needed one. I have managed to collect some 'collectables', i.e. out of print paperbacks from the Golden Age of detective fiction - SS Van Dine etc. I love scouring through second hand bookshops, because it's kind of like a treasure hunt - not so much that you may find a book that can make you rich, but that you may discover an old favourite or a gem you had heard about but not found.

I am a re-reader, frequently seeking out old favourites to soothe jangled nerves, but also like discovering new authors. I have catholic tastes, ranging from children's literature, school stories to whodunnits, poetry, classics, biographies, travel writing and books about food. In fact, I have amassed over 200 books about cooking and recipes over the last 2-3 years, to fan one of my other passions.

This blog is primarily going to be about whatever I'm reading, my opinions, loves, hates, things like that, but I would also love to host a book club section - where we brainstorm together about what to read in the next month ( 2 titles, max) for the club, and then have an online discussion about the books.