Friday, November 30, 2007

Neurosis: In Blank Verse

I stand in the tittering rain
Facing a tinted window;
My clothes tattered,
My toes trembling,
My eyes red from tortuous strain.
I squint so I may behold
What goes on behind translucent doors.
There are people
Seated around a table.
Oh how they talk, how they chatter
How they rattle on
In endless banter.
What they speak I do not hear
But I guess I have a faint inkling.
They laugh at those that aren't present.
Probably at one who stands outside
On tenterhooks;
At times in harsh sunlight,
At times in intimidating thunder.
How endlessly they mock
The plight and the absence
Of near yet faceless strangers.
When they rise to leave,
I leave too
Out of sheer discretion.
I turn back to investigate and to overcome
The supposed last blow to my reputation.
I find no trace of my antecedents,
Or room for my exploits.
The only things left
Are empty wine glasses
And irrevocably scarred pride.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An Affair that Doesn't End

I believe that there exists a bond between writers and their readers that is often bizzare and sometimes metaphysical. I am often at a loss to comprehend my affinity towards dead folks who lived by the pen.Thus, I am quite amused by the outcome of this cranial attachment that extends beyond the grave.

As a 15 year old, I was obsessed with Mr. Wilde. Quite the unlikely choice for a 'straight' young girl who should have been obsessed with the likes of Justin Timberlake. What on earth did I see in the dandy, homosexual, aesthete who was quite the open narcissist ? More than what the eye could see I suppose. What the eye cannot see the mind will construe. I had a hunger for Wilde's work because I firmly believed, that under all the paraphernalia was a writer of more greatness and sensitivity than was attributed to him. I fed on the sheer magnetic power of Wilde's wit to the extent that I had started ,unconsciously, to quote him at chat sites(We didn't have social networks back then).I still quote Wilde and reread his work till I am sufficiently amused and nostalgic of a time gone by.

I discovered Dostoyevsky two years later. I found him to be tremendously gifted and observant in a terrifying way. If I were to pass him by in the street I would shoot a glance at him and not care to speak to him even if he asked for the time. I share a quaint and strained relationship with Kafka. Partly because I feel intense pain in his work and partly because I'm afraid I'd stutter if I met him in person.

My present muse is D.H. Lawrence. I am yet to ascertain the level of frivolity and nonchalance of the whole deal. Never have I come across a post Victorian writer who dared to put women outside the 'suffering is the badge of my tribe' stereotype.Reading 'Sons and Lovers' plummeted the reader-writer bond to a whole new level.When was the last time you met a man who nearly celebrated the 'Oedipus Rex complex' and gave snakes more credit than he gave men? I'm hooked again! This one is here to stay!

p.s. In case my regular readers are wondering why I never had a wireless, cranial relationship with Marquez; it's because I hope to meet him in person someday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cliches and Junk

It's time for familiarity. Time for the diva to do next year's spring cleaning four months in advance. I haven't cleared my cache of all the hoarded cliches and frankly my dear I do give a damn about platitude ! Here are some of the things that are flying out of the blog-reference.

Runaway hit: In the context of films;the only thing that runs away is all the precious, hard earned money spent by starry eyed spectators.

Coalition government: An unnervingly popular term used extensively in Indian politics. Since no party ever seems to get the clear majority; a coalition is something like a 'many-way' marriage of convenience. In reality, a coalition is an open ground for infidelity,defection and debauchery of the despicable kind. There is nothing positive or beneficial about it. Hence, I hereby condemn the phrase to a miserable end!

Classified information: We in Divaland live for the gossip, period.

Multiculturalism: Another political term used incorrectly by the proponents of political correctness. We can dip the entire human race in crimson paint, roll them to the same size, raise them under identical environmental conditions and make them genetically asexual. Intolerance is still inevitable. Let us not credit ourselves with traits we do not possess.

Spiritual: The most exploited term in the English language (and in other locales as well). It is 'hip' now to be spiritual. Anything that becomes 'hip' eventually loses its charm. Let us strike the word 'spiritual' from our dictionaries before it dies an unbecoming death.

Now who is going to take a little walk to the trash can, any volunteers?

Jude the Obscure

Sometime in the year 1999, I developed an inclination towards adaptations. I was a naive teenager, little did I anticipate that eight years on I would dread the sound of the word 'adaptation'. Back then, I would watch the movie and then read the book. That's how I discovered 'Jude the Obscure' (Possible spoiler at the end read at your own risk).

'Jude the Obscure' is the only book by Thomas Hardy that I have read to completion. I have always found Hardy's books to be a little slow and perhaps a little rustic for my liking.Surprisingly, with 'Jude the Obscure' the pages flew faster than I could read. All this was inspired by 'Jude', a cinematic adaptation of the book starring Kate Winslet and Christopher Eccleston. I was struck by the simple yet raw tragedy that is so common in Hardy's work. I grabbed the book from the school library before anyone else could borrow it.

As it turned out, the film was a lot more explicit yet a lot less heart wrenching than the book. I felt a tingle of regret when I read that it was the last novel Hardy ever wrote (it is said that he stopped writing novels because of personal tragedy and because of the way 'Jude the Obscure' was received). I couldn't get enough of Jude, the ill fated yet ambitious intellectual, torn between two diametrically opposite women. Hardy had mastered the art of crafting complex women who make themselves miserable and crush others with the sheer power of their misery. I remember despising Arabella, the scheming and gold digging wife who was crass and uncouth. I remember trying to understand Sue; the progressive young woman who falls in love with Jude, has two children out of wedlock and then marries another man out of penitence.

Hardy captures the slow degradation of a man,his life and his work. Hardy indirectly censured society for its hypocrisy and double standards. Unlike Hardy's other heroines who bore children out of wedlock as a consequence of rape or deceit, Sue bore two children out of wedlock by sheer choice. Eventually no amount of idealism and forward thinking can save the unfortunate couple from poverty,alienation and isolation. Sue and Jude part ways, quite differently than they did in the film.

It must have been too much of a cynosure for post Victorian propriety; hence the lukewarm critical response and Hardy's unceremonious exit from writing as he knew it.Luckily it was more than enough for an angst ridden teenager who grew up to be a nonchalant diva.

p.s. - According to my dear friend 'Wikipedia'; D. H. Lawrence (or as I call him : the near pornographic bad boy of post Victorian literature) was puzzled by Sue's impulses and has written an essay on her (full of explicit speculation on the 'unnatural' cravings of the human female I suppose). I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Perils of Adaptation

Adapting a great work of literature for the screen is a daunting task. It is very rare to find an adaptation outdoing the original work.I came across one adaptation that was ambitious yet a tad pitiful.I have always maintained that Dostoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' (or for that matter any work of Dostoyevsky's) is a nightmare in the context of adaptation.

To start with, one would need an actor with tremendous stamina and acting prowess to play Raskolnikov, the protagonist who wavers between sanity and guilt. Next, one would require a reverent screenwriter who is capable of constructing a screenplay that is accurate,insightful and in line with Dostoyevsky's original vision. One would also need scrupulous attention in the department of art direction and cinematography to recreate 19th century Russia as seen through the eyes of the writer and the protagonist.

Menahem Golan's modern day adaptation of 'Crime and Punishment' falls just short of all the above.It took me a while to figure out that it was a modern day adaptation, because the actors seemed to be under the impression that they were in 19th century Russia. The dialog is shifty and inconsistent. It swings between 19th century propriety and 21st century debauchery, peppered with phrases like 'I kicked his a**' and 'Oh mother I love you so'.

Crispin Glover's Raskolnikov is more like a psychotic slacker than the benevolent yet neurotic intellectual that readers love. I was disappointed in the way Raskolnikov's character was handled. He is portrayed as chatty and confrontational as opposed to the introvert stricken with guilt and illness.Vanessa Redgrave, who plays the protagonist's mother, puts a little too much class in her portrayal of the slightly boorish Mrs. Raskolnikov.The supporting cast, all except for John Hurt, make very little of an impression. There are a flurry of American and English accents. The only elements of Russian life are the names of the characters and the costumes worn by the priests and members of the police force.A viewer who hasn't read the book is bound to feel cheated enough to censure Dostoyevsky's body of work.

I was a little hesitant to write this entry as I am still appreciative of the intention behind the film, but as it turns out I'm not alone in my opinion.On the bright side,I am left with nothing but awe for the complexity of Dostoyevsky's work. Here's something that cannot be tainted or twisted by any amount of 'Hollywood tweaking'.

ps: I picked the minimal white template for readers who care more for content than for color.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Befuddled Infidelity

Readers with a finite reserve of patience tend to exercise a policy of non-exclusivity with their books. The linguistic bourgeoisie call it 'multi-tasking' and the blunt call it literary infidelity.I am guilty of straying ever so often. At present, I am doing the best I can to spend as much 'quality time' with the two books I'm reading (without raising so much as a whiff of suspicion). A seasoned bibliophile, like yours truly, eventually starts to believe that books are enigmatic creatures with exceptional powers.

It all started when I attempted to read 'Ulysees'. I remember abandoning that God-forsaken book to read 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. I still haven't completed reading 'Ulysees'. I cannot bear to look at the James Joyce classic,lying on the shelf, laden with dust and neglect; while I slither by with another book.

The past few months have been filled with such acts of deceit. I read 'Three Men in a Boat'; followed by the simultaneous reading of 'Sons and Lovers' and 'Summer Moonshine'. I seem to excel in the craft of stealth and guile because I am currently reading 'Love' by Toni Morrison interlaced with pieces from 'The Brothers Karamazov' by Dostoevsky.

The result of all this 'two-timing' is a gigantic culmination of muddled opinions squirming to make sense.While Dostoevsky and Morrison excel in their portrayal of the human condition to fine precision; I cannot boast of the same precision when it comes to literary appreciation.

The crowning glory is that I'm not morose with guilt. I don't crave the time when I would take months to complete a novel because I wanted every syllable to sink in.They say 'Time and tide wait for no man'. I suppose it is now apt to say that 'Time, tide and Divas with books wait for no craft'!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Diva like Bette

When I think of Bette Davis I am mesmerized. I am not sure whether it comes from a sense of awe or intimidation. Bette was something like a blot of rebellion on the predictable canvass of conventional Hollywood. Bette wasn't beautiful but her face was striking; leaving something tantalizing, something terrifying and incongruous to the one who beheld it.

Bette had no Godfathers. She wasn't an ambitious child star with a promising career as an adult. She had an uncharacteristic air that generated dislike in a society that treated women like inanimate objects. She was a diva on screen as she was in reality (she openly disagreed with producers and 'the big guys'). I can still see her as the southern belle in 'Jezbel', as the eternal seductress, the adulteress,the crone and even as Queen Elizabeth I. Her large, dramatic eyes made love and committed treason with equal panache. Perhaps that explains the term 'Bette Davis eyes'.

Bette's life was laced with its own share of drama and tragedy.She died,without any regrets, at the age of ,81 from cancer.

As a continuing tribute to divas past and present; here's to Bette the eternal diva, may her legacy continue to inspire other divas alike.

Still Under the Knife

A Diva can never be too happy with a new makeover. This time the blog template is turning black (as a tribute to my darker side and to blackmail my readers into buying a copy of 'The Brothers Karamazov'). I have a pink template for my space at livejournal and do not fancy anymore redundancy. Readers with a problem may voice their concerns. Readers with that extra bit of concern may offer to write a template that I can integrate with my blog. The final decision is left to the last whim of the Diva.Basta!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Makeover Time

Of the three people who voted in the 'does the blog need a new template poll'; two want a template change. Perhaps these individuals shall be kind enough to make suggestions to that effect.Till then I shall pick a new template from the list that blogger provides.I am looking forward to all your comments.
- The curt and terse Diva.