Sunday, 28 December 2014

Musings on the last Sunday of the year

I had no intention of buying any more books between Christmas and New Year but the devil tempted me with a sale organised by Strand Book Stall, a popular bookstore. It was held in the foyer of the 144-year old David Sassoon Library and Reading Room in the south of the city.

© www.davidsassoonlibrary.com
I bought Deadly Justice (1993) by William Bernhardt, an American author of thriller and mystery fiction known for his Ben Kincaid series. The writer is new to me but I think he specialises in legal thrillers. “Justice” is a recurring word in his titles.

The family bought two books, To Be the Best (1988) by Barbara Taylor Bradford, the continuing saga of a family dynasty, and Sons of Fortune (2003) by Jeffrey Archer, which has shades of his famous novel Kane and Abel.

We also bought a spiritual book called Mantram Handbook by the late Eknath Easwaran, a renowned Indian spiritual teacher who, in 1960, established the Blue Mountain Centre of Meditation in Berkeley, California. The book tells us how we can release new energy, recast our old ways of thinking, and become more sensitive to the needs of others, by using the mantram, a short, powerful spiritual formula, to call up “what is best and deepest in ourselves.”

I have been reading and rereading Easwaran’s writing for the past two decades. His books are an infallible antidote to worry, fear, and depression. Spiritual books are like tonic. They keep you going through all the vicissitudes of life. I keep one handy.

Comics go extinct
It saddens me to learn that the thin A4-size comic books we read as kids have disappeared. DC and Marvel and the others stopped publishing them a long time ago. They have been replaced by glossy volumes and graphic novels whose computer generated illustrations are as unappealing as their price. This year, I received inquiries from people looking for some of these old-fashioned comics. I’m tempted to sell my lot to the highest bidder. But I know I won’t.

Drinking, driving, killing
With New Year’s Eve round the corner, the traffic police department is already cracking down on drunk driving. The number of fatalities due to drinking and driving has been increasing every year and a lot of innocent people are getting killed. It gets worse on the night of December 31. At the various check posts across the city, traffic police stop bikers and motorists, stick their heads very close, and ask them for their names. If they suspect alcohol, they use a breathalyzer to confirm it.

On New Year’s Eve, last year, I was stopped thrice on the highway and asked to state my name. I don’t drink but I felt silly repeating my name until the cop was satisfied he couldn’t smell liquor on my breath. My wife had a good laugh.

This breathe-in-my-face method can’t be hygienic for the cops.

To read or not to read
As I type this I’m looking at two formidable trilogies from my daughter’s collection—The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson. Rather, Tolkien and Larsson are giving me inquiring looks—“Are you going to read either or both of us in 2015?” I don’t think so. “You’re both part of my post-retirement reading plan,” I tell them. They seem offended.

Christmas movies
This weekend, I watched two of the five Christmas films I wrote about last weekChristmas in Connecticut and It’s a Wonderful Life. The first was a mild romantic drama, enjoyable but passable actually; the second was an intense family drama that was more depressing than elating in spite of its happy ending. I liked both, though. It put me in the mood for more golden age cinema.

That is all for now. I hope you found these musings amusing.

28 comments:

  1. Be careful of offending the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If they "accidentally" fall on you, you could get a concussion!

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    1. Charles, it's one book I can't carry to work everyday, nor can I recline and read it.

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  2. I wouldn't bother with the Larsson series. I think most people now agree it was his death that propelled the interest. But maybe that's just me. I found it a real slog.

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    1. Patti, as far as I know the MILLENNIUM series sold well in Indian bookstores and it was also well-received by readers out here.

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  3. We NEVER leave the house on New Year's Eve, ever. There are too many nutso drivers, drunk or not, too many in a hurry, too many not paying attention. We're in by noon and stay in, which is fine. New Year's never seemed like much of an event to me anyway, I flip a calendar page every month anyway. For resolutions and suchlike, my birthday is when I consider them.

    Read THE HOBBIT, then read LOTR. Don't wait, and try to read them with no thought to the films or other fantasy that has come since. I re-read them every 10 years or so.

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    1. Richard, we don't do much on New Year's Eve either. Owing to the rush and the pressure, restaurants are known to serve substandard food. I'll take your advice on THE HOBBIT and LOTR and I'll probably read them sooner than I'd planned. Cable television telecasts the film adaptations every single week..

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  4. Oh, and very happiest of New Years to you and your family. Hope 2015 is terrific for you all.

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    1. Richard, I wish you and your family the same! May 2015 touch your lives in every happy way.

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  5. That was a nice post, Prashant. I agree with Patti, that the Millenium books are a slog. I liked parts of them, but think they could have each been cut by a third or a half. But you may like them.

    I have told you before that I have read (and enjoyed) some of Eknath Easwaran's books. Still have them for re-reading.

    I still want to see Christmas in Connecticut. I agree with you that It’s a Wonderful Life is depressing.

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    1. Tracy, thank you. I think I'll read the first of the Millennium series sometime next year. I'm really curious about it. I remember your views on Easwaran's writing, simple but effective. I have a few of his books that I refer to every now and then. While IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is just a film, one of the things we didn't quite agree with was George Bailey's desire to please everyone, to the extent that he gives up his own dreams, of getting out of Bedford Falls and seeing the world, for someone else's that eventually leaves him more unhappy than he already was.

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  6. Have comics really gone extinct? I guess I didn't notice because the record shop where I work still sells old ones.

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    1. Kelly, now that you mention it, I do hope the thin comics we used to read are extinct. My understanding is that they are no longer published in the West having been replaced by graphic comics.

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  7. Prashant: No blaming the Devil for buying books. The Devil tempts us to do evil. Buying books cannot be evil. I would say you were tempted by God!

    I disagree about Stieg Larsson. I found the series fascinating and almost bought an English edition of the second volume to avoid waiting for the North American publication. I think you would be captured by them.

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    1. Bill, frankly, I don't need God or the Devil to tempt me into buying books. I purchased quite a few this year, most of which remain unread. Now that is evil! Opinion on Stieg Larsson's trilogy seems to swing both ways. As they say, you may like him or hate him but you can't ignore him. I'll certainly try and read the first in the series.

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  8. Glad you got to see IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Prashant - it is rather dark, but I think all the more impressive for that - amazing how the popular conception of that film - bright, warm, fuzzy, optimistic - is somewhat at odds with the actual film. I have to say, neither Tolkien nor Larsson have ever been favourites of mine. I know why so many have gone for them, but I always thought the fomer too slow and self-important while the latter is ultimately revealed to be an absurdly pulpy story with an indestructable heroine (she even gets shot in the head and buried in a shallow grave and just gets up agan) undermining its well-meant attempts at seriousness.

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    1. Sergio, I agree, the film was dark; in fact, more than I thought it would be. I thought James Stewart as George Bailey, smiling and happy one moment and distraught and despairing the next, was brilliant. He also paired well opposite Donna Reed. As far as I can recall, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is the first serious Jimmy Stewart film I have seen.

      It was interesting to read your views on the works of Tolkien and Larsson. It gives me much food for thought when I eventually decide to read their books.

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  9. I love that building--it' beautiful. I enjoyed your musings, some humor there in the traffic stops; hope you stay safe. And have an outstanding 2015! Keep up this great blog.

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    1. Fleur, thank you for the kind works. We rarely venture out on New Year's Eve. That part of town has a lot of heritage buildings, Gothic and Victorian, built by the British. Many of our old institutions, such as the David Sassoon Library, are named after English men and women who established them more than a century ago.

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  10. A spectacular library indeed. One that comes close to it in spirit is the main library in downtown Los Angeles. There are fine photos of it at google images. Drunk driving is a risk that keeps us at home on New Years, too. Another risk is the firing of firearms at midnight.

    I like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, though this Christmas Eve we watched THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER. (Marlo Thomas once made a TV movie of WONDERFUL LIFE, with all the gender roles switched.)

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    1. Ron, thank you. We have a few similar libraries from the British era. I believe their membership is on the decline mainly because of the decline of the library itself and other reasons that we know all to well. I had no idea about the firing of firearms on the night before New Year. In India, even carrying a knife in public is against the law.

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  11. I'd recommend the Larsson trilogy, though it's only two-thirds read over here>

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    1. Col, I'm intimidated by the size of the three books, especially since I don't like to leave my books half-read.

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    2. Prashant you can overcome it easily. Aim to read 10 pages a day or a chapter a day. Two months worst case and you're done, probably a lot sooner if the narrative sucks you in.

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    3. Col, I'll take your advice on the trilogy. I'll probably read a few pages every day since I'm usually reading two novels at a time.

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  12. Glad you got to see It's a Wonderful Life and had a chance to make up your own mind about it.
    Happy new Year!

    Colin

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    1. Colin, Happy New Year to you, too! I thought James Stewart was rather dramatic and emotional in the film. His role demanded it but it's a cinematic side I'm not familiar with.

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  13. I'll spare you my thoughts on the Millenium trilogy. Neer read any of the book but I did see the original Swedish movies ...well only two of them actually. I got fed up with its excesses and absurdities by the end of the second part. But Jimmy Stewart's dramatic prowess I can write pages about. If you want to see him in one of the best westerns ever made I highly recommend THE NAKED SPUR.

    You're lucky you only have to worry about drunk driving in India on NYE. In Chicago there is a insane "tradition" of shooting off guns into the air at midnight. But staying indoors is not even safe. One year one of my friend's heard glass break in his apartment around midnight and later found a shattered window in his bathroom and a bullet in the bathtub!

    Enjoyed this post a lot. Have a SAFE New Year's Eve, Prashant. See you in 2015!

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    1. John, thank you for the kind words. A very Happy New Year to you as well!

      I don't think I have seen James Stewart in a western and I'll definitely look out for THE NAKED SPUR. Books or films, western is my second favourite genre after comedy. Mixed views on the MILLENNIUM series has piqued my curiosity and I'll probably read the first of the books sooner than planned. Ron, too, mentioned about the firing of guns at midnight, New Year's Eve, which sounds both risky and dangerous. In India, firearms of any kind are strictly prohibited while gun licences are given only to those whose lives are under threat and their numbers are negligible. Even carrying a pen knife or a kitchen knife in public transport can invite scrutiny. Of course, we can buy either in a shop or a mall and bring it home!

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