Remembering Myself, Travestying Time…and Phonying towards Perfection



“Grief is a most peculiar thing”

Grief is a most peculiar thing, we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.

Memoirs of a Geisha. Arthur Golden.


Spectacular yet Tiresome *Bunker 13*


Bunker 13 by author and journalist Aniruddha Bahal is remarkably insightful and surprisingly annoying. The novel offers unusual information on an astounding plethora of subjects, including the Indian army, weaponry, paratrooping, flying, drugs and their comparative upshots and downshots, double-dealing, drug trafficking, seduction, antiques, furniture business, terrorism, and corruption. The rhetoric is Americanized with a  fair amount of four-letter words liberally bestrewed throughout the book. This is alright, because the authority and wry humour of Bahal’s language seem to require a worldliness and sophistication that only Western slang can provide.

The second person narrative style, however, destroys your composure and fills you with a deep longing to get out of your skin or better still to get through the book as fast as you can. You feel misrepresented and victimized, forced to watch an imposter Continue reading “Spectacular yet Tiresome *Bunker 13*”

“Inhibition doesn’t grow on trees”

Inhibition doesn’t grow on trees, you know — takes patience, takes concentration, takes a dedicated and self-sacrificing parent and a hard-working attentive little child to create in only a few years’ time a really constrained and tight-ass human being.

Philip Roth. Portnoy’s Complaint.

“His self-consciousness surprised and appalled him”

His self-consciousness surprised and appalled him. What need was there for this? Why did he not simply speak his heart?

Because his heart did not speak, that was why. Because language presupposes artificiality. Because in the end there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to be said.

Howard Jacobson. The Finkler Question.

“What happens with sassy music”

What happens with sassy music is you get floated away from yourself, then snap back to reality too hard. I hate that. The only antidote is to just stay depressed.

Vernon God Little. DBC Pierre.

Living in DISGRACE

“… under the same silent far-off heavens, and with the same passionate desires, the same strivings, the same failures, the same weariness.” 
– George Eliot

jmcoetzee_disgraceJ.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace is a gripping page-turner; initially because of the ironic descriptiion of the life of a sensualist, or a modern-day Byron, exercising his ‘rights’, the manifold ‘freedoms’ of the individual, one of which may be the qualms-free succumbing to impulses. As the narrative moves on, every event is like an idea gone wrong, like honey turned foul, sickly pungent. The more you read, the sorrier you become, plunged unawares into the shared experience of disgrace that permeates the novel.

The disgrace of the old mixing with the young, the disgrace of being violated, of bearing the marks of that violation for centuries and generations, the disgrace of unwanted breeding, of being one too many, the many disgraces of death, of senescence , of the unshapely, the comical, and  the disgrace, ultimately, of being fallen — the Fall from power, dignity, independence, from one’s own. The individual enmeshed in this inexorable state of ‘fallen-ness’ is like the music of the toy banjo, which the haggard, disgraced ex-professor plays in accompaniment to Byron and Teresa’s ghostly romance:

“the voice that strains to soar away from the ludicrous instrument but is continually reined back, like a fish on a line.”

The energy of the narrative seems to slacken towards the end: the characters no longer the ‘actors’ but those ‘acted upon’. Perhaps Coetzee is enacting out the theme of disgrace on the level of narrative too; the lion’s share of the novel is devoted to consequences, movements post-action, the effects of actions ‘done’, spent, or to use David Lurie’s word, in the ‘perfective’. Things have been done — violation and violence performed, passion burnt out — what remains is the ‘dealing with’ them, the ‘taking in’, the slow accustomization to the smoke of lost, expired fires, the adapting to the past.

CLOWNIN’ Rating: 4/5

On DORIAN GRAY : Aestheticizing Life

“It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that.”

dorian-grayThere is nothing crude about Dorian Gray; everything is precise and spot on, nothing out of place, and nothing incredible. For the same reason, the novel is as unrealistic as a tableau.

Dorian Gray reads like a gothic allegory, with a drawing-room repartee party providing the backdrop. The characters are spectators of their own lives (“We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder of the spectacle enthralls us.”); art, literature, and life are inseparably interlinked that the spectator-character can look at a personal tragedy and evaluate the aesthetic perfection or lack of perfection of it. Even the most tragic of events, seen through this apathetic lens, able to  zoom in and zoom out at will, appear overdone or ridiculous, as mockeries of the real thing.

Its polished dinners, histrionic outbursts, sparkling conversations, picturesque deaths, and impassive intellectuality far removed from the sordid vulgarity of real life, all fall into place in a straightforward, undigressive Faustian tale. You can empathize with Dorian or Basil or Sybil (or Lord Henry) about as much you can empathize with the stock figures in a parable. This is not by way of fault, but the aesthetic prose of the novel describes, but doesn’t evoke, fascinates but doesn’t move you to pathos, and the words (or wordiness) themselves bar the reader from getting to know the characters or their worlds.

Dorian Gray is, if not brilliant, an admirable work precisely because it accomplishes what it sets forth to achieve.

CLOWNIN’ Rating: 3/5

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