Tag Archive | memoir

Youth (Scenes from Provincial Life #2)- J.M. Coetzee : 8/52 ( Memoir)

A few years ago I went on a date with an aspiring writer. He was the stereotype. Tall, lanky, unshaven, badly dressed and smelling of stale cigarette smoke. He had that faraway look on his face while he spoke about the book he wanted to write. He then told me that he had just quit his job the previous day to focus on the book and was in no position to take what we had to more than just one date. I nodded. On the train back, I realized that if I had met him this way when I was 20,  I would have totally fallen for him. ‘Write me like one of your French girls’ I would have said to him. And he would have. And then dedicated the book to me. And thanked me in his Booker acceptance speech… I Google him once in a while to check whether he made it. He still hasn’t.

A few weeks ago another crush,again an aspiring writer who is going through the motions in a regular desk job, mentioned this book to me. ( Yeah. Looks I have a thing for aspiring writers. And not without good reason ) A book about a poet stuck in a dead end computer programming job at IBM and how he could totally relate to it. Though the crush itself didn’t last for more than a week, the book recommendation did.

A white confused South African who wants to escape his homeland,one he feels is not rightfully his, to become a poet in the land of the artists and writers. While he would love to go to France, he settles for England. And there, he is again forced to settle for less. He settles for a job that puts food on his table but eats away his creative soul. He settles for women who aren’t the muse he is desperately looking for. But that poet in him does not settle down. It flits from thought to thought, aimlessly drifting through the days and nights, summers and winters hoping that his dreams will somehow find him.

The prose is beautiful. It just moves from moment to moment, feeling to feeling in a rushed, haphazard way. It makes you feel helpless and while you keep hoping for something good to happen, you somehow know that nothing is going to happen.There are so many poets and authors referred to in the book, most of them whom I haven’t read or even heard of. Makes me want to try them, maybe I’ll start with Ezra Pound, our hero’s hero. While the political situation across the world in the early sixties isn’t the main backdrop, it is the undercurrent that drives the narration forward. I realized that  know so little about South Africa. There’s a touch of India too. Satyajit Ray makes an appearance and so does Indian curry. And it also appears that Indian computer programmers living abroad haven’t changed their habits over the decades.

‘”At 18 he might have been a poet. Now he is not a poet, not a writer, not an artist. He is a computer programmer, a 24year old computer programmer in a world where there are (yet) no 30 year old computer programmers. At 31 he is too old to be a programmer: one turns oneself into something else – some kind of businessman – or shoots oneself”

Words that hang heavy on me. Different contexts, same implication. Scary. Very scary.

Had this book not been labelled a ‘fictionalized memoir’, it would have made it to my dark and twisty shelves. But no. Our hero went on to win the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature. If Astrid or Caroline or Jacqueline Google him, they would know that he made it.

Advertisements

Orange Is the New Black-Piper Kerman: 53/52

A Malory Towers for big bad girls

6314763

There are some TV shows that I blank out on. Like when the whole world was raving about Breaking Bad, I didn’t give a damn. Same thing happened with Orange is The New Black. I just didn’t get it, and since I’m not one who watches shows online, I didn’t bother to keep up with the hype. On a flight last month, I caught a couple of episodes and was intrigued. But I realized that this show will never see the light of day in India. In a country where the word ‘beef’ is beeped out and cleavage is pixellated, I won’t expect a show with topless transgenders and dialogues with the C word to make an entry. And so I picked up the book instead.

Piper Kerman writes like she’s an observer from the outside, not like the convicted felon that she actually was. She writes like the white-blonde-college-educated-woman-from-a-privileged-background that she is rather than the convicted-drugmoney-carrying-lesbian-lover-of-the-drug-trafficker  that she was. And so it somehow came out shallow and patronizing all the way rather than being a heartfelt prison memoir that I wanted it to be. Ofcourse, the book is the true story and the TV series is a fictionalized version, but the blandness of the book bored me. Maybe  I expected something atleast like Tracy’s experiences in If Tomorrow Comes.

There were too many characters who came and went, I couldn’t keep track of who was whom. Who was in for what was never explained. Yes, it is not likely that she could have known, but it just left me hanging. I couldn’t feel anything for any prisoner. Everyone was described at surface level only.  It was all about commissary goods being bartered, goodies being sent by friends, books, radios, yoga, trade school and some Larry love. Blue skies and lollipops. Boarding school. Bo.Ring. Even the ‘horrors’of the camp she was sent to towards the end weren’t hard hitting. And since I’m a person who likes closure, I would have loved to read an epilogue, something about whether she connected with her fellow prisoners after she left or what happened to some of them. Even Girl, Interrupted had an epilogue that told us what happened to Lisa. Would have been nice to know if Piper is still in touch with the Miss Natalie, Pop or Yoga Janet now.

On my flights last week I managed to stay awake most of the time to finish watching the entire Season 1 of the TV show. Absolutely loved it. Watch the show. Skip the book.

 

Unrelated: Tamil Actress Kausalya and Taylor Schilling seem kind of sameguy.