Bronte Sisters

June 21, 2013 at 11:03 am (Cinema, Kiran David)

Andre Techine is usually interesting. Made Bronte Sisters  in the ’70s. A film I had not heard of till now. With Isabelle Adjani, Mary-France Pisier and Isabelle Huppert as the three sisters and a young Pascal Greggory  playing the brother and unbelievably, Roland Barthes as William Makepeace Thackeray make an interesting cast. Will be out in Blu this July end.

         – Kiran David


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Why, when I am done?

June 20, 2013 at 8:58 am (Sampurna Chattarji, The Reading Room)

Why do I sometimes feel that the best way to destroy a book one loves/respects/admires/is enthralled-intrigued-challenged by is to write about it? I’ve felt this after writing long personal essays on key works by authors that meant a great deal to me, or even after writing the more pedestrian book reviews commissioned by magazines or papers. I have loved doing the latter simply because I invariably refuse books that I know I will be bored/appalled/annoyed by. I don’t have that kind of time to waste. But the ones that I choose knowing I will love the experience of reading and writing about them, why, when I am done, do I feel a crushing sense of loss, even anger? It’s as if I have done something excruciatingly senseless—to produce a piece of text about a piece of text. Knowing that I have written it with care, precision, intelligence, and I hope a modicum of insight should soothe me. Instead I feel gnawed by all the things I could have said if only I had more space. Or when I have more space, I am haunted by all the other arguments that might have been equally valid. Or say, I am—as was the case when I wrote, for this very column, my essay on two books by Saramago—say I am actually quite pleased with the result. Even then, there is a loss. I feel I have sucked out everything that the books had to offer, mutated them via my attentive and detailed appreciation, and now can never return to the originals, because hell, I’ve sucked all the juice out, I’ve nourished myself like a voracious parasite, leaving the host bodies dry and empty. Engorged and replete, my essay sits, a repository of all I ever felt-thought-dreamt about and around it, and then…? And then I feel I have effectively destroyed the source of that love, despite the love being present in the writing about that source.

At other times, I look at the myriad poetry books on my shelves, books by friends from many countries, books I have bought at readings, loving what I heard, books I have wanted for years, and finally ordered and relished their arrival with a kind of demented joy, each book with a history behind it, a series of conversations, a string of associations, personal, professional, again, that rogue word nosing in where it has no business—love—books I love even without having yet read them in entirety, just revelled in their nearness, knowing they are at hand, waiting to be read as soon as I am ready. At times, when I look at them, I feel inside me the delicious bubbling impulse to sit down with any one of them, and write about it. I feel impatient and anticipatory (predatory?)—so many essays waiting to be written! And besides, don’t I know that’s the only way I will read them with that detailed, attentive appreciation? That’s the only way I will be able to mark the moment of that book’s entry into my life as a reader, not an accumulator? Without that act of writing, how will I remember that I read? I tell myself I’m saving it, this glorious indulgence, to slake my thirst for words on a day of otherwise-drought, when my own writing has sputtered and gone out, when my mind feels bleak and empty, there, I tell myself—the light. Sit, and read these books and write about them, rekindle that ‘something’ that seems to be dying. And then I remember what happens once I emerge from the focused room of my reading-with-intent-to-write-about-what-I’m-reading. I remember the gutted sensation that follows and I veer my thoughts away, I fritter my energy online or elsewhere, I willfully waste myself, time, attention, all.

Tomaž Šalamun once said that a friend advised him to stop writing all kinds of things, essays, articles, poetry and concentrate just on the poetry. He took that advice, and, as a result—he said, with an expressive gesture of his hands—as a result, all his discursive language “flew away”. I’ve never forgotten that statement, or that gesture, twinned they come back to me when I am disappointed by what I do with my critical writing, the time it takes, the energy it saps, the weird insidious destruction of it all. On the other hand, Joy Goswami has said that when he is unable to write poetry he is still with poetry as he writes about poetry, what he’s reading, contemporary work, classical work. It’s a conversation with the poems, the poets, it’s a life-giving act. I sometimes feel I prefer writing poetry reviews (over fiction) for that very reason. It’s a way of breathing when one is choked, it eases, comforts, it sharpens those edges that may have begun to feel dulled. And then I think how wonderful it would be to lose the discursive-analytic, to have it all fly away, leaving me speechless only in that realm of critical writing, but wonderfully eloquent in the realm of creative writing. Which is not to say that the two are mutually exclusive, I have read—very rarely but I have read—breathtakingly original and creative critical writing. But to lose that part of the brain, to lose its vocabulary, its jargon, its tools, and to feel a kind of muteness, how must that be? And yet, when I read someone else’s critical writing on my creative work that gets it—gets it all, all my hidden intentions (what Italo Calvino called “the murmuring effect”), form-language-meaning—with a kind of brilliant almost-shattering insight, how then can I not want to be able to return that gift occasionally?

More questions than answers. Why not, instead of this piece of nothing-really, turn to Neruda’s The Book of Questions and open at any page and ask:

Why was I not born mysterious?

Where do the things in dreams go?

How long do others speak

if we have already spoken?


Sampurna Chattarji

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June 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm (Dani Clark, Poetry)


I catch my son’s five year old eyes in the rear view mirror

He abandons himself

crooning wrongly a song in Hindi,

Speakers blasting

Jai Fooooooh!

And when the woman sings he orders
Mamma go, your turn!
My turn.
His turn.
This multipolar world, oh my,
so close and far from our cold one
and the childish condescending assurance
that those kids in Korea or Italy,
or other equally unimaginable places,
to our eyes and ears that had not seen, not heard,
anything but Tom Brokaw and the NBC Nightly News,
in shirts and skirts and pants unmatching,
were mispronouncing the lyrics to Billy Jean.
Oh how we giggled!
Oh these innocents entrusted to the care of our brokenness!
Oh how wispy and curvy time is!
A big sigh for being human tonight.

– Dani Clark

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