The time is just ripe to abandon all semblances of modesty and humility and talk about a subject that has, over the almost two years that I’ve been blogging and the cumulative half a year I’ve been down with—what I like to shamelessly call—writer’s block, become a favourite of mine: incomplete blog posts. Three months ago I moved from the swelteringly cosy comfort of coastal Chennai to cold and wintry, yet decidedly bookish, Bangalore—the home of Blossom Book House, Pradeep Sebastian, and Anita Nair. It was a decision born not just out of professional considerations but also out of a genuine desire to rediscover a city that I had hitherto misunderstood, shared cultural heritage with Chennai notwithstanding. All of this existential philosophising has lead to many great turns of events; among them, many meetings, discussions, revelations, and aleph moments. However, it has also given me ample scope to romanticise lazy procrastination as writer’s block. So what better way to kick-start the blogging routine again than talking about unfinished blogging endeavours?
The humble yet formidable Wordsworth edition of the (almost) complete ghost stories of M. R. James contains a classic essay in which the master of atmospheric terror and the antiquarian supernatural writes about the mechanics of ghost story writing and more memorably of unfinished ghost stories: false starts, dead ends, and ideas that stubbornly refuse to materialise. My own half-baked blog posts pale into ghostly oblivion compared to those of the master. Nevertheless, I take a perversely narcissistic pleasure in reading through and writing about them: I marvel at the great range of subject matter I draw upon; writer’s block notwithstanding, I’m amazed at how prolific I am; and at last in an aleph moment I feel proud and free. So I present to you that most wondrous of things: a strangely symmetric artefact made of bits and pieces, a colourful quilt of patterned patches, a verbal kaleidoscope of splintered sentences and partial paragraphs. Some are mere titles; others, suspended thoughts (my thoughts in retrospect, if any, are in italics):
Guillermo del Torro: The Man and Myth
Tolkien was first and foremost a myth-creator; and watching Hell Boy II: The Golden Army, it is abundantly clear why Peter Jackson first chose Guillermo del Torro to make The Hobbit. The man has a way with animation and uses it tellingly and beautifully to convey the transcendental power of myth. Case in point: The wooden-puppet-show-like animation sequence that forms the prologue to The Golden Army is sublimely beautiful and presents a vision of mythical conflict which I believe even Tolkien would have approved of.
What makes Postmodernism tick?
Used in connection with everything from Don Quixote and The Name of the Rose to Robocop and Pulp Fiction, what is postmodernism?
- A mix of high and low brow
- A profusion of pop cultural references
- Talkative, argumentative characters who philosophise at the drop of a hat
- Books, Libraries, Labyrinths, Mirrors, Borges
- The Pierre Menard device
- Linguistic Puzzles, Existential Conundrums, Boxes within Boxes
The Unbearable Sadness of Turning over the Last Page
True isn’t it? Every time you turn over the last page, it’s the end of a world, the end of a dream, the end of an era…
A Chessboard World?
What does the compulsive, ubiquitous desire to ‘metaphor’-ise the world as a chessboard tell us about ourselves? Perhaps we unconsciously believe the teaming complexity of our Universe is the outcome of a set of simple rules.
And It’s On! Barney Stinson and the Pleasures and Hazards of Theorising
If there is one thing that Barney Stinson does (apart from the most obvious) that defines him, it’s the fact that he theorises. A lot. It doesn’t matter what it is—relationships, love, friendship, breaking up, screaming—he theorises about them all. He tries to fit them into (not always) simple and, at times, extremely convoluted rules. More often than not, his rules and theories are nihilistic, narcissistic, preposterous, and presumptuous. Murray Gell-Mann once said of theorising:
“In our work we are always between Scylla and Charybdis; we may fail to abstract enough, and miss important physics, or we may abstract too much and end up with fictitious objects in our models turning into real monsters that devour us.”
Deconstructing MasterChef Australia 2010
I hate reality shows. Hate them, except those based on cooking. And as they diced and sliced, soaked and marinated, grilled and roasted, and baked and piped their way through the competition, it became abundantly clear that cooking is a narrative too—a narrative invested with the personalities, life experiences, and even the education of the contestants.
I found it telling how one of the contestants, Callum, a young engineering student (who eventually made it to the top two), kept referring to ‘processes’ in recipes.
A Hazy Cloud of Questions
“How are stories told and what are they? And why are they such a basic human need? There’s food, water, protection from exposure–that’s one level. And then the next—sex, stories, the need to worship, maybe. How come?”
—David Mitchell (in an interview that appeared in The Hindu Literary Review)
Are stories a basic human need? If so, what does that say about humans? The best stories are driven by either profound and fundamental, or primal conflicts. If stories are a basic need, does that mean conflict is a necessity too? Without conflict, there will be no more stories to tell. Without stories, without books to read, life wouldn’t be interesting.
The Flanders Panel
It may not be the most perfect of literary mysteries, but Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel is definitely one of the most stylish. Set in the glamorous world of Madrid art dealers, galleries, and restorers,
For God’s Sake, Open the Universe a Little More!
A quote from a Saul Bellow novel used by Salman Rushdie in his 2010 India Today Conclave speech.
(Arturo Perez-Reverte’s) The Seville Communion (or the James Bond of the Church!)
(Kathleen Kelly:) What is it with Men and The Godfather?
This potential blog post originally came to me as What is it with Women and The Godfather? It was supposed to be about how while some women hate violent movies others absolutely love them and was inspired by one of Anita Nair’s ‘footnotes’ in Goodnight and God Bless.
Programming Myself to Sanity!
I’ve noticed how computer programming has a cathartic effect on me when I’m excessively excited, disturbed, or depressed. The creation of something so ordered, structured, and deterministic suffuses me with a sense of profound calm. But even in my most serene state, I can’t imagine how I came to write this:
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background, he tried hard to contend with his mind. ‘Tarantino’-esque violent verbal non-linearity was just not the staple of his existence. Yet, the prose that inadvertently flowed out of his mind, at the most unexpected moments, was always rife with verbal pyrotechnics.