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Three Men In A Boat and the art of cutaways!

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I recently picked upThree Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog) for a re-reading, as a way to kick-start my 52 weeks project in 2019.
It had been a while since I first read the book, and I had vague memories of the plot, settings etc. What I did remember pretty vividly were the fits of laughter I had to endure at different time when reading it for the first time. So I was more than happy to give it a second go, and I have not been disappointed at all.

But that’s not why we’re here. The book is well recognized as one of the most humorous accounts ever written, and I have nothing much to add there besides my wholehearted agreement and endorsement. I wanted to talk a little bit about how the author uses cutaways in his narration to great effect. This isn’t something I remember noticing the first time around, and I was surprised to realize how much more I enjoyed the book because of this narrative style.

A note about the word ‘cutaways’ (see 3 below) - I’ve only ever seen it used in co…

The 52 Weeks Project

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A few years ago I tried this thing where I read a book a week (roughly) for 30 weeks, and then tried to share my thoughts on the book once done.

Trying something similar again this year, only for longer. Starting on January 2 to avoid the curse that dooms all new year resolutions ;-)

To start with, I am re-reading a book that I absolutely loved the first time I read it - Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome (to say nothing of the dog of course).


Here's hoping I don't laugh too hard in public spaces!

On Brooklyn

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Brooklyn is a simple story, yet it’s about many things. It’s about a young girl finding her way in the world, with an interesting mix of independence and overarching influence of her family. It’s about life as an immigrant, looking for the comfort-inducing doses of familiarity while navigating all that’s new and scary. It’s about love, and how it shapes our choices. It’s about conflicts, and our tendency to stay in our comfort zones. And most of all, it’s about the longing for home.
Most people can identify with homesickness. You don’t need to be separated by oceans for the feeling to show its face, though being so certainly moves things along. This feeling is what the story is about predominantly, everything else plays second fiddle. It’s interesting that the author chose to name it Brooklyn, since that just happens to be the place Eilis (the protagonist) moves to. It doesn’t really play a traditional titular role in the scheme of things, its biggest contribution being that it’s suffi…

Thoughts on 'Udta Punjab'

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Spoilers below. I couldn't find a way to say what I wanted to without going into plot points. If you're just looking for a recommendation, I think this is one to watch.
There’s something to be said about timing. When it clicks in a movie, payback to the viewer cannot be quantified. The placement of the song ‘Ik Kudi’ in ‘Udta Punjab’ is one such instance of impeccable timing, it makes you stop and take notice. It’s almost as if the director was cocky enough to realize you’d stop and notice, and he made the bedridden crook as well as the door-banging cops stop and savor the moment too. Only when the singing stops do the cops come to their senses, and resume their attempts to capture Tommy (Shahid).

The first few minutes of the movie do really well to pull you in. There’s a nod to the filmy Punjab as we start from lush fields, but we soon realize that these are not the same fields where a Raj would be waiting, arms extended, for his Simran. From setting things up for Mary Jane (Al…

Of Sadness, and Wilderpeople

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Unplanned movie nights are the best, and spending those on gems such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the icing on the cake!
The film has been much acclaimed, and is definitely one you should take time out for. On display are amazing scenic view of New Zealand, humour from unexpected quarters, strong performances from the cast - especially Sam Neill (Uncle Hec) and Julian Dennison (Ricky) - subtle dose of emotions, and lots of drama!

Image Credit Facebook

(Some Spoilers Below.)
What stood out for me, however, was how it handled sadness. We all have our ways of dealing with life’s sad events. People often show their most unexpected sides when dealing with sadness, and that’s what happens here to Hec. Sam Neill underplays the character brilliantly, and also shines when Hec gets demonstrative about his feelings.  He bawls like a child when he discovers Bella (portrayed lovingly in the short role by Rima Te Wiata) is dead, an act he seemed completely incapable of up until that moment. There’s …

Of Trains and Food, and Childhood

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I recently came across this NPR piece by Charukesi Ramadurai, that talks of - among other things - the vanishing food culture on Indian Railways. It struck a chord instantly! I felt she was describing my own childhood, changing the names of the dishes we ate, and the places we traveled to.
For us, the most frequent trip was the 10 hour or so journey to our paternal & maternal villages (which were in close proximity), that started early morning and sometimes lasted through the day, just because. The unreliability of arrival time - that was built into the plan - meant my parents had to ensure enough supply for three meals for all of us. Us were 2 adults and 5 kids, and the invariable aunt/uncle who’d accompany us somehow on most of these trips.
Poori and Aloo-Bhajji was my mother’s go-to item. Packing food overnight was a no-no not only because she just wouldn’t have it, but also because we couldn’t really rely on the power supply and the steady operation of the fridge to keep it fro…

On 'The Basement Room'...

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Graham Greene is one of the authors that I’ve read surprisingly little of. I know of the man, but there is no recollection of his work in my memories.
I was looking forward to reading his work, and decided to start with a collection of short stories by him that I chanced upon. The book is called The Basement Room And Other Short Stories, and I started with the first story in the book, ‘The Basement Room’.

Regardless of what other works of Graham Greene I’d be getting my hands on, it’s pretty amazing to start with such a great work of his. I had no idea what to expect, from this story or from his works in general - and my experience was better for it!
The ‘plot’ is simple enough, and isn’t something I’m gonna dwell much over. A small kid, who’s between nurses, is left in the care of the butler and his wife (also an employee of the house) while his parents travel. To me this is a story about his being drawn into the adult world reluctantly - through gradual escalations and a crescendo ev…

Masters of Doom - mini review

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Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

Such a great experience listening to this one, Will Wheaton really brings it all to life. I did not expect him to do as many impressions as he did (and did well).
The book chronicles the journeys of 'The Two John's', as they pursue their interests, immerse themselves into video games, and build an empire in the process. Any one, who has spent any amount of time playing Doom in their childhood, would be hard-pressed to avoid the hair on their skin standing up when the narrator brings up Doom the first time.

This comes across as a very well researched book, and ends up being as much about the relationships as it is about the state of the industry through the 80's and the 90's. The author doesn't pull punches when bringing out the flaws in each of the characters, but I did feel a tad more reverence for John Carmack than for Romero. Still, it's pretty interesting, and a li…

The Girl On The Train - mini review

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Authors write the books, yes. But Audible narrators can add so much value to it (think R C Bray and The Martian), more so when a few of them collaborate. That's what happens here.
The book itself is a nice breezy read/listen, taking you through the minds of three different women, putting them all on a (sort of) collision path. It isn't until the first major disruption that you notice what was different about at least one of the narrations (not spoiling it here though it might be much easier to spot early on when reading the book). It then becomes mostly about who you can trust, and that becomes a difficult question to answer even though you are privy to their innermost thoughts.
What worked for me, besides the story, was the way the author described scenes and settings. It might have something to do with my current fascination with London Tube, and how I could totally picture what was being described. But I think she did a good job setting i…

The Martian - mini review

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The Martian by Andy Weir
Started on Kindle, move to Audible after a couple of chapters based on some recommendations, and really happy that I did. The narrator, R C Bray, is great and really brings the book to life. Most of the technical stuff would not have held my attention if I was just reading it, I'm sure I would have skipped over a lot of it. Probably also because I was a captive audience as I mostly listened to it during my daily commute and so, listening to the book was pretty much the only thing my mind was involved in.
I like the concept, a new twist to the Castaway tale. The story was well-paced (which must have been a struggle given how we were learning about things at Mars and earth at the same time), and the author did a great job giving us enough about all the secondary characters. Just enough so we care, not too much to avoid taking away from the main story - which was the struggle of Mark Watney. I found it interesting that he chose not to talk about friends/family …

"Yes Please" - mini review

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Disclaimers first - big fan of Amy Poehler so bound to be biased in favour of any of her work, have given an extra star here simply because she's the author :)

I've been trying Audible books for a short time now, and this is one of the first books I chose primarily because Amy herself had narrated the Audible version. Having listened to the book now, I feel vindicated. The book is mostly in first person and it really adds a lot to have Amy talk to you about the stories, rather than you reading the book. It helps a great deal in understanding the tone and the message, and keeps you engaged.

To say that Amy's life story is inspiring somehow seem pretentious to me (though her life-stort absolutely is inspiring) given how she talks about here philosophy "Good for you, not for me". This book, though inspiring, is just Amy sharing her story and pontificating on what she thinks worked for her (and sometimes, what did not). It stays far away from b…