Friday, August 29, 2014

The Hours

Michael Cunningham. The Hours. 1999. London: Fourth Estate, 2003

There is a delicious irony of future projection, which, I am sure must have made the author very happy. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize and then made into an award-winning film, with Nicole Kidman getting an Oscar for her role as Virginia Woolf, false nose and all.

In the first Mrs Dalloway chapter, we see projections of both. In the flower shop, the shopgirl, Barbara, asks if Richard has won a Pulitzer. Later, at the same place, from the window, Clarissa gets a glimpse of a movie star shooting a scene in the New York street. She wonders if it was Maryl Streep or Vanessa Redgrave. She is almost sure it was Maryl Streep. Maryl Streep, of course, went on to play the role of Clarissa Dalloway in the ensuing movie.

We are sure the author is partial to Streep. A little while later Clarissa hears two girls talking about the said movie star. One says it was Susan Sarandon and the other says it was Streep. Clarissa supports the Streep argument.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Grondahl, Jens Christian. Virginia. trans Anne Born. Great Britain: Cannongate, 2003

This small work of fiction by the Danish author tells the story of a lingering guilt by a middle-aged man, about the time when he was 18, and about the girl he was infatuated with.

The narrative moves between past and present within sentences as the narrator tries to reconstruct the story, by his own admission unreliable, not only from his point of view but also from the point of view of the girl, as she was, when she came to spend a summer near the sea, during the war. This is where she rescued an English airman fallen out of the sky, and eventually fell in love, in a span of two days, in the darkness of the night, before the Germans found him, no thanks to the boy.

The Virginia of the title is not the name of the girl, not that she remained virgin. She got married and moved to Paris. But that’s not the story here. In the story, she goes nameless, so does the narrator, or everyone else. The name refers to the Virginia tobacco that came from the solitary cigarette from the silver cigarette case that the English airman had given to the girl, and which the girl, after many years, gave away to the narrator.

The story is strange and is filled with a sense of worldly melancholia that only, perhaps, Scandinavian authors can manage to evoke. It is something to do with atmosphere in those countries, I guess.

It is a brave story, told with brevity. Even in the spacious page design, it doesn’t exceed more than 120 pages. You can finish reading the book in one sitting, and once you have finished it, what a feeling!
The rock band Scorpions once crooned, “…When we are hungry, love will keep us alive…” But, we know that that’s not true, and the undead lovers of Jim Jarmusch’s meditative twist to the vampire sub-genre, Adam and Eve, in Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), learn it to their despair, who are forced to leave their intellectual pursuits and their romantic melancholia to hunt during the night, for ultimately, everyone needs sustenance, raw and primal… Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Only Lovers Left Alive…
The updated battle between the monsters vs aliens, as usual on the streets of an American city, this time in San Francisco, where the hapless humans are just terrified witnesses and innocent casualties, who can only hide behind half-open windows… in Gareth Edwards’ reboot of Godzilla (2014)
Chandni Chowk in Purani Dilli, the centerpiece of Shahjehan’s beloved Shajehanabad, now a living ruin, where past and present jostle together for space, where the air is filled with the odour of memory, where several Indias merge into something indecipherable, something utterly terrible and beguilingly beautiful…
A pair of mannequins on the window of a swanky foreign retail brand in Connaught Place. There is story here, between these smartly dressed dolls imitating humans, perhaps a pair of lovers… He is smug and determined, she is upset about something and she says, enough is enough… I cannot fathom their argument, and they carry on with their little drama and I carry on with my life... I like that shirt he is wearing, but I cannot afford it…