Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Birthday Alarm

A friend’s daughter sent a text and asked me to make a short clip for her mother’s 50th birthday so she could compile a video montage with well wishes from friends as a surprise gift for her mother on her birthday. It was a very sweet idea that I could not refuse when invited to participate. One of my colleagues had  shopped on line and purchased  a monopod that  happened to be delivered to the office. The gadget could not have arrived in better time. I dread close ups shots so the monopod was definitely the rescue remedy. My colleague lent me the monopod and after fiddling with my iPhone that was clipped to the monopod for more than half hour, I came up with about a dozen  or more selfies that lasted less than 10 secs. I discarded most of them while I kept some. I sent a couple of videos to my elder daughter to see what she thought since she belongs to the generation that selfies is a norm. My daughter commented that I looked rehearsed and serious in both of them. Finally I decided on a different clip where I looked less rehearsed and perhaps more natural.

The last baby boomers turn 50 this year. I think boomers are not that different from the Xers or Y generations in that when we were young, we all must have had a sense of entitlement. You feel entitled until finally you realize that it is time to take stock. You will reach a point where you have done all the experimentation and however you try to reinvent yourself, you have to accept who you truly are. As you approach middle age, your metamorphosis must have been complete and you have to live with the consequences of whatever choices you made when life was beginning to take its shape. No matter how we say about age is just a number and we cannot be defined by our age and we should be proud of the years and embrace our age blah blah blah, we cannot help not thinking about what we could have done over the past years before we hit another birthday.

N-W written by Zadie Smith is  a story about the characters who grew up in the North West of London. Leah Hanwell and Natalie Blake are the two main characters who are best friends growing up in Caldwell Housing Project. Leah Hanwell’s mother, Pauline came from Dublin and Natalie Blake’s family hailed from the Caribbeans. Leah married Michel, a handsome hairdresser of French African descent while Keisha Blake  changed her name to Natalie and married Frank De Angelis, a handsome banker whose mother is Italian and father, a Trinidadian. Leah passes the old estate everyday on her walk to the corner shop while Nat tries to live far enough to avoid it. Leah studied philosophy and works at a shabby nonprofit. Natalie who has become a successful barrister  seems to be bent on reinventing herself and is on her way up to forget everything that came before. Leah remains childless as Natalie has to juggle between her smartphone and her two kids. When Leah and Michel are  invited to  De Angelis to dine with their friends who are lawyers and bankers, they feel like they have been invited  to provide something like local colour. These friends are children of immigrants who hailed from Jamaica, Ireland, India and China. ‘Everyone comes together for a moment to complain about the evils of technology, what a disaster, especially for teenagers, yet most people have their phones laid next to their dinner plates.’ To Leah, these guests say the same things in the same way, their conversations revolve around inter alia giving birth, arguing over the unborn and wanting to give a child the greatest possibility of success, what they know about Islam, Christmas abroad, security systems, private cinemas and a restaurant with only five tables in it .

Both Leah and Nat live with the consequences of the choices they have made amidst their inconsistencies. N-W is a portrait about urban London and I find that it is not an easy book to read due to its edgy writing style.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Who's reading now?

A work of fiction takes you on an imaginative ride as you read about the conflicts, the happenings and the sufferings of the protagonist and the characters created by the  author  of  a  novel. The incidents and the cities where they take place may be fictitious or based on some true events that have taken place in some places which actually exist on the map of the world. Not everyone who reads read fictions . Some readers only read non-fictions or materials that are related to their work and career advancement. There are those who read fictions to kill time and those who find the time to read fictions as they genuinely find pleasure and comfort in reading. I am addicted to reading and simply cannot have enough of reading and more reading. I enjoy good writings and I read both fictions and non-fictions. Reading can improve one’s general knowledge and thinking skills and in turn sharpening one’s mind.

Thinking is what we internalize within ourselves and we have to get to know our  minds before we mouth and say our thoughts aloud. We are told to think before we speak. We cannot express ourselves well if we cannot think clearly. Thoughts glide in and out of one’s mind, we may not be  fully aware of our own thoughts and the more we read, the more lucid our thoughts can become . While new encounters and changes can take you away from what you know about yourself already, reading can definitely help you to think better and in turn hopefully expand your perspectives and horizons.

According to Zoo Time a fiction written by Howard Jacobson, food and fashion have  now left fiction far behind  and one has to apologise for having read a book, let alone for having written one. Through his narration,  the protagonist, Guy Ableman, a middle-aged Jewish novelist rants about the demise of literary culture and serious readings.

Howard Jacobson  had  won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question in 2010 and I had enjoyed reading it. Perhaps I was very eager to get onto reading all my other books, I could not wait to finish reading Zoo Time, another novel written by Jacobson. Zoo Time contains the continuous lament of Guy Ableman about how the literary world is dying amidst all the tweeting, kindles and iPads. Guy is a novelist whose family owns a fashion boutique in Wilmslow and his parents and younger brother are not readers. It is a funny story about the changing publishing world and how Guy is in thrall to his beautiful wife who is an aspiring writer and is constantly distracted by the presence of  his  alluring  mother-in-law. At times, it feels like reading a non-fiction that is sending out unequivocal message that says reading is unfashionable in the face of the exciting developments in digital technology.

Reading no longer meant going to bed with a book you were ashamed to admit you couldn’t finish. Reading was now as little or as much, as frequent or as rare, wherever you did or didn’t want it , at the desk or on the move. We had a historic opportunity to rescue reading from the word. In a year he wanted to have a thousand story apps ready to go for the mobile-phone market. Bus –stop reading, he called it. Unbooks that could be started and finished while phone users were waiting for someone to call them back, or  for the traffic lights to change, or for the waiter to arrive with the bill. In short, to plug those small social hiatuses of life on the run.

As Guy fears that reading is finished, he sees Earnest Hemingway everywhere he goes.

More amazing to me was that wherever I went, I saw  Earnest Hemingway, either sitting down outside a pub or cafĂ©, or walking in the middle of the busiest main roads, oblivious to the abuse, writing, writing, writing. His shoes were down to nothing-mere cardboard pulp-and his buttocks were completely out of his trousers. How long before I looked the same? But I excited no companionable curiosity in him. Not once did he notice me. His eyes never left his reporter’s pad and his hand was never still.

What was he writing? A journal of the city? The story of the circumstances that had brought him to this ? Behind the beard was a strong face, inside the filthy clothes was a powerful frame ; he could have been anybody-an actor fallen from favour, a dramatist who wrote plays too searching for these cardboard-pulpy times, a novelist who used words of too many syllables for his readers. Or maybe he was just one of us, no more tragic or unsuccessful, simply constipated and needing to walk his constipation off.’

Was he invisible, I wondered, to everybody but me? Was he the ghost of serious writing-all that now remained of us? Was he Earnest Hemingway himself, come back from the dead, to stir the conscience of a public that didn’t even notice he was there?’

Guy narrates, “ I sell suits by Marc Jacobs in Wilmslow,’ I’d say today if I wanted to impress a woman,’and when I’m not doing that I’m practicing to be a short-order chef at Baslow Hall. This fiction shit is just a way of killing time.

Zoo Time is a fiction that suggests that literary culture has become unpopular.  I like to believe that with kindles and  tablets, although the literary world is  changing its landscape, all published writings  are definitely here to stay as they are part of our human legacy.