Saturday, October 31, 2015

Anywhere but

These days, it is getting harder for me to compartmentalize my time  as my attention is somewhat terribly divided. I had a sense of relief when I recently quitted one whats app group as I found the exchanges very distracting though I was  not obliged to read nor respond to anyone of the videos and photos that had been posted. Technology requires us  to multitask even if we are not willing to conform. Apart from  texts and emails which I personally have to respond to, I have to pay more attention to the work that is  done by the staff as everyone is so  distracted by their whats app, facebook and text messages  so much so that seemingly nobody is paying full attention to their tasks at hand. Being competent is not one aspires to be. Everyone is distracted, anywhere but what they are supposed to be attending to. Quite often the attitude is to get by and the attention span is  brief.

In legal practice, though we are still unable to do away with printed copies for record purposes, we try to minimize wastage by working electronically on agreements and various documents  and only print them out when they are finalised. Till this date, I still prefer to read the printed texts and not the online versions. Even though I have books downloaded on my iPad, I still prefer to read printed books. We have to find a way to strike a balance between digital texts and printed ones while embracing technology. Il faut trouver un  équilibre entre tradition et innovation.

Last week I dropped by one of the local bookshops to pick up a book as a birthday gift for a friend and I stumbled upon the novel Techbitch by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza.  I was hooked from its prologue. Every so often , I need one of these feel good stories as it is comforting to know that ultimately good persons will triumph over the evil ones. I used to purchase fashion magazines namely Vogue, US, UK or Australian editions as they were my guilty pleasures just as much as chick lits about women who work in fashion media industry. So voila, a novel about fictional characters working in  a fashion magazine  in a digital age is bound to take me on a delightful ride. And it does.

Techbitch  is all about the technological revolution. Imogen Tate, the editor-in-chief of Glossy magazine , aged 42 returns to work after her hiatus only to find that her former assistant, Eve Morton who is now a graduate from Harvard Business School has been engaged to convert the magazine into an app. Eve is ruthless  on the borderline of a sociopath . Imogen has worked hard  to get to where she is , a reputable and successful editor and she is also a happily married woman and mother of two young children whom she adores. She is determined to learn all about tweeting and instagramming to keep up with the rapidly- changing world of tech with google glass already popularized and she refuses to let the twenty- somethings who do not acknowledge her presence  break her .

Imogen was barely on Facebook and had signed onto that only because the kids’ schools used it for all of their PTA updates ( important news about early dismissals, fund- raisers and wear –green –to – school days) and to keep an eye on Annabel now that her daughter was growing more and more distant and mature.

That reminds me of how I first created a facebook account years ago when my younger daughter was going on a student exchange AFS programme in France so  I could see her updates when she was busy having fun. Although I am not in the fashion media industry, I can relate to  how the protagonist Imogen Tate  has to adapt to the age of technology. Despite the urgency to re-invent fashion media to attract the young readers, ultimately Imogen’s experience, talent and dedication to the magazine  prove to be invaluable and Eve’s go-getter and social climbing style without manners is  crass. The story is funny and sassy, a wonderful read indeed.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

All that glitters is not gold

Whenever I hit the book store or the library, I see books that I want to read as every book offers generous sharing of its author’s  perspective and insights  whether it is non-fiction or fiction, the latter less explicit. Every work of fiction is a piece of creative writing that often tells more truths ( often psychological) than some writings  that purport to report the truth. The imaginary tale contains narratives that resonate with its reader and engages him or her with the unfolding of the story that might actually happen or is already happening in the real world and as the reader turns the pages, he or she is perplexed by the intricacies of the plot or seized  by an overwhelming feeling of joy at the  brilliance of the writer.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes - Marcel Proust.  Apart from pleasure, one primary reason I feel compelled to read is that reading helps me to see things with new eyes. Some writings prompt us to look at things from fresh perspectives while some writings remind us that we should believe in humanity and see life for what it is. I particularly enjoy reading satires by authors who cleverly put forward a hilarious fictionalized account of the madcap world we live in.
  Park Güell
In the MARK and the VOID written by Paul Murray,  the fiction  is set against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis in the eurozone . Claude Martingale is French and he works as an equity analyst in the Bank of Torabundo in Dublin. His father was a blacksmith who had encouraged him to study but his father subsequently resented Paul for  his success as a banker in Paris as he was mortally against the whole financial industry. His father remembered ‘the scandals that emerged after Liberation, the bankers who had collaborated with the Nazis in order to enrich themselves and he accused Claude of taking the job out of malice.’

Claude does not agree as he narrates,

Empires fall, that was what he had taught me; the world turns, and people, whole cultures, become obsolete. Progress might be a lie, but it was a lie that swept all before it and so the best tactic was to find high ground.

After his mother died, Claude had to flee France to work in Dublin as he and his father could no longer be in the same room and he subsequently reproached himself for not having made up with his father before his death . Claude is approached by a down-on-his-luck author Paul, who is looking for his next great subject and plans to write a book about Everyman who works in a bank. Claude does not think that his life would make an interesting book. But  Paul assures Claude that he represents the perfect Everyman in the modern times and he plans to shadow Claude for his writing project. Claude later finds out about Paul’s real  situation and tries to get him to feel inspired to write again. One reason why Paul gives up writing is that he thinks “modern people live in a state of distraction”.
Paul has written a novel and it is called For Love of a Clown but the book was eclipsed by another prize winning novel written by Bismal Banerjee called “ The Clowns of Sorrow.” Paul has the serendipitous encounter with his ex-editor who happens to be in Dublin for a reading by Banerjee who has published another book. Claude and Paul are both invited to the reading followed by a dinner. During dinner, Banerjee tells Paul that he should feel no regret at having failed as a writer for it is the dying art of a dying civilization.

I believe art is a dying art,’ he says. “What we are witnessing in twenty-first century Western society is nothing less than the death of subjectivity. We are in Dublin, so I will quote to you a Dubliner, George Bernard Shaw, who said that man looks in a mirror to his face, and at  art to see his soul. But modern man has no soul to see. He has become little more than a conduit for the transfer of wealth between corporations.’

Amongst Claude’s colleagues at the investment bank, Ish is the least likely investment banker in the real world.

Ish is an anomaly -  not of the god’s eye view sort, but not especially interested in money either, other than what she needs to pay for her apartment, which she bought off the plans during the boom at a price she now admits may have been extravagant even for an investment banker.’ 

I was hooked  from the first pages of the MARK and the VOID click.The book has interesting twists though the story  becomes  a little draggy due to various sub-plots. It is not an easy read partly attributed to my lack of understanding of the mechanism of the finance world which one can conclude that  it is actually a bit of a farce in the way how re-capitalization work to save the financial crisis. John Freeman, Globe correspondent writes, 'Fiction, however, with its blurred dreams and refractory points, is not a way to control reality or even profit off it. Novels become a way to look at things from the side.' click The reality is indeed like fiction and vice versa.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I keep losing my bookmarks!! Last week, it suddenly dawned upon me that  I have lost nearly all the pretty book marks that I  bought during my visits to various places . In my urgency to devour all the books that I have purchased, these bookmarks have somehow been dropped off in transition as I carry these books along with the bookmarks around in my car. While at work during the week, I cannot wait for the moment when I can nip out for a coffee break with a book in tow. I have a tendency to begin reading several books at the same time thus I need  book  marks to tag all the different  pages  so I can get back to reading these books without losing the respective pages of each of the books that I  last read.

I  read voraciously with a hope to connect with these great literary minds. I have to take time with some writings and in between such writings, I usually pick a quick read that I can finish in one sitting. I may not do justice to the writers as I read their  books as quickly as I can manage. Many books require your full attention and you would like to read it uninterrupted in one sitting but you simply cannot afford the time for you need your sleep and you are obliged to  attend to your daily tasks and responsibilities. Some books require you to take your time due to their style of writing or their contents, you need to take a breather from time to time as you read.

I am attracted to words thus I am simply amazed at how so many writers just know how to use the words to their perfection. I cannot help feeling the adrenalin rush in anticipation of what is in store between the covers as I  turn  the pages of these creations. Only a reader can imagine the joy and excitement  of  drooling over  beautiful writings and amazing stories. 

I recently read the Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. It is a story about  Pandy “PJ” Wallis, a successful writer who  created Monica when she was at the lowest end of her life. She remembers Monica ‘when the third book she had written had been rejected, when she had to borrow money to pay her rent, when the man she thought she was seeing turned out to be seeing someone else-she suddenly remembered Monica.’

Pandy had conjured up Monica as a child , for the entertainment of herself and her younger sister, Hellenor. Monica had hair the color of yellow marigolds, and she had quickly turned into their favourite creation, becoming the str of a series of notebooks called Monica: A Girl’s Guide to Being a Girl.’

Monica becomes the beloved heroine of four Monica books and four Monica movies. When it is time to move on as PJ Wallis wants to write different stories such as a historical novel based on her ancestor  Lady Wallis, her publishers do not want them . It is apparent that the publishers and the  audience only want her to keep cranking out more Monica so does her greedy soon to be ex- husband, Jonny. When the boathouse of her family home in Connecticut goes up in flames, Pandy suddenly realizes that  she has an opportunity to reinvent herself. Killing Monica gives us a glimpse into the publishing world and also the movie world. And in Bushnell’s  trademark style that is witty  and entertaining as illustrated by her earlier creations, Sex and the City, Lipstick Jungle, Killing Monica is a story about modern women, celebrity worship, fame, bondage and  celebration of  friendships.

If you ask, why I read. I  say  for pleasure, definitely for pleasure and to gain insight to the mystery of the universe, the workings of the human world  and the intricacies of  human minds and  behaviour.