It was with sense of anticipation I picked up “The Gathering” by Anne Enright; after all it had been some time since I a read a Booker prize winner. The prize is now intriguingly called the Man Booker, and I have never wondered what the Man is all about. It is a long time since I read a serious novel written by a woman; J.K. Rowling does not count. And it was a shocker. The sheer guts and boldness of the writing reverberates harshly, specially when she inspects marriage and intimacy. At other times a soft and insightful look at life and relationships did keep me engrossed.
He moved across the room to take a look and there was a solidity to him as he bent over the next generation, checking, in a proprietorial way, eyes, fingers, toes, the tiny pores on her nose plugged with yellow stuff that made me panic already about blackheads when she was grown up
It is an obvious story of Ireland in a time and place I will never connect to, so I was surprised that I managed to stay with the book. I am notorious for letting a book go midway. A strong sense of dysfunctional relationships engulfs the storyline, which leaves one agape at the profligacy of births, broken alliances, new liaisons and constant sense of imminent loss. Hidden between the lines is a social and political message, and that does come across more subtly.
My sense of foreboding continued during the week, as I listened to the Guardian Books podcast of Lorrie Moore reading her short story- “Paper Losses”. A woman’s view of a marriage breaking up did little to cheer me up on my walk. A catalogue of accusations by the protagonist leads to a conclusion which is not surprising, and the events are predictable. Although less visceral than “The Gathering”, it shares a pessimistic view of the marital state of affairs.
Is this the bleak future of our most important relationship? A newspaper item informs us that most babies in UK are born out of wedlock. Single parenting is the norm rather than the exception there. And we want to emulate the west? Are we sure? Looks like a materialistic lifestyle seems to have consequences in unexpected places. Although, I am not sure that there is a link between acquisitive habits and discordant matrimony. What do you think?
Photo credit www.smh.com.au
Odds and Ends
Ritu Dalmia launched her book and TV show “Italian Khana” this week. The book is very expensive and I figured I could pay for a decent Italian meal for the price. So I saw the TV show instead, and found the whole thing very esoteric. I love Italian food and Italy and Ritu Dalmia. The show did bring back some very pleasant memories of Venice, even though I was there for only a day. Ritu showed some very complicated Italian dishes, and some very nice Italians, but I found it very difficult to connect, and was not inspired to go cook immediately. I hope that I find the book more readable; when the price drops, I can buy it. I do want to try something else besides pasta and pizza.
Sense and Sensitivity
While I was on a mission driving sensitivity into people, somebody did say that we seem to be hugely insensitive to women. A north Indian specialty this goes well with denying girls their right, including female foeticide. The unwanted girl is built in the social psyche mostly driven by feudal economics. The girl will need to be married off, and the entire expenditure has to be borne by the parents. And the marriage expenses are not insubstantial. Then it comes down to some very selfish requirements of being looked after in the old age. The boy is expected to do that. There is some religious background too, which dictates that the funeral pyre of the father must be lit by a boy. Apparently the property of the parents can be inherited by boys only. So, with a hugely patriarchal society it is no wonder that the girl is a much neglected person in our society. I also found some residue of this inequality in a different culture. In the book “The Gathering”, the man’s money is considered more important than the woman’s.