Friday, October 29, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The New "pound of Flesh"
The sophisticated modern man
who saved me
from the stereotypical tragedy,
took my heart,
took my hand
and soared to unknown heights,
and glorified the
unconventional woman in me,
after six years and a half
and six cups of tea a day
Is there a new Vivimarie in the making? Other poems are Cocktail - an amusing description of the hollow and brief encounters at what else but a cocktail party; File Delayed - makes one think on what is important in life and that have been missed amidst the pressures of work; Marriage - is a startlingly good poem that reveals the facade of a violent marriage. One of the things I loved about Vivimarie's poetry is how she took everyday events and highlighted the mundane or particular social issues in a few lines. Chanima seems to closely follow in Vivimarie's footsteps. She has passion and there is outrage. Two things that can fuel the writing of good poetry. However, I feel that she needs to mature in her writing. Undoubtedly, Chanima Wijebandara has talent. She has important things to say about life and love and social issues. Tea and me for a first attempt at writing poetry is commendable but it has room for improvement. Like the title, I will await Chanima's second publication and hope that she has let it steep and brew awhile before it goes to press.
On another note, the Colombo Book Fair starts in a few days time. Oh Goody! You can bet that I will be there stocking up on books to do more reviews on. See ya there!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Whoa! What a book. Firstly, I just love the whole design of the book. Secondly, Mark Wilde has kickass taste in music. Thirdly, this is some attention grabbing story.
A problem I have with some Sri Lankan books is that they have a nice story but they are told so badly that it ruins it for the reader. The story in Chucking the Dragon is not pretty: a young man who is preparing to attend the University of Colombo finds himself hooked on heroin. The son of privileged but somewhat indifferent parents, he ends up doing anything and everything to get money for his drug habit. In the West such stories are a dime a dozen, but here in Sri Lanka this is a first. And though many not want to think so, this could be the story of many young people today.
Written as an autobiography Mark Wilde takes you on a wild and bumpy journey that covers almost everything sordid - from being a rent boy, to drug overdoses, to painful withdrawel symptoms when Wilde wants to kick the habit - the reader is spared nothing. Wilde reflects the typical young arrogant university student attitude of having an opinion on everything, living life on the edge and hellbent on the road to disaster. The writing is edgy and sometimes x-rated, it pushes the boundaries of Sri Lankan English writing which I like. And let me hasten to add that I do not say because Wilde uses four letter words that his writing pushes the boundaries. I say it because his sentences trip on the tongue like a drug induced monologue. For much of the novel, Wilde stays in character.
Now what is this story about. Chucking the Dragon, is Wilde's tortured tale of kicking the heroin habit. Hence the title, with the dragon referring to heroin. But it begins when he is still an addict, with only other addicts as friends, having lost the love of his life, and at his first year at university. At uni he feels a misfit, so while other students are talking of careers and love affairs, he goes into the toilets to shoot up. He ends up almost dropping out but yet with minimal studying he does better than the regular students. Is Mark Wilde saying something about the standard of university education? Eventually, Wilde disillusioned with his life, decides to kick the habit by going cold turkey in a beach shack down south. However, after almost a year of being clean and renewing old friendships and lovers Wilde contemplates going back on the habit.
This is one of my must read books. If I have a criticism it is that some things didn't ring true. The title page says Mark Wilde is not his real name. The guy knows very little about Colombo University life and certainly doesn't know much about the difference of middle class or privileged Sri Lankan lives. Some situations are more suited to a Western landscape than here in Sri Lanka and the writing sounds squarely American. I would not be surprised if Mark Wilde the writer turns out to be an ex-pat kid or an international school product. The fact that he emphasizes he goes to Ananda makes it wierdly out of place, but that is a minor point. This is one novel where it doesnt really matter. For to tell you the truth, this is a tale that could be anywhere. For while admittedly the sense of place is somewhat lacking in this case who cares. It is one heck of a tale.
The Gratiaen Prize in neglecting to at least shortlist this novel (I am told it was available for sale at the Gratiaen shortlist so I am presuming it was submitted) reveals itself to be narrow minded and old fashioned. Sri Lankan writing in English needs to not only talk about villages and walauwas but reflect modern Sri Lankan life as well. Chucking the Dragon is one of the most original, thought provoking books that I have read written by a Sri Lankan in a long time. If the judges had been less prudish, perhaps they may have given this book the chance it should have got.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I didn't go for either the shortlisting or the award night but the literary chatter was that there was this interesting book written by a writer from Jaffna about the time the IPKF was stationed there. In fact, I thought at the time, that this might have been a sure winner. Then I read the book and straight off, I will tell you if it had won, I would have been dissapointed.
In my opinion a prize winning book has to stand out. While this book actually had what could have been a gripping story, the writing style left much to be desired and I was not even sure that it should have been shortlisted.
The story is set over a very short period of time. Perhaps over a few days. When the IPKF came as so called peace monitors to the North of the Island, they saw all the people there as Sri Lankans - an identity the Northerners had erased from their psyche and they saw all Tamils as potential LTTErs. Concentrating on one village that has all the people rounded up and housed in one compound that had one toilet for around 400 people, the people are confused if they are there for their safety or being detained. The depiction of the Indian army is sketchy and not drawn out yet it does not turn out to be a weakness of the book, for the slim novel in fact concentrates on the relationships, hardships and fears that the Northern Tamil families were going through during a period that they hoped would save them and yet became another kind of horror for them.
When you read this book, you feel for our people and what they have had to go through. They are mere pawns that are toyed with all players - the LTTE, the Sri Lankan army, the Indian army. Ayathurai Santhan is careful not to tread on the ideology of the average Northern Tamil person. He shows all these people as victims, being tossed from one side to the other at the whim of whoever rules. It might have been interesting if he had taken a stance, for after all the LTTE could not have existed and been successful for so long, without popular support in the area. The book ends without resolution.
The writing is replete with Sri Lankan English of the lesser kind: akward, clumsy and sometimes grammatically incorrect. Now, I hope I don't get flak for this comment. For example: "Though everyday, Sivan had passed by this house often, this was the second time he happened to be inside." Is a sentence written in the way Sri Lankan's typically speak. And there is nothing wrong with that if it was written as direct speech.
My final comments is that this is a book that I highly recommend only because there is a dearth of writing in English about the conflict from the Tamil perspective. I admit that it is written in a sometimes crude and akward manner, that the story could have been fleshed out better, that as it is, it is not a very strong book. But it is important that all Sri Lankans be able to read about our history, and what better way to do it, than through fiction, the different voices and perspectives of our history - be it good or evil. I applaud Ayathurai Santhan for taking the courage and writing such a book. I just wish it had been edited much more and we would have a stronger perhaps even a prize winning book. I look forward to more books written from varying perspectives, perhaps one that is sympathetic to the LTTE cause for we need to know how part of our own people wished to secede from the country in the hope for a life of equality, justice and peace.