Culture Czar

Where I talk about cricket, and the books I love, and cricket, and music, and cricket, and movies, and cabbages, maybe, and kings...

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

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Monday, October 24, 2005

My Pseudo Bookstore Self

I hate those entries that start "I have a confession to make". So very melodramatic, so very anticlimatic. So, when it's my turn, I have resolved, I shall start my little piece with a sentence that goes "I hate those entries that start..."

My little bit of mental Moibus strip over and dustbinned with, here comes the chase.

I own some of the greatest literature ever written. Not my personal view, of course. The collective opinion of thousands of critics, reviewers, " all-time lists", back-cover blurb extracts, you name it. On whether or not that view is deserved, I am silent.

I haven't read them, you see.

Not through lack of opportunity. I have forgotten the number of times I have glanced, longingly, at Midnight's Children, wondered whether I should actually make another attempt to start it, then decided to give myself three hours of unabashed pleasure, and picked up an Alistair MacLean instead.

Now, don't get me wrong. Alistair MacLean was one of the greatest authors ever to pick up a pen, while Rushdie, though a critic's darling, is, well Rushdie. His Moor's Last Sigh was a delight to read, while his collection of essays, Step Across The Line, is one of my favourite non-fiction books. However, reading Rushdie (or Umberto Eco, for that matter) requires a certain degree of reader involvement, a certain exercise of the intellect, and a certain emotional involvement. Reading an Alistair MacLean, on the other hand, is pure adrenalin rush, reminding you that you can be, albeit vicariously, Boy Scout and Blade Runner and Luke Skywalker and Marine all rolled into one. Thrilling, simply thrilling.

My long suffering wife would undoubtedly disagree with this, but I am dangerously close to concluding that books are meant to be bought, not for their intrinsic literary value, but for their bookshelf value. Bibliophilic sex-appeal consists, in large part, of owning the right books, and most people would assume that if you own the book, you have read it.

Therefore, in a move that I have deemed masterly, I have got in my possession large volumes of some of the allegedly finest "literature" on the planet. Nothing new about that, everyone has a decent collection of books these days. However, I have taken this one step further, and have stopped bothering to actually read these books.

Obvious Question: Will I get caught out as a fraud? Here is where my stunning "Do-Not-Read" model comes into play.

The trick is to actually read one book by a particular author, and then own lots more of his/her works. Thus, I have read the stunning LA Confidential by James Ellroy, but I own a couple of his other works, carelessly strewn about my house.

Umberto Eco- I have dog-eared his Name of the Rose, cursed his Foucault's Pendulum, but have read both many times. I now own other books of his- Baudolino, some non-fiction essays which I cant remember the name of.

There are manyof them- the list of authors whom I've read a single book, or a few books of, and have then picked up other works of theirs. Hanif Kureishi, for instance, Amitav Ghosh, Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess, John Steinbeck, even the wannabe intellectual's best friend, Jack Kerouac- the list could go on and on.

Of course, I do intend to actually read all those books some day. War and Peace, Heart of Darkness, The Bell Jar, Rabbit, Run....but until I actually get down to it, I may as well assuage my conscience by using them to prop up my carefully constructed bibliophile image.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Duck, Sir Donald?

There is a fantastic urban legend which has been around for years, but which I havent been able to verify at all.

First, the facts.

In 1931-32, Australia toured the United States. One of the places they stopped by was Hollywood.One of those people who MAY have watched the game was a prominent member of the Hollywood Cricket Club.

Now, speculation....

So enamoured by Sir Don Bradman was the prominent member that he named one of his creations after the master batsman. Some theories say that the name was a reference to the score Bradman made in that match.....

Urban Legend:

That is how Walt Disney named Donald Duck.

Google, of course, has nothing except people discussing this endlessly....

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Grievous Bodily Harmison..

I love to watch some bowlers in action. Today, I feasted.

I had switched on the TV in the morning, prepared to watch a soulless, insipid "Super Test", or whatever the ICC's new marketing brain child is called. Bastard child, more likely- I can go on about the stupidity and emotionlessness of having a six day masala match and giving it official status, but enough has been said about it already.

Getting back to the point, the ICC World XI was bowling. Steve Harmison, none less. And as I saw him bowling, I remembered the thrill of last month's Ashes.

Harmison in full flow is really a joy to watch- he seems to smoothly glide into the crease, and then there's that lovely full-o'-limbs leap, with one arm going one place and the other arm going somewhere else, and out of the chaos emerges a vicious, middle-of-the-pitch missile that climbs and climbs and climbs..... watching him bowl is thrilling, taking you back to a time when cricket was fun and fiercely played, and very, very enjoyable....

And the man isnt about sheer pace. Today, he bowled a brilliant slower one to dismiss Hayden, yorking him when he was looking invincible. A lot similar to the delivery that removed Michael Clarke at the Edgbaston Test, leaving Australia at 175-8.

When he first came on the scene, during India's tour of England in 2002, I didnt think much of him. He was a replacement for the perennially injured Simon Jones, and he looked raw. Fast, yes, but the ball sprayed about, and few of our batsmen had any trouble negotiating him.

Cut to 2004. 7-12, Grievous Bodily Harmison, West Indies 47 all out. You can read about that on enough websites, so I shall get to the point.

Not since Shoaib has there been a fast bowler that I have enjoyed watching. Who I have rushed home early from work to watch, who has had batsmen hopping, ducking, who has made cricket fun again.

Those pedants who bother about results and statistics, you can take your Glenn McGraths and your Shaun Pollocks and burn in hell. Take your perfect bowling analyses, your 8-6-7-3, your 41 for 4, and go and rot. Oh, and take your boring, metronomic line, your corridors of uncertainty, your soulless, robotic, "perfect" deliveries with you.

Give me Shoaib any day. Charging into the crease, breathing smoke and fire, closing in with vengeance soaring high, faster than a lazer bullet, louder than an atom bomb, brighter than a thousand suns... (Painkiller, Judas Priest).

And better still, give me Harmison. Loose limbed, gawky, lanky, they've called him all that. But, oh, the joy....5 wayward balls in one over, who cares? That one ball, landing in the middle of the pitch, going for the batsman's throat....missing it by millimeters.... and maybe, missing wildly flailing bat too, as the fielders go up in unison...that catch in my heart, that whistling sound as my mouth forms a perfect "O" and my breath stops, then releases in awe....and then does it again as I watch the replay.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.