Monthly Archives: January 2010

J.D. Salinger

So I was sixteen when I first read, “The Catcher in the Rye” and that’s the age group my generation was in (which accounts for a million readers) when we first laid our hands, sight, senses, and gave them all while reading this marvel. Holden Caulfield remained etched in our memory and while I came of age I read this book, and today J.D. Salinger is no more. This one’s for you, Mr. Salinger. You will be missed.

Don’t ever tell anybody anything.  If you do, you start missing everybody.

What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by.  I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them.  I hate that.  I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it.  If you don’t, you feel even worse.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

We always have liked to believe that Alice’s Adevntures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is a book for children and while it is, one cannot ignore the fact that is a book for adults as well. I have just finished reading it and to be very honest, when I first read it as a child, I found it very boring. I mean at that age I did not want to read of a seven-year old girl tumbling down a hole into nothingness, and here I was re-reading it almost after 18 years and loved it this time.

We all know what Alice in Wonderland (as most popularly known) is all about. Alice is bored on a hot afternoon and follows the elusive White Rabbit down a rabbit-hole without thinking of how she will get out. She needs adventure and sure does get it. She tumbles into Wonderland, where animals speak, a baby turns into a pig, The Queen of Hearts wants to chop everyone’s heads off, time stands still at a party, Alice grows and shrinks by the minute, and it is here that Alice is lost, or so it seems.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was inspired by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – I am so not surprised as to why he wrote under the pen name of Lewis Carroll) while he was making up a story for his young friend, Alice Lidell on a boat trip. It is from this girl he drew inspiration to write this gem of a book.

I loved some of the quotes of this book:

…and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone: ‘so I ca’n’t take more.’
‘You mean you ca’n’t take less,’ said the Hatter: ‘it’s very easy to take more than nothing.’

Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. `Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.

`Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, `and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

The version that I was reading contained pictures from the original edition which were drawn by John Tenniel and they are brilliant. Here is my favourite one of the Tea Party. My one and only problem with the book is that Alice does not seem happy, she is sulking most of the time and I wonder why. Is it because her innocence was lost a little too soon? Keeps me thinking.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

I have always been amazed by the way Ms. Picoult deals with moral situations in her books. I can almost imagine the strain on a writer. From Nineteen Minutes (a mother ponders over what her son did) to My Sister’s Keeper (the mother-daughter relationships), every novel has this capacity to catch you unaware and punch you in the face – it is that strong.

But all the care in the world cannot save the people we love…Handle with Care starts off on this premise. It is about a family (as is the case in all her books) dealing with their youngest daughter’s condition of osteogenesis imperfecta which can easily cause brittle and broken bones. Her mother wants her to leave her a legacy of something which will not bend or break – the case in point her name, Willow. Weeping Willows – I loved the use of the metaphor and yet it is Willow that shines throughout the book with her strength and love for all things natural.

I will not give away too many details of this book, but yes this book goes far beyond a family coping with a disease. Like in “My Sister’s Keeper”, we see sibling jealousy here as well, with one normal daughter and the other Willow – who needs to be handled with care, the attention all going to one sibling. And yet at the end of it all, they are sisters.

The book goes back and forth in time and told from various people’s perspectives. It is about the lies we catch ourselves telling, the truths we are determined to hide – in case something better might come of it. It is about the bonds we forge and the ones we break to protect our loved ones. It is a rollercoaster of a ride and may I add that every goosebump, that every butterfly in the stomach feeling and every emotion you will know while reading this book, will be worth it.

An Interview with Eddie Sarfaty

Ok folks, here you go, An interview with Eddie Sarfaty, author of Mental. I got this via email. Enjoy!

I could not stop laughing when I read the party balloons incident. Is there anything funnier than that which you would like to share?

Well, actually, no.   The balloon incident was pretty much the funniest – and most bizarre – experience I had while meeting guys online.  If there had been anything funnier, believe me it would have been in the story.

Tell me something, have you ever been attracted to a straight man and if yes then how did you deal with it, considering that he was not up for or rather up to it?

Of course I’ve been attracted to straight men – that is to say that there are straight men I’ve found attractive – but I’d never pursue anyone unless I knew that they were gay.  Why would I bother?  What would come of it, other than making them feel uncomfortable and making me frustrated? I’m currently in a relationship, but if I weren’t, there are plenty of gay guys out there who are handsome and smart and funny.  There’d be no need to waste my time barking up the wrong tree.

I like the candor with which you speak about your sex life. It is not only refreshing but also makes me think about mine. So is this how you also are on stage?

Everyone has sex – or at least thinks about it a good amount of the time – so, it always strikes me as ridiculous when people feel like it’s something you’re not supposed to talk about.   One of the things I appreciate most about being gay is the atmosphere of sexual frankness.   As a stand-up comic, part of connecting with the audience is talking honestly about stuff that they can identify with.  Sex, the concerns surrounding it, and the attitudes of society about it, are issues everyone can relate to. 

How does the so-called straight audience handle the gay gags and jokes when you are up there on stage?

I think that “straight” audiences are generally appreciative of the honesty – and the comedy.  My humor is smart and I’m not just talking about sex to shock people.  Plus, it’s not the focus of my act, just part of it.  It also helps that I’m always quick to laugh at myself as well as others.  Sure there might be some folks who are prudish and uncomfortable hearing about sex, but you can’t please everyone, and besides, if we didn’t talk about things just because some people might take offense, we’d never talk about anything!

 Besides the title being so self explanatory, what makes you blue?

What makes me blue?  Well aside from the obvious – sickness, death, global warming – I find the autumn and winter hard. I definitely suffer from seasonal affective disorder.  Plus, I’ve had bouts of depression since I was a kid.  Sometimes the chemicals in my brain just get out of whack.

I loved the first chapter of the book. I think that’s my favourite by far. May be because when I came out to my family, I did not get the support I expected. Was that ever a concern with you?

I wasn’t 100% sure how my family would react – homosexuality wasn’t really something that was ever discussed at length – why would it be?  I do recall one time when I was a kid and there was something about gay people on the news, and my mom remarked how sad it was.  That stayed with me for a long time.  But that was decades ago, before people were exposed to all of the information that’s available now.  My family has been extremely supportive right from the beginning.  I’m very lucky.

One moment that is ingrained in your memory about someone you love/d.

Well unfortunately the moments that are the most deeply embedded in my memory aren’t from happy occasions.  There were a lot of tragedies in my family when I was growing up, and there are faces full of grief that I saw as a child that are still crystal clear.  The upside to that is that I – and the rest of my family – have developed a very strong sense of humor.  Humor’s helped me get through some awfully difficult times.  You can’t control so much in your life, and In the end, there’s often nothing you can do but laugh.

Mental by Eddie Sarfaty

Hmmm…So once in a while there is a book which you can truly relate to and that happened to be “Mental” for me this year. I have loved it and yes I cannot stop raving about it. Why you ask? Let me tell you why and this review will be different. It will be in points. Come along with me then!

  • Mental is not preachy at all. It does not judge nor does it take sides – both straight or gay. It is funny and in-your-face and I love it.
  • Mental is about experiences of a gay man who is coming to terms with a lot of things and it is spiced with humour and lots of wit. Hats off to you Eddie! Keep writing.
  • Eddie is a natural writer. The thoroughly engaging Mental far exceeded my expectations for a book written by a funnyman, being not only funny but solidly well-written. Describing his mother’s plan for a European trip, he captures the wistfulness and homeliness of family life in one sentence: She slips the faded travel brochures out of the fruit bowl on the sideboard where they’ve been cushioning the bananas for the last six years.
  • While Mental is funny, it also has a heart. The Eton-Club chapter and not to forget the first chapter of his coming out contains a good measure of hard-won sentiment.
  • Mental made me realize a lot of things about myself as a gay man and I was surprised. Thank you Eddie.

There is only one thing I have to say to Eddie: Keep writing.