Daily Archives: August 12, 2014

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino Title: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas
Author: Marie-Helene Bertino
Publisher: Crown
ISBN: 978-0804140232
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Blog For Books/Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This is one of those books that stun you. They take you by surprise and you do not really know what got into you. You do know that you loved reading it and cannot stop talking about it to people. “2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a book that demands your attention and once it has it, it does not let go, till you have finished the book.

I remember reading about this book somewhere and I so wanted to read it and when I did, I fell in love with it. Marie-Helene Bertino writes with such simplicity and makes you want to believe in all things nice and hopeful. Her characters are despairing, but never let go of hope and what it takes to be alive. There are odd moments in the book and yet what they only do is uplift you.

“2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a magical story. It is a story of three lives, colliding by coincidence; chance, by serendipity on Christmas Eve eve. The action takes place in Philadelphia. We all know how a city becomes a character in so many books and it is the same in this one as well.

There is a nine-year old Madeleine, who has recently lost her mother. She is clueless in the world. She smokes (yes for a nine-year old, I was taken aback but then got in the groove of the book). She wants to sing. She is obsessed with Jazz. At the end of the spectrum is her teacher, Sarina, who is recently divorced and something is soon going to happen to her. The third character is Lorca, the owner of The Cat’s Pajamas – a legendary jazz club, which is soon going to slip away from him. These three characters come together to discover love, life, happiness and hope.

The characters that meet each other in the course of a day and night are marvelous. There are other characters as well besides these three that add to the plot and drive the story forward. What struck me the most about the book is the honest voice in which it is written. The book is told from the third-person perspective and rounds up every emotion and scene very well. Bertino sets the story in such a way that everything is told or not told till 2 A.M, which in more than one way is the crux of the book.

“2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a charming, little book that makes you reinstate hope. As these three go through the day, and you with them as a reader, your spirits are lifted, you smile and laugh with them and feel a sense of melancholy when they are sad. Sometimes, it is also necessary for a book to have those brilliant fantastical moments (like Mark Helprin’s books do) to reinforce the magic of living. “2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a perfect book for the time when you are down and about.

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Interview with Ananth

So after reading, “Play With Me”, I decided to interview Ananth – the man behind the book and here is a quick interview with him. “Play with Me” is a work of erotic fiction. It is bold, hip and right there, set in our times. It is a book which you must read and is most certainly a quick read.

Ananth

1. Why did you take to writing? What prompted this? From selling books to writing one, how was the transition at some point?

I have been toying with writing for a while now. These were primarily blog posts (stripandrebind@wordpress), a very short memoir that I once wrote when my family moved out of Madras to Bangalore and the ‘hometown’ merely became ‘birthplace’, and then a couple of years ago, short fiction (unpublished). So a novel was a pleasant accident, as much as it was a challenge.

The pressure in this transition came from the subject I had chosen to write a novel on; Pleasure. Because as readers and book sellers we do know that it is difficult to get it right.

2. Do you think the Indian audience is ready for more erotic writing?

More than half a million copies of E L James and Sylvia Day have sold here, and yes absolutely. It is a genre, as any other, and there should be lot more books.

3. What does Ananth read?

Many things; books, columns, magazines, newspapers, product labels on bottles, ad copy, the list goes on. More non-fiction, than fiction.

Play With Me by Ananth

4. What are the books as of now at your bedside?

In the iPad; Silkworm, The Fault In Our Stars and so many bought and un-read. Bedside; Happiness Is…(a timeless and charming book that will make you smile) and Play with Me.

5.The protagonist of “Play with Me” is hip, young, ambitious and in most parts confused. What led to the building of this character? Did he have to go through a lot of changes, depending on the kind of people you interacted with?

Sid’s composure is completely derailed by the juggernaut that Cara is and then she disrupts his life and completely changes him, helping him recognize what he wants. So it wasn’t who I interacted with, as opposed Sid’s interactions with the others in the book.

6. Ananth the writer…

Writes when there is a compelling need to say something; when he finds the words to say it; and works best when he is completely distracted; and can’t write in solitary confinement.

7. What is the next book going to be about? Will it be on the similar lines of “Play with Me”?

Think of Me will pick up where Play with Me left off – there are incomplete sentences and unresolved relationships. Yes, that book will also be about pleasure.

8. Do you think people are reading a lot more than they used to? If yes, then will there be a lot of pressure on writers to generate something different all the time?

I think so. We are reading a lot more but are more people beginning to read books – maybe not. So the pressure is not to write something different but to be able to write something that will interest people (we exercise a lot of choice now, because there are so many options to entertain ourselves) and through that grow the number of people who might pick up a book for the first time.

9. Your literary influences…

Many. I consider myself very fortunate – my parents shoved a book in my hand quite early in my life.

I have read “Play with Me” and quite enjoyed it. Reviewed it here. Pick it up. It makes for some interesting reading.

Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen Year Old Self : Edited by Joseph Galliano

Dear Me - Edited by Joseph Galliano Title: Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self
Author: Edited by Joseph Galliano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Limited
ISBN: 9781847377661
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

“If you wrote a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, what would it say?”

That is the premise of the book, “Dear Me” – Edited by Joseph Galliano. What would you tell your sixteen year old self anyway? What would you stop him or her from doing, which you know will be futile anyway, because he or she will not listen to the older you? The book is of famous people – of celebrities writing to their younger self, dispensing advice, providing nuggets of wisdom and trying to go back in time and perhaps contemplate on how life was.

The book is a revelation of sorts and at other times, I was tempted enough to pick up the notepad and write a letter to my sixteen-year-old self. There were letters that stood out – the ones by Elton John, Emma Thompson, James Woods, Jodi Picoult, and so many more. There are 75 letters in all, written by celebrities from various fields – from actors to comedians to novelists, they all are written depicting youth and what is called growing-up.

These letters touch on issues that are still prevalent – from gay rights to racism to being felt left out – the letters provide a sense of warmth and at the same time you empathize with at least a few of them, because you have gone through the same.

“Dear Me” is a bitter-sweet journey through life, sometimes scarily a reflection of your own. It is a book of letters, of contemplation, of thoughts and ideas. Joseph Galliano has done a wonderful job of editing this book and somehow compels you to write a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, sharing your fears and maybe consoling him or her – to let them know that it will all be alright, after all.

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Buy Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen