lemonade | nocturnes

I

Are markets a summertime thing or is there something seasonal about them. There are big sprawling markets where the clothes go so high they reach places even vendors can’t get to. Do they just circulate up there? Do they come down, ever? They must, right? There’s just some amount of time that crop-top can be safe and secure till it’s within arm’s reach.

We are that crop-top.

Welcome to transit season.

II

Summer is houses and a hyperawareness of what goes on in them for houses are closed and the sound-carrying air is tight and packed. Everyone can hear everything and that sort of thing. If you don’t pay attention to a ticking clock it speeds up schizophrenically and then it slows down when there’s nothing else you can think about.

These are truly languorous times which make you regret not having planned ahead for things to do.

There’s a tremendous lack of planning, all along the board.

III

Have you heard that story from a friend of a friend about how this one girl cut off the legs of her old jeans to make new shorts. I wonder what she did with that reject fabric? Aren’t jeans frayed and stained enough to be artifacts worth preserving, utility be damned?

Summer must be a very insecure month for clothes like these. Maybe there’s some other month where they’re picked up and cared for and remembered but in the summer you’re cutting away and revealing more and more of yourself to a sun who’s more than happy to lavish you with the attention you seek.

And everyone else sees you, as a result or as a coincidence.

IV

The economics of a lemonade stand are founded on the principles of charity, pity and nostalgia and these are the things that (un)make summer up. There is work and there is play and there is a vague memory of an older, more primordial play where the boundaries weren’t drawn up as clear, I suppose. ‘Paid’ leave wasn’t a thing once.

She that stands behind the lemonade stand is a construction in your head of the apparently healthier seasons of your youth. Your nostalgification of her is a refusal to take her seriously. Child as metaphor. Child as symbol.

She got her lemonades for free from the supermarket because her mum bought them.

V

Then there are the people who wear black tshirts and full jeans in the summer and walk around alone in the sun, rejecting their advances.

What more is there to say about them?

Some people are made to be sad.

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News Cycle

being reflections on the media and also writing-as-therapy or something

I suppose everyone has some deep rooted insecurity they wrestle with when sleep doesn’t come and which they only tell one or maybe two people and then regret immediately because saying it in some way solidifies it. I have one of those. I’m afraid everyone will eventually be bored of me.

II

We can be subtle about this. But, as you read this, one or two stories will come to the fore past the hazy murk that is the evening news in your busy craniums (crania?). And that is fair. In fact, even when stories simmer past the boiling point and bubble and effervesce, even in their heat, I am afraid of the month after when everyone is bored. The graph surrounding someone’s interest in a news story is not particularly complex. The event (or the discovery of a past event) occurs and as it occurs, our interest in it begins to burgeon and swell and we find out more and more. Then we develop some sort of opinion. Then we find material that supports our opinion. And then we are bored.

And the people who are employed to supply these stories to us know this. They study us very carefully.

III

 

You have a very fussy dog. You have been adding some side-market spice mix to its rice and chicken to get it to eat without a fuss. It eats without a fuss. Now, you’ve been told by your veterinarian to stop doing this to your pet. So you stop adding Magic Masala. Now your dog does not want to eat.

Is this the dog’s fault?

IV 

At a NATO Seminar in Sarajevo in 1998 aimed at fostering democratic practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr. J.P. Shea delivered a lecture on the role of the media in a democracy. Which does not reveal any information which you, being the well read and literate individual you are, can’t already guess. The media is meant to:

  • inform the public on what is going on: inform democratic choices through the clarification of complex issues, particularly in an age when information is the driving force of economic advancement and international events impact on people’s daily lives as never before;
  • provoke public debates leading to greater public participation in important decisions;
  • uncover abuses, pressure for their rectification;
  • alert and mobilize public opinion to humanitarian causes/injustices;
  • allow political pluralism to express itself by advertising different views/ ideological approaches to certain issues;
  • keep politicians attuned to public opinion while offering politicians a medium to explain policies/decisions to public opinion and build the necessary support.

Why is this so obvious to you? Because you understand what a democracy is. A democracy is rule by the people. That is, rule by you. Your participation in decision making is based on your awareness of the context surrounding these decisions. You can’t be in every boardroom and battlefield so there are people with press badges there for you to tell you everything you need to know and you march forth to your polling booths equipped with more than enough information to make your choice. Ideally.

So where exactly does entertainment find its place in all this?

My father started telling me to read the newspaper everyday when I was thirteen years old. I never did because it was too boring.

VI 

Welcome to the News Cycle, of which you are a product. In the News Cycle, decisions on what sort of criminal deserves the death penalty, how much attention we should pay to our judiciary, whether the government has the right to breach our privacy and even whether strange, rabid populist figures can rule over us all are made and broken on the basis of how bored you are. Just how long can this one event float on your precious interest before we jump to the next event?

Between the arson story and the rape story is the ice-cream advertisement. Between the rape story and the embezzlement story is the LED-lamp advertisement. These slots probably don’t cost the same.

VII 

This problem of mine is beyond a first-world problem. It may even be a millennial problem, if that is what I am. Could anyone from any other generation be existentially terrified of being boring to the people around them? Was my grandfather afraid of this when he was eighteen?

Is this just me?

VIII 

Have I commodified myself?

My existence and interaction with you is not a tool for your entertainment. It is alright if I bore you. I do not live for you. My purpose can be beyond that or even separate from that. Does your doctor have to be interesting? Does your barber? No? Does your teacher have to be interesting? Does your author? Does your filmmaker?

Does your friend?

What about your newspaperman and your reporter and your TV host?

What does permeation in consumerism mean? What does consumer-culture mean? Do we look at everything in those terms, now? Is the news supposed to be a gripping, interesting read? If a person loves you, does it really only mean they are interested in you?

IX

Entertainers like to seem complicated
But we’re not complicated
I can explain it pretty easily
Have you ever been to a birthday party for children
And one of the children won’t stop screaming
Cuz he’s just a little attention attractor
When he grows up to be a comic or actor
He’ll be rewarded for never maturing
For never understanding or learning
That every day can’t be about him
There’s other people, you selfish asshole!

I must be psychotic
I must be demented
To think that I’m worthy of all this attention
Of all of this money you worked really hard for
I slept in late while you worked at the drug store
My drug’s attention
I am an addict
But I get paid to indulge in my habit
It’s all an illusion

Bo Burnham – Art is Dead

Here we are now, entertain us

you know who…

X

I hope all the people like this blog post and enjoy it and stuff. I hope it wasn’t boring.

things I’ve been doing, things I’ve been reading and things I haven’t been writing

Hello again, everyone.

I rather loathe doing these life-based interludes to the reviews and all the other fun this humble little page has been offering you over the past few months. But, It’s been a couple of months and three location changes since the previous post and I don’t really have anything to talk about. But I have to post something today for some odd reason.

What have I been doing? Not very much.

What I have been reading? A lot of things. Three Jhumpa Lahiri books (some sort of opinion piece forthcoming), my first Bukowski, Eco, Nabokov and Beckett. I’ve also been watching an awful lot of Rick and Morty (yet another opinion piece forthcoming).

What haven’t I been writing? I haven’t been writing anything. Things will very slowly grind back into some sort of routine or so I desperately hope.

 

What’s To Come

What?

I don’t know, honestly. At this point, anything could happen. I’m at that point where I want to blog seriously but I have no idea what exactly to blog about. So, here’s a very quick preview of the verbiage that is about to splatter across your beautiful laptops and iPads in the days and weeks to come.

Wattpad reviews. Basically, reviews of serialized fiction from the online platform, Wattpad. Keep an eye out for a review of Imalroc by @smaoineamh coming soon.

This thing on Clark Ashton Smith. And a thing on Lovecraft.

And yeah, that’s about it, honestly.

Stay tuned, whoever you are. Unless it’s just you, dead air. In which case, hello, old friend.

Reading Malayalam Fiction – My Tattered Jacket

I did not grow up in the land where I was born. Every year during summer vacation, we would cram a month’s worth of clothes, chicken nuggets and schoolbooks into four, heavy suitcases and we would fly three thousand kilometers across oceans and deserts till all we could see through the frosted aeroplane windows were the lush, rolling hills of Kerala.

We would be on the same flight a month later, our suitcases just as full, only this time, there would be books in place of the chicken nuggets. We’d have finished all the chicken nuggets a day after we had landed.

I couldn’t really buy many books where we grew up. Small paperbacks I could finish reading in a day cost about as much as a video-game I could play for a month. So, I’d save up my pocket money for our annual trip to India and I’d pester my parents till they took me to the bookstore. And then, for a couple of hours, I’d be in that peculiar heaven we book lovers are intimately familiar with. Only, it was different for me. This would be the only time I’d get to go to a bookstore all year.

The attendants there in their neat, brown polo shirts would observe me, rapt, as I loaded a trolley with enough books to last me a year. Fourteen was the highest that tally ever went up to. When I was twelve and thirteen, the books all belonged to roughly the same genre. The fantasy-YA side of things. These were the books that gently directed me to the rabbit hole that is Speculative Fiction. I still don’t know how deep that rabbit hole goes. My dog-eared copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Horse and His Boy, their once creamy pages now flecked with every shade of curry and condiment, still sit on my desk, almost begging me to reread them. Year fourteen to sixteen, I broadened my horizons. I began reading historical fiction, horror, crime and even non-fiction. But there was still one shelf I assiduously avoided.

This year, the last year I’d ever undertake this voyage before settling in India for good, I bit the bullet. I began furtively eyeing the Indian Fiction section and the Translated Works shelf in particular. I added a few books translated from Malayalam into the pile. I went home and burned through them even before the flight back.

My previous and sole experience with Kerala through literature was Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, which was written in English. From my first foray into the Translations shelf, I read Mira Nair’s Hangwoman and Benyamin’s Goat Days and The Yellow Lights of Death. I adored all these books. The stories told ranged from sweeping epics to poignantly personal narratives, sometimes in the same book. I could culturally understand these characters so  perfectly. I was amazed by how beautiful my national literature is.

But, I was also filled with a new and peculiar kind of shame. I asked my parents to read sections for me from the original Malayalam and I was blown away by the sheer baroqueness of that language. What made these books award winning, critically acclaimed masterpieces was not their detailed plots or the richness of their characterization. It was this gorgeous, self-aware, consciously crafted language.

And that was something I couldn’t tap into. It was like looking at a stunning winter vista through an open door but not having a thick enough jacket to actually venture out. It felt crippling.

I am trying to learn to read Malayalam. Right now, I can manage to finish one children’s book in three hours and comprehend maybe half of it. I’m hoping to be able to graduate to perhaps middle grade fiction by the end of this year. I am hoping to be able to be acquainted with the language enough to access the great wealth of my own national literature.

I am hoping to be able to walk through that door. I’m stitching my jacket. But what this humbling little experience has taught me is the importance of the original language in literature. We read for telepathy. We read to access another man’s thoughts. Only, I can’t do that with Malayalam fiction. I can only read those thoughts as interpreted by someone else in the language of the very people who oppressed my people for centuries. So I’m stitching my jacket. Stitch yours as well.

A Review of The Mind is a Razorblade by Max Booth III

If you were to make a list of initially very pulpy things that have become cultural milestones, noir-fiction would be very high up on that list.

And noir also has infinite potential for weird remixes and re-imaginings. The idea of a character who knows next to nothing in the beginning of a story and ends up figuring out a whole lot of things towards the end is a common theme for spec-fic. Especially more imaginative spec-fic.

Look at Blade Runner.

Look at Dark City.

Look at The City & The City.

You should probably also take a look at The Mind is a Razorblade by Max Booth III.

The story follows a man with know name who wakes up naked and sandwiched between two corpses with no memory of who he is and what he’s doing there. And all he has are his wits and his comfort with pulling triggers to guide him. He questions, hurts and kills his way through a narcotic infused, insane dystopia of a city where the cult worship of a god named Conundrae abound in every street corner.

There’s the transport of organs, whole lots of spiders, perhaps one of the the creepiest army of minions I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about and of course, gobs and gobs of plot twists and revelations.

You have all the basic tropes that weird-fiction seems to love right on the tin. You have drugs, cults and confusion. But it also has its fair share of noir tropes. The constant sense of mystery that seems to pervade the narrative, the dame, the guns, the mob bosses, the explosions. You do have all that.

And then, you have a cracker of a central mystery. Who am I? Am I the ‘me’ I was before or the ‘me’ I am now, sans memory with the skills and abilities and sins I seem to have inherited? Why does my head hurt so much?

The pacing is done very right. This is one of those Crank-esque roller coaster rides that never really lets up to give you air. Ever since the main character wakes up till the explosive conclusion, there’s next to no breathing room.

Which rather works for this book. All in all, it was a very fast, very fun sort of read.

There are a few problems with it, though. The prose, for the most part doesn’t try to play too many games with you and stays out of the way, letting you get on with the story and immerse yourself. The dialogue, however seemed a little too uninspired at certain places. And when the ideas and prose are so good, that kind of thing sticks out like a sore tentacle.

The foreshadowing is tasteful and for the most part rather effective but a little bit more fleshing out about the lore and backstory would not have gone amiss.

But for the most part, The Mind is a Razorblade was an intriguing, sharp and delightfully spidery little read and I’m excited to read the rest of Booth’s oeuvre.

You can buy The Mind is a Razorblade here . And you should also keep a close eye on Kraken Press if you’re into this sort of stuff.