Thursday, February 9, 2012

Books here and there...

Thomas' mom arrived a few days ago. She and Bernard decided to stop in Dubai on their way to Myanmar, where they'll visit Manu (Thomas' brother) and Virginie (Manu's GF).
It's funny: as usual when visitors come, we asked them to bring us fundamental surviving stuff like pork (Italian affettati in general) , big pieces of parmesan cheese, real coffee for my Italian moka machine, etc...

All these products have obviously something in common. They are Italian (as you can tell I'm very nationalist when it comes to food) and they all nourish your stomach! yum yum.
Karin (Thomas' mom) couldn't avoid pointing out that, after a few months traveling South East Asia, Manu, on the other hand, asked them an all different type of nourishment. Let's say something to feed his sharp intellect with...more than his tummy. He, in fact, requested a huge amount of books, newspapers magazines of all sorts! (By the way, if you want to see how they're doing in that part of the world check out their blog: ).

Having said that, one could get caught by the easy temptation to compare the requests. By contrast, Thomas and I could easily be considered as only interested in food, with no literature drive.
That's why today, in our defense, I want to share with you some of the books we have recently read and that, in my modest opinion, deserve a few words.

Thomas, I'm pretty sure he would agree on this, loves series books. His latest accomplishment is the Millenium Trilogy. The gripping novels, wrote by the Swedish Stieg Larsson, are apparently very captivating. I heard the movies, both the Swedish and American versions, are worth watching.

Looking at my side of the bookshelf, there are two books I'd like to share.
The first one is the super popular "Shantaram". People are looking at Shantaram as a some sort of phenomenon, sold in millions of copies all over the world.
Now, I have to say that when I finished the 1000 pages and my passion for the novel was consumed, I started to be skeptical about the story. Manly because throughout the reading, the main character, its author Gregory David Roberts, appears like the coolest dude on earth. First, he escapes from an Australian prison and goes to India. There, he starts a new life in exile living in a slum selling weed and helping the poorest with medical assistance. Then he gets framed for a non-existant crime and ends up in the shittiest jail of Bombay. Once out, more dead than alive, our hero starts working for the local mafia, mostly made of Muslims. He even goes fighting the Soviet war in Afghanistan with his Islamic brothers, just for gratitude, without really embracing the Muslim cause. All this, and much more, happens together with beautiful but impossible love stories, life-long friendships and the disclosure of pearls of wisdom.
I know I can't summarize Shantaram in 5 lines, but the point is that I was so into it!!! I started researching about its author to understand how much of all that was true. 
I found out that there was a BBC documentary on it, a Shantaram website and tons of other information on YouTube and other websites. After my research, I have to admit, I pondered my crush on Shantaram. 
I knew that the story was just partly true, but Roberts claims Shantaram to be his memoir of his years in India. Total delusion when I found out that apparently there was a guy in Mumbai in the 70s who really did everything Roberts describes so well. 
So, did he take someone else's story to just embellish it? 
I'll never know and I shouldn't probably ask this question. It doesn't matter.
The book is still worth reading. My only advice: enjoy it without investigating too much. 
The novel is about India and the adventures of an extraordinary gora who has a lot to share and, perhaps, teach. In Shantaram the miserables are heroes, the slum becomes the kingdom of leper princesses and even war turns into a romantic setting for friendship and ideals to flourish.
It is a good book.

My second  title is "The Lacuna", by Barbara Kingsolver. I didn't know the author and just picked the book attracted by the colorful front cover and a gut feeling. I honestly have to say that the first 50 pages scared me. So many words I didn't know... But somehow, I kept reading and the magic happened. Non native English speakers will understand me. When you meet someone new in a foreign language, if his accent is strong or the person speaks really fast, it can happen (let's face it) that you just don't understand much. However, if you have the chance to spend time with that person, your ear gets used to the sound of that voice and starts to decode the unfamiliar idiom. I could list so many personal examples... 
So, just like with people you don't understand when you first meet, a similar thing can happen with an author's writing. At least that happened to me with Kingsolver's style. But after the first couple of frustrating chapters I started to understand better and fully enjoy the novel.
The Lacuna is a fiction story set in real history. An imaginary writer, Harrison Shepherd, is divided between two realities and countries: revolutionary Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's Mexico, and anticommunist US during the Russian regime of Stalin. The book touches on the difficult coexistence between arts and politics in those years. But most importantly, in my perspective, Barbara Kingsolver gives a captivating insight of Frida Kahlo's extraordinary life and work. This book doesn't talk about Frida's art in detail, but you can perceive the colors of her suffering and the devastation and passion of her surreal mind.
Result: after reading this book I bought a canvas, brushes and colors and I painted something for the first time in my life. Once I found the subject of my first (and maybe only) "master piece", drawing was easy. I faced more difficulties when it came to adding colors. I had a few acrylic colors that I used for the background, then I mistakenly bought oil colors for the details. I confess, I didn't even know that you needed a solvent to get the oil colors ready. When I found out that mixing water wasn't taking me anywhere, I mixed my nail polish remover and - very surprisingly - I did manage to finish my painting!!! At first, I didn't even give a title to it. The subject is a monkey with a little colibri bird next to it. I will use Spanish for my title, in memory of Frida. 
So, here for you, "El Mono" by Benedetta Frandi. 
Technique: Acrylic, Oil Colors + Nail Polish Remover on Canvas! :)


Beba said...

Sis', the little monkey is great! it remainds me of the "little monkey in this town" of this Manu Chao's song

I'm not going to read any of the two books, they sound a little "pacco". Kisses!

Gaijin Bebe' said...

Sorella, macche' pacco!!! sono bellini!!! cmq vabbe dai mi fai sempre pisciare dal ridere! ora guardo la canzone di Manu Chao! love u

Gaijin Bebe' said...

Ha! you mean "Bongo Bong" by Manu Chao!!! I thought "Little monkey in this town" was the title of a new song!LOL!

Diny Naus said...

Just catching up with your blog - you should read Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - I thought that was amazing - it's been out for quite a long time now. I felt the same as you about Shantaram, on the one hand enjoyed it, but on the other hand thought it was all a bit too fantastic to be true.