Queen of Dreams lulls behenji to sleep

i recieved Divakaruni's latest novel in the mail last week and decided to bite the bullet and read it. While i think Chitra is a wonderful person and a very conscientious writer, I just can't seem to like her novels. In fact, what pleased me most after reading Queen of Dreams was the hope that I too have a shot as a novelist.

the seed of the story: rakhi, a divorced artist living in Berkeley California, with a young daughter, whose mother reads and interprets dreams, learns to negotiate her relationships with her past and present. throw in a cool DJ ex-hubby, an alcoholic dad who turns around, a sardaarni best friend and a rebellious young child torn between two parents and two catastrophic events: mother's demise and 9/11. oh, and cameo appearances from a elusive, yoga practicing, fast car driving, spirit/muse called emit maerd. 1 mississippi 2 mississippi 3 mississippi... did you guess it yet? emit maerd=dream time. we did stuff like this in grade school, but to see it in a novel that is supposed to be serious, for an audience of adults, was a real let down.

the book is vey wordy, with long descriptive sentances. there are some pure shots of poetry inbetween though, which if taken out of the book, would stand on their own beautifully.

It's evening, the blue hour of gathering shadows.

why, oh why, chitra, did you stop writing poetry????

did emit maerd just say money? fame?

To me queen of dreams read like notes of that novel that divakaruni will write. yes, there are notes in it, in the form of a dream journal, that verge on interesting but then somehow become dense:

first, follow this man, for he is either a spirit guide or a demon. in either case, trick him into speaking to you. that is how you establish power over him. ask him the question foremost in your mind. his answer may transform your life. but most importantly, do not lose him. more instructions will be given to you next year, when you have learned enough to understand such subtleties.

subtlety, as you can see is not behenji's strong point. behenji would have passed with third division marks at dream school.

behenji wants to say more but has to tend to a growling stomach. but what to do with the hungry mind? somebody somewhere better be writing a novel that will make behenji weep and sing.


v.s. nightfall:)

was googling west indian poet derek walcott when my eagle eye spotted this from an article in the guardian:

Even the poet Derek Walcott, who took the Nobel Prize in 1992 and who expressed a widespread West Indian hostility towards his fellow-writer in the character of 'VS Nightfall', has conceded that he is 'our finest writer of the English sentence.

boom kaboom noises in the dead of night

while panditji snored softly in Minnesota, behenji was rudely awakened in california at 3:32 am by a loud thud. our house is old and since it's a rental, it's not exactly updated, if you know what i mean. i hear sqeaks from doors and windows, the floor groans on ocassion, tiles do crack under behenji's heavy feet but that's not all...when we flush the toilet, it sounds as if a jet is about to take off...no exaggeration.

well last night it was none of those things. i got up muttering to myself why PJ had to be out of town when stuff like this happened, heard the loud ticking of the wind-up alarm clock which panditji would like to throw in the pacific ocean, looked at conan o brian laughing at me through the telly and waited for a thief to rob our threadbare house.

when that didn't happen i dozed off only to be rudely awakened by the alarm clock which i wanted to now throw into the pacific. the tv, which i kept on whole night, reported a small earthquake literally next door.

i looked outside and saw my daughter's bike lying on its side and put two and two together (yes behenji does that occasionally).

earthquakes are an everyday reality here. at school, my daughter and her classmates all have disaster relief kits in their classrooms with bottled water, power bars, an insulated blanket and flares. parents are advised that in the case of an earthquake we should not rush to the school premises to find our child.

thankfully, the tremors are usually small, but they are a daily occurence in california. one which only seismologists pay attention too. no one reads that corner of the paper (at least i don't) where the quakes are listed in all its scaley glory.

the first time we came to california, we were having dinner at a friend's place when the windows started rattling. knock, knock, we are the spirits of mission san jose. then the dining table shook as if our dinner were a seance. for a second we all froze with fear. and then we all matter-o-factly said 'its just an earthquake.' Much in the same manner a Minnesotan says, 'oh it's only 12 inches of snow or it's only minus five out there, now bundle up.'

was behenji scared? not after she recited the hanuman chalisa;)


pixel not so perfect: microsoft goes to geography school

from an article on c/net:

When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating system software to try and heal the diplomatic wounds.

but that's not all:

The software giant managed to further offend the Saudis by creating another game in which Muslim warriors turned churches into mosques. That game was also withdrawn.

and then:

Microsoft has also managed to upset women and entire countries. A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," because of an unfortunate error in translation.

talk about lost in translation;)

what's in a name? a lot!!!

two big south asian american writers have new books out with names that sound so bland it makes me want to puke. Bharti Mukherjee's latest book is called The Tree Bride and Chitra Divakaruni's new book is called Queen of Dreams. i understand that there are limitations to titles in regards to length, marketability, etc. but if you want to convince me to read your book with the promise of something remotely creative, start with the title! Book titles I have liked:

The God of Small Things
The Last Jet Engine Laugh
The Blue Bedspread
Salt and Saffron
To Kill a Mockingbird


new york state of mind

yesterday, as we made our way to half moon bay, with nary a cloud in the sky, panditji slipped in the best of billy joel. and as the california sun scorched us through our car windows, we were transported to NY via joel's soulful words and voice.

lately NYC has crept into our vocabulary and psyche. while PJ's love affair with NYC sparked from work, my relationship with NYC has been a largely imagined one, thrown in with a few touristy visits and one semi-professional trip. what do I remember out of it all is the glittering hudson, the snake-like winding traffic from bridge to bridge, oranges stacked outside a grocery store in tribeca, a man selling rings off a small cart in little italy and steam billowing from giant grates past midnight.

and then there is little bohemia, behenji's imagined peninsula of paradise. NYC has long been a mecca for artists, writers, actors & musicians. behenji has always envisioned herself with them. almost every other day my e-mails entice me with poetry readings, plays, writers groups, all located in NYC. behenji vows to visit the bowery one day and hopefully read some work of her own!

while suburbia has its bucolic charm and rhythmic predictabilty (and good schools and less taxes), it bores me to the bones. will the benevolent city Gods please shine their city light on us? no, we don't mind the sirens, horns and smog. and we will take the hipeccentric oath that all New Yorker's must. and no, we will not defect to 'joisy.'