Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The literary wizard who brought you Fight Club hits another one out of the ballpark with this novel. Choke is chock-full of the usual Palahniuk traits; irreverence, a streak of creative brilliance that hinges on the bizarre and a protagonist who might just have a few screws loose.

Victor Mancini is a med-school dropout whose modus operandi for money making revolves around choking on food in restaurants and having his fellow patrons “save him”. Being thus imbued with a hero-complex and feeling responsible for Victor’s life, they continue to support him by sending checks. Victor also cruises sexual addiction recovery clinics to spice up his love life and has a day job working at a colonial theme park. His frequent visits to the nursing home to see his perpetually confused mom whose memory is going to pieces makes for some brilliant satire. Palahniuk is outrageous yet mesmerizing; while repulsed by some of his characters, we find ourselves totally unable to look away as the author leads us through the visceral playgrounds of America’s suburbia.

Socratic wisdom dictates that the unexamined life is not worth living. As Mancini leads us through his chequered, weird but never boring life, you get the feeling that a dysfunctional life is the only one worth living. Palahniuk makes such a frenetic maelstrom of Mancini’s addled existence that anything else seems tame and insipid in comparison. While Choke is perhaps not as spectacular as Fight Club and Survivor, it is well worth a read, if only to enter deeper into the anarchic, fiercely independent imagination of Chuck Palahniuk .

Ludmila’s Broken English : A review

Having hugely enjoyed DBC Pierre’s Booker-winning debut novel, Vernon God Little, I picked up with LBE with a combination of both anxiety and anticipation. Vernon God Little was a remarkable tour de force of literary fiction, ergo Ludmila had big shoes to fill. Far too often, writers have had extraordinary first novels, only to descend to mediocrity, having had their fifteen seconds of fame.

I should not have worried. Pierre sure delivers the goods in his latest innings. His crackling wit, sarcastic humor and black comedy are as evident as ever. His strong rein over his characters and the wildly imaginative plot make this book a solid instalment to Pierre’s work. Granted, VGL was a far superlative oeuvre, but Ludmila shows Pierre coming into his own, developing a style to run with and maturing as a writer.

The book shuttles back and forth between modern-day London into which the Heath twins (conjoined at birth and recently separated) are startlingly exposed to life outside a health-care institute and Ublilsk, a war- ravaged fictional country, where Ludmila, our eponymous heroine, is fighting tooth and nail to keep body and soul together for herself and her family. Blair and Bunny Heath, released into a world of emancipation and wondrous possibilities are possessed of a childlike innocence and wonder akin to Huxley’s John Savage on entering the brave new world. Ludmila, on the other side of the world, is battling to keep out the cold and starvation in a world where trouble is a byword. Her resilience and acerbic wit, in addition to her resourcefulness make her a compelling protagonist, but she is beset at every turn by the establishment and society at large. Seeing no sunny prospects on her horizon, she is cajoled into becoming an internet bride with offers of rich, young, foreign men. In a ridiculously absurd turn of events, Blair Heath chances on her photo and flies out to deserted Ublilsk with his brother, pursuing juvenile fantasies of fairybook love. This leads to the book’s darkly humourous denouement, where spiked vodka and loaded guns result in an ambiguous yet satisfying ending.

Ludmila’s Broken English calls for a vast suspension of disbelief. Surreal and impossible events occur with impunity. Pierre does not deal in subtleties, but rather in exaggeration to make his point. As such, the author has characters raped and killed rather casually to make his point. Violence in Ublilsk is shown to be random and gratuitious; life is harsh, like the terrain. The novel could be seen as a vehicle to voice Pierre’s views of a crumbling, dystopian establishment and how globalization can compound and abet third-world crime a hundred fold. Stunningly inventive and laced with political commentary, Ludmila’s Broken English is well-worth a read.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Two days in Paris

Truth be told, I did not have great hopes for Julie Delpy’s directorial debut. The plot and setting seemed to be a lot like the superlative Sunrise/ Sunset films and I felt Delpy was just cruising along on the success of a tried and tested formula. However, when five minutes into the movie,Adam Goldberg convinces a group of American tourists that the Louvre is just around the corner, in order to cut a taxi queue, my reservations about this movie being run-of-the-mill vanished. The film does feel a lot like the Sunrise/ Sunset movies in that they both explore romantic relationships and the milieu is similar. But this offbeat little film will be best remembered for its irreverence and its all too realistic depictions of the pains and tribulations of relationships.

The film follows the Parisienne Marion( Delpy ) and Jack( Adam Goldberg ), her American boyfriend who are visiting Paris for a couple of days. The couple are put up at Marion’s parent’s house. Marion’s family is quite dysfunctional, with Marion herself being quite a neurotic character. Jack’s growing impatience with Marion’s eccentric quirks and short fuse have put their relationship on the rocks . It does not help that Paris seems to be chock-full of Marion’s ex-boyfriends and there’s one lurking around every corner.

The direction and acting are top-notch. Adam Goldberg really proves his acting chops in this film and Delpy’s portrayal of a quirky, red-blooded, lovable Parisienne is spot-on, but the scripting really is the best part of the film. The dialogue is witty and dead on, the characters well-fleshed out and real. From Marion’s dad, a semi-Luddite who can’t understand computers and has a thing for key- scratching cars to the French artist who thinks pubic landing strips on women are reprehensible, Delpy has created some very interesting characters. The French are portrayed with the usual stereotypes; their extravagated jingoism, their casual and open-minded attitude to sex all feature heavily. Delpy’s essentially Parisian approach to ex-lovers,her white lies and her neurotic attitude distance her from the more staid, straightforward Jack and wrecks the affair. In many ways, the film has the feel of a Woody Allen oeuvre. And while it is not exactly ground-breaking, it is a far cry from the dull, repetitive fare that passes for romantic film these days. Certainly worth the price of a ticket, and if you’re a fan of Delpy, pop-corn and drinks too.