Rain is probably the best short story written by Somerset Maugham – in its length and characterization it is more like a novella but of course it conforms to Maugham’s formula for a story – it has a beginning, a middle and an end.
The story’s popularity has sustained over the years as it has been made into movies and plays. Sadie’s role of a prostitute out to have a good time has been portrayed on-screen by Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson and Rita Hayworth. The short story has often been selected for anthologies and is prescribed reading material for students attempting to master modern English literature.
The adventure begins off on simple terms. A ship headed to Apia is stranded near Pago Pago as a Cholera epidemic is suspected and a quarantine enforced to prevent an outbreak. Most of the travellers are ordinary folks headed on business and personal trips.
Published in 1938 when Maugham was 64 years old, the title turned out to be a misnomer – it wasn’t really his autobiography. It was non-fiction for sure but more like a visit of writer’s workshop – the toolkits were on full display as he bared the essentials of what made him tick as a writer. And that is far more interesting than any routine toting up of one’s life minutiae.
Maugham gives us a glimpse of his tortured childhood. His parents were ill-suited for marriage as they had arrestingly different temperaments and an age gap of 20 years. He didn’t see much of them as his mother died when he was 8 and he lost his father when he was 10. Maugham’s early loss of his mother scarred him for life and the subsequent events were painful as well. He was thrust into the custody of an unsympathetic uncle who had no means or inclination to nurture him. He found little comfort at school as he was given to a ‘stammering’ problem and found English to be a challenge since French came naturally to him. Continue reading “Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Summing Up’”
It reminded me of the short stories I read in the collection ‘The House That Nino Built’ by Giovannino Guareschi. Based in Italy of the 50s it tracked the story of a middle class family wherein the father is unambiguously patriarchal and patronizing of his wife and daughters. Politically incorrect and definitely ‘out-of-sync’ with modern values the stories still were humorous and gave us insights into discordant personalities living together.
And yet the series ran for 8 seasons and was positioned to take on Frasier during prime time. Guess they did exaggerate the storyline a bit to appeal to their target audience.
Jim (Jim Belushi) is a typical middle class and middle-aged family man based in Chicago. He doesn’t hesitate to flaunt his ‘blue’ collar credentials and revels in acknowledging that he ‘married-up’ by partnering Cheryl (Courtney Thorne Smith) who is a sensitive and caring modern lady. Continue reading “Review of ‘According to Jim’”
4 gals in New York City looking for love and labels (fashion brands) is the premise of the ‘romcom’ that had a successful run of 6 seasons on HBO. It was a pioneer show that caught on the trend of ‘chick-flick’ early in the game and had a long run of success. It started to fade eventually particularly in its last season. It had a spin-off as a couple of movies that followed. They minted money but ruined its franchise for sure for many viewers
Carrie Bradshaw played famously by Sarah Jessica Parker is a freelance writer who writes a column in the local newspaper that deals with sex, singlehood and fashion. She stays in New York City and is part of a close-knit gang of 4 gals who are real soul mates. Carrie spends her life chasing her passions – shoes, fashion and the romance of finding the ‘right man’. She is in her mid 30s and her friends share similar interest. Continue reading “Review of ‘Sex and the City’”
At first glance, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ reminds you a lot about, ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’. I never quite watched the series regularly – an occasional episode meant that I missed a lot of the running jokes but the core of the story was quite steady – a hip set of youngsters hanging around the bar and battling their professional and personal woes with help of the gang.
I took some more notice when I learnt that the climax episode of the long running series generated a lot of scorn and angst in the internet world. Now having ‘binge-watched’ the series I guess one can see the ‘point-of-view’ of people who felt ripped off by the climax.
Sadma featuring Kamal Haasan and Sridevi was helmed by the ace cinematographer Balu Mahendra. It was not a commercial hindi film – it was primarily an artistic Tamil movie. But it had this lovely number, ‘Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le, Hamne Bhi Tere Har Ek Gam Ko Gale Se Lagaya Hain Na …’ by Gulzar sa’ab set to the music of Isaignani Ilayaraja.
The song was a great example of creative collaboration in Hindi cinema – not quite often reflected in the mainstream movies. Yet another aspect that I admire deeply is the ‘Ganga-Jamuni’ tehzeeb and the unique hindustani lehzaa in some of our movies. To me these syncretic confluences define the essence of Hindi cinema though I have had fun with the typical commercial potboilers as well.
I love trains the best when it comes to do some travelling – buses and planes don’t quite have the romance one associates with the rhythmic movement of the wheels as wondrous vistas get swept by the side.
Trains have a practical side to them as well – the movement is not jerky enough so makes it easy to read stuff or even work on your laptop. A variety of refreshments get served as you are waited ‘hand-and-foot’ by the pantry staff and the various vendors boarding the train. You can meet some interesting people and the conversations can be fun in the languorous environment.
One really enjoys train journeys in the rain – if you happen to be travelling the ghats, it is breezy and nippy. And you get to see all those lovely views including waterfalls with the waters simply gushing down the mountains.Continue reading “The romance of trains.”
The novel’s context is the key to the theme. Set in the late 1930s it is about a young British man belonging to the ‘upper-middle’ class who plans a week’s holiday in Paris during Christmas. He means to meet his childhood friend, see the ‘pictures’ at Louvre and explore the night-life in Paris. The second world war is imminent and Europe is in chaos facing the challenges of Fascism and Nazism while the British seem to be doing well for themselves and are blissfully aware of the trouble-torn neighbourhood that will bring sad tidings to their world as well.
He ends up spending the holiday with a young Russian lady from an émigré family who is working as a Prostitute at Serail. She lost her childhood and parents during the Russian revolution and to compound her woes made a rather unfortunate marriage with a charming Frenchman who started out as a petty criminal and ended up murdering a British bookie.
Maugham returns to his familiar hunting ground – Paris. The book is a bildungsroman for sure but certainly a far happier one than his masterpiece – ‘Of Human Bondage’. Charley Mason is no Philip Carey. He is pragmatic enough to choose a business career instead of wildly chasing his artistic talent in the Paris Quarter. He is backed by a loving family though Maugham dispassionately creates a portrait of superficial bourgeois parents whose appreciation of ‘Art’ too is a ‘pose’ and likely to be motivated by a commercial motive.