SEVENTY TWO

My love for easy reads borders on obsession. After I have made that statement I need to explain what are these easy reads. I am a self professed bibliophile which means on a day off from work I would rather sit and read than go out. But my favourite kind of books are the “unputdownables”, where one chases the story across the pages, turning each page in anticipation of what will happen next. Hence it is obvious why I term them “easy reads”,  because I don’t have to make any effort to read then, they pull me into their world and I make the journey. The other  reason I like such books is one you don’t have to take a break from reading to process a lot,  meaning the story can be grasped without getting lost in myriad sub plots and it contains such dialogue or description or action that takes the story forward in a natural progression instead of stagnating it.
So, I love my Foresyth, Ludlum of the old school and Archer of the new. Typically, I find my choices of leisure reading to gravitate towards crime fiction, humour,  adventure or spy thrillers. I find Agatha Christie, Satyajit Ray’s Feluda,  Shorodindu’s Byomkesh good to read in crime fiction. The catch is although I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes the character, I find the books a little tedious to read. In fact,  with my love for crime fiction so apparent to me I attempted to read the Oxford Book of American Detective Stories. I am still struggling with it. One reason could be because an collection like this has a variety of writing which means one has to constantly reset one’s mind before starting a new story. And because these are primarily short stories it is even difficult to leave them in the middle which can happen as I also read when I commute to work.
In the midst of my struggle with detective stories I picked up the new Jeffrey Archer, the fourth part of the Clifton Chronicles. One of my pet peeves about book or movie or TV  series is when the next book,  movie or season of the series is about to release I must recap the previous parts before I catch up with the new one. So, Archer’s new book led me back to his previous three best sellers. And I went through his new book in about 16 hours. That’s what has got me thinking, it is not so much that I have become busy and have less time to read, but it seems to me my addiction to easy reads has taken its toll on my ability to read other books and naturally I gravitate towards them instead of attempting to read something new or different. I believe my concentration levels are dipping because I find myself retaining less and less of what I read.
But as they say having a realisation is a good place to start with. Hence, I am looking to build back my ability to read and process variety of writings. But in the meantime I am very tempted to go back to Byomkesh series one more time. Perhaps, my worrying about my reading ability need not be so critical because after all classics and bestsellers are meant to have mass appeal and bring back the reader to the familiar story and characters over and over again.
Here’s to reading books without judgement and enjoying the experience.
THE END.

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FIFTY SEVEN

Supposing it had been Gerda who had followed him tonight. No good saying people didn’t do such things. As a doctor, he knew only too well what people, high-minded, sensitive, fastidious, honourable people constantly did. They listened at doors, and opened letters and spied and snooped – not because for one moment they approved of such conduct, but because, before the sheer necessity of human anguish, they were rendered desperate

The Hollow. Agatha Christie

What is it to be Human? It is to be fragile, it is to have doubts and fears. If those doubts and fears drive us temporarily we are capable of all actions that we would normally shirk from or frown upon. But the anxiety, the worry that drives our mind insane sometimes can make us take the less trodden path. That is when we listen at doors, peep through key holes or go through someone else’s phone log and chats. The little quote is from a 60’s novel yet it rings true for us even in this day and age. An age where modes of communication have increased, our lives have become more public, at the same time we have more to hide, more secrets and more people who want to know them. The readers may argue not all spying, snooping or opening of mails and phone messages stems from anxiety, fears and doubts. They are right, because there are a variety of reasons people may resort to these behaviors. But I am only analyzing the emotional push that sends our sense of propriety, sense of personal space into a turmoil and we find ourselves clawing and clutching at straws to feed the demons in our head bursting to come out. And what happens after we have managed to open the mail and read it, disappointment, Because unfortunately, there is always something some one wants to keep private. And when it is discovered all hell does break loose.

Has anyone tried this exercise, opened the phone messages and wondered which one’s we would not want certain persons in our life to see. There must be a few! Strangely, something prevents us from deleting them. Doesn’t it? As if we like taking this risk. I don’t know what are the complex emotions that work behind our inability to remove things which are ‘secret’, because we hate letting go, because they are reminders of time gone by? I do not know.

But the impulse to check on someone else’s life, to see what they hide, (we all hide things), is sometimes unbearable, it pushes through the other senses that stop you, it curbs the conscience and suddenly you find looking into something you should not be looking at.

Perhaps in this age of cynicism that we live in, we cannot expect anyone to understand the predicament through which one suffers before finding one’s hand’s in the proverbial cookie jar, but the quote from Agatha Christie touched me in its basic understanding and elaboration of the human nature that worked behind these spy like actions.

Do you often spy on someone else? Tell me about it.

FIFTY ONE

5320-M

The next book I will be talking about from my Top Pick of Ten is a play by Agatha Christie. Many of you probably already know this; it is the longest running play in the world. In fact, when I write this article the St. Martin’s Theatre, West Street, London is currently taking bookings for shows till 27th June 2015.

“The Mousetrap is celebrating the 62nd year of a record breaking run during which over 25,000 performances have been given. It is quite simply a great piece of theatrical history because of what it is, a whodunit written by the greatest crime writer of all time.”

The play premiered at the Ambassadors theater in 1952 and played there for 22 years, before moving next door to the St Martin’s theater where it has played ever since. It celebrated its 60th year in 2012.

I am a die-hard Agatha Christie fan and till about a decade back I was immersed in her Poirot and Mrs. Marple stories & novels, reading anything and everything I could lay my hands upon from the school library, the British Council Library, US Consulate Library, friends and family. Before I read the play in 2007, I had read a short story collection by Christie, Three Blind Mice and Other Short stories. While reading The Mousetrap I was confused as the shadow of the earlier story. It took me long to discover that The Mousetrap is actually based on the short story Three Blind Mice, written by Christie. The play was renamed later. There is a bit of trivia which I learnt from Wikipedia, behind the naming of the play. It says, “The suggestion to call it The Mousetrap came from Christie’s son-in-law, Anthony Hicks. In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, “The Mousetrap” is Hamlet’s answer to Claudius’s inquiry about the name of the play whose prologue and first scene the court has just observed (III, ii). The play is actually The Murder of Gonzago, but Hamlet answers metaphorically, since “the play’s the thing” in which he intends to “catch the conscience of the king.”

Enough on trivia about the play, and when I say this, I also request any interested reader to visit Wikipedia for more tidbits. But this is my review of the play which I have never watched only read and my reason (if I can verbalize them) for this being the top ten on my list. Just don’t read the **spoiler** sprung by Wikipedia about the twist ending of the play. Instead, go read the book.

I will come back to the Twist ending or plot twist of the play which makes it so enjoyable. I love whodunits, primarily because it’s like a game where the reader participates like a detective himself/herself and takes a stab ( pardon the pun) at guessing who is the murderer. And let’s just say Christie makes a fool of me every time. The Mousetrap is no exception.

For anyone else the play might be reminiscent of everything that is staid, stagnant and plain boring but for me the play is full of drama and mystery. You see while reading this play I am constantly reminded of the Bollywood movies in 1980’s and 1990’s where the present day action was pre-destined because of some incident that happened a generation ago. Christie’s play works on a similar theme, but this being a whodunit; I am at a loss to describe the play, without spoilers. The plot of the play is what makes it innovative to me. Although many critics find it stultifying and believe that having been adapted from a short story, the play falls short of the need of action to be accepted as good theater.

Reading the play especially in the light of having read Three Blind Mice, I feel a goose bump as the nursery rhyme of the same name hovers in my head. The intricacy of intrigue among the characters in the play makes it difficult to be the all-knowing detective. There is however, one shortcoming that is perhaps the result of the twist ending, the reader of the play has no history of the characters to fall back on and it is in the history that the answer lies hidden.

Pardon my comparison with Bollywood movies, but strangely I am willing to dub this work of Christie as one of those formula plots that work well with the audience, to put them in awe and leave them surprised. Be it a formula, the plot twist works well according to me in view of the atmosphere and setting of the play. In a room full of strangers where the reader does not know who is real and who is playing a part, who is telling the truth and who is making up stories, it is easy to imagine a convoluted explanation of the murder that remains unknown to the reader till the final Act revelation.

The play is essentially very simplistic in nature; it has a lot of dialogues, very little action. The play does not ask the reader to have special knowledge not does it attempts to give the reader any insight into the mind of the criminal or the method and the motive. Yet it contains enough ‘masala’ (pardon the cliché) to keep the reader glued to it, waiting for the end. At in the end is this twist that had left me childishly happy at having been fooled yet another time by Mrs. Christie. As a play from one of my favorite author The Mousetrap happens to be my favorite in the current list of top ten books.

THE END.

Reference Sources:  Google [ Booke Cover] , Wikipedia, St. Martin’s Theatre site, The Gaurdian

FOURTEEN

Agatha Christie is my favorite crime mystery writer and I went back to re-reading her books, mainly the Hercule Poirot ones. This triggered the desire to start writing. I started to write and after 10 pages of writing I felt like scrapping it all and beginning again but I couldn’t do it. Rewriting is not in my nature and that is perhaps why I have not become a writer. I have this need to finish a story and not let it twist and turn in the middle. Of course the initial question or predicament I felt  in this piece which I abandoned midway, was because I had started writing like I write blogs in first person, then I felt the story would be better if told through a third person narrator, an omniscient entity. The descriptions would then not be limited by the observation of one pair of eyes only. There ended my attempt at fiction writing and began this blog.

When I read Christie I find it so easy to read, digest and re-read without the loss of interest. I wish truly to be able to write like her – in the non-stop, no time to breathe- way, as she does. But I am not so great and hence I cannot.

I read many a beautiful things in her books, often I used to keep them written in my journals, hoping someday to use but of course I failed. But old habits die hard, do they not. I have here some quotes from one of the books I read recently. This is part of my Quotes category. I hope you will enjoy it and perhaps go back and read the book I mention here.

“Love can turn to hate very easily. It is easier to hate where you have lover than it is to be indifferent where you have loved.”

“…there are people who need truth. Because they can face truth without dismay. They can face it with that brave acceptance that you have to have in life if life is tube any good to you.”

“Elephants can remember but me are human beings and mercifully human beings can forget.”

The above quotes are from Elephants Can Remember, Christie. Agatha

Reading Agatha Christie always makes you work the brain to guess the murderer in her story. It is wonderful that although Poirot always attaches importance of relying on mental faculties, his ‘little grey cells’,  he does leave enough bread crumbs for the reader within the conversations he has with the different characters in the story. So you can play the sleuth too as a reader. That is exactly why he is my favorite and I like him even more than Sherlock Holmes. Holmes, always comes across as a bit of chauvinist who doesn’t believe in leaving any bread crumbs. It seems unlikely that the difference is only because of the gender of the writers. Food for thought and a hint for my next post!

 

THE END.