Tuesday, February 26, 2008


GoodHouseKeeping, 1955

This came to me via Anvar Alikhan, who gets my prize for being the single most productive source of e-messages that I can post to this blog!

I hope the text of this priceless 1955 Good Housekeeping article is legible -- actually, I've just glanced at the page and realize that it ISN'T, but if you click on the picture, it'll load at full-size in its own window. It is truly a gem. A guide to all of us ...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Well, yesterday it finally happened: I outed myself as an actual physical presence by attending a social event. I spent the entire day cursing myself for having accepted an invitation to meet Paul Theroux at a dinner hosted by Larry and Ellen Schwartz at their Amrita Shergill Marg residence. But at the end of the evening, mercifully short, I had to confess (when asked) that I'd had fun. The author was pleasantly approachable -- and in my brief interaction with him, showed me a tattoo on his right hand that (he said) was an example of his own artwork. It was a simple symmetrical mark, rather like a logo design, which looked like a combination of bird-in-flight and cross-bow. About an inch long. Interesting.

This is my fourth or fifth recent public appearance and I am starting to feel it's time to get back into my shell coz otherwise it could get to be a habit. On Friday the 15th I officiated at the launch event for Amruta Patil's KARI and that was fun too. However, as I realized long ago, the trick to ensuring that one gets pleasure out of doing things like this is to do them VERY RARELY. It takes only two or three sightings to become a fixture and then a bore. Currently, it is still odd enough for me to be present in a crowd of well-dressed people that the few others who recognize me say "Oi! What are YOU doing here?" instead of "Gahhh. You again ..."

Meanwhile, on the recent-reading front, I have just finished an extraordinary book: THE ART OF MURDER by Jose Carlos Somoza. Yes, it's a murder mystery and I don't generally make a big deal about genre books. But this one is different. VERY different. The murder(s) are practically incidental to the main motif of the story which concerns itself with a new trend in art, call HYPERDRAMATISM. It involves the use of living models, many of them female and most of them nude, as the actual artworks. This means that the models must be painstakingly trained to pose for several hours at a time to remain perfectly still, including all kinds of drugs and chemicals to ensure e.g. that they do not need to evacuate their unmentionables or dribble, that their eyes will not stream with tears or need to be blinked. The models are referred to as "canvases" and from the time that they are contracted for a work, they are regarded as objects, rather than people. An extension of this art form is the design and creation of various subsets of art, such as furniture: live models used as tables, chairs, trolleys ...

When the first of these beautiful young oddities is murdered, one of the puzzles that presents itself immediately is: was this some form of Art? Was it an extension of the original work in which the model had been posed, or was it a despicable act of destruction, in which a young girl had been murdered?

The author is Spanish so the book is a translation. I feel sure, without any persuasive argument to back me up, that a Brit or American author could not have carried this theme to its logical conclusion, because the moral/ethical issues would have caused the narrative to break down. It required that special European sensibility -- a highly sophisticated artistic vision -- to make it convincing. Run out and order it at once ...

Friday, February 15, 2008

On The Road With Comix!

... so yes, I've been away AGAIN. Frankly, the past few weeks have felt a bit like a road movie -- just as soon as I arrive somewhere, I'm already organizing my getaway. I got back from Madras on the 4th of this month and left two days later for Bom-Bom-Bom-Bom.

This was a purpose driven trip -- the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival asked if I would be willing to come and to their immense surprise, I agreed. I was grinning (on the phone) as I told them WHY: because I wanted to go to Bombay anyway. It's been too long since I met a number of my friends there and I thought "Okay! Time to go!!" -- needless to say, getting a free ticket is a wonderful resolver of doubts.

In order to justify the expense to themselves, the KGAF asked me to sit on two panels. One was on Banned Books (BB), moderated by Jai Arjun Singh and the other was on Graphic Story Telling (GST) moderated by moi. I reached Bom on the night of the 7th -- it was kind of late and I had a brief panic attack when I looked around the arrival lobby -- nothing was even remotely recognizable. But then I stepped out to where the cabs were milling around and recognized the vaguely saucer-shaped outline of the Centaur Hotel -- it's being renovated and currently looks like a prop-in-waiting for Close Encounters III -- and calmed down. Took a cab to my cousin's house in Peddar Road, and flew through a largely alien landscape because it appeared to be entirely elevated (i.e., on the backs of various flyovers new to me) but the moment we touched down at Haji Ali recognition slipped back into gear and five minutes later I was stepping into my cousin's lovely old-style apartment on Carmichael Road.

This isn't going to be a detailed account because there's just not enough time to do all that and also manage to keep pace with my CURRENT life but very quickly -- I had a FUN TIME. It was especially great to catch up with my cousin. She is not merely that rarest of beings, a doctor who truly enjoys being a compassionate healer but is also the kind of reader who makes writers feel that the struggle of writing books is worth it after all. AND she's passionately interested in art, is a gifted artist herself ... Need I say more? A wonderful person to spend time with.

I had two separate stays in Bombay: four days in the south with my cousin, the KGAF and Kiran Nagarkar followed by two days in the north with my dearest of friends, G and J (okay, so THEY know who they are!) plus a Michelin-grade dinner at my nephew's Bandra apartment.

Speeding along: I would guess that my fellow-panellists on the BB evening have already blogged their accounts of the event -- Amit Varma and Devangshu Datta and Chandrahas Choudhury being the remaining three of the five of us -- so I am going to skip straight across to the GST event. I hadn't met any of the four members of my panel -- Orijit Sen, Samit Basu, Sarnath Banerjee and Amruta Patil (any misspellings will be dealt with later, sorry! Can't stop now) -- though of course I knew of them and had exchanged e-mail messages with them in the course of the ten days leading up to KGAF. But we did manage to get a little time together before the event and Amruta was good enough to spend a lot of time digging up images of some of the leading (international) graphic titles to use as a brief introductory presentation during the discussion. I'm going to post the list of favourite titles I extracted from the other panellists here today -- but I'm not going to say whose choices they are because maybe that's not entirely relevant. I will eventually include the images that Amruta researched for the event, plus links. For now, here's the list, presented in the order I received them:

LIST 01*
The Sandman (by Neil Gaiman).
The Watchmen (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons)
Lucifer (by Mike Carey).
Kingdom Come (by Mark Waid).
Y The Last Man (by Brian K. Vaughan).
Buddha (by Osamu Tezuka).
V For Vendetta (by Alan Moore).
Pride of Baghdad (by Brian K. Vaughan).
Empire (by Mark Waid).
Transmetropolitan (by Warren Ellis).
Superman: Birth Right (by Mark Waid).
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (by Frank Miller).
Batman: Year One (by Frank Miller).
Maus (by Art Spiegelman).
300 (by Frank Miller).
The New Adventures of Hitler (Grant Morrison).
Tim Hunter: Books of Magic (by Neil Gaiman).
War Story (by Garth Ennis).
Ocean (by Warren Ellis).
The Interman (by Jeff Parker).
Chronicles of Wormwood (by Garth Ennis).

1) Paul Hornschemeier's 'Mother Come Home'
2) Alison Bechdel 'Fun Home'
3) Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman's 'The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mister Punch'
4) Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman's 'The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish'
5) Craig Thompson's 'Blankets'
6) Guy Delisle's 'Pyongyang'
7) Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie's 'Aya'
8) Frank Miller's '300'
9) Adrian Tomine 'Summer Blonde'
10) Charles Burns 'Black Hole'
11) Joann Sfar's 'The Rabbi's Cat'
12) Joann Sfar's 'Vampire Loves'
13) Miriam Ratin's 'We are on our Own'
14) 'Safe Area Gorazde' by Joe Sacco
15) Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis' 1 and 2
16) Brian Vaughn and Niko Henrichnon's 'Pride of Baghdad'
17) Cris Ware ' Jimmy Corrigan - Smartest Kid on the planet'

FLOOD - Eric Drooker - USA
THE DEATH OF SPEEDY - Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez -
THE RABBI'S CAT - Joann Sfar - France
MAUS - Art Speigelman - USA
EXIT WOUNDS - Rutu Modan, Israel
BERLIN: CITY OF STONES - Jason Lutes, Germany
DAVID BORING - Daniel Clowes, USA
KAMPUNG BOY - Lat, Malaysia
MY MOST SECRET DESIRE - Julie Doucet, Canada
CLASS WAR COMIX - Ciff Harper, Britain
Malet, France
BAREFOOT GEN - Keiji Nakazawa, Japan
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS - Raymond Briggs, Britain
CALVIN AND HOBBES Series - Bill Watterson, USA
TINTIN Series- Herge, Belgium
ZAP, WEIRDO and other series - Robert Crumb, USA
PHANTOM Series - Lee Falk, USA
EARLY TITLES - Amar Chitra Katha, India

The Authority, we3 and Nextwave by Warren Ellis
Welcome to Tranquility by Gail Simone
Preacher, Hitman, The Boys by Garth Ennis
Lost Girls, Swamp Thing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
Fables by Bill Willingham
The Invisibles, Animal Man by Grant Morrison
Kingdom Come by Mark Waid
Astro City by Kurt Busiek

Titles that were disappointing:
ARKHAM ASYLUM - Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, USA
SKIN DEEP - Charles Burns, USA
GREETINGS FROM HELLVILLE - Thomas Ott, Switzerland
SIN CITY - Frank Miller, USA
PYONGYANG - Guy Delisle, France
DR. FAUSTUS - Oscar Zarate, Argentina
RECENT TITLES - Virgin Comics, India
BUDDHA - Osamu Tezuka, Japan
SANDMAN - Neil Gaiman. Britain

I've only got just enough time to make a special mention here about a young man I was introduced to (electronically, i.e.) by K.D.Singh of The Bookshop in Jorbagh -- his name is Gaurav Panday and he is an extremely avid reader and keen collector of graphic novels. I mention him because it seems to me that he represents the Ideal Reader (for GST, anyway): fanatically loyal to his favourite authors/artists, but also very interested in augmenting his awareness and expanding his horizons.

*-- I haven't made MY list of faves (yet!) but of course there are a few titles here that would be on my list. Similarly with the list of "disappointments": they represent the choices made by one of the respondents. Incidentally, I asked each of the panellists (and also G. Panday) for 20 faves as well as a list of fave-hates (didn't specify a number, however) but only one person offered the second list.

Okay, I've GOT to stop. More, much more, later.