Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof and Man Asian Literary Prize Short List 2007

Edmund Hendrix sells sugar cane, mangoes and spider apples at Raja Jahan’s along the North Coast Road in Trinidad.
pic courtesy: Chris Ramirez of the New York Times

A friend pointed me to the Travel Section of the New York Times on Sunday because they had an excellent feature on the Caribbean in general and on the eats of Trinidad in particular. As travel writer Sam Sifton took us through the country that was VS Naipaul's muse for so long and as she ate her way through "bake and shark" ( a fish sandwich) barbequed chicken, crab fritters etc., I was reminded of a book I read 2 years ago titled "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"

Category: Travel
Format: Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Anchor Canada
Pub Date: January 12, 2005
Price: $21.00

"Embarrassment of Mangoes" is the account of a Toronto couple in their mid-40's who quit their high-paying jobs, rented their home and moved into a 42-foot sailboat to sail the Caribbean for two years. This book is part memoir, part travelogue, part nautical adventure and part recipe book. The couple sail through ports like Georgetown in Bahamas, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad all the while treating us to vivid, warm and enchanting descriptions of the islands they visit and the fascinating islanders they meet. Altogether the Vanderhoofs visited 47 islands in 16 countries, for a total of 7,000 nautical miles ! Ann's account is entertaining, engaging and, if you enjoy sailing, packed with information on the joys and headaches of sailing.

I was lucky enough to hear the author speak at a library in Toronto and after she spoke all the attendees were treated to some of the edible goodies she discovered in the Caribbean. That night I gorged on mango and papaya salsa, pina colada cheesecake and coconut brownies. They were out of this world and prompted me to try more recipes from her book, all of which turned out wonderfully! I just wish her publishers had thought to include an index of recipes to make it easier to access in a hurry.

Here are a couple of simple recipes from Ann's awesome repertoire of Caribbean recipes:

One-Pot Coconut Brownies

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (3 squares)
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup coconut milk powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup fresh shaved or coarsely grated coconut

# Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-by-9 inch pan.

# In a medium saucepan melt chocolate and butter. Remove from the heat, and add sugar,eggs, and vanilla. Stir until smooth.

# Stir in flour, coconut powder, baking powder, salt and nuts. Mix well.

# Spread mixture in prepared pan. Sprinkle coconut shavings on the top.

# Bake for 25-30 minutes or until brownies dimple slightly when you press them in the center. (If coconut shavings begin to get too brown, cover top loosely with aluminum foil)

#Cool and cut into squares.

(Makes 16-20 brownies)

For her MANGO CRISP recipe, please go here


Culled from CBC

Five authors from Asia have been shortlisted for the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize, worth $10,000 US.

The five shortlisted works were chosen from a long list of 23 and are:

  • Jose Dalisay Jr., Soledad's Sister.
  • Reeti Gadekar, Families at Home.
  • Nu Nu Yi Inwa, Smile As They Bow.
  • Jiang Rong, Wolf Totem.
  • Xu Xi, Habit of a Foreign Sky.

The Man Asian Literary Prize focuses on new works which are still unpublished in English. It was created by the same company that sponsors the prestigious Man Booker Prize, open to published authors from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of former British colonies.

Dalisay teaches at the University of the Philippines in Manila while Gadekar is originally from New Delhi, India. Rong was born in China and Xu Xi is a Hong Kong native of Chinese-Indonesian heritage.

Most notable on the list is Burmese author Nu Nu Yi Inwa whose book languished in the hands of government censors for a year before it was allowed to be published.

Smile As They Bow concerns the poor and socially outcast of rural Burma, also known as Myanmar. It follows the lives of three young people: Daisy James, a gay, transvestite medium, his partner Min Min and a young beggar girl. The book will be published in English in September 2008.

The long list included 11 writers from India, now whittled down to one, Gadekar. Her novel, Families at Home, is about the suicide of a young woman from one of New Delhi's leading families.

Canada's former governor general, Adrienne Clarkson, is on the international jury set to choose the winner, to be announced on Nov. 10.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"King of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan and the seductive world of Indian cinema"

The first thing you need to know about this book "King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the seductive world of Indian cinema" is that its author, Anupama Chopra is probably India's most interesting and well known film critic. She writes about Bollywood for many local and international magazines and also presents a very popular film review show on NDTV, one of India's leading news channels.

Now, coming to the book, anyone who knows anything about Bollywood will have heard of Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) , the reigning King of Bollywood. When SRK was in Toronto last year for the premier of the movie "Kabhi Alvida Na Kehana", he had large crowds come out to greet him, volumes that the local police had never dealt with before, not even when Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise visited. I know, I was there! ;)

Chopra's book delves into SRK's family background (his father was from Peshawar, his mother from Bangalore), his childhood in Delhi, the struggling years, the love of his life Gauri, and, finally, his phenomenal rise to fame.

Chopra, after hours and hours of interviews with SRK, tells his story in a lively and engaging manner. She smartly sprinkles the pages of his autobiography with a lot of information on the Indian film industry, Bollywood in particular. She tells us about the big film houses like Yash Raj films, Rajshri films, Sanjay Leela Bhansali of "Black" and "Devdas" fame and Karan Johar of Dharma Productions who she believes was a big player in the construction of Shah Rukh Khan as a global icon. All this is very helpful because what she is doing in fact is analyzing the evolution of the Bollywood film industry through the lens of Shah Rukh Khan. She also touches briefly on the dark side of Bollywood...its underworld financiers and how many stars are victims of extortion by the mafia. "An industry joke went that movie budgets would now have to include the mafia payments. Armed bodyguards became a favored fashion industry"

Anupama writes about her subject with a lot of affection and you can tell that she is genuinely fond of him, but her writing is at its strongest not when talking about SRK but when reviewing seminal Indian films like "Mother India", "Devdas" and "Dilwale Dulhaniya Leh Jayenge". She does such a great job of examining these films that I want to view each one of them again.

(SRK and Madhuri Dixit in "Devdas". Devdas is based on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's novel of the same name published in 1917. According to Chopra, it was written in 1901 but Chatterjee at that time dismissed it as a work written when his mind "was completely befuddled by drink"

Dilwaale Dulhaniya Leh Jaayenge or DDLJ has become a Bollywood landmark. It articulated a value system that is so attractive to Indian viewers: that the extended family is sacrosanct and individual desires must be sacrificed at the altar of greater social good.

So what made this very ordinary boy from a middle class home in Delhi, one who has a limited range of expressions and has never even kissed a girl on screen such a heart throb, such a star...the King of Bollywood? Chopra doesn't come out and tell us directly what SRK's magic formula is but you sense he has a certain charisma, a work ethic, a penchant for taking risks with his movies and an intense energy that simply lights up the screen and peoples' hearts.

In closing, I would say this is a very useful book if you enjoy Bollywood and if you're curious about one of its leading actors, Shah Rukh Khan. It is not a work of great literary genius, but it's not fodder for the tabloids either. Check out Deepika Shetty's excellent review
(it was the one that prompted me to read the book). Taryn of "I Read Too Much" has reviewed the book as well and I really appreciated reading it from her perspective.

Further Reading:

Charles Taylor's review in the New York Times

Savitha Gautam's review for The Hindu

I am planning on putting together a list of books on Indian cinema, fiction and non-fiction. Would appreciate your input, thank you!

Some other books on Indian cinema:

Sholay : The Making of a Classic/Anupama Chopra. New Delhi, Penguin Books, 2000,

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: The Making of a Blockbuster by Anupama Chopra

Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief: Inside the World of Indian Moviemaking by Stephen Alter

Lights Camera Masala : Making Movies in Mumbai/Sheena Sippy. Mumbai, India Book House, 2006

Helen : The Life and Times of an H-Bomb/Jerry Pinto. New Delhi, Penguin, 2006

Filming the Gods : Religion and Indian Cinema/Rachel Dwyer. New Delhi, Routledge, 2007

The Spirit of Lagaan: The Extraordinary Story of the Creators of a Classic by Satyajit Bhatkal

Bombay Cinema; Ranjani Mazumdar

Bollywood: A History by Mihir Bose Lotus Collection Roli Books

Filming by Tabish Khair (fiction)

Hero: A Fable by I. Allan Sealy. Viking, New Delhi. (fiction)

Show Business by Shashi Tharoor (fiction)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Strawberry Fields By Marina Lewycka and Living Libraries

(The Official Guide to the 28th Annual International Festival of Authors, Oct 17-27, Toronto. As you can tell, it has quite a star-studded line- up )

I bought tickets to go see Marina Lewycka talk about her book "Strawberry Fields" at the International Festival of Authors here in Toronto, but sadly I was sick that weekend and missed the talk.

"Strawberry Fields" is the author's second book (the first was the very funny "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian) and while this one is pure comedy too, the author is wanting to draw our attention to the plight of Britain's migrant workers most of whom travel there from poorer countries in Europe like Ukraine, Latvia, Romania etc.

Just like some of the characters in Lewycka's book, real migrants come to Britain as seasonal agricultural workers (they are not qualified but have paid corrupt officials for the necessary documents) . On arrival in Britain they are met by unscrupulous "agents" who confiscate their passports and send them to work in strawberry fields where they collect strawberries (a backbreaking job) for 12 hours a day, six days a week, for a paltry sum, most of which is returned to their employers as food and lodging fees. Lodging usually consists of a caravan that the migrants share with atleast 10-12 other people. Infact, in Britain, Lewycka's book was called "Two Caravans" but the name was changed to "Strawberry Fields" in the US because the publishers weren't sure how familiar we were with caravans this side of the pond!

Britain is not the only country where migrant workers are exploited and underpaid, journalist John Bowe in his book "Nobodies" documents how workers in the orange orchards of Florida are herded into hellish living quarters and treated with brutal force by labor contractors if they mishandle the fruit. From an article written by him in the Newyorker:

"... To get to the fruit, pickers must climb twelve-to-eighteen-foot-high ladders, propped on soggy soil, then reach deep into thorny branches, thrusting both hands among pesticide-coated leaves before twisting the fruit from its stem and rapidly stuffing it into a shoulder-slung moral, or pick sack. (Grove owners post guards in their fields to make sure that the workers do not harm the trees.) "

As I write this I look at my glass of Tropicana juice with suspicion. Do we as consumers need to now question where our food comes from, under what conditions they were grown and if anyone was harmed in process?

"Strawberry Fields" is a work of fiction and "Nobodies" is investigative journalism but I have coupled them together because migrant labor and modern slavery is a common theme in both books.

For a more detailed review of Strawberry Fields go here


Living Libraries

(from Radio Australia's Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover)

Lismore in New South Wales, Australia has recently joined some cities in Europe with a "Living Library". The 'books' in this library are a group of people with unusual occupations and lifestyles -- or people from different social, religious and ethnic backgrounds. There are over 50 volunteer 'living books' in Lismore's catalogue.

Visitors have the opportunity to 'read' one of these 'books' for an informal half-hour conversation. The library creates a safe environment where people who would not normally meet can sit and talk.

Isn't that a great concept? Apparently it's been around since early 2000 but only in a few select cities in Europe. Lismore's current selection of living books includes
a Filipino Migrant, an Indigenous Australian person, a homeless person, a farmer, Muslim, person with a physical disability and so on.

Ofcourse, each Living Library developed throughout the world will be unique as it will have its own issues to deal with...if your community had a "Living Library" which "book" do you see yourself borrowing? :)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Poster Art From India and Urban Camouflage in Japan

Poster Art from India

For as long as I can remember colorful posters have been part and parcel of India's cultural landscape.

Educational posters:

When I was in school, educational posters/charts were as much a part of the classroom as the blackboard and often they were used to give students lessons in a variety of subjects from the important (Alphabet) to the instructional (how to tie bandages) to the spiritually uplifting (Moral Stories) to the sweetly old-fashioned (An ideal boy) . But no matter the lesson, we loved the posters because they were vibrant, bold, colorful and gave the otherwise dull classroom such a lift. Looking back I realized many of those charts defied logic and would cause much merriment and scorn if used in classrooms today, but I feel so affectionate towards them.

Chart No. 64 (An Ideal Boy: Good Habits)
(click on the picture for more detail)

(please note the ideal boy strolls with his ideal girl before he brushes his teeth or has his bath, ugh!)

Oh, my, lots to learn here!

To read more on educational posters from India treat yourself to Tara
Publishers "An Ideal Boy: Charts From India" by Sirish Rao , V. Geetha and Gita Wolf

Synopsis: Vibrantly colored educational charts which are cheaply printed and widely distributed are one of the most interesting examples of popular art in India. Whether dealing with natural history, religion, personal hygiene or first aid, their graphic style speaks of an inquisitive and outward-looking world view.

Bollywood Posters:

The most commonly seen posters in India are Bollywood posters. Besides the huge billboards that grace the skyline of Bombay, Madras and other big cities in India, you will find that every inch of public wall space is also taken up with gaudy pictures of Bollywood stars and starlets, making for very colorful city streets.
Some of the big billboards...a common site in any Indian city

Even the auto rickshaws get into the act. This one sports a picture of the actress Kajol.

When I was growing up, Bollywood posters were always hand painted but with today's technology it is a dying art indeed.
(A hand-painted print from the '70's)

Posters of the Indian Pantheon:

This post on the poster art of India would not be complete without mentioning the posters of gods and goddesses. Religion is integral to Indian life. Much of their social life, dietary habits and milestones are tied into religion. Pictures of Hindu deities can be found in every place of work, worship and residence and even on the roads (pic below)
A small tea stall owner has plastered his walls with religious art

These paintings certainly provide some color to the otherwise drab walls

(all pictures courtesy Metroblogging Bombay)

For more on Indian graphics, pick up "Graphicswallah" by Keith Lovegrove

Synopsis:A sourcebook for designers and those fascinated by Indian culture. Lovegrove has selected the most exciting graphic work - ranging from the vernacular graphics of the humble signwriter to the advertisements of blue-chip agencies - to reflect the religious, political and cultural diversity of India.


Urban Camouflage

What would you do if you were being followed? Confront your stalker? Run? Hide? I'd probably choose the latter, but some Japanese designers have a solution that is far more innovative, they sell disguises made from cloth that can be hidden on one's person. The disguises take many forms, the most popular being the "vending machine". When feeling threatened, all the user has to do is to behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine.

From the NYTimes:

"...The devices' creators argue that Japan's ideas about crime prevention are a product of deeper cultural differences. While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.

"It is just easier for Japanese to hide," Ms. Tsukioka said. "Making a scene would be too embarrassing." She said her vending machine disguise was inspired by a trick used by the ancient ninja, who cloaked themselves in black blankets at night."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin

Publisher: Penguin

Date: 06 Mar 2006

Pages: 304

Genre: Non-fiction, travelogue, Politics, Burma

The condition of Burma, especially after the military crackdown on its revered monks in 1998 and more recently, a few of weeks ago, is a running sore on the face of democracy. Interestingly enough George Orwell seemed to know what was in store for Burma's future way back in 1948 when he wrote his dystopian novel "1984", or so Emma Larkin (a pseudonym) an American journalist seems to theorize in her travel memoir, "Finding George Orwell in Burma"

Larkin uses Orwell's book "Burmese Days" ( a fictional story but based on his experiences in Burma as a policeman in the British colonial service). to guide her through modern Burma (1995). She visits the same places that Orwell did collecting testimony from average Burmese laboring under a totalitarian regime and finds it, well, Orwellian.

In Burma there is always the feeling that you're "being watched", your conversations taped and your movements tracked.
Political dissidents disappear completely, their names and lives simply vanishing from historical records. The State's brutal physical force includes torture, rape,beatings, forced relocation, destruction of villages and forced/slave labor. It also manipulates the emotional life of the Burmese people... its psychological power is so fierce that fear,paranoia and self-censorship threads through every conversation and gesture. All this makes George Orwell something of a prophet and Larkin is convinced (as are other Burmese citizens) that Orwell did not write just one book ("Burmese Days") about Burma's police state, but a trilogy that also includes Animal Farm and 1984.

Although Larkin uses Orwell's writing as a narrative hook, her book could easily stand alone as a travel, social and political commentary on modern Burma. Larkin's prose is quite wonderful and full of delicious observations of the Burmese people... their love of books, the tea shops where they gather to converse amid steaming cups of chai, their love of the cinema . We are treated to wonderful images of sugarcane juice vendors squeezing fresh cane through a mangle; people making daily visits to the neighborhood pagoda,where colorful shrines draped in garlands and candles dot the base of the building; market alleyways stacked high with multicolored longyis, silks and terracotta trunks and so much more, but the colorful images are lures as Larkin delivers a bracing dose of reality on the police state that is Burma.

(Burmese women traveling in a train)

Boy Monks in Burma
pic courtesy Asian Explorer

This book is a must-read for people interested in Burma. Thank you, Sanjay, for recommending it to me.

Update: I just heard from Penguin USA that Larkin is the guest author on their Blog this week. She recently returned from a couple of weeks in Burma and is writing about her experience and observations on the Buddhist monk protests and other Burma/Myanmar military regime crackdowns.

You can find her posts here

(I've closed comments because we recently discussed Burma and the Saffron Revolution here)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Syrian Bride(movie), Rockin'Girl Blogger, Cruel Shoes

Two nights ago I saw the movie
"The Syrian Bride", a film by Israeili director Eran Riklis.

The bride, Mona, was being given a send off as she prepared to leave for her bridegroom's house. But this was no ordinary send off because although Mona and her husband-to-be were both Syrians from Druze families (the Druze are a breakaway Islamic sect following al-Hakim, an Ismaili caliph, as the embodiment of God), they live on opposite sides of the Israeil-Syria border, with Mona living in one of the villages of the
Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Tallel (the bridegroom) living in Damascus,Syria. Once Mona crosses the border into Syria, she relinquishes her residency and any right to return to her home. Infact, from now on, the Israelis will consider her a "foreigner from an enemy state."

THis also means she will never be able to meet with her family again as she will never be allowed back into Israel and nor will her family be allowed into Syria.

Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights and parts of Palestine has separated 100's of families. Not being able to see your family must be the hardest thing for anyone to endure. No doubt it happens in other parts of the world too, I am reminded here of the 100's of Indian families that were separated when India was divided into India and Pakistan and also, families from North andSouth Korea. Still, some of those countries have come around and now special dispensation is given for visits between family members...why isn't this happening on the Israel-Syrian border as well?

(Druze bride Arwad Abu Shaheen married her first cousin on the armistice line between enemy states Israel and Syria, hugging her family for the last time before starting a new life near Damascus. (courtesy AFP)

Further reading: Druze wives hope to reclaim old ties


The wonderful bint battuta sent me the Rockin' Blogger Award a couple of days ago all the way from the Kingdom of Bahrain! Thank you, Ayesha!

Bint Battuta works as a translator, writer and teacher in that wonderful ocean Arab Kingdom and while I always knew she was proficient in Arabic, a number of Indian languages and English (ofcourse) , I learned today that she has also studied Russian, and Bulgarian! Way to go girl!!! Her blog always has the most interesting posts covering a diverse range of subjects, do visit her when you can.

Ok, so now I have the honor of naming five other Rockin' girl Bloggers. It's always hard to pick just five, because every girl on my blogroll rocks, but I'm restricted to five, so here we go:

Beenzzz and ml. I love visiting their blogs, they are both very funny gals and their posts always put a smile on my face.

Melissa of Hello, Melissa fame. Melissa was my first ever reader (we met at bookcrossing) and hence my first bloggy friend too. I love her blog because she's always up to such exciting things. I especially love reading about her two little kids.

Booklogged of A Reader's Journal. Booklogged was my first non-bookcrosser reader. Her blog is the one to go to for great book reviews. It is also a one-stop shop for news on book giveaways, contests, reading challenges etc. A truly exciting blog for book lovers!

Happy Reader
from Book Closet. Another avid reader. I love going to Chitts's blog because she always picks such interesting books to read and writes fabulous and compact reviews. Keep those reviews coming, Chitts!


Finally, are these shoes cruel or what???


Photo: Etienne Tordoir

For more cruel shoes visit the NYTimes here


More cruel shoes!

Alexander McQueen.

Photo: Jean-Luce Huré for The New York Times

Yves Saint Laurent

Photo: Don Ashby and Olivier Claisse/Firstview

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Giller Prize 2007 (Short List) and Barbara Gowdy's "Helpless"

The Giller Prize Jury has spoken...the 5 books on the 2007 Giller Prize shortlist are:

Elizabeth Hay for her novel Late Nights on Air, McClelland & Stewart

Michael Ondaatje for his novel Divisadero, McClelland & Stewart

Daniel Poliquin for his novel A Secret Between Us, trans. Donald Winkler, Douglas & McIntyre

M.G. Vassanji for his novel The Assassin’s Song, Doubleday Canada

Alissa York for her novel Effigy, Random House Canada

I was so surprised that Lawrence Hill's "Book of Negroes" did not make it to the shortlist. It seemed to be the very kind of book that would appeal to the judges of a prize like this. I also missed seeing Richard Wright's "October". Ofcourse, the question on everybody's mind is, will Vassanji win his third Giller for "The Assassin's Song"?

What do you think of the Giller shortlist? Were there any surprises? Do you have any predictions?

Barbara Gowdy's "Helpless" (HarperCollins, Canada) is another book that didn't make it to short list. I am halfway through it and it's gripping, suspenseful, haunting, in short, an excellent, but uncomfortable read.

In a nutshell...Ron, vacuum repairman, has a passion for little girls. So when he spies beautiful nine-year-old Rachel, outside her school, he follows her meaning to take her home to his basement which he has lovingly converted into a place for her replete with Disney videos and Barbie dolls. He doesn't see himself as a kidnapper or an abductor but as a rescuer (somewhere in his confused mind he believes Rachel's mother is exploiting her by making her sing in bars where she (Rachel's mother plays the piano). He also believes that that the family’s kind gay landlord is a child molester.

The story is told from multiple perspectives and what emerges is a man who is aware of his lust for children but who hesitates to cross the line. Barbara Gowdy sees Ron as being similar to
Alice in Wonderland writer Lewis Carroll, who enjoyed taking photographs of naked girls. She told CBC.ca, “Ron falls madly in love with little girls but he doesn’t want to harm them, which is unusual. It happens, but it’s unusual…." As a result the reader comes away with a rather sympathetic view of Ron which is a real achievement on Gowdy's part because I can't think of anyone the world hates more than a child abductor and yet she completely succeeds in humanizing him.

As I said in the beginning, I am only halfway through it, the tension is so heavy, I get the impression Ron will not harm Rachel, but I don't know for sure, Gowdy is sure keeping me guessing.
The novel has had a mixed reception, its themes of obsessive love, the sexualization of young girls and an abductor who is portrayed as a victim rather than a villian have made readers either love or hate the novel and in turn, love or hate Gowdy.

Guardian (UK) had this to say:

Society would barely countenance a male author writing like this: he would run the risk of being labelled a crazed pervert. This leap of the imagination by a female writer may be more tolerable; but though it's courageous, and though Ron's awareness of the "line" not to be crossed remains, there are passages that slip into the gratuitously disturbing.
Being propelled through this skilful but unpleasant page-turner leaves the reader with a distinct feeling of being stalked.

And our very own Toronto Star:

This is a novel not a sermon. It is a genuinely suspenseful read, gripping to the last page. Without any betrayal of ending, it can also be said that the novel does not leave the reader in darkness, and the general effect is not depressing.

The author's sympathy is a generous one – not assumed for any shock effect of making a pedophile kidnapper more of a human being than a monster – and that sympathy communicates itself in various grace notes throughout.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Film Club: A True Story of a Father and Son David Gilmour



Kite Runner release delayed while young Afghan stars move to safety:Families fear ethnic tensions, backlash over rape scene

The release of Khalid Hosseini's "The Kiterunner" has been delayed by 6 weeks to give Paramount Pictures time to get the child stars to safety. In all probability they will be taken to the United Arab Emirates. It will now be released on Dec14. I'm definitely going to have to mark that date on my calender.


I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. Mark Twain

Quick, grab a pen and write this down, "The Film Club: A True Story of A Father and Son" by David Gilmour. I just finished reading this gem and I want to tell everyone about it, (especially parents of teenagers) and here's why:

When David Gilmour (author and 2005 winner of the Governor-General's Award for Fiction ) saw that his 15-year old son Jesse was fast losing interest in school (skipping classes, crashing grades and so on) he gave him the option of quitting school on condition that Jesse watch three movies a week with Gilmour . What??? I almost choked on my coffee when I came to that passage and had to wonder if Gilmour had lost his mind. Gilmour clearly belongs to the school of thought that agrees your education comes from life, not school. Even so, I was aghast that this highly educated man would allow his son to drop out of high school without a fight!

What do we teach our kids when we allow them drop something just because it doesn't hold their interest, aren't we teaching them to give up too soon? With no university degree or college diploma aren't we setting them up for failure career wise?

So with something akin to fear and
also curiosity, I delved into the pages of the book to find that what emerges is a heartwarming story of a unique and wonderful friendship between a father and his teenage son, not to mention some wonderful discussions on life, love and the movies! Gilmour used to be a film critic for CBC-TV and his insights into some of the best films ever made and how he used those insights to impart life lessons to Jesse make for some invaluable reading, not to mention visits to your neighborhood "Blockbuster"

When Gilmour was asked why he didn't lay down the law with his son he said
"I was trying to salvage my relationship with him because I thought not only am I going to lose the school battle but I'm going to lose him over it." He felt certain that Jesse was so fed up of school that he would have left in any case and probably left the home too.

So did Gilmour honestly think that watching three movies a week was a good enough substitute for school? What about literacy? Was Jesse ever going to learn how to read and write suitably?
Gilmour says, "
He (jesse) really didn't get anything out of it except he got to spend time with his father, and what teenage boys really need is to spend time with their fathers,"

"We could've gone skydiving, or we could've gone scuba-diving. It wouldn't have made a difference. It wasn't really the films. It was an opportunity for the two of us to spend time together before he was gone for good."

As a mother of a 16-year old girl I can only say that Gilmour is either a very brave or foolish man. This experiment could have gone so badly wrong for Jesse, I don't think I would have done that to my daughter. Having said that however, what does one do with a kid that has no interest in school? In Ontario, where I live, the average drop-out rate is 29 per cent which is high, too high...

Why is it that high?

According to the experts, the lure of big money at jobs requiring no diploma, an inability of teachers or schools to engage students, rigorous curriculum changes or problems at home are some of the main reasons why teenagers won't continue with their education.

The problem with jobs requiring no diploma is that there is no room for growth and teenagers realize that all too late.

I think teachers and parents ought to do more to engage a student. The NYTimes had a very interesting article the other day about a ninth grade teacher who found that giving parents homework along with the kids was helping to keep the child interested in school. I am all for it and you can read more about it here.

For a very interesting interview with David and Jesse Gilmour please go here


Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Portobello Books' reading catalogue this Fall, the selection is amazing!

This is what The Branching Out Guide to Independent Presses had to say about Portobello

New fiction and short stories, fiction in translation and non-fiction about contemporary social issues. A particular focus on new voices and unusual novels – this press has a mission to get good short stories published and read more widely. The press aims to be a place where cutting edge fiction has a home – this is a press that aims to help new voices get heard, and experimental fiction get exposure.

Who will read these books?

Readers who like to take a chance on something new. Readers who normally read non-fiction. Students who have traveled, readers interested in politics and social change. Keen readers who are tired of the mass market and the mundane mainstream. These books offer highlights as well as range to library loan collections.
Other small presses whose books I enjoy:

Do feel free to add your favorites to the list.

Monday, October 01, 2007

This week is going to be a busy one...might have a to take a week off from blogging.

Will be around to visit your blogs however.

Have a terrific week and see you soon!

(pic courtesy: The Sunday Times)

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