Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Transit

Every day I am in a race against time. Half a year has gone by and I am still struggling to find the time to write, read more amidst my professional work. There are days when I feel terribly overwhelmed by the anxiety of getting actual work done and juggling time between writing, reading and all those in between stuff that requires my attention and time. I wish I could have some kind of superpower where my brains could be in optimum mode all the time.


Spent last Saturday afternoon making a quiche. Had to run out to get some of the ingredients. Errands take time, you need to make time for these things as you need to do your part when you are sharing a life with another. I have help at home who takes care of the cleaning chores but despite having worked for us for umpteen years, she has a tendency to forget things and not see to details particularly if they are routine menial tasks. She only remembers things that matter to her; despite some of her deficiencies, she gets most of the housekeeping done. She is admirably forgetful as she has a way to agree to do certain things and conveniently forget the next minute. Thanks to the internet, the best invention ever, she is constantly chatting with her friends and she stays very much connected with her children and family members back home through Skype and Whatsapp. She also gets on line to shop for her friends and in turn she charges her friends a nominal fee for services rendered in placing the order and collecting the goods for her friends. For her, life is about getting paid, family and friends, earthy and sensible.

Lately I have been caught up with a case that involves overcoming some procedural and jurisdictional issues and in terms of the law, it is an interesting matter. But there are real people involved and it is not an academic exercise. The case reminds me of the fiction written by Philip Pullman. In The Tiger in the Well, the protagonist eventually triumphs but in the beginning the law was against her. click  Law can be gender biased when come to protecting a woman in plight. You feel the futility of the law when you cannot have the law to protect you.

When a client sees a lawyer, the latter has to  accept the former’s version as the truth of the situation. A lawyer has to work from the client’s perspective and see how the law can help him or her in achieving the results he or she wants. There have been times I find myself getting caught in a labyrinth and I do not see the whole point of the client’s resistance and tussle with the law when he or she would be better off walking away. Some days I feel incongruous around my associates when they seem to be more adaptable to the demands of practice generally regardless of what their clients' causes are. Perhaps they find themselves trapped in the circle of law which is very much a business and they just have to keep going. Law has given me plenty of insight to life and humanity. Perhaps one day I should go back to jurisprudence to re-examine the purpose of the law.
 
I recently read TRANSIT  written by Rachel Cusk, its omnipresent theme about the mystery of change and reality resonates with me.  In TRANSIT the protagonist, Faye is a novelist and after her recent divorce, decides to move back to London. She acquires an old council- owned property on a good street. The book contains her conversations with an ex-boyfriend, a  hairdresser, builders, neighbour and friends.

Her friend, Amanda says,

   ‘I said that perhaps none of us could ever know what was true and what wasn’t. And no examination of events, even long afterwards, was entirely stable. To take her point about fashion, if one waited long enough those embarrassing old clothes often   started to look right again. The same forms and styles that from one distance seem to emanate shame, and to prove that we are capable of self-delusion, from another might be evidence of a native radicalism and rightness that we never knew we had, or at least that we were easily persuaded to lose faith in.’

As he applies colour to her hair, Faye’s  hairdresser, Dale tells her about his road-to- Damascus moment
       ‘I had a road-to-Damascus moment,’ he said.’ Last New Year’s Eve, of all times. I bloody hate New Year. That was part of it, realizing that I bloody hated New Year’s Eve.’
     A group of them had been at his flat, he said. They were getting ready to go out and he starting thinking about the fact that he hated it, and thinking that everyone else probably hated it too but that no one was prepared to say so. When everyone had their coats on, he announced that he’d decided to stay at home.
       I just suddenly couldn’t be bothered,’ he said .
    Why not, I said.
         For a long time he didn’t reply, painting the strands of hair one after another until I thought he either hadn’t hear my question or was choosing to ignore it.
        ‘ I was sitting there on my sofa,’ he said, ‘and it just suddenly happened.’
      He stirred the paintbrush in the dish, coating each side again carefully with the brown paste.’
       
The novel is devoid of plot yet its stylish writing has kept me reading. The narration is fluid and beautifully executed. Rachel Cusk’s poignant insights are present throughout the fiction. The way the narrations go, the bits that go into the conversation with whom she interacts are rather inconsequential and they are in essence about   how Faye has been spending her time and how she is constantly thinking about her two teenage sons. To me, our daily encounters are usually made up of bits of inconsequential encounters that very often mean nothing. We are all in transit somewhere somehow, and in essence, we are not unlike each other as nothing stays constant.click

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mojo

One weekday afternoon, I was famished and had to step out to grab a bite. While waiting for tomato soup, I wanted to return a call to an acquaintance who had texted and ask if she could contact me about some legal advice. Oops I left my phone in the office. I had tomato soup, too much dried herbs otherwise nice, a spiced coconut cake and an espresso and I read a few pages of Transit by Rachel Cusk. I got through forty minutes without checking my phone. Bliss.  

Technology can be a force for good or bad or both good and bad at the same time. So often I get lost in surfing from one piece of information to another and I lose track of what I have initially set out to find. I cannot now recall how I used to do legal research, looking up case laws  pre-internet days. These  days research is made much easier online.

There are days when there are urgent tasks and work to do, I get anxiety attacks partly because of my work and mainly because I have less  or zero time to devour any of the  fictions and non-fictions that I have set out  to read plus too many good articles and writings to consume on line whether on my MacBook or kindle. Ravenous I am. Internet has given the benefit where I can do some of my work anywhere and at times when it is time to eat I bring my book with a view to catch up with a page or two from where I left off, I get distracted and find myself responding to a client’s email or text  on my iPhone. I need to give myself the space to decompress, away from network so I could do some quiet reading.  

In this internet age, social etiquette has taken on a new landscape. It seems to be acceptable when one is seen  responding to texts in the office or during lunch with others. The netizens appear to be constantly engaged with their devices whether at work or on the road. Since we are required to do things electronically and also off-line, multitasking is necessary if  we want to maximize our time attending to  tasks  in the physical world as well as on line. The young generations are naturally good at  keeping up with technology while the baby boomers and the older generations adapt to the changes to keep up with the modern life. In this age of connectivity, we cannot live without the internet. Period.
In Sympathy written by Olivia Sudjic, the protagonist, Alice Hare was adopted. She knows little of her birth parents and all she knows is that her father is in prison and her mother is dead. Her English adoptive parents offer little stability when her adoptive father disappears. Both her and her adoptive mother do not have any real sense of what is real and Alice finds it easier to permeate the personal boundaries in the virtual world rather than getting close with people around her. Her adoptive grandmother has made contact with her through letters writing during her final year at the university. After graduating, as  she is in limbo and feeling  a void and uncertain about what she wants to do, she visits Silvia, her cancer-stricken grandmother in New York. Through Instagramming, she stumbles on Mizuko Himura and  becomes obsessed with the connections and parallels she sees in her personal history and that of Mizuko, an Instagrammer, a Japanese heiress, a freelance writer who teaches creative writing at Columbia University. She manages to get acquainted with Mizuko  through some coincidences which are made possible in this modern internet days. She engineers a real-life friendship by creating a self that Mizuko will be drawn to based on what Mizuko has curated on line.
As the story progresses, Alice is  plunging into an online bottomless hole of strange connections  just like how a seven-year-old  Alice in Wonderland follows a hare down a rabbit hole when suddenly she finds herself  falling  a long way down and in a curious hall with many locked doors of all sizes. The following passage resonates with me except that I will have to substitute ‘my philosophy degree’ with ‘my law degree’ and while my biological parents raise me, I only know of my dad’s adoptive family and not his natural parents.

      Have you ever truly, keenly felt like you don’t know who you are? Do you ever do something and think, Who is at the Controls? Like some mad pilot has locked you out of the cockpit? I definitely do. I feel a kind of vertigo that makes me shake afterwards. I guess we all feel it when making a difficult- seeming choice, and sometimes you seriously don’t know what you want because you don’t know who you’re supposed to be, or who you want to be. Physics, my first and second families, my philosophy degree, had all failed to help me answer that question. The former has led me to wonder whether I am one of an infinite number of Alices in multiple universes. A quantum fuck-up, which is some who fucks up in every one of those universes but in different ways. My first family took no care at my making, and my second family got me, essentially by mistake, out of a million possible babies going spare.” 
  
Life is often stranger than fiction. In her debut novel, Olivia Sudjic has made reference to the two plane incidents that involve Malaysia Airline flight. When I stumbled upon Sympathy the remarkable debut by its author, I had to get it. Somehow the book has taken me longer than the time normally taken for me to read  as it is written in a non-linear way and as it is , I am a person who does things in a non-linear way, and I have the habit of reading a few books simultaneously, thus it has taken me a while to get engaged with the story. Here is a reference to one of the plane incidents.

     When Dwight came to our bedroom after supper, he was distracted. He had become even more obsessed with the missing plane after the second one, another Malaysia Airline flight, was shot down over eastern Ukraine.


   “ The numbers are spooking me,” he said as he got into bed.
   I tried to sound normal. “Because it’s the second time, you mean ?”
   “No- well, yes, that too. Listen, though : Flight 17 , Boeing 777, first flew July 17, 1997, exactly, like, exactly seventeen years to the day before it crashed, July 17.”
    “ It’s weird,” I said 

Imagine a life without Wikipedia. Here is another passage from Sympathy.

I realized I did not know precisely what a seizure was. Stop for a moment to think of a life without Wikipedia. Sweet source of eternal comfort. Ministering angel of information . Think of your life without the option to Internet search.
Olivia Sudjic writes:
  ‘This is just happening so naturally, I told myself. I just have to keep pressing on each link to get to the next;I don’t have to know where it’s going.’

Sympathy  is hailed as the first great literary Instagram novel.click 
Indeed it is brilliant. Splendid.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Ça va bien, Amy?


 Voila!  Paris Ever After, the much-awaited sequel to The Paris Effect is here. Le bonheur, à nouveau ? 
  

Paris Ever After banner
k-s-r-burns-the-paris-effect
Author : K.S.R. Burns
After a big argument with  her husband, William Brodie, Amy sets off to Paris for the second time. Amy’s adventure continues. 

It is early September. As it happens, on her thirtieth birthday, Amy finds William at Hôtel du Cheval Blanc the hotel she stayed in when she first set foot in Paris. She walks past the hotel almost every day and it is sheer coincidence that on her birthday, she sees a man that looks like her  husband checking into the hotel and indeed it is Will. Is that a  good thing or something ominous? She has been carrying a significant piece of news that she has not found the opportunity to break it to Will as the latter has told her that he does not ever want to see her again.

After spending sometime in Paris, Amy has evolved into Amy 2.0, a more self- assured woman who needs to re-examine her own feelings and what she wants. She has been estranged from her husband and she has made two good friends in Paris: Margaret, her landlady is also her confidante  and  Manu, her new found buddy with whom she has found a certain connection. Margaret and Manu remind Amy a little of her estranged husband and his grandad, i.e. ‘Best buddies, Mutual admiration society’. In Amy's narrative, Margaret is sixty-five “but she isn’t one of those hale and hearty oldsters who sails around the world solo or hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. She drinks more wine than maybe she should and takes a huge number of pills, red ones and blue ones and white ones and pink ones. I don’t think even she knows what they’re all for.”

There seems to be a pattern in Amy’s actions - planning a secret trip to Paris without Will’s knowledge and when he visited her in Paris, they had a row and she walked out again. And now that her husband is here in Paris, should she be making an attempt to make up with him given the situation that she has found herself in? What is she running away from? Will she who hails from Phoenix be able to call Paris home? As trite as it may sound, we know that home is where love is.  In Amy's voice, here is  a description of Will: 

He’s a regular guy. An engineer from Minnesota. Nice. Normal. Loves math, science, baseball, and babies. Changes the oil in my car for me. Taught me how to make pasta from scratch.”

Amy is not certain about what Will wants and she ends up spying on him. As she trails after Will, she notices that he has a selfie-stick and his shirt is crumpled, he is not like the controlled and conservative husband  that she knows. Amy's life is turning upside down. Her life has changed since she got on the plane to Paris a year ago. Is it for better or for worse? 

Paris Ever After is a story is about  second chance at finding love. To begin with, Aimée, the name of the protagonist is so spot on and Paris, the city of lights, is where the story takes place. It is a compelling read as you want to know if Amy and her husband will get back together. You root for the protagonist as if she is your close pal.  Kudos to Amy and she must do as she pleases and what is right for her.  For those readers who have read The Paris Effect, you will note that in Paris Ever After, Amy has transformed from a fastidious eater, someone who has a constant tug-of-war love-hate relationship with food to someone who has bigger things to care for. Not only Amy is evolving, Will has also changed during her absence.  Burns writes in Amy's voice:
Weird. William learning to use emojis is not a development I would have predicted. Emojis are frivolous and open to misinterpretation. Texting itself is not fun for William, who hates typing on his phone. “The user interface is suboptimal for my thumbs,” he once complained to me. I laughed at the time—he’s such a geek—and can’t help smiling a little now.”


Paris Ever After is a fun read. The first person's voice that  Ms Burns has created for Amy is warm and down-to-earth, it sounds like someone you might know telling her story. It is easy to get into the rhythm of the narration that is interjected with wry humour and you can read it in one sitting and you definitely want to read it quickly because the story is such a page-turner. Apart from Margaret, there is Hervé, another quirky character. Not all the characters are likeable but they are colourful characters and you can imagine them being acted out in a film. Paris Ever After is fiction but often fiction imitates life and an avid reader can empathize with the emotional roller coaster ride that Amy goes through. 

Sincere congratulations to Karen Burns for her sequel and I look forward to the making of the first book into a film.  THE PARIS EFFECT click has been optioned for film and TV. More about the author

WIN a digital copy of this book HURRY!   Global giveaway open internationally.
5 participants will each win a digital copy of this book giveawayclick. Paris Ever After is published by   Velvet Morning Press