Mystery in Delhi
“All important communication takes place without language, or behind language, or in spite of language,” said Albert James, a polymath (anthropologist, social scientist and linguist), just before he died. In this genre-bending work by British author Tim Park, Albert’s death is announced to us in the very first sentence.
The rest of Dreams of Rivers and Seas explores the life of this maverick researcher through the eyes of his son, a young researcher himself, who flies down to Delhi to join his mother, Helen James, a physician, in mourning. We are witness to suppressed grudges between mother and son, the love affair of John and his girlfriend back in London, and mysteries that surrounded the life and death of Albert. The book is also a comment on the inadequacy of language in expressing human quandaries.
Dreams of Rivers and Seas: By Tim Parks, Harvill Secker, 431 pages, Rs495.
Park, author of the acclaimed Europa (1999), Rapids (2005) and Adultery and Other Diversions (1999), uses the best ploys available to a mystery novelist in a novel that’s essentially good old human drama.
Soon after Albert’s funeral (much to John’s surprise, a low-key affair solemnized in an old, quaint and filthy corner of Delhi), a journalist arrives at the James’ door to investigate the death. Can the mother and son change the course that Albert’s decisions set rolling? A disappointing climax notwithstanding, this is one of the best novels set in India in recent times.
Through the novel, India sure is a land that holds the promise of “rivers and seas”, but not in a clichéd, exoticized way. You can’t imagine Helen and Albert, comfortable in their day-to-day British ways, anywhere else but in Delhi.
Two new books about American celebrityhood—and what’s ugly, heady and painful about it— arrived in bookstores recently. These aren’t easy-to-miss titles, considering both are hardback tomes packaged in covers that, much like their subjects, instantly draw you to them.
Spotlight: The famous family. Martin Cleaver / AP
Life With My Sister Madonna, by Christopher Ciccone—the singer-performer’s tour director, back-up dancer, personal assistant and younger brother—is a memoir of their relationship since their childhood in Michigan.
It’s a gripping, juicy tell-all about Madonna’s life albeit from a biased perspective, which works well for the book. We’ve heard everything about Madonna’s life so far, except from the one who has been by her side through 40 years and who perhaps loves her as much as he hates her. Look for tidbits about Madonna’s early years in New York, her relationships with Hollywood’s famous women (Demi Moore, Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow), and her marriage to Guy Ritchie which Ciccone is not kind about since his own relationship with his sister fell apart after this marriage.
The second is also a tell-all— about the machinery that goes into making a Madonna, and the strategies that go into sustaining her fame.
Mark Borkowski, the author of The Fame Formula (See picture), is a British publicist who has worked for Joan Rivers, Macaulay Culkin, Cliff Richard, Diego Maradona and Michael Moore. His book uses some of the biggest names of the global entertainment industry as case studies—Kevin Spacey, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, and, no surprise to us, Jade Goody.
Life With My Sister Madonna: By Christopher Ciccone, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 352 pages, Rs995.
He goes into the strategy rooms of the men who once made Marilyn Monroe pose wearing a potato sack and restrained Tom Cruise’s “sofa-bouncing tendencies”. Quite aptly perhaps, Borkowski resorted to a gimmicky launch of the book in the UK in July. He announced a campaign to find a talent that Borkowski would promote for 15 months, using the “Fame Formula” presented in the book as a template.