Wednesday, June 10, 2009

J.R.R. Tolkein, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun

This is the latest marvellous offering from Christopher Tolkein - two unpublished and unknown poems written by J.R.R. Tolkein sometime in the 1930s that were based on a corpus of poetry called the Poetic Edda, dealing with Nordic mythology. The poems are flanked by detailed commentaries written by Christopher Tolkein, and are preceded by an Introduction by J.R.R. Tolkein himself, taken from a lecture he delivered to the English faculty at Oxford University, titled 'The Elder Edda', which includes a fascinating discussion on how, as pagan religions in Scandinavia and Iceland gave way to Christianity, the wonderful world of old Norse mythology and folklore died out, coming to exist merely as disjointed fragments of what was once a rich oral tradition.

Lovers of fantasy fiction who are ardent admirers of Tolkein's works will love this, not least because it sheds a lot of light on the etymological and creative origins of Middle Earth, and some of it's much-loved characters. I just reviewed this book for BusinessWorld online, on their books site, so shall desist from rambling on here; but those interested in reading my review can visit the site at

And those of you nice enough to read the review, do come back and let me know what you thought!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

On films

I must be among the very few not celebrating the return of Bollywood films to the multiplexes - I've been enjoying myself, actually, watching the good English films that the plexes were being forced to screen in the absence of suitable mindless fare - but now it'll be back to waiting impatiently for the odd good English film that pops in for about a week or so amid the gaggle of Hindi blockbusters. It wouldn't have been that big a deal had we still been in Delhi - most English films do make their way to the various PVRs, regardless of the presence of Bollywood; unfortunately, most Kolkata people, despite their many cultural and intellectual pretensions, are singularly unable to appreciate good films - for most, the 'best film' they have seen in 'a long time' is Dev D. English movies are, for most, merely an opportunity to make out in a semi-empty hall or, for those groups of badly-behaved, horny men so peculiar to Bengal, to catch sight of Kate Winslet's lovely legs.

But K and I've had a lovely time catching all the Oscar-nominated films, which begs the question - HOW did that very ordinary (at best) Slumdog Millionaire pip these fabulous films to the post? Granted, Danny Boyle did little else but lobby for nearly a year before the Academy Awards - but seriously, did everyone leave their brains behind when they cast their votes? Slumdog didn't have the depth, pathos, or the disturbing quality of The Reader; it had none of the joie de vivre, social relevance, energy or sheer brilliance that made up Milk; none of the slow narrative power, cinematography or wonder of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (and this despite Brad Pitt, who, despite special effects, resolutely remained Brad Pitt all the way through, allowing Benjamin not a chance to get under his skin); even Revolutionary Road, which proved disappointing (primarily because of all the expectations riding on it), had way more intensity and powerful moments than Slumdog could ever dream of. I guess all one can be thankful for is that they handed out the Oscars for acting to the people who truly deserved them.

But now it's back to sadly going over the movie listings and finding not a single one I'd like to see; growing ever more depressed at reviews of films that were long released but would never grace a theatre near me; asking hopefully for DVDs that take forever to appear in shops, if they ever do; and longing for that nice cheese popcorn that Inox serves.

But I suppose Star Trek will come to Cal theatres, right? I mean, even Cal people would want to catch Captain Kirk and Spock in action! And who doesn't love Wolverine?? And the Terminator - especially now that Christian Bale's playing John Connor? Right?

One can only hope.