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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Orhan Pamuk Trial

I wonder what is going to happen to Pamuk in December. I mean, we are back to the basics ... state intervention on a writer's freedom of speech. This is a blue-ribbon requisite article. Check it out.

While at it, check these links on Pamuk:


Orhan Pamuk Home Page - Unofficial Website.


Umberto Eco in India

Also, while you are at it with the interview of this maverick man behind The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum and the god of interstices... check out the front page article about him in the same edition.

Will try and see if I could ever manage to write on this man. Just to think of it, it is a daunting task!

Fundamental States of Mind

I am referring to two articles here. Both on 19th Oct. Both in The Hindu (who with their dated leftist leanings and ornamental million dollar re-laid looks should actually change their name to something more appropriate to disown themselves as Hindu)! One is on Page 8 - Tamilnadu page I think - a newsitem shouting the tribute paid by irrelevant Tamil Groups, family pay homage to the Late Brigand Veerappan on his first death anniversary day. Another is on international page - about the Trial of Saddam Hussain.

I am amused, how in a country of democracy and freedom of speech how even self-styled fake Robin Hoods get iconised; how with just a swing of lingual and ethnic flavour things can take a heroic and iconic turn! And how in a so-called fundamental Islamic state State Heads (even if they be ex-) can turn villains. How Iraqis are indifferent to Saddam's fate. When I get free time am gonna analyse this phenomenon and post a proper blog.

Meanwhile, there is another issue I want to explore: the front page article on CBSE's latest attempt at Education for Dummies by waiving (over-looking is more politically correct, I s'pose) spelling errors in the 10th and 12th Board Exams (including subjects such as English Literature! Wah Huzoor...). Check The Hindu Metro Plus archives link for Oct. 19. Hilarious. CBSE is the ultiamte comedian!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Brace yourself!

What kind of a world do we live in? Oh, am not getting philosophical or frustrated ok! Am just asking.

This Sunday I had my usual workshop at Psbb KKNgr. And we have this empowerment circle talk to begin with. This is the 5th year. I believe the only way to get people and kids inhibited or introverted out of their shells and make them natural is to get them to talk. So we do this what happened during the last week in our lives or anything one came across that was interesting or different. And we ended up discussing the braces-culture. Three of the girls were on braces. It was pretty interesting to relate to their experience. So very different, yet braces on the upper teeth row. Also, very empathetically I can say, macabre for me to hear.

How stupid of parents to want to put their kids into braces in order to prevent kids from having bad teeth row, bad lip pout, etc etc... all the while the best preventive care we can take goes back to ages and stops with my generation of growing children. Just avoid things traumatic for teeth. This shows how uncaring parents are about kids these days. You can't spare time for them... but you fucked around to get them out to grow into kids... and you still fuck around uncaring of what they eat, what they do, where they hang around, who they hang out with, how they live or learn or study or grow. And suddenly some other parents had their kids into braces and that sounded the right thing, so these parents put them in too! Humbug.

I am going to do a whole lot of writing on this braces thing. And how the doctors make a killing out of this. And how the packaging market make a killing out of this commercial golden goose. Flourescent gums, Neon braces, swindling the people in the sacred name of preserving dentals! Shoot, fish, blimey!

Comment please, on what you feel about the braces culture.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Art, Abstract Art, Avant-garde!

Art to me is a survival skill. It is an extremist subterfuge of individual mind that revolts against the lack of aesthetic ways to project the internal rumbles of human existence in response to external happenings. Art tries to portray reality invariably. Even when it is the surrealist art of a painter such as Salvador Dali or the French cubists, symbolists, impressionists and pointilists, it has reality as its base.

Pointillism (note the DOUBLE LL), for the uninitiated, was a very brief movement that attempted to portray, paint or project everything on canvas through points... of various sizes and layers of clarity.
Getting back to reality! Art can reflect life... else where shall the mind take points of reference from? As much as man created god, man created and creates art. From what he knows best. Life. Hence any art is real. Like B.B.King said once about music. "There is no good music or bad music, there are only good performances or bad performances". How true!

A work at its root - whether existing and re-produced in the case of a theatrical presentation, or executed to its concreted reality on canvas or any projectable material that can hold the conception and ideas in a defined form in the case of a painting, sculpture, installation etc... is basically existent in the human mind before it can be translated for the view of others. So, it is abstract as long as it exists in the domain of the unseen, in the vast space of the conceiver's mind. Only its realisation is precise or unclear. Hence concrete or abstract. Hence, as a natural existence, good art or bad art. And thence, good artist or bad artist. When I say concrete I mean clarity. Even the so called abstrct art can be clear. The colours, the daubing, the sketching, the shades, the deliberate chaos of pastelling may look hazy that for people who are not focussed it may seem like un-sense. I use the word consciously as an apposite opposite to sense. If one delves into the history of abstractionism, it would become clear. I have been delving into this territory for more than 2 decades now and it neve ceases to amaze me as much as post-modern art.

Artists don't vegetate. They can't. They try to overcome the banality of our mundane existence and aspire to transcend to a higher level. Art can also be escapist when it becomes a vehicle for expression of their suppression or repression or smothered lives under political anarchy and fascism. A classic example is the way Abstract Art came into existence.

Abstraction in art is often misunderstood for modern art... or art that cannot be comprehended. The word "abstract" is the most profoundly misunderstood, misquoted, misused and misinterpreted word in human language. When one cannot understand, people conveniently term it abstract. Not fair, especially when given the rise, development and history of Abstract Art, which is sometimes made synonymous with the term "non-figurative" because there are no clear portraits or natural depiction or concrete form discernible.

Abstract one should understand is a deliberate act of disfiguring the concrete or the real or the formative. Why? Why would one deliberately disfigure? Because they cannot or are not permitted to express clearly what they want to. We shall not talk about representations that are inchoate (verbally) or illegible (in calligraphy) or improperly expressed (some conceptions are not yet ready to be expressed and people are in a hurry to say, or they don't have enough vocabulary to express thoughts too big for words yet) or badly painted. We are talking of any sort of subversion. To explain: a person who is infracting or infringing but smart enough to say only part of the actual, yet the information is basically correct and true and complete and satisfactory enough to the receiver. To elucidate and exemplify: The Pandavas act of saying "Ashwathama atho..." Before the actual true sentence could be completed, Krishna chooses to blow the conch so that the full sentence "Ashwathama the elephant is dead" falls in Drona's ear at "Aswathama... is dead". That is a finer level of subversion. In art, subversion is committed to express that point of view they want to, but will not be entertained or encouraged or would even lead to subjection. We know very well what happened to Antigone in the Greek Myth, don't we? We know what happened to Prometheus who dared to bring light unto mankind, don't we? And there are examples... So, art has to use subversions, subterfuges, artifices, conceit as a form of expressing itself. The people who are the intended targets always get to comprehend abstract art.

So where then could it have been born? It was born when suppression was born. At which point of human history did it achieve its height? During the turn of 19-20th century in France... at the birth of 20th century... during the Nazi regime. The Jews, the Poles and the Islamic community are pastmasters of Abstract Art. Because they are the most subjected race. Of course, the Jewish subjection goes back to Shakespeare and Elizabeth. I like Shakespeare's works as brilliant watershed for performance, but I disaver from his projection of his villains. Shylock: who portrayed him? Shakespeare the Christian. Caliban (I provide this specific link because it is an article closer home to my own politics of The Tempest by William Shakespeare): who created him? Shakespeare the Christian. But what Shakespeare himself moral? Was he not a fag? Did he not stoop to please Elizabeth and the authority? True portrayal of the negative would come from those who are of the same stock and have suffered and portray to show the angst and the pain and the effects thereof on them and on the related community or society or civilisation. So, Shakespeare is a villain who deliberately disfigured truth to his own ends. Shakespeare was a subvert. But we are digressing.

The Poles, the Jews, the Islamic. I would suggest you all to take a look at the Works of Joan Miro, Wassily Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Jackson Pollock to get an idea of how varied Abstract in Art can be depicted, and yet with clarity. The moral of the story, as I conclude: to make clear to people who are confused about Abstract. I shall now proceed to do the same about Post-modernism, which is often confused as well.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shalimar, Booker and Pi!

I am just in the course of reading Salman Rushdie's latest work of fiction, Shalimar the Clown. And my current observations are as follows.

I do accept the premise that there is nothing political or public without the personal. I am myself of the nature that if there cannot be a personal, there never can be room for political or public. As much as "No man is an island" and that "Man is but part of a composite community at large"... without the individual there is also no society; but the inference I am increasingly deriving from recent trends in fiction, especially Indian or Indo-centric fiction is very disturbing to me as a development in the continuing rise of the post-modern fiction.

Shalimar the Clown is supposed to be a political thriller on one side; it is also Rushdie's exercise in trans-globalising the violence, where inevitably Kashmir has to be involved, Al-Qaeda has to be mentioned, Bin Laden has to be equated in the process. It is, nevertheless, a vendetta narrative of a very personal nature, the order or chaos of things arising out of one man's thwarted love - the one man in question being a Kashmiri Islamic chauffeur of an erst-while Ambassador of Teutonic origin, to India. I am starting to not so much like this work. I bought this work, in the middle of my dire penury, because of my avid liking for Rushdie's work, which began with my reading of his Satanic Verses, fructified after a reading of his Haroun and the Sea of Stories and culminated in my shameless acceptance of him as the greatest writer India has produced, after The Moor's Last Sigh - which I still rank as his best book. Of course, I had earlier, much earlier, as a student of literature, gobbled up his Shame and Jaguar Smiles and that Booker of Bookers - the Midnight's Children, a decade and a half before these.

Shalimar is turning out to be such a total let down, not so much as a narrative (it never gets uninteresting when Rushdie is story-telling) but as a book in the illustrious line of other Rushdie books. They said Rushdie's croaking as a writer after Fury. I haven't read Fury. But there seems to be some truth in that prognosis, in the light of Shalimar.

This also leads to the following observations. This spawning of the personal as political or public or allegorical is not good for literature. Writers with a bag full of gags and intelligence, and a departmental store rackfulls of delighful and inventive phrases, realism of the magical order don't necessarily produce great literature. No amount of Booker-ing them adds credence to their wannabe-ing into the story-telling hall of fame.

Looking through Glass by Mukul Kesavan - one of the early torch-bearers of New Indian Fiction (I thorougly refuse to term some books Post-modern. They are an insult to the genre, inspite of them having elements of the said canon. I can see a few anti-post-modern eyebrows arching high and mighty and caustically! But, let's accept, most of you don't really know what defines a post-modern work of art or sculpture or film or architecture, for that matter!) - is a classic example. Oh no, Mukul never made it to any list of such roaring pantheistic award rolls. That is probably a saving grace. Else I would have hated the work as well. As a work per se, Looking through is quite engrossing. It starts with a free-lance-hobby-passion-whachumahcallit photographer on his way to dissolve the ashes of his grandmother (a promise he gave her on her deathbed) in Jamna or whichever river (it's been 11 years since I read it. Plan to read it again). His train stops on a bridge waiting for signal. He peeks through the window to see the resplendent colours the sun is making through the clouds, adventures to get down on the jetty of the track above the river (that little protuberance in which the local key-collectors stand in the middle of the night to do their duty as an express train passed by screaming at 2 a.m!), cranes himself to get a better pan through his zoom, gets the wrong in-step... the next thing he knows he has fallen down into the river below where dhobis are washing dirty linens. And the next other thing he knows, when he wakes up... it is 1940s... approaching Quit India Movement. Well, it is a joie-de-vivre... a delighfully incredibly inventive roller-coaster ride of a world that could have been. What if you are given a chance to be in a particular point of history and has the chance to redraft as you would like it to be! That's what it is. But the personal is just a branch-off point for Kesavan to launch on his readership how it probably really was - what the story untold was - when Quit India happened, when India was split... It is for this reason I much prefer Shashi Tharoor's The Great Indian Novel. There is really nothing personal. He proves that one doesn't need a personal reference point inside a narrative. But then again, take a work like Vikram Chandra's Red Earth and Pouring Rain (written again somewhere during this decade and before period). Nothing very personal, but still a monkey's personal predicament, much like the playwright's in Karnad's Naga-Mandala, becomes a reference point for a flight into the realms of quasi-magical realism. Poor Borges, Poor Marquez, Poor Llosa... poor all those central and latin american practitioners of Magical Realism.

Coming back to Shalimar... how much longer Rushdie? I am not surprised that it didn't make it to the final Booker cut. What if the Chairman of the Booker Committee had written a glowing review of the work and heaped accolades on Rushdie just the other week? Probably he knew that Rushdie is worth a personal obligatory bouquet. But when it comes to duty, the personal don't go with the political. And that is the story of Shalimar the Clown as well as Rushdie vis-a-vis Booker. But am still wondering how Pi Patel made it to Booker. The reference point is even flimsier, its narrative more redundant and going in circles than Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea or Melville's Moby Dick (Life of Pi is probably 3 times bigger than Old Man and 1/3 shorter than Moby Dick in an 8 pt. serif type face). The story is flicked from folklore... (oh, we still remember the Colombian? who wanted to sue Martel for plagiarism, don't we?). The allegory is gleaned from the Testament... perhaps the only reason is there was no real competition. This year's Booker seems stacked that Coetzee and Rushdie had to take a break. But of course, after the odyssean Oscar and Belinda, Life of Pi is a welcome change for its terseness, if you can call it. Nevertheless, didn't the South African meerkat episode bore one to death? So trite, so articially conceitful ('conceit' in the canon of John Donne!)

Anyway... I shall post a more clinical write-up of Shalimar once am through.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Thomas Berger's "Who Is Teddy Villanova?" as a Barthian post-modernist fiction

Thomas Berger’s Who’s Teddy Villanova? as a Barthian post-modernist fiction

(This is a paper I had presented at the Wednesday Circle of the Professors of Department of Languages and Liberal Arts, University of Magdeburg, Germany, during my stint in 1995-96. I have reworked and rewriten and modified the paper to make it more current.)

John Barth, in his essay entitled ‘The Literature of Replenishment: Post-modernist Fiction,’ writes: “My ideal post-modernist author neither merely repudiates nor merely imitates either his twentieth-century Modernist parents or his nineteenth-century pre-modernist grandparents… (he) should hope to reach and delight, …beyond the circle of what (Thomas) Mann used to call the Early Christians: professional devotees of high art.”

Barth further writes, in specific reference to the post-modernist fiction: “The ideal post-modernist novel will somehow rise above the quarrel between realism and irrealism, formalism and “contentism,” pure and committed literature, coterie fiction and junk fiction. Alas for professors of literature, it may not need as much teaching as (James) Joyce’s or (Vladimir) Nabokov’s or (Thomas) Pynchon’s books, or some of my own.” [For the information of new, uninitiated readers, John Barth’s THE SOT-WEED FACTOR is one of the long-standing essentials of past-post-graduate studies!)

At the same time, Barth feels that this ideal work will not be off-handed or too light or frivolous, rather it will be delighting and call for further re-readings.

The writings of the contemporary American novelist, Thomas Berger, well qualify to meet the demands of Barth’s expectations. Berger’s writings have ranged from a mock-epic on the Frontier West and Custer’s Last Stand (Little Big Man), through a work set in the American 30s (The Feud) to Who Is Teddy Villanova? (WITV), a detective pot-boiler, and Nowhere, a novel, the events of which happen in a Utopian Land (deja-vu Samuel Butler’s Erewhon !). He has written (at the time of my seminar) fourteen works of fiction since 1958.

Of all these, his 1977 detective fiction written in the form of a pot-boiler novel, Who is Teddy Villanova? can be termed as a stand-offish attempt among his corpus. Of course, no two works of Berger are similar in context or genre; but his Reinhart Tetralogy deal with the same context, Little Big Man has a sequel and so on…; hence WITV is a very different attempt.

Almost all of his fictional works, much like the entire corpus of the post-modern fiction, have language as the theme, and irony and satire as the technique, even while trying to emphasise the spirit of cultural subversion and anarchy that this movement has come to be reckoned by the critics of literature. Where this particular work differs is in its generical approach. Instead of resorting to the standard and high-priestly approach towards writing (post-modernist and post-structuralist writing in particular), much like the writing of Philip Roth, Donald Barthelme or Thomas Pynchon, (not to mention the encryption-fiction writings of Umberto Eco, paperback Dan Brown and some of the Calvinos), Berger chooses the medium of what is called ‘the popular and kitsch novel’ better known as pot-boiler fiction.

Berger uses this medium to portray his concern for the individual in a world polluted with deception, cunning and disguised realities. According to Prof. Hassan, “Power and Fraud rule that world, distorting appearances and realities, pressing man to the limits of his sanity, and pressing him on the guilt-ridden role of victim or aggressor. But threats also contain their own answer, and shields may be fashioned of weapons. Man’s response, therefore, is to adopt a stance of knowing craziness, resilient simplicity, or defensive defenselessness.”

Berger’s weapon to combat the cultural and social threat takes the form of language. His hero, Russel Wren, is a former teacher of English from State University New York, turned detective by the quirk of fate. He has “…literary pretensions and a style that Samuel Johnson might have developed had he been born 250 years later in New York…” Throughout the work, he juggles with the art of literary parataxis, as much as Berger interests himself for both verbal arrangement without connective as well as parataxis of ideas.

At the very beginning, this is how Wren introduces himself:

I was an unlicensed private investigator, but I possessed an unlicensed firearm… (pressed upon me once, and then forgotten, by a client who, suspecting his wife had taken a lover, had worked a ruse-suicide attempt that, owing to a hair-trigger had cost him an earlobe)… [A]gainst any arm more formidable than a pen-knife it would be outweaponed; and in New York, defending oneself against attack not only is in heinous violation of innumerable ordinances but might well provoke the frustrated assailant to bring a successful suit for damages.

Any author of a detective novel would introduce its protagonist through hectic action of mind or body, in the process of establishing him a macho-type personality; but not Berger. His craft lies in subverting action into words and demystifying the world of survival. His is an approach of “complicated simplicity”, deriving his lineage from the American literary ancestors in Hawthorne, Faulkner and Melville.
At one juncture of the plot, having gone through some harrowing experiences of adventure and escapades a detective hero normally goes through (and is quintessentially let down if it does not happen!), Wren remarks irritated to Alice Ellish, his girl-friend’s room-mate: “Look! I’ve had an unfortunate day, an unconscious night, and an unprecedented morning…” (p.145). A little later, the following conversation ensues between him and his client-cum-alleged criminal Washburn:
“You won’t get a sou from me, you contemptible cur.” Despite his arch terminology, he appeared authentically grim; … I replied in kind, subtly trying to curry his favor by emulation of idiom.
“I am not the knave you take me for, Sir. The day is not more pure than the depths of my heart.”
But he was not mollified by the famous line, and it is a general pity that Racine, like Goethe, is notoriously banal when Englished. (p.152)
Philip Kuberski feels that there is more to the frontal word play than meets the eye, that the literary language is only an external manifestation of a serious of “signs and symbols of sexual and aggressive repression” that Berger loads upon his protagonist. However, this linguistic display makes Berger’s New York, a symbol by itself for any place of crime on earth. Berger achieves this by overturning or subverting an already perverted world of the contemporary metropolis - in this case New York - which has come to be identified more with ghettos, hoodlums, crimes, fraudulence, punk and coke culture and MTV, and the jetsam and flotsam of a fast-paced society, than with its arts, management and cultural schools and festivals. Berger writes with a black humor reminiscent of Faulkner and Melville and portrays a world that Tom Wolfe does with much more somber inflection in The Bonfire of Vanities. Though, the lack of high-seriousness in no way demeans or dissociates Berger’s work from the mainstream.
The work at hand, without moving out from the track of realism, of portraying what is truthfully, also has its innovative and experimental orientations. The book is replete with strange and weird syntax styles, arch constructions of the Jamesian and Macaulayan type, the essentially hardboiled jargons of detective fiction, the hundred percent commercial jingoisms of American television world, juxtaposing alongside the contemporary and post-modern self-reflexiveness. Consider the following contrasts. First, Wren’s conversation with his secretary Peggy Tumulty. “Fantasy has its uses, Peggy. In dreams begin responsibilities, according to your countryman Yeats” (p.239). Next, his ratiocination during his escape from the Police, with the aid of a Gay Assault Team, “… though I have nothing those professing to the persuasion of Marcel Proust, André Gide, and perhaps even the Great Will himself, I am not myself an invert, having, when it comes to intimacies, an absolute addiction to the other and not the same” (p.124). In short, Berger could have made his character simply state his loyalty towards heterosexuality, with lesser intellectual aspirations that the life of the lay readers treating the work as a regular pot-boiler journeyman fiction were made easy.
Consider further how Berger plays with language and the use of related images. At one point, Wren, the ex-English instructor states, “I could only manage my sweep of reason by assembling a broom straw by straw” (p.235), and a little earlier, when he accuses his girlfriend of cohorting with the villains, he says, “…[J]udging from the feathers of the rest of your flock, you are yourself of criminal plumage” (p.177).
Leonard Michaels finds much reflections of “contemporary literature” in Berger’s work – “hilarious and serious at once,” when he writes:
Berger’s style, which is one of the great pleasures of the book, is something like S.J.Perelman’s – educated, complicated, graceful, silly, destructive in spirit, and brilliant – and it is also something like Mad Comics – densely, sensuously detailed, unpredictable, packed with gags. Beyond all this, it makes an impression of scholarship…
For Thomas McClanahan, the work poses a different challenge. Desperate ‘to look through the language for a plot,’ he declares that “The pretentious overwriting becomes trying… when the descriptions do nothing to advance the story.” As far as he is concerned, “Wren’s descriptive rambling [is] a futile attempt to save a lackluster book.” McClanahan is over-reacting, since a conscious post-modern credo is to lose itself in the labyrinth of language and is not critiquing the work within the canons of post-modernism. If one accepts that WITV, like Berger’s other works, is an assay at deconstructing the banality of day today human experience and reconstruct the worldly chaos into a meaningful struggle. Berger does adhere to the idea of societal meliorism. He does not try to vindicate the brutality and violence present around us either. For Berger, existence is inevitable, to be gone through whether it is painful or coke-induced happiness. As Reinhart, the protagonist of the eponymous tetralogy declares: “I’m not here to bury life, but to recognize it…” (Reinhart in Love, p.132). And Berger’s approach is to recognize it through the greatest human invention of all – language. As he once described, he is “essentially a voyeur of copulating words.”
To conclude, if the novel is written in an “arch, allusive and rhetorically exhibitionistic style: loquacious, periphrastic, euphuistic”, and does not take itself seriously… therein lies the raison d’etre of this detective parody. It is at once a worthy inheritor of the title “a truly post-modern novel”, whose primary aim is to use the last resort of human sanity – language - to construct a mouse-trap out of conceit, as Friedrich Dürrenmatt described the essential function of comedy, and draw its unsuspecting reader to a lethal dose of literary voyeurism even while delighting and entertaining them; it is also a worthy successor to the children of its creator’s forbear – Hammett, Chandler and Macdonald. And if that does not suffice to authenticate the work’s place in the halls of literary fame, consider the sweep of its touch – Jean Racine, Goethe, Ruskin, Proust and Elias Canetti at one end and, Mad Comics and Charlie Chaplin at the other end.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

From Thomas to Tom...Berger - the wise old renegade PoMo-ist

Thomas Berger (1924 - )
(All the Italics in the post are mine)

Excerpts... from John Romano - New York Times Book Review - Nov. 12, 1978.

"Thomas Berger belongs, with Mark Twain and Mencken and Philip Roth, among (America's) first-rate literary wise guys. Savvy and skeptical, equipped with a natural eloquence and a knack for parody, he has been expertly flinging mud at the more solemn and self-important national myths fo 20 years. In Little Big Man, the best-known of his books - for alas, the usual reason - he brilliantly savaged the legendary American West. "

Voice of KK:
For all those out there, Little Big Man would best be remembered as the film that won Dustin Hoffmann many an accolade. Back to Romano...

"Who is Teddy Villanova?, perhaps the funniest 300 pages of 1977, took on the world of the tough-guy detective novel. For all its clowning, it performed a serious service in deflating the bloody and rather vainglorious cult of Bogart-out-of Philip Marlowe. Mr. Berger's method, with these and the other mythical landscapes he has explored in his nine novels, is to set them down in his droll, relentlessly straight-faced prose, so as to empty them of romance, and let the brutal/crummy facts stare out. His pages swarm with bawdy puns and slapstick and bookish in-jokes, but even at his most absurd, his intrinsic tone is that of a hard-nosed realist who won't let the myths distort his essentially grouchy idea of the way things really are."

Voice of KK:
Allow me to lift this paean of Romano to move a scale up to epiphanise Berger. Excerpts... from Isa Kapp - The New Republic, April 26, 1980.

"It is a mystery of literary criticism that Thomas Berger, one of the most ambitious, versatile, and entertaining of contemporary novelists, is hardly ever mentioned in the company of America's major writers. He is a wit, a fine caricaturist, and his prose crackles with Rabelaisian vitality. His phenomenal ear for oddnesses of speech appropriates as readily the grey malapropisms of the silent majority in Reinhart in Love... as the winning tall-tale garrulousness of Little Big Man, a savoury reminiscence of the Cheyenne Indians in frontier days...."

Voice of KK:
Reinhart in Love is part of his Reinhart series of tetralogy much like Updike's Rabbit series or others of its ilk. Since this article, there have been almost a novel a year from Berger and he has sequeled since then the Little Big Man with a follow-up. When you have finished the work and thought the story is over, Berger has come up with a possibility of a sequel to the ramblings of a 108 year old senile maniac in a House. Back to Kapp...

"Moreover, it cannot be said that he ever writes from a universal or even an ordinary eye-level perspective. He is a magic realist.... Berger's focus, his grasp of detail, is sharper and smaller than life. He will allow something infinitesimal to catch his eye and brood upon it, even as he overlooks a larger emotion or design."

Voice of KK:

I guess that is a miniscule of a reproduction from the hordes of pages available on Berger. Now hopefully, my reeking-of-academic-pedantry article would whet all those who read this to proceed to USIS if not elsewhere to seek books by Berger. I should honestly confess, I haven't habituated the larynx, pharynx, lungs, diaphragm, stomach, intestine and the beans at the beginning of lower-torso of this building in the middle of Gemini area. The last I did was around 1994. What developments in the area of Berger at USIS, please seek for yourselves!

Next, we meet with my Berger as Post-modernist, which perhaps would put the problem of defining post-modernism itself to temporary hiatus. Of course, it is not Post-moderninsm acc. to me. But what the initiators thought as the defining features of PM!

Tom Berger - The God of Parataxis and Meliorism

Ladies and Gentlemen...
*canned claps and flash of multi-colored laser beams all around*

... let me take this opportunity, tonight in this episode of Authors Anonymous, to introduce to you Thomas Berger.

My long-standing burning ambition to introduce to a new audience in Chennai and the visitors to the shores of my Blogpore is today getting fructified eventually. For Thomas Berger may sound Germanic, may be of Austrian origin (migrants to the U.S. of A though), may be an American citizen... yet is not one of those hulla-balooed litterateurs of the Land of Rape and Honey (or Hope and Money as is fulsomely described!).THOMAS BERGER IS A POST-MODERNIST!

*Ouch, am thrusting my balled right hand fingers desperately and hurriedly into my half-agape mouth*

I realise I have uttered the unutterable. POST-MODERN! What the heck is it? A style of art practised since modernism became a passe? A genre of art that sprung up post-Modernism? Or a reactionary movement of art to Modernism? All of these and more. But more importantly a delightful, easy-going, sometimes frivolous and invariably hilarious -ism that is oft-maligned as inchoate and incomprehensible by the High-priests and -esses of Purity in Art, Simplicity in Reading and Writing, Readily spoon-feeding intelligence content! Well, neither are my breed of believers of Post-Modernism wrong, nor or they right. Each unto his own. And this is not a platform for discussing Post-modernism. Back to Berger

*the studio audience are getting impatient*

Thomas Berger is one of that total-tonsured non-chalantly leaning at the edge of the bar-counter literary cowboy breeds with their sharp-shooting word-gun slung obstrusively and eyes observantly gazing at the flitters and drifters to the Literary Bar of this Universe. And yet, makes no garbled noise, draws no unnecessary attention, writes with total faith in the believability and unhopeless nature of the world. He is what you may call a MELIORIST: a person who believes in the view and doctrine that "the natural tendency of the world is toward improvement and that human effort can aid the process." About his parataxia or the ability to arrange related phrases without connectives in his writing, more later.Let me get you a better picture with a couple of writers I found handy to describe Berger better to you. Am shamelessly reproducing them here. None of that is mine. And I credit them with bylines!

Perhaps, then, move on to my presentation of one of my top-three favourite Berger fictions - Who is Teddy Villanova? And here I deal with Post-modernism unabashedly, detective fiction with the vigour of an arduous zealot of the Holy Grail (read Mary Magdalena. I knew there is always a woman behind!) and Berger's writing style at large.