Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Dec 12, 2013

Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, July 1890
– the first published version of The Picture of Dorian Gray for the grand price of 25 cents

The aphorism
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
stands at the head of the novel as a warning to critics by Oscar Wilde. 


A single fateful wish for his youth to be preserved, and his aging transferred to a painting of him, causes Dorian Gray to descend into evil acts, that are only vaguely described in the novel.

 Kavita, KumKum, Talitha, Thommo, Mathew, Sunil

Throughout, the brilliance of Wilde’s wit and his ability to turn a dogma on its head is apparent. Whether this novel, his only one, is the best vehicle for his writing was debated. But there is no doubt about his mastery. Max Beerbohm, himself a well-known essayist with a graceful style, described Wilde once as "A Lord of Language," in an article with that title.

Talitha and Thommo

As to Wilde’s homosexuality, for which he was persecuted in his time (even as homosexuals are being persecuted today in India by the perverse judgment of a duet of lordships on the Supreme Court of India), he wrote:
I believe that God made a world for each separate man, and within that world, which is within us, one should seek to live.
(from De Profundis)

Preeti and Zakia

Here are the readers at the end of the session:

 Preeti, Kavita, KumKum, Priya, Talitha, Thommo, Mathew, Sunil, Zakia, Joe
Read on to savour our pronouncements and reflections on The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Emma by Jane Austen — Oct 11, 2013

Title page of first volume of Emma, 1816

Jane Austen has fascinated readers all over the world and the occasion of reading Emma promised all sorts of delights. Readers come away with insights into the mind of women to whom marriage is a pre-eminent concern.

Talitha, Thommo, Priya, Esther

Austen’s prose became an ideal to imitate for its proper English words and phrases. It was not the spoken English of the period, but a high style.

Kavita & Zakia

As in all novelists you expect the characters to be drawn sharply and represent every sort of person that could be imagined to inhabit the situations, scenes and places in which the novel is set. Austen provides all the variety you might expect, with twists and turns that the strong-willed Emma could not foresee.

Mathew & Kavita

She discovers that some of the best things in life cannot be arranged.

Talitha & Priya

To read more click below.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Poetry Session on Oct 7, 2013 with the Philadelphia City Center Book Club

The Philadelphia City Center Book Club, which meets once a month, gathered on Oct 7, 2013 at Marie Stuart’s place to hold a session of poetry. Joe and KumKum Cleetus were guests; here they are, dressed for the occasion as the Raja and Rani of Kapurthala:

The session began with Rachel Munafo’s wide-ranging discourse on poetry concerning World War I, Homer’s Iliad, and the art of Cy Twombly exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Wilfred Owen, John McCrae, and Patrick Shaw-Stewart were the poets discussed by her.

 KumKum Rachel, Caroline, & Marie

Nancy Naftulin gave a wonderful exposition of Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem, La colombe poignardée et le jet d'eau. It is a remarkable expression of the wounds of war that comes out through a ‘shaped poem’, he called a Calligramme.

Marie, Martha, Nancy, & Taylor

Joe exploited Vikram Seth’s novel, A Suitable Boy, for its embedded poetry that traces the course of love with one of Lata Mehra’s suitors, Amit, a poet manqué.

 Marie, Karen, Martha, Nancy, & Taylor

KumKum read a famous poem of W.B. Yeats (When You are Old) and followed it with two of his unpublished poems that came to light recently through a gift of his son to the National Library of Ireland.

 Martha reads as Karen listens

Martha Witte introduced Marianne Moore’s poetry and provided the text of a poem, Peter, but did not read it, unfortunately. William Carlos Williams admired her poetry but Mary McCarthy, the novelist, was just as impressed by her bloomers, it comes out.

Marie reads Heaney's poems as Caroline and Karen listen

The session concluded with Marie Stuart reading with great feeling from the early and late poems of Seamus Heaney who died on Aug 30, 2013, aged 74 years. Here are the readers gathered at the end of the session:

 Joe, Martha, Nancy, Karen, Taylor, Caroline, KumKum, Marie, & Rachel

Friday, September 20, 2013

Poetry Reading – Sept 19, 2013

This session was held in Thommo and Geetha’s home with wonderful snacks to leaven the proceedings. As usual the potpourri of poets came from several parts of the world: Lebanon, UK, India, Turkey, and Ireland.

Priya, & Esther

The death of Seamus Heaney on Aug 30, 2013 prompted two readers to reach for his verse. Limericks made a comeback once again, and some quite recent examples are included.


A major upcoming anniversary is to be celebrated, Shakespeare’s 450th birth anniversary on April 23, 2014, with recitations from his plays and sonnets, and music from the songs.

KumKum, Talitha, Priya, & Esther

Here we are at the end of the session:

Joe, Sunil, KumKum, Talitha, Esther, Priya, Thommo, Geetha

For a fuller account click below.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What Ho! – The Best of Wodehouse Aug 9, 2013

Selections from Wodehouse chosen by Wodehouse societies, Stephen Fry, editor

The session on Aug 9, 2013 was special; KRG readers came together to share their enjoyment of an outstanding writer of the twentieth century  P.G. Wodehouse. PGW has sparked a way to address the complexity of the world with humankind’s most powerful weapon, laughter.

Thommo reading from Buck-U-Uppo

One of the reviewers rightly observes on the jacket blurb that P.G. Wodehouse should be prescribed to treat depression, for it’s cheaper and more effective than Valium. The editor of a volume of his letters testifies that his kindness, modesty, and overall decency shine through.

 Talitha cannot contain her mirth when Gussie gives away the prizes

In India there is probably no writer more widely read by three generations than P.G. Wodehouse. Mathew testifies to the vitality of the oldest student organisation on St. Stephen’s campus, The Wodehouse Society. And these societies proliferate across the world, even in non-English speaking countries such as Russia and The Netherlands.

Satish reading about the surreptitious uses of air guns

Our final picture shows the largest ever assembly of the Kochi Reading Group: 11 members, 2 guests, and 6 spouses. The photos inside will show how much we laughed at the antics of P.G. Wodehouse’s characters, speaking in flowing prose with a multitude of striking similes, e.g. “He groaned slightly and winced like Prometheus watching his vulture dropping in for lunch.”

(Stnd) Kavita, Geetha, Esther, Thommo, Satish, Mohan, Sunil, Mathew, Michael 
(Sit) Talitha, Rema, KumKum, Gopa, Priya, Joe

Click below for a fuller account.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Poetry Session ‒ July 12, 2013

Mathew, Sunil, KumKum, Gopa

Two readers were forced to cancel at the last minute, and yet we had eight, eager to recite. Poetry, it seems, has a firm hold on the imagination among us, considering how much relish the readers put into their selection and reading.


Poets in translation are not well- served usually, and when so outstanding a poet as Kazi Nazrul Islam is displayed in mean English the pity is even more. Yet his modernity of temper and exultant singing voice gets through.

KumKum, Gopa., Kavita

This was the first time that Yeats was chosen for reading in our group, and his wonderful meditation on old age and love left us all with something to look forward to. On the other hand, Emily Dickinson was being recited yet once more, with lovely poems representative of her strange and striking work.

Sunil, KumKum, Gopa, Kavita, Thommo

Here we are, mightily refreshed after drinking deep from the Pierian spring:

Thommo, Kavita, Priya, Gopa, KumKum, Mathew, Sunil, Joe

To read more click below …

Monday, June 17, 2013

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis – June 14, 2013

Βίος και Πολιτεία του Αλέξη Ζορμπά (Vios kai politeia tou Alexi Zormpa)
'Life and Adventures of Alexis Zorbas' published in 1946

Ten KRG readers met to share their enthusiasm for this novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, so wonderfully translated by Carl Wildman. Quite a few had their first introduction to the story through the 1963 film, starring Anthony Quinn.

Alan Bates as the boss, Basil, and Anthony Quinn as Zorba in the 1963 film

Zorba is an unbelievable character whose sayings and questions pepper this novel with a philosophical flourish. His role is to remove the blinkers from the mind of his bookish boss, and open up the world of the Aegean with its sunlight, the sea, the flowers, the women, the food, and the dancing  all designed to help the boss throw off the shackles of his reading.

Nikos Kazantzakis – the epitaph on his grave 

As any true novel which goes on far enough, it ends in death and leaves us wondering: did such a man really live? Kazantzakis claimed that Zorba is modelled on a person he knew, and many of the scenes in the book (the island of Crete, the sea, Russia, Buddhism, lignite mining, and so on) are derived from the author's life experiences. Kazantzakis is one with Zorba in stating that his travels taught him more than his books and university studies ever did.

Here is a site with extensive notes on the life of Kazantzakis, his publications, and photographs documenting his life (and loves): 

Alexis Zorba in the film

The beaming look on the readers' faces when they posed after the reading is a measure of how much enjoyment they got from the communal reading and sharing of this novel.

Zakia, Priya, Talitha, KumKum, Thommo, Bobby, Sivara, Mathew, Gopa

Please click below to read the full account.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Poetry Session ‒ May 10, 2013

With only four readers on hand, KRG had its lowest ever attendance at a session. Thommo offered a selection of mainly French poets, and Anaïs Nin, who is known for her diaries. KumKum read some poems from Robert Graves.

 Kavita read the poem Invictus, now, as before, a school children’s elocution favourite because of its stirring lines. Joe presented poems of the 1996 Nobel Laureate, Wisława Szymborska. Here are the readers at the end

 Thommo, KumKum, Kavita, Joe

To read more click below …

Monday, April 15, 2013

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – Apr 12, 2013

It was no surprise that all had read this novel when it came out first. With great keenness we came together to experience the thrill again and share our appreciation. We kept in mind what Arundhati Roy said of the novel: “It is easy to forget it is a political novel. It is about caste, about violence, about contemporary things. … The most ugly thing about our country, and our culture, is caste. It is there in the book. And please don't forget that.”

Ayemenem, with the Meenachal river sustaining its luxuriance, is the Eden where the twins, Estha and Rahel, grow up. Arundhati Roy is its most diligent observer, recording the ordinary things with the memorable precision of a poet's eye. Did she keep a diary in her childhood, or is this entire world recalled from the deep recesses of her adult mind?

Bobby (away facing), Kavita, KumKum, Priya, Thommo, Mathew, Sunil
The most arresting feature of Arundhati Roy's style is the wealth of similes and metaphors, at times overwhelming the reader like a pelting of hail. Somewhere she remarks that the structure of the novel was the most difficult part of the writing, but she lost the painstakingly-made architectural plan of the book in the mêlée at her place soon after the book was published.

Bobby, Kavita, KumKum, and Priya

When the eloquent homilies of her political books on power and powerlessness are forgotten, this novel will remain, and be read and studied. So why can she not oblige with a second novel, she who said in her famous Come September speech: “For reasons that I don't fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and non-fiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning.” See
Priya & KumKum exchanging life force à la Michelangelo

Come dance, Ms Roy, or we'll arrive like midwives to wrench that novel already germinating within you, waiting to be born ...

Here are the readers pictured after the session:

 Kavita, Priya, Thommo, Bobby (hidden), KumKum Mathew, Sunil, Joe

To read the full record of the session, click below

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Vikram Seth Reading 'Beastly Tales from here and there' — Mar 23, 2013

Vikram Seth read a fair portion of his 1991 book of stories in verse, called Beastly Tales from here and there. The occasion was the release of a sumptuously illustrated version at the India Habitat Centre Amphitheatre in New Delhi.

 Vikram Seth reading, takes flight

Not only did he read, but he answered questions from the audience, interspersed with his reading of five of the tales. He gave advice when asked about writing, recounted his journey in the literary world starting as a humble economics student in Stanford, and talked about his interest in several forms of art from calligraphy to painting and music.

 Vikram Seth Absolut vodka Blue paintings with Urdu script 'In Blue and Gold, I watch the evening sky Darken, till neither remains nor I'

The audience stayed late into the night, for Vikram Seth was like a musician who is set on fire by the audience response. He congratulated the illustrator, Prabha Mallya, and had the audience give her several rounds of applause.

 Prabha Mallya, illustrator of Beastly Tales, with Vikram Seth

And then he stayed back, liberally engaging in conversation those who queued with books to be autographed. He wrote personalised messages, and didn’t hesitate to share his vast stock of knowledge and instant wit with those who waited patiently. It was two hours before KumKum came to the head of the queue with two copies to be signed for her grandchildren. He apologized graciously for the readers’ inconvenience, but was indefatigable himself. And smiling.

Vikram Seth signing and smiling indefatigably

For a full account click below.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Poetry Session ‒ Mar 8, 2013

Ten readers enjoyed the poems of ten poets at this session, the second of the year on Poetry. Men and women were evenly represented among the readers, but the poets were predominantly male.

 KumKum & Thommo

Three poets were read in translation from Urdu, Russian, and Persian, including the incomparable Mirza Ghalib, and the great poet of the Russias, Alexander Pushkin.


International Women’s Day was celebrated on the same day. Aptly, we read the poems of two fearless women , Maya Angelou and Forough Farrokhzad, who battled the burdens imposed on women by society. In addition, we considered the matter of whether women hereabouts are flustered  by the admiring gaze of men!

 Kavita & Talitha

We welcomed back two readers who had long been missing from our company, Bobby and Kavita. Here we are after the evening’s reading

 Priya, Talitha, Kavita, KumKum, Zakia, Thommo, Bobby, Mathew, Sunil, Joe

To read more click below …