Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Top of the Lake- Season 2: A Few Thoughts

I just watched the second season of Top of the Lake and loved it.

One review I found online said that Jane Campion's 'signposting of feminist issues' was 'heavy-handed'. I found it to be no such thing. If one tv series is able to centre the bodies of women and their experiences it's but a drop in the ocean of paeans to the resilience and wonder of the male form.

Things I did find to be true about Top of the Lake.

1. Elizabeth Moss is spectacular. And her chemistry with Gwendolyn Christie is off the charts.  Christie's character was written with a great deal of care. I suppose it must ever be a subject of discussion how large her body is, and this show dealt with that extremely well.

2. On the subject of motherhood- in a show with several mothers talking about motherhood, and grappling with it, it is the fathers that do a stellar job, and keep the house together. Pyke seemed something of a fantasy to me. Look I didn't even look up the actor's name, because this character is a unicorn. We all want him. Or someone like him. The coroner, too, to a lesser degree: the safe dad figure, who offers comfort and snacks. In this show it is the men who always bring the food.

3. Puss. For anyone who has been with an older man, this relationship is the thing your mother agonized about. The lure of an older individual who wields authority is something I imagine many of us have felt, and Campion takes it to its brutal ugly extreme in the relationship between Mary and Puss.

4. This show has some great action scenes. There's one in the middle, with Moss fighting, where I found myself roaring alongside her. It is a violent show, but most of the physical violence remains off screen.

5. Talking about race and inequality appears to be the reserve of the villains, or the misguided on the show. I'm still thinking this through. The obviously horrendous power dynamic between S. Asian women, and their white male and female Australian exploiters wasn't picked apart with as much care as the relationships between parents and children, and male and female sexual partners. In a show with a lot of carefully treated women the brown women were still ciphers for white desire. Given that Campion was able to do so very much more with her women than most, it would have been nice to see her do as well by the brown folk in her writing as well.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Book of Gold Leaves and a small rant

I just finished reading Mirza Waheed's The Book of Gold Leaves (no points for a forgettable, pointless title).

I read The Collaborator earlier in the year and thought it was lovely. This was also. I spent four days in Srinagar one summer some years ago, and I wished it could have been longer. I also spent a couple of days in Kargil. Just enough to have developed a taste for Tabak Maas (ribs), not long enough to have made friends or gotten to know the place.

The odd review had white women, reading this as art of a book club, no doubt, complaining that there wasn't enough explanation of the context, or that the names were all too similar for them to keep track. I didn't think either of these were pertinent. 1. Use Google. 2. Literally every second white person is named Jack or John or Jason. Somehow the rest of the world is managing to keep up. Don't be so fucking lazy. As if anyone really uses that gigantic list of names at the beginning of War and Peace. You blunder through until you learn who is who, or you give up half way and miss out on one of the loveliest books written.

There were just enough references to food in The Book of Gold Leaves to keep me hooked. It was a very moving description of people trying to live their lives in a really complicated situation. I want to find more books set in Kashmir, and a decent history of the area. I hope I can go back some time, and travel more in the region. The Himalayas are really incredibly beautiful. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

That Thing You Do

Someone reminded me on Twitter that That Thing you Do is 21 years old today.

When I was in the 7th std my best friend at the time had a sleepover to which the entire class was invited. Of the 25 people maybe 15 showed up. Her older brother disappeared into his room to avoid us, too impossibly cool to hang out. Her mum ordered in pizza- it might have been U.S Pizza, Dominos wasn't there then, and Pizza Hut hadn't reached Koramangala yet either. She put out biscuits and and Pepsi and left us to ourselves for a bit.

After we had eaten she moved us to their drawing room and put on a tape of That Thing You Do. Most of us were going to sleep in that room, and mattresses were on the floor. I remember sitting in front of a not very big screen, falling asleep on the shoulder of a boy, A, who had just joined the school that year, thinking being next to him was rather nice. My other best friend V was on the other side, he was sweet on N, our host. This did not keep us from all being really close. V drowned in the school lake a year after high school finished. He hadn't liked college much and returned to school often, taking up all kinds of conservation projects. Such a waste. We're not a very close-knit batch but we all miss him. I miss him.

I still see A occasionally. He's done a drug too many and is mostly unreachable at this point- no trace of the rather sweet boy who joined our class in middle school. He's still usually the tallest person in the room, and rather the most attractive.

N moved to the U.S. after the 10th standard. Her father had died some years before and her mother wanted to set up somewhere new. We met last year, after 15 years. Her American husband and my American husband were also there. It was very nice.