Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Book Excerpts: Meet Mr. Mulliner by PG Wodehouse

If you are yet to read a Wodehouse, there is no particular book to get started on, it could be any of the several he wrote. For a PG Wodehouse book is meant for the laughs, laced with an apt treasure house of vocabulary, impeccable English, historical references, ice thin plot and a stage full of eccentric British and (sometimes) American characters. As Wodehouse himself said, "I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn."

It's been a decade since I read these sugar-baked eternal sunshine stories of honeyed romances, dim-witted young men, their intelligent butlers, pigs, awe-struck pig owners, misplaced tonic bottles and crossword puzzle solvers. I seem to have lost patience for the novels - stretched and repeated as their obscure plots go (despite the sparkling never-failing humour), but a well-written Wodehouse short story is another thing altogether.

Here is an extract of a tale from my favourite Wodehouse short story trilogy, one that features a certain Mr. Mulliner, Anglers' Rest bar-parlour regular, and a teller of seemingly tall 'truthful' tales about other denizens of the Mulliner family. Mulliner's bar narratives have been collected in three books - Meet Mr Mulliner (1927), Mr Mulliner Speaking (1929) and Mulliner Nights (1933).

The following lines are from The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer (Meet Mr. Mulliner):      

Statistics show that the two classes of the community which least often marry are milkmen and fashionable photographers - milkmen because they see women too early in the morning, and fashionable photographers because their days are spent in an atmosphere of feminine loveliness so monotonous that they become surfeited and morose.   

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Murder Mysteries: Curtain: Poirot's Last Case by Agatha Christie

The clues undoubtedly lead us to the fact that Curtain: Poirot's Last Case is a humdinger of a mystery novel. It is certainly among Christie's best.

More than 20 odd years post their first appearance at Styles (The Mysterious Affair at Styles) -  Poirot and Hastings reunite in literary convenience at Styles - which is now a faded hotel.The now middle-aged Hastings (also the Watson-like story narrator) is disheartened to see his old friend in a wheelchair. But his mood changes when the detective soon makes his purpose clear - He is here to hunt down a killer. One who has killed so frequently and expertly, that no doubt has been raised against the person, ever. 

Frustrating as it is for Hastings, Poirot won't reveal the murderer's identity. Instead, Poirot wants his friend to be his 'eyes and ears'. So Hastings meets up with other denizens of Styles, including the aged owners, a nervous bird watcher,lady with a shady past, a rich lonely man and finally Hastings' younger daughter, her employer, his invalid wife and a nurse. Among this mix of visitors, Hastings wonders who will kill and why. Time is fast running out, as Poirot points out, a killer who has killed many will kill again.           

There is a continuous anticipation running through the book. This is no routine mystery where the crime is done and the suspects are questioned. Like many great crime novels, various shades, characters, atmospheres inhabit these pages. 

Yet what is a murder mystery without a satisfactory tying of the threads? Christie simply blows us way in that department.There couldn't be a more devastating full stop to what is a senile detective's last case. 

An exceptional treat for all mystery novel readers - Poirot fans or not. I may yet stumble to say - Those who have known Poirot and his peculiar ways may end up enjoying this one a bit more.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)