Monday, June 14, 2010

Hanging by a word

I'm a little worried about my reading habits these days. Gone is the time when I would, very wisely, pepper my gourmet (albeit eclectic) diet of the printed word with just the right amount of junk food: moving from the Hardy Boys, to sneaking in the odd Victoria Holt from the senior school library, right on to smuggled Irving Wallace, Ken Follett, Jackie Collins and Judith Krantz and a late but very brief brush with Mills and Boon (in my defense I read my first 'MB' at the age of 21 and continue to doggedly resist that sappy Danielle Steel woman).

All this, unthreateningly tucked into the middle of some serious heavy-duty reading of whatever on the bookshelves caught my fleeting fancy.

All the authors I mention, however, had a very important role to play in our sequestered all-girls' boarding school life. Special mention must go out to a few:

  1. The Hardy Boys got me comfortable with the idea of male chemistry, and taught me that not all "buddy boys" are necessarily gay. It's different, of course, for women. After all, we own the word 'girly', and are often expected to hold hands and giggle.
  2. Victoria Holt. Hmmm...That lady taught me that when you try to dramatically read aloud a love scene -- from a book you were not supposed to have checked out from the library in the first place -- in front of your entire 7th grade, duly emphasising the rrrrippping of shirts and the thudddding of hearts coming together as one, do look over your shoulder after a minute or two to check if the very propah English teacher is not watching with a practised glare (and barely concealed amusement)
  3. Then, beyond the near-Victorian love scenes of the Holtian world, had it not been for Ms. Collins and her authentic Hollywood fare, we might never have known what lay beyond the sanitised menu of school-level sex education (or the clumsy stories of the class's legendary half-a-boyfriend-old slut) 
  4. But for Ms. Krantz, I might never have hit upon that ultimate flu-fighting remedy: vodka and orange juice. And it works, though not by the jugful as I might have imagined in those heady days. In fact, now, after some headache days following that bit of advice, I'd definitely advise a little caution.  
  5. Irving Wallace? That man showed me the power of the double role, leading to a lifelong love affair with hammy Govinda/ Suniel Shetty movies. 
  6. My first brush with Ken Follett taught me to improvise on everyday household items to fight off cold-blooded international spies. Not sure when that might come in handy though, but then we learn and live, my friends.   
  7. Mills and Boon... Honesty now. Every girl deserves a foolish dream. And the even more foolish ideal of the (im?)perfect man. Sigh.

Now this brings me to my current obsession with fly-by-night thrillers. That old fascination with the treacherous world of Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carre, Wilbur Smith and the rest has now metamorphosed into a love for the criminally insane. Criminal Minds, Castle and Law and Order apart, I am now a proud fan of the likes of that grand dame of crime thrillers -- Mary Higgins Clark -- having tracked down every one of her books with the dogged determination of a crime-fighting forensics expert à la CSI; of the mostly hammy and sometimes brilliant Tess Gerritsen; and of those Scandinavian crusaders against crime -- like Inspector Wallander of Henning Mankell, VanVeeteren of Håkan Nesser, along with that strange and addictive duo: the delinquent Lisbeth Salander and that lucky sod (according to men who might wonder why he gets all the babes), Mikael (Kalle) Blomkvist, both creations of the man who died too young (and unsung): Stieg Larsson.

So, as I feverishly move from page to page and from one murder mystery to another, I feel I'm spinning out of control, being flung into a parallel universe in which I must stay high on some kind of adrenaline, periodically injected into my system by espresso shots of suspense. Gone are the days when I read all that stuff of 'substance'. Now its more like a whole lot of substance abuse, what with this gnawing need to pick up yet another crime thriller. Just one more ride and I'll be done...I swear. One more...

Well, that surely can't be too good in the long run, what with all the wise men and women at work lapping up the latest climate change caper or those monotonous political monologues. Back home, the ignored bookshelf is sagging with sagacity and silently crying out to be relieved of its burden of the seriously written word: tomes that have been foisted upon it by guilt trips to the bookshop, every time a new thriller winked on the horizon.

Hang in there fella. I'll get to you. Just after this one chapter, I promise...

No comments:

Post a Comment