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Cutting for StoneCutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

They say "write what you know." So physician Abraham Verghese, born in Ethiopia from Indian parents, chose for his first novel a narrator born in Ethiopia that was raised by Indian parents and who eventually becomes a surgeon.

Cutting for Stone is an epic soap opera worthy of Sidney Sheldon's best. A nun traveling by ship from India to Ethiopia saves the life of a British doctor onboard. They later become colleagues in an Addis Ababa hospital, Missing, and silently fall in love with each other. The outcome is tragic - the nun gives birth to twins, Marion and Shiva, and dies in the process. The father, Dr Thomas Stone, is overcome with grief and abandons the babies to a pair of Indian doctors - Hema and Ghosh - to raise.

The twin boys grow under the shadows of Missing and experience some of Ethiopia's historical changes. Marion, the virginal and unremarkable twin, is the narrator. He's not as clever and seductive as his brother Shiva (who steals the girl he loves from under his nose), nor is he his adoptive mother's favourite. Fate eventually exiles him from Ethiopia, to a life in a poor hospital in New York where all doctors are foreigners, all patients are on Medicare and all corpses can expect to be organ harvested for rich Americans.

You can really see Ethiopia and its people in Verghese's novel and it is one of its few pleasures, alongside the look at the unfair healthcare system in America. But the plot - full of sentimental coincidences and love making worthy of a Bad Sex in Fiction Award - leaves a lot to be desired. Marion is an unlikeable narrator, but I don't think that was Verghese's intention. The writing only comes alive with the scenes of hospital proceedures, and although these come along quite often they are not enough to hold this long novel together.

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New York Subway by areshuan
New York Subway, a photo by areshuan on Flickr.
I just received a notification that my close and intimate friend Jacqueline Sorbet has returned to her novel A Rendezvous With Passion. She posted its 3rd chapter online today.

To be honest, I thought she'd given up on it. It had been nearly a year since I'd heard from her; I figured she'd moved on to something else.

I swear I'll never understand these creative types.

Foxy Jones

May. 31st, 2011 08:18 am
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Do foxes eat cats? On Saturday night, on the way home from a pub north of Victoria Park, we spotted a ragged fox in a front garden. It stood right behind a fluffy black cat that didn't seem aware of it. Both looked at us with glassy eyes before the fox leapt into the bushes and disappeared. The cat never moved its eyes from us. Was it about to be killed?

Sunday night, our friend T shared with us his memories of living in New York in the late 70s. He remembered seeing Grace Jones play her first gig, before she was known or had her first record out ("Portfolio"). T saw a picture of her in the Village Voice advertising her gig, dressed in a vintage look that reminded him of Billie Holiday. Off he went with a friend to the gig, a train ride to the middle of nowhere followed by a walk across a busy highway before they reached the disco she was performing in.

Her voice was flat but it was undeniable she had star quality. She changed costumes after every song (she still does it today), had two Muscle Mary's accompanying her on stage and performed the final song in a bridal dress with S&M gear underneath.

commonpeople1: (Mr Stamp)
Black Swan

Black Swan is a good movie, but not great.

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Grace Jones
Originally uploaded by virgorama
If a bomb had been dropped on Victoria Park yesterday, it would have wiped out 99.99% of London's lesbians, gays and trannies. Are steroids flamable? Because there was enough there yesterday (covered by fine trimmed hair and tattoos) to set the EastEnd ablaze after the explosion.

I never saw so many gayers in one space. Gaydar and Gaymers banners floated everywhere, drag queens danced and sang on top of a makeshift 1970s New York club (NYC Down Low) while punters with real and fake moustaches lined to get in, Stonewall volunteers paraded with their banners and handed out stickers, and every corner seemed to have a beat going for a happy group of semi-clad hands-in-the-air types. It was all very enjoyable and sunny.

I've got some photos to upload tonight. In the meantime, here's my brief review:

Best Gig
Hercules and Love Affair, hands down. They were fan-tas-tic - like gods from the height of 70s disco coming down to throw a party for us mere mortals. They showcased a lot of new music and it all sounds bri-lli-ant. Possibly better than the first album! I hope they play London again soon, and I hope I can get tickets. Second album is scheduled for a September release, apparently.

Nearly Best Gig
Grace Jones, who changed headware for every song and finished the set by hoola-hooping through a whole track. She was funny, she had legs that went for miles, she wore a thong that showed off her toned butt, and she sounded like Dionne Warwick in the mood for all-night-sex. She closed the festival with a golden key she normally keeps in her 80s dub pop box.

Sadly Missed Gig
Hurts. So very disappointed I missed them! And New Young Pony Club, who we caught towards the end of their set and sounded a-ma-zing and good fun. Must listen to them on Spotify when I get home.

Slightly Disappointing Gig
Cut Copy. Their old material had the crowd jumping in happiness but the three new songs they showcased just didn't do anything for me or most of the crowd. It's a departure from their old material - one of them sounded like Dire Straits - but hopefully it's better on record.

Honourable Mentions
- Amusement park in the middle of festival! Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, slides - all right beside the gig stages. Genius idea.
- Hot lesbians who dirty danced and got everyone in the mood to jump around.
- Gay boys everywhere, in all states of (un)dress. Muscles and fat, smooth and furry, deaf or with just one arm, tall and short, in groups or alone and off their tits. So so so many boys - the lover of people-watching in me was thrilled.
- Lots of great food stalls to choose from. We had Greek wraps and a lot of bottled water.

Dishonourable Mentions
Cigarette smoking. Everywhere. All the time. One after the other. Smoke blown in your face. Over and over. I feel today like I had half a pack of smokes just from all the secondhanding. I had a very dark thought on the way home: if everyone who smoked suddenly dropped dead at the same time, a lot of the world's problems would be solved... the only cranky thought from an otherwise extremely happy, satiated, TIRED mind.


Apr. 25th, 2009 12:29 pm
commonpeople1: (Miriam)
Crystal Stilts, Departure

Crystal Stilts, Departure, Feb 2009
We are barely into spring and I'm already bracing myself for autumn, thanks to the Crystal Stilts. There must be something in Brooklyn's water because great bands keep coming out of there. This one barely has space on its sleeves to hang its Joy Division, Jesus & Mary Chain, Velvet Underground and House of Love influences, but it somehow pulls it off in the most charmingly nostalgic way. The single "Departure" even reminds me of (obscure to you) post-punk Brasilian band Violeta de Outono in its dreamy melody, 60s LSD victim lyrics and dark bass. B-side "Prismatic Room" goes deeper into what went wrong with the Flower Power generation, via Mazzy Star and The Doors. I imagine the whole band wears severe black bangs.

April 2017



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