Category Archives: Books

The wonderful world of Tintin

I love Tintin. I always have. It was my favourite comic book growing up! I remember our local library in Madras, India had loads of Tintin books that we used to borrow over and over again. I swear I have read through each of the 24 adventures numerous times. The thing that I love most about Herge’s art is the fact that his drawings are so realistic and vivid. Whether it is a night scene at a harbor showing a drug smuggling ring in operation or Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy hijacking a steam train across the Wild West, the stories really keep your attention. Reading a Tintin book to me is like watching a movie. I remember that I used to love Herge’s drawings so much that it inspired me to create my own comic book, though of course it was no way as good as the original. But I used to draw a lot as a kid, quite nicely if I may add. And it was largely inspired by Herge.

Last year when Steven Spielberg came out with a Tintin movie I was very excited. And it turned out to be a really entertaining watch, though it didn’t quite compare to the wondrous world showcased in the books. But nevertheless I was happy that characters like Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and the Thompson twins were once again in the public eye after several years. Some people were discovering these characters for the first time and others like me were reliving their childhood memories. Watching the movie made me miss the books. So I went out to a local bookstore and bought a Tintin comic book, ‘Tintin In America’. I also chanced to notice this book titled ‘Tintin: Herge & His Creation’ by Harry Thompson. Quickly flipping through it, I saw that it had chapters on every single of the 24 adventures. It was not new… first published in 1991, but nonetheless I decided to buy it.

I have just finished reading this book and it is a fantastic read! The author starts at the very beginning in the early part of the 20th century and describes Herge’s childhood in a conservative family in Brussels. Georges Remi was his real name and he started drawing Tintin for the national newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle and later a publication called Le Soir before bringing out the books that we know now. The book wonderfully chronicles his journey from the 1930’s to the 1970’s and talks in detail about what went behind the making of each and every adventure. The author also throws light on how major happenings like World War II, Nazi fascism and the Cold War influenced Herge’s thinking. The Shooting Star in particular is one book for which Herge was unfavorably judged after the war. The author even talks about how the characters developed as the stories went on. Tintin’s dog Snowy talks a lot in the early adventures but not so much later on. Captain Haddock’s personality also changes as the years go on. There are several other fascinating aspects concerning the attention to detail that Herge gives to each of the adventures. But I will not spoil it for future readers by discussing them here. All I can say is that for serious fans of Tintin, this book is a real treasure to read through.

Four legs good, two legs bad!

NapoleanAnimals

Ever since I found out that Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals is based on George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, I had wanted to read it. And I finally did it. The story is a satire on dictatorship and is an absolutely riveting read! The basic setting is as follows: There is a farm somewhere in England where the animals are getting restless and sick of their cruel human owner. So they decide to revolt, drive him out of the farm and run it themselves. That is when the fun starts! The tale brilliantly narrates how absolute power corrupts even the most sincere, who generally start out with the best of intentions. The characters that stand out here are the pigs who behave like know-it-all tyrants, the dogs who are sycophantic with the pigs and ruthless to everyone else, the horse that does all the hard work for the farm but shows an ill-advised loyalty to the top pig and the sheep that mindlessly believe everything that the pigs say. This is not all that far removed from Roger Waters’ songwriting on Animals. I’ll quote the best bits of the 2 main songs from the album to illustrate my point, especially ‘cos the lyrics here are fantastic and deserve to be quoted. As for the book, it is a must-read if you enjoy political drama, satire and such.

Dogs:

You got to be crazy, you gotta have a real need
You gotta sleep on your toes and when you’re on the street
You got to be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed
And then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight
You gotta strike when the moment is right without thinking
And after a while, you can work on points for style
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake
A certain look in the eye and an easy smile
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to
So that when they turn their backs on you
You’ll get the chance to put the knife in

Sheep:

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You’d better watch out!
There may be dogs about
I looked over Jordan, and I’ve seen
Things are not what they seem.
What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.

Books n’ me

I don’t know what it is with me and books!? Whenever I enter a bookstore, I just love that crisp smell of fresh-off-the-press paperbacks with their often bright and colourful covers. But once I start reading one, I’m engrossed for about 2 chapters, after which I promptly stick a bookmark in. I either never pick it up ever again or if I do decide to continue reading it, 6 months have already passed and I end up reading 2 more chapters before replacing the same bookmark back in place. The thing is, the interest is there… surely! I even get that aforementioned rush of excitement when I’m in a bookstore and it feels like I have to own every single interesting book in sight. But that excitement seems to wear off at some point when I’m in the middle of actually reading the bloody thing. My sister, who is a better reader than I am, still makes fun of me for picking up a book during the year 2003 and not finishing it till 2007 or so! The book was called ‘Up Country’, written by Nelson DeMille and it was about an American Vietnam war veteran revisiting the country after 30 years. It was a riveting read… until something else came up in my life and I slid that dreaded bookmark in. Even as I write this post, I’m in the middle of a fascinating book about Delhi called ‘City Of Djinns’ by William Dalrymple. Started the book about a year back and currently I have not even reached the 50% mark! I don’t think it is a case of slow reading speed, rather there are too many gaps between the times I do pick up the book to continue reading. Maybe my reading capacity/attention span is just not suited for long prose. Internet articles, blog sites and reference books are much more my kind of scene I suppose. Nevertheless, I get a fair share of mocking smirks and jabs from people like my mom, sister and wife who are all better readers than me. Oh well… I can always unleash my knowledge of popular music and useless trivia on them as a form of tit for tat. It’s all good! 😉